Monday, August 27, 2012

Burma: Then and Now

And so the question remains:  Should I return to this beautiful country to see all the changes that have occurred within the last 24 years, or should I go to Cambodia and explore the ruins of Angkor Wat, a place I have never seen?  I would like to do both, but time and money are limited.  I am very torn.

Two of the many travel magazines I subscribe to have published "returning to" stories.  Jacques and Jeanine Prosper wrote an article for the July 2012 issue of International Travel News entitled, "Revisiting Myanmar--the difference a decade makes," and Brook Larmer wrote "Come You Back to Mandalay" for the September issue of Conde Nast Traveler.

Burma, of course, is now known as Myanmar.  Rangoon, the former capital, is now Yangon.  The new capital with modern architecture is Nay Pyi Taw.  Pagan is now Bagan.  The list of changes goes on and on.  The isolationism, paranoia and political/economic woes have eased.  The country is welcoming foreign tourists with open arms.  New hotels, restaurants and airports are being built.

We were closely watched on our tour in 1988.   Our itinerary was restricted to Rangoon, Pagan and Mandalay.  Independent travel was strictly forbidden.  Even when my travel buddy and I strayed from the group, we were rounded up by our guide like wayward sheep.  Our poor guide in Mandalay had an hysterical fit when she found out we escaped from our hotel room one evening to watch the sun set on the Irrawaddy River.

Fear is never good.  I would like to witness the new freedom allowed the people.  I would like to explore on my own.  I would like to see the vanished royal city of Mrauk U with its recent excavations and see the Yele Pagoda.  But should I go back?  Do I really want to?  The memories of my trip to Burma are still in vivid technicolor despite the passing of time.  I have returned to special places before, trying to recreate the magic and it never happened.  I have come to realize that travel, to me, is creating new memories and exploring new places.  So, no, I will not go back.  I will continue to read with pleasure the stories from other writers.  Angkor Wat is next.

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