REFLECTIONS ON MAGICAL MYANMAR
Today was our last day in Myanmar – for now at least. We have spent the last 2 weeks exploring this beautiful country and it feels like we have just barely scratched the surface. There’s so much more to see and experience here that we will undoubtedly be back. For now though we’re on our way back to Australia; but as much as we’re looking forward to being home, we’re already looking back wistfully on the adventure that Myanmar has been. More than anything we’re just so glad we came – people told us not to come due to the current civil unrest*, and others just cautioned us against visiting such an underdeveloped country. We came anyway and it has been AMAZING! Myanmar is changing so rapidly that we just feel so lucky to have seen it now, before it changes too much. For anyone contemplating a visit to this magical place, we would say: do it!
*In recent months there have been numerous well-publicised clashes between government forces and the Rohingya Muslims who live in the far West of the country, in the Rakhine state which borders Bangladesh. The relationship between the Rohingya and Myanmar’s other ethnic groups has historically always been difficult, and these recent clashes represent an escalation of these tensions. We’ve spoken to a number of locals about the current situation and it seems the matter is…. complicated. Whatever the real truth of the matter, the reality for us as visitors in this country is that we have felt very safe and secure. More than safe, in fact, people here are just to genuine and friendly that we have felt safer here than we have in most other parts of the world!
After our busy day in Bago yesterday, we were glad to be able to sleep in and have a leisurely start to our final day in Myanmar. After breakfast we decided back down to the centre of Yangon to finish our trip where we started! We ended up at Junction City, this town’s only modern mall and home to Yangon’s only cinema. We went there to see a new movie that had been recommended to us by some locals. The movie, “Mudras Calling”, is locally made and was filled with stunning shots of Myanmar’s natural landscape
The movie tells the story of Jaden, a Burmese-American who was adopted as a child and grew up in the USA, but then travels back to the land of his birth as a young man. During his travels he visits all the same scenic sites we’ve been to and falls in love with the country he was born in. Predictably, he also falls in love with a beautiful young Burmese woman who convinces him to return to Myanmar on a more long-term basis. It was a very sweet story, and the whole movie was like a travel commercial for Myanmar!
The movie theatre was packed, and has been ever since the movie premiered here in Yangon a fortnight ago! Apparently artistic freedom is still new enough that any locally made film is hugely popular. Prior to the end of military rule in 2011, Burma’s film industry was subject to decades of strict censorship by the country’s military government. Since then, however, the relaxation of rules has allowed long-suppressed talent to flourish and movies like “Mudras Calling*” are the result.
*Mudras are the hand gestures Burmese dancers use in traditional artistic performances. The title of the film refers to the forces that pull Jaden back to his homeland; that connect him to his native culture and heritage.
For us, watching “Mudras Calling” was the perfect way to end our visit to Myanmar as it was like a 2 hour nostalgic reminder of all the amazing places we’ve visited over the past fortnight. The images of Inle Lake, Bagan from the air, and the Irrawaddy River were amazing… this is one stunning country!
Myanmar for us will always be represented by the silhouette of pagodas, glittering and golden in the sun. By the sound of prayer bells tinkling; the smell of incense and candles; and the feel of hot stone under our feet as we walk barefoot around a temple complex.
Embedded in our memories is sight of men and women in longyi; of boys playing rattan ball in the late afternoon; and of women and children with cheeks painted cream with thanaka paste.
In this deeply religious country, one of the things we have loved has been the sight of Buddhist monks and nuns everywhere. The pre-dawn processions for food; the sound of chanting in the evening; and the juxtaposition of monks and nuns using modern mobile phones!
Myanmar for us is captured in the pungent smell of morning markets; of fish paste, tamarind, chilli paste, and fresh flowers. And by the incredible flavours of REAL food; food that’s fresh, organic, unprocessed, and so very tasty! Our favourite dishes? Chicken and potato curry for dinner, and fish curry for breakfast. Garlic, onion, and ginger have been ever-present flavours; and Myanmar beer a constant accompaniment!
We’ll always remember the hazy sunsets of this dry, hot summer season; and the reality of life in rural Myanmar. The smell of fresh cow poop everywhere, and giant chickens and roosters roaming around farmyards!
Best of all though; our fondest memory of Myanmar will forever be the Burmese people. Their smiles, friendliness, and generosity – despite having so little.
Life here is just so REAL! Simple, yes. Basic, absolutely. But oh so very authentic. We are so grateful so have had the experience of exploring a little of Myanmar and are already looking forward to our next visit!