A Guide to Myanmar, the Last Uncharted Frontier

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Cool news to report: My latest blog post on Myanmar got picked up by Conde Nast Traveler. I’ve posted an excerpt here, please check out the live article for the rest of the story. But before you go, don’t miss the dozen or so extra photos I’ve shared at the bottom of this post. And if you have comments, best to post here so I’ll see them.  

Here’s an excerpt:

We had a wild time in Myanmar, too many unique experiences to recount in one sitting. The only adjectives that immediately come to mind are words from a fairy tale: magical, special, charming. (Rather embarrassing for a journalist.)

And yet in many ways, those are apt descriptions. The country is, after all, a throwback. A place and people stuck in a time-warp after a half-century of military rule, closed off from the rest of the world. Most men and boys wear traditional longyis (like sarongs) and women still use traditional yellow paste instead of rouge to paint circles and other designs on their cheeks.

The country is only now coming out of the shadows and going through crazy rapid growth. In every industry — telecom, construction, agriculture, business — Myanmar is essentially the last uncharted frontier. So it follows that everybody wants a piece of them.

For all these reasons, Myanmar is an utterly fascinating place to visit. Of all the countries we’ve visited in our two months on the road, it is my favorite. Honestly, it’s the closest thing to unspoiled country and people as you’ll ever have the chance to encounter, bar taking a five-day trek into remote jungles to visit, say, isolated Indonesian tribes.

That said, Myanmar’s not for everyone. What I consider charming, others would call dirt and mold. Long years of British rule here have left their stamp on the city’s architecture. Lots of European-style prewar shop houses and walkups, most of them covered in grime. Some even look like ruins, with shrubs and trees sprouting from cracked seams despite the fact that the buildings are fully occupied.

Being in Yangon, the country’s biggest city and former capitol, is a bit like being in Manhattan’s Chinatown in the summer, minus the cheap knockoffs. It’s hot and gritty, and there’s just so much humanity going on that it feels both thrilling and tiring at the same time.

Everything you ever took for granted in Western society is thrown up in your face here. Crossing the street is like playing the game Frogger in real life. Pedestrians scamper across one lane at a time and stand on the lines as car whiz by at 40 mph. The “bus station” is really just a stretch of road where everyone congregates and all the buses stop, snarling traffic.

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Check out the rest of the story at CNTraveler.com.

A few photos as promised:

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2 responses to “A Guide to Myanmar, the Last Uncharted Frontier

  1. Pingback: Aug. 28. 2014 LI | Jpw2013·

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