Mingalaba (Good day) from Burma! I am writing this while sitting at the beach, seeing golden sand, clear blue water and pittoresque fisherboats, at a mild 27 degrees in the morning, and listening to small waves breaking on the beach. Life could be worse.
(Don’t get too jealous: Fisherboats means: This is a working fishermen beach. Meaning: At 4 o’clock in the morning they roar back to the beach; and the dead fish lie about 10 metres away from me to dry in the sun, and they stink fishily. Also of note: The monks, who loudly chant over the loudspeakers from 5am; the school next to my room which begins at 7am; and the lorries, driving early morning through my room (it feels like) to the construction site not too far away from the hotel. Every paradise has its worms. Who needs sleep?).
Since arriving in Burma / Myanmar, I didn’t have good internet connections, nor time, therefore I didn’t upload any updates. I still don’t have a good internet connection, but time, so I’ll be trying to squeeze a general update through the line. It won’t be enough to upload photos (other than the one attempt of making you feel jealous, which was actually taken at lunch time, I haven’t yet started to drink in the morning), which is a shame, therefore I’ll upload photos and detailed reports when I’ve got a better connection (probably in one or two weeks, from Sri Lanka).
Yesterday, the photo trip with Steve McCurry came to an end. It was a very interesting journey, with lots of impressions (and even more photos). We were a group of 12 interesting, interested professional and amateur photographers, from 8 countries; plus Steve, and three very good tour guides, two of whom are also photographers and could give invaluable tips or drag people in front of the cameras most skillfully. We were in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake, and I’ll prepare blog entries for each city or subject separately in the next few weeks.
Burma / Myanmar is a beautiful country, which is still relatively untouched by tourism (yet). The friendliness of the people is indescribable. Living conditions for many are very poor and limited – they live in homes little better than tents or huts made from bamboo, as protection from the elements. Despite all that, they have a great smile for us foreigners, everywhere the children shout Hallo and wave their hands in salute, and are delighted when receiving a smile and wave in return. They opened up their homes for us, and despite the tough times lying behind them and the limited circumstances, they seem happy. Still, the increase in tourism is also showing the usual effects, and especially in tourist hotspots, for example Bagan, more and more hands are extended to beg for money. At the same time, the prices for hotels have increased dramatically over the last two years – by now, a night in a middle class hotel cost nearly as much as the average monthly income for a Burmese – which is starting to keep tourists away from coming here – which is also a shame, because this country needs the money from tourism. It will all balance out in the end. Now is however a good time to come here.
The photo trip was great, but also exhausting – getting up between 4.30 and 5am nearly every morning – it’s that beautiful light at the start of the day, or the early morning flight to the next destination. One photographic highlight came upon the next, and at some point I was so tired I could have slept whilst standing up. Also, I’ve been suffering from colds and infections for the last two weeks – it is my theory that I am suffering from work detox.
I’ll be here at the beach for a week to relax, work on my photos and prepare blog entries. Then I’ll be in Sri Lanka for about three weeks – I have to get out of the country to apply for a new visa and be able to stay for another four weeks to support a local pre-school. As friends of mine are hopefully coming to Sri Lanka, I’ve decided to make an entire journey out of it. At the end of February, I’ll return to Myanmar to support said pre-school for four weeks. I already spent a day there, and I can tell you – at the end of the day, I was done in! I now know how the Kindergardencop felt. After that, I plan to go to Nepal for a while – Kathmandu, trecking, a meditation retreat in a monastery, volunteering at the school in the Himalaya region – something like that.
I am always happy about your comments and emails, please keep it up. I hope all is well with you. Until the next update, then hopefully with pictures!
Thwa-mae-naw (Good Bye)