In my travels, I’ve always preferred the countryside or the more remote parts of the countries I’m visiting. I’m drawn to the simplicity of life in places untouched by development. And in Southeast Asia, Burma – being closed-off from the rest of the world – seemed to be the perfect next destination.
Traveling in Burma, at least back in 2012, was challenging logistically compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. There was no roaming service, internet was scarce and generally unreliable, and there were only at most two ATMs at the airports so we had to bring all our dollars (should be crisp and new) with us. But the challenges were all worth it, and the isolation added to the beauty of traveling in Burma.
Burma has so many faces and sides that will captivate you and intrigue you.
KALAW TO INLE LAKE TREK/ HSIPAW
Treks from Kalaw to Inle Lake and in Hsipaw gave us a glimpse of what life is like in the countryside – farmers hard at work in their traditional clothes, tending to their farmlands by hand, with no piece of machinery in sight, and meeting a shaman. These were like scenes out of an idyllic countryside painting. The rolling hills of Kalaw carefully outlined, that people have likened it to the early days of Tuscany.
We felt like explorers climbing the ancient temples of Bagan. We watched the sun set over thousands of them, with the dust from the ground giving it a ‘wild’ magical feel.
The serene beauty of Inle Lake covered with fog in the early morning. Its calm glassy waters only interrupted by fishermen, standing on small boats and rowing using their legs.
We marvelled at the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda and witnessed the devout culture of its people.
But there‘s also an intriguing side that you can only read in books or those rare moments when a village chief and a taxi driver speak up about freedom and the hope and need for change. Fifty years since the start of military rule, two years since the democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, and slowly people are speaking up and are cautiously hopeful that change is finally happening.