Myanmar, as we knew it, is disappearing
I have been to Myanmar three times, first in 2005, next in 2010 and just lately, in February of 2013. It is startling, and depressing at the same time, to see how the country, as it changes, is being distorted by the influx of tourists. Of course I understand that most of the changes are good for the people and the country, more openness, more goods, more exposure to the outside but, at the same time, the initial crush of tourists, essentially unregulated, has changed the ambiance of many of the beautiful areas so greatly that is is almost painful to see.
In 2005, my first visit, the only entry to the country was through Yangon. The streets were crowded with bicycles, trucks and very old cars in execrable condition. The sidewalks were broken and, after dark, the streets were dark. And the noise, it was always noisy because there was little or no central power except very late at night and every business or house that could afford it had a small Japanese generator sitting in front on a tire to dampen its vibrations. The
only things lit brightly at night were the Traders Hotel, where all the rich people stayed, and, just down the street, the Sule Pagoda. Any passerby with a Western face was pestered by touts wanting to change money or to rent you a car and driver. Yangon was a place to leave quickly and, except for the Schwedagon Pagoda complex, had little to see.
No one changed money at the laughable official rate; the requirement to change some hard currency into FECs (Foreign Exchange Certificates) had just been dropped. Every goldsmith and jeweler would change hard currency, perfect bills only, into kyat (pronounced as 'chat') and things were incredibly cheap. Air conditioned rooms for $8-12 were common, payable only in dollars and only in the few places licensed to allow foreigners.
The remainder of this post and images can be found at this clickable link Myanmar is disappearing