Myanmar, as we knew it, is disappearing

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

Views: 84

Comment by koshersalaami on March 7, 2013 at 7:39am

I'm sorry it's happening. There is good and bad to this, though how good and how bad depends on how well managed.

Comment by nerd cred on March 7, 2013 at 3:47pm

Are there reasonable, healthy alternatives to conventional western economic growth? That is, is there a way for people to gain the benefits  of sanitation, health care, travel, etc., without destroying traditional societies and environment? Hand built roads would allow for more employment, I suppose, could techniques be improved and is perfectly smooth essential? Just thoughts. Beautiful pictures and interesting thought as always, Lew.

Comment by The_Traveler on March 7, 2013 at 4:01pm

The billions of dollars siphoned off by the junta means that both the physical and economic infrastructure is undeveloped. So even the small profits that can be made from souvenir sales are attractive when there isn't any other way to earn a living. Tourism does mean actual money for people who were subsistence farmers and fishermen before but there isn't a real path for these people to improve beyond that.

For better pictures, have a look at My favorites from this trip (so far)

Comment by Zanelle on March 9, 2013 at 9:40am

I couldn't access the link to more.   Excellent photos and thoughts tho.  Thank you.

Comment by The_Traveler on March 9, 2013 at 12:06pm

Quite odd.  The link was correct but I replaced and hope it works now.

Comment by O. Yeh on March 11, 2013 at 4:09pm

Myanmar does not exist to be quaint for tourists. It wants to develop. It will happen, and tourists are only one part of the picture. The Burmese people deserve to develop by whatever means they see fit. Myanmar is not disappearing, it is growing.

Comment by The_Traveler on March 11, 2013 at 4:38pm

Quaintness never entered into it, nor did I mention it.

What is being lost is the distinct normality of the Myanmar culture as it exists in other places like Mawlamyine and Hpa An. What is replacing normality in the tourist meccas is a culture that is parasitic on the tourists, replacing real crafts with crap imported from China and inducing scam artists to peddle phony jewels.

I am all for a country that grows honestly within itself, building on its own traditions. What I saw in Nyaung Shwe and Bagan was not that. 

Can the self righteousness.


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