2015
05.18

Myanmar MapSometimes it feels like flipping a coin. Sometimes, I have had long-term, well-developed plans. Sometimes things just fall into place. And sometimes destinations develop. I guess this year is one of the developing kind and here is some background on the development:

For years I have said I would go to Indonesia and believe me, someday I will. It was going to be Indonesia this year. But Indonesia, short of any earthquakes or unforeseen natural disasters will in all likelihood be there next year, too. However, news has recently come out of Myanmar about clashes between Buddhists and Muslims; Buddhists are the main perpetrators, if not the aggressors, if news reports can be believed. As we speak, boatloads of fugitives from Myanmar are drifting out at sea without food or water and most crucially without a country willing to take them in. Why?

What are conditions like that drive people to give up everything?

Only since 2011 has this country been accessible to mainstream tourism. For decades (since the early 1960s) tourism was restricted to a one-time 10-day visa with a prescribed route of travel. This all changed with the elections of a new government in 2011. Some areas of the country are still off limits to tourists. But now a 30-day visa is available and even individual tourists can go to nearly all areas of the country. But will this last?

For no particular reason, I suddenly felt a sense of urgency in regard to Myanmar.

On one hand, if the country remains open, droves of tourists will come and will most surely change the attitude and the behavior of the locals. What still is a destination for pioneering travel spirits now might soon become a well-traveled tourist highway.

On the other hand, if the country closes up again, I would have missed my window of opportunity. I have to go and I have to go now. I want to see the myriads of Buddhist monuments Myanmar has to offer. But I also want to gain a deeper understanding of the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of this country, which in its variety may well be unparalleled in the world. From what I gather so far, there are 80-100 different ethnic groups and all of the five world religions are practiced with Therevada (or Hinayana) Buddhism as the predominant one.

First I thought I would combine Myanmar with Indonesia, but that would have taken me away from home for two+ months again. And this year I do want to leave some time to spend with my two young grandsons Tillman (2 years) and Arthur (5 months). And so it came about that I will be going to Myanmar and Myanmar only.

I hope you will join me!