Family and Friends,

This is just going to be a short e-mail to you all as I am in Bangkok between flights on my way to Beijing. I have just spent the last 2 weeks in Myanmar (formerly Burma). I can go on about the different places I have been but most of were just temples and Pagodas. Instead, I will highlight some of my experiences and observances.

1) Since a friend of mine (Thanks Bernadine) set me up with her cousins and family in both Yangon and Mandalay, I was able to experience some authentic Burmese culture - including the food. I tried fish head soup, mutton hoof stew, and intestine curry. I won't say I finished it all but I at least tried it.

2) Speaking of food, there is a "MacBurger" restaurant copied from the Golden Arches all the way down. However, there are some differences. Such as the framed pictures of Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise, they also sell cigarettes at the main counter and there is a Karaoke bar upstairs. I guess they are trying to create that total family atmosphere.

3) I took a 6 hour taxi ride to Inle Lake. At what seemed like 90 mph, every time we passed a Pagoda, my driver would put his hands together, bow his head, and pray to Buddha. Meanwhile, I was praying he would put both of his hands back on the steering wheel.

4) On a 24 hour bus ride back to Yangon, we had the same driver the whole way. We did take breaks every 4 hours for 30 minutes but driver never slept. He just kept driving and driving and driving...

5) On that same bus ride (and on all the other ones), the only music they play are Burmese versions of Western songs. I heard Ronan Keating, Bon Jovi, The Eagles, and many more all sung in local tongue. The tapes must be standard issue for all busses since I heard the same songs on every bus.

6) Gas - Due to government allocations, citizens are only allowed to buy 2 gallons of gas per day for each registered car. However one can only get get 6 gallons at a time which means every car and motor vehicle in the country must go to the gas station every 3 days. You can imagine the lines.

7) Internet - Out of 50 million people only 3000 have e-mail access. None are allowed to surf the web.

8) Packed Bus - In my experience of traveling around SE Asia I have never seen so many people packed into the busses or onto pickups than here in Burma. I thought Laos was bad until I got here. On one of the pickups, it wouldn't leave until it had 23 people. (3 in the cab, 10 in the back sitting, 6 on the roof and 4 standing on the tailgate.)

Well those of some of my experiences in Burma. I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone.

See I told you my message would be short. Anyways, I haven't heard from many of you in awhile. I promise I will respond to any personal message you may send.
All the best, MIKE


copyright © 2003 by Michael E. Hopkins - all rights reserved
revised NOVEMBER 2008