Published in the August 2012 issue of Zee Lifestyle Magazine
For the first time tour guides could openly talk about politics, the generals, and Aung San Suu Kyi. Less than a year ago, they could not even mention The Lady’s name. The Burmese seemed surprised at the number of foreigners visiting their pagodas, markets, and museums. “Where you from?” several Burmese, including Buddhist monks, asked us. While we enthusiastically snapped their pictures, they too took pictures of us. We were as much a novelty as they were to us.
From Yangon we flew to Bagan, a dry plain hotter than Yangon. The entire area has over 2,500 pagodas and temples; our guide said you only had to scratch the dirt to find ancient ruins. At sunset, we climbed to the top of a temple and viewed the surrounding temples and pagodas turn shadowy gray, their spires jagged fingers pointing at the golden sky — an unforgettable sight.
Nan also talked about how the Chinese have taken their teak lumber, “even the roots.” Driving up the mountains to Maymyo, we saw that there were no huge trees, just recently planted ones. Nan talked about seeing totally denuded forests.