Scribblings from the hard shoulder of the Information Superhighway

Burma (Myanmar)

When I started this rewrite of mallorn.net it was never my intention to create a blog.

Ive kept diaries in the past (good thereapy) and even made a stab at my autobiography (even better therapy), but I recognised that my current circumstances at the time (seeking employment) would probably make for a really dull blog.

However the recent events in Myammar have prompted me to write this post.

Several friends have visited Myanmar over the years, and have commented on the beauty of the place and the friendliness of the people. My personal experience of Myanmar is probably a case in point.

It was early February 2000, and we were touring northern Thailand, visiting the cities of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son – known popularly as The Golden Triangle. From our room in the Meridian Baan Boran we could see Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

We took the almost obligatory day tour which crossed both borders, albeit briefly.

Once across the border into Myanmar our group of about twenty affluent western tourists were loaded onto trishaws to visit the local pagoda. While we were exploring the site the heavens opened, and a torrential shower ensued. Terry Pratchett once described rain in Asia as they cut the sea into strips and hang it from the sky – this was one of those showers and the trishaws soon got bogged down in the muddy tracks that passed for roads.

A local family invited us to share their home and shelter from the downpour. Their home comprised a roof that covered a space about twenty feet square with a concrete base. In one corner there were beds, another corner served as the kitchen and so on. There was a baby in a rudimentary crib, and several dogs asleep around the place. We stood there, soaked, while the woman on the house proudly showed us round and showed her few
possessions.

We learn about the hierarchy of needs but never really experience it, this was a truly humbling demonstration of the theory; most of us were carrying cameras that cost more money than she would ever see in her life, but she and her family freely shared what little they had.

A few years later we journeyed up the Mekong River from the delta to Siam Reap in Cambodia on a Pandaw paddle steamer. When Burma got hit by the cyclone in May 2008 the Pandaw boats that were working the Irrawaddy were called into service as hospital boats.

Any money donated to Pandaw was used directly to refit and fuel these boats, and I figured a donation directly to them is less likely to be swalloewd up by quasi (or even directly) government organisations.