Tuesday, June 22, 2010
One downside of rushing straight from my short travels in Myanmar/Burma to my new life in Cambodia was the absence of time to reflect on my experiences in what has, in retrospect, become one of the most stunning, if not fascinating, countries I have ever visited. I acknowledge the debate between going and not going, between supporting an oppressive military junta through tourist dollars and not, and the reality that a dichotomy between the two choices does not exist. I will not use this space to rehash the debate -- it is a personal decision, hopefully one made after some thought, and my decision was to go, and to go responsibly.
Beyond the oft-debated politics of travel in that country, there are the oft-forgotten people, those eking an existence out of a dwindling tourist industry, those who still have to live in the country. As a whole, the Burmese were the warmest and most hospitable people I met on my travels. During my time there, I was invited to dine with families, offered gifts (such as the orange flowers, given to me by two children during a walk in the red-soiled mountainside town of Kalaw), and thanked by fiercely proud locals for visiting their country. There was an openness and a sincerity I encountered that thawed my jaded traveller heart -- I believe I'm fairly open-- and that this existed, in light of the current political climate, was humbling.