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Postcard from Our Traveler: Travel to Burma

March 7, 2011

February 28, 2011

Dear Rebecca,

You are right – the Burmese people are lovely, and it is like going back in time to visit Myanmar.

Joel (Kyaw Thu), our guide, is an incredible person.  He is smart, passionate about his country’s heritage and artistic traditions and their current political plight, thoughtful and compassionate.  He was flexible with our program, sent meds to Inle Princess when P was under the weather, was gracious with carrying extra bags to lighten our load—excellent in all ways!! We loved the casual lunches under a thatched roof, sitting by the river and enjoying Burmese curry and stir-fried veggies.  It was great having Joel with us the whole time. I’m not feeling articulate at conveying how special I think Joel is, but we were very fortunate to have him lead us through his country. He tutored me in understanding and analyzing lacquer, antique and new. He also helped me begin to understand Buddhism. The graciousness and kindness of the Burmese people are all the more lovely and poignant in light of their political climate. They are all building good karma by being so gracious to foreigners now!

Loved the ruins, but my heart breaks for the want of preservation and help from Unesco. One of my best memories was in the 12th-century temple in Bagan with the amazing frescoes.  When Joel showed them to me with the electric torch, I felt like Juliette Binoche in the Italian chapel in The English Patient.  Also loved the musicians at the Gitameit, and got a kick out of their big “Aaron Meyer” poster.

I especially enjoyed the visits to the monasteries and Buddhist schools. We had a lovely interaction with kids in the village near Inle Princess. Hit lunch break at the school, so had fun teaching them to blow bubbles, then giving out lots of Matchbox cars and little animal finger puppets.

The time travel aspect was fascinating. In those tiny villages I kept thinking of Orwell’s John Flory, and how he identified with the native people, and how isolated and frustrated he felt among the narrow-minded Brit colonials. When I saw the wheelwrights, the ox carts, the clay water vessels, and one-room bamboo huts, I could empathize with the isolation those Brits must have suffered among the medieval way of life of the natives, though.

Inle Princess was wonderful.  Best spa I’ve ever indulged in!  Loved the silk weaving factories, especially the ikat fabric.  P had some gorgeous outfits made, but my splurges were a painting in Yangon and lacquer in Bagan.  Joel deciphered a date on a betel box that turned out to be the year I was born!  Auspicious sign, so I had to get it, of course—sort of like seeing Burmese Lessons in the new books at the library the day we first discussed the possibility of this trip. The box was made in that 4-generation shop and I got to meet the daughter and great grandson of the maker.

Loved the Gov Residence and Inle Princess.  We didn’t get the ocean front cottages at Sandoway, which was a disappointment, but still loved being there.  I took some amazing beach walks by the light of the full moon, and loved walking on the beach at dawn and sunset.  That beach is gorgeous and so unspoiled!

Thank you for the note regarding my brother Chuck’s trip with you, and the 1000 Places book.  Those were nice surprises to find in the mail pile, as were your two catalogs.  Almost addictive, like travel crack. Vietnam or India?  Turkey or Laos?

I loved the Arun Residence in Bangkok, too.  Wonderful food at “The Deck,” their restaurant.  Turns out it was written up in an article in the NY Times that I had with me. The extra amenities at the Royal Orchid Sheraton were good for P, and we enjoyed it as a place to recoup at end of day.  Our guide, Wow, was very good with the logistics of our shopping.  We flipped at the big Jim Thompson outlet!   Turns out they print for big English fabric houses such as Colefax and Fowler and Zoffany.  I loved the Jim Thompson house, too, and touring Ayuthaya.  Bangkok traffic was the pits.  Four Seasons could get addictive.  I’d consider a return trip to Bangkok on way to Laos or back to Inle Lake.

As always, you thought of every detail and left us eagerly anticipating our next trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Many, many thanks for creating a magical experience for Penny and me.

LIZA GUSLER
Virginia

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