Postcard from Our Traveler: Our Time in Myanmar was Utterly Fantastic!

Elise R. recounts her experience with a custom “travel to Myanmar” package from Asia Transpacific Journeys:

Hello!

Our time in Myanmar was utterly fantastic! Loved every minute.

Our guide, Win Htoon, was the BEST GUIDE EVER.  She had a expert grasp of English, a broad knowledge of everything Myanmar and beyond and a wealth of insider places to take us, off the “beaten track.” Further, she is a clothes horse– she was styling in a different wonderful Myanmar fabric every day… looked fantastic!  By the end of the trip, she was just another family member traveling along and enjoying the moments with us… laughing all the way.  We even taught her to snorkel at McCloud island!  And, at Sharon’s super wonderful surprise birthday party at the Green Elephant (how can we ever repay your generosity?), Gregg gave her his Kindle (about 35 books loaded on it).  We tipped her well.  Can you get her a visa to visit us?  She was superb.

McCloud Island was heaven.  Our own deserted island in paradise.  The bungalows were spacious, beautiful mosquito netting, immediate hot water, sheets and towels changed every day, great food.  Our cabana had a more modern air conditioning unit than Gregg and Ken had … oh well.  The snorkeling was fantastic.  There were only 11 guests.

Unlike Khao Lak Resort (however, great room again, dude!) which was full to capacity–mostly with grumpy dumpy Germans and sequestered serious Swedes.  They all looked out of their comfort zone at a beach scene.

As far as I am concerned, it was a total waste of time to go to Phuket.  But I was out voted and Sharon insisted I make a compromise (Gregg and Ken wanted to end their vacation at a beach Resort–they still have to work for a living and wanted down time).  It was time I would have preferred spent exploring more of Myanmar! But what’s done is done.

I would like to return and do some more tribe exploring in Kachin State and Kayah State.  But I suppose there are too many places to go in the world and I probably will never return.  We’ll see.

It was all so superb and remarkable. And changing rapidly!!!!!  We were mostly vegetarians on the trip and Win ordered for us— great, sumptuous feasts of food.

Good bye for now,

Elise R.
Corte Madera, CA

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Elise is a veteran Asia Transpacific Journeys traveler, this being her fourth journey. She traveled on a custom trip to Myanmar and Thailand.

There is no better time than now t0 travel to Myanmar. Find out why and begin planning your custom journey or small group trip today, 800-642-2742.

Dreaming of Myanmar (Burma)

Black Friday is here and the chaos has just begun. How many times will we be reminded:  “there are only X more shopping days until Christmas” in the coming days? TV commercials and mailings from corporations pushing their trinkets daily…

Being Myanmar travel enthusiasts, we’d rather be shopping in a Shan State Tribal market—a fascinating hodgepodge of brightly colored flowers, flopping fish and tribal people, each in their distinctive traditional dress. It is a feast for the senses and there are photo opportunities galore.

Or at sunrise we’d rather float quietly over the amazing stupas of Bagan (Pagan) in a hot air balloon. During its golden age in the 12th century, Bagan was known as “the city of four million pagodas.” While Kublai Khan and several massive earthquakes have reduced that inflated number drastically, what remains is quite incredible, and one of the greatest sites in Asia.

Or better yet, we’d rather spend an afternoon aboard a boat exploring the beautiful Inle Lake. There are so many sights to see: the famous Intha fisherman rowing their fishing boats with a swirling move of their leg; floating gardens where villagers actually grow tidy rows of vegetables on the lake’s surface; and a weaving village to see locals hand crafting traditional wares.

That sounds more like it!

If you would like more information about organizing travel to Burma, please contact one of our Myanmar travel specialists at 800-642-2742.

Postcard from Our Traveler: The Reluctant Traveler in Burma by S. Jay Keyser

The author on one of his many reluctantly taken journeys, with his wife and friends.

The Train from Maymyo, Burma

George Orwell spent a year in Mandalay as a police officer, including time in Maymyo (42 miles east of Mandalay) where he trained with the Burmese army. Even today a large military presence permeates the town thanks to its being the home of the Defense Services Academy. Oddly, Orwell’s Burmese Days doesn’t mention Maymyo, although the town appears briefly in Homage to Catalonia:

Mentally you are still in Mandalay when the train stops at Maymyo, four thousand feet above sea level. But in stepping out of the carriage you step into a different hemisphere. Suddenly you are breathing cool sweet air that might be that of England, and all round you are green grass, bracken, fir-trees, and hill-women with pink cheeks selling baskets of strawberries.

Maymyo was to be the British home away from home. You can see this when you visit the Maymyo Botanical Garden. It is both lovely and pathetic.   It is beautifully laid out and is surely a pleasant promenade on Sunday afternoons. The pathos lies in its having been created on the advice of a Kew Gardens landscaper brought over for the express purpose of making Maymyo more like England. It never quite works, of course; hence, the overwhelming sense of loss that hangs over the garden. It must have been like spending holidays in a waxwork museum.

There is a train that travels northeast from Maymyo to Naung Hkio. It is a ride worth taking. If you stay on it long enough, you cross a 109-year-old bridge, the so-called Gokteik Viaduct, just outside of Naung Hkio. When it was completed in 1901, the bridge was the largest of its kind. Sir Arthur Rendel, an engineer with the Burma Railway Company, supervised the construction. The Pennsylvania Steel Company manufactured the parts. The point of the train ride is to cross this ancient trestle—all 2,260 feet long and 1,200 feet high of it. When the train reaches the bridge, you can stand at the end of the car and with the outer doors open look down into the gorge. You could never do that on an American train. This is the train that Paul Theroux writes about in The Great Railway Bazaar. Composed of fifty-year-old Japanese rolling stock, its appointments are old, worn out and for the most part no longer working.

At every stop vendors walk up and down selling things to eat and drink; noodles, bananas, sweet cakes, even cups of water. Over the years the window ledges have become encrusted with the detritus of these transactions. This has its attractions for, for example, a mouse that scampered up and down the carriage like a cartoon conductor.  It stopped every so often, looked around as if it wanted to gather an audience, then scurried on. He reminded me of Mr. Jingles in the Stephen King novel, The Green Mile.

Someone asked if it was a trained mouse.

“Well, of course, it is,” I said. “After all, we’re not riding on a bus.”

Since retiring from his prestigious post at MIT, Dr. Keyser has been following his wife around the world and documenting his experiences on his blog, The Reluctant Traveler. As he says: “The blog came about when I realized that I was married to an inveterate traveler and that I, an inveterate risk avoider, was psychologically unable to let her travel without me.”

An excerpt from his travel journals appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, May, 2000 under the title “Faint of Heart in the Heart of Darkness.”  His latest travel book, I Married a Travel Junkie (2010), is available online at the Harvard Book Store or at Amazon.com as a Kindle book. We’ve read this book—and his witty commentary has sent a round of chuckles through the office.

We’ve had the honor of arranging travel for Dr. Keyser and his wife to Burma, Laos, Thailand, Australia, Bhutan, and Burma, and hope to have them travel with us again soon!