Time travel

My few days back amongst the big city lights, air conditioned shopping centres, more decadence and food choices than in the past two months combined,  super-speedy internet connection and mass consumerism here in Bangkok, are coming to an end.                           

It's time to travel a little further off the beaten track to one of Thailand's less visited neighbours - Myanmar (Burma).

The long-standing tourism boycott was lifted in in 2010 and travellers are returning in droves to explore this culturally rich part of South-East Asia.  Unfortunately, Myanmar's history of human rights abuses and economic sanctions by many countries creates an ethical dilemma for many when deciding if they should visit.  Like many, I questioned whether tourism will just support those currently in power or will have a positive impact and provide new opportunities for the people of Myanmar. I have made the decision to  visit as an independent traveller and support small, non-Government operated businesses with the intention of getting a local perspective (as much as one can as a foreigner visitor). 

The dowdy, heavily-spiked Myanmar Embassy building may have looked out of place surrounded by the glitzy high-rises of Bangkok, but the long queue of people that I joined to wait for a visa were proof of the growing popularity of Myanmar as a travel destination. 

This place will be different - a step back in time to how travel used to be before technology changed the experience.  Myanmar has very limited/slow internet and their ATMs don't accept foreign cards - both crucial to the modern-day traveller.  Part of me is also excited about the freedom that this will bring - freedom to just enjoy the moment.   Without Facebook.

The currency of choice in Myanmar is US dollars (there is no other option) and the notes must be in pristine condition, ideally brand new, with no rips, no marks and no folds.  A fellow traveller in the visa queue told me to iron the notes and keep them flat - otherwise they won't be accepted on the black market.  In fact, the black market is the recommended place to change money into the local currency.  Even the guidebooks and websites all suggest the same thing - "don't change money at the bank".  

So the Wandering Hart blog will be a little quiet for a few weeks.  Once I return to good internet connection, I look forward to sharing some stories and images from what promises to be an amazing country and experience.

Stay tuned.

Myanmar embassy.jpg