We really enjoyed Burma for what it was, but at same time, felt that there was so much more that it could be, both as a country and as a tourist destination.
Internally, the country is theoretically a democracy, but in fact the military retains a massive stronghold. Aung San Suu Kyi, aka The Lady, has proven she has the people's vote in the recent election, but as it stands, she cannot be leader due to a piece of government legislation that dictates the president cannot have a foreign spouse or children who have foreign citizenship (her deceased husband was British so her children have British nationality.)
In a recent vote, some softening occurred, but not nearly enough to stop the military from being able to veto her presidency. There is some hope after the outgoing president, Thein Sein, suggested he may support her leadership, but until something concrete changes, it seems that whilst the population would like to have The Lady in power, democracy doesn't extend quite that far.
And then there is the question of the minority groups in Myanmar. The most persecuted is the Rohinga Muslims, who are fleeing from the country in the most awful and dangerous ways, simply because they are not safe in their own homes. We were told accounts of horrific violence, with minor issues being escalated out of all proportion and resulting in terrible persecution and massacres of the Muslim population. And this by Buddhists, who surely we all would expect to be better than that.
But it is not just the Muslims that feel aggrieved. When the British were preparing to leave Burma General Aung San helped negotiate the Panglong Agreement with some of the minority ethnic groups, giving them rights to elements of self governance within the new federal system. However, with the assassination of General Aung San so soon after independence, this treaty was soon disregarded, leading to the formation of a multitude of rebel groups and ongoing tensions between them and the ruling party.
There has been a recent step forward in this, with a peace deal signed with some of the rebel groups, but it is only some, so tensions remain with the remainder, meaning any improvements are likely to be limited, and possibly shortlived.
I would love to see Myanmar become a truly democratic country, and resolve its internal conflicts, but sadly there seems long way to go before that will happen.
If and when it does, perhaps the country can improve its range of attractions for tourists too. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed our trip, but it really is a lot of temples and Buddhas, with a few visits to crafters workshops along the way. The museum in Yangon was good, but only covered history of the kingdom. It would be nice to have some places that could cover the time since then, dealing with the issue of the British Rule, the war, independence, and the military coup, all the way up to now. There is a fascinating recent history here, but at present it cannot be properly told.
That isn't to say you shouldn't visit now. As long as you are happy to see a lot of temples and Buddhas, which you will, it is a great time because, although visitor numbers are increasing rapidly, the country has yet to have the full influx of tourists that will come in due course, so it is still a place that has a certain amount of innocence in its tourism, especially away from the main hubs. It will certainly change over the coming years, and I am glad to have seen it before that happens..
Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.
Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.