1 images Created 18 May 2014
Myanmar ( Burma )
I decided to visit Myanmar this year for two reasons: Firstly I watched a 3 part BBC documentary series about “Wild Burma” showing that Myanmar has some of the most pristine forests with high biodiversity that still remain in SE Asia, but that they are under the encroaching threat of poaching: Secondly, last year I was contacted by an old Burmese friend who lived on my boat in Alaska in 1993, and I hadn’t seen or heard from him up until now. He has lived and worked in the USA since then, but was planning a trip to Myanmar this spring because he is interested in promoting tourism there, as the country is experiencing a sudden boom in visitors since the democratic reforms following decades of military rule and political isolation. My Burmese friend is particularly interested in exploring the possibilities of ecotourism, as I am, so the initial focus of my trip was to find out how accessible the wildest parts of Myanmar are. Because Myanmar has been isolated for so long, there is very little, if any information available about travelling outside the established tourist circuit that includes Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake in particular. Apart from being restricted by an excessive series of intestinal infections after arriving there, I quickly realised that it may be some time before the wilder extremities of the country are accessible to travellers. Some of those wilder areas are still beset with ethnic conflict and closed to foreigners. Everything is evolving so quickly there since the political reforms, but it is quite apparent that the old established military powers are still firmly rooted there, and are pulling at least some of the strings behind the cover of democracy. When I was heading back to Yangon on the bus to fly back to the Philippines I sat next to a journalist from the popular National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. He told me that he still had no editorial freedom and that everything he wrote had to be vetted by the authorities.