I was saddened this week by news that Burma, also known as Myanmar, had suffered another military coup. It brought back memories of my first trip there in March 2013 shortly after it had re-opened to international travelers.
My 2013 Trip To Rangoon
I flew to Rangoon in Singapore Airlines business class, a regional 777-200 with old-school recliner seats and a projector screen.
Burma had just begun issuing visas to foreign visitors and I had arranged a visa on arrival.
Upon landing, I proceeded through a beautifully remodeled airport to a lengthy queue for passport control. Once I reached the front, I presented my e-visa confirmation and was soon stamped in.
I recall that foreign currency exchange was an issue and several of my U.S. bills were not accepted because they were creased or crumpled.
Sadly, I have lost the pictures from my journey through Rangoon…Maybe they will turn up one day, but at present I cannot find them. The ones in this report are from my iPhone, but I had my SLR camera along as well. But what I do recall was a bustling city filled with commerce and immense amounts of new construction.
I bet the city has greatly transformed over the last eight years.
While my pictures are lost, these videos of my drive back to the airport are not:
I flew back on Thai Airways and spent some time in the Royal Jade Lounge prior to departure.
The persecution of the Rohingya cried out for justice, but a coup d’etat seems to set Burma back even further. Statecraft can be a dangerous chess game, but let us hope for the sake of the people of Burma that peace and democracy will one day flow freely.
@Matthew — I remember a city that was a dump, filled with filth and poverty.
Yes, I saw that too. But such potential!
Yes because city municipal didn’t have budget to hire ppl, most ppl that already in government are corrupted. It has started changing and more tighten the corruption after NLD won majority of the seats in 2015. From 2010 to 2015 was still former Burmese military government just with civilian clothes. Please do me a favor, when someone call as Burma. Do not try to tell them to call as Myanmar. We didn’t vote for our country mane to be change it. That was military regime decided to do that with their ritual so they can be in power.
This coup been planning for a while. I am very sad that all my friends and family members still have to suffer. 2 big countries like China and Russia always back Burmese military. This military announced as 1 year period more likely to be longer. Sections against government will not work because of that 2 countries and some ASEAN members.
I really enjoyed my trip around Myanmar with some of the friendliest people, none of the hassle or trying to rip tourists off like in most countries.
The Hilton Ngapali also really takes care of diamond members!
You sound somewhat confused, saying that in 2013 Myanmar had “‘re-opened to international travellers” and “just begun issuing visas to foreign visitors”.
I can assure you that Burma has been issuing visas to foreigners, and been open to foreign visitors, for many many years prior to 2013
Please correct your article.
I’m talking about its broad change in policy in the time period:
But it is just factually incorrect to say that they had “just begun issuing visas to foreign visitors”. I spent a month in Burma on a tourist visa as a US citizen in 2011 and know others who visited years before I did. I’m actually not sure that the government ever stopped issuing visas to foreigners. In fact, the government was always trying to lure tourists (famously using slave labor in the mid-90s to rebuild Mandalay Palace as a part of a campaign to increase tourism) and it was Aung San Suu Kyi who, while under house arrest, called for a travel boycott of the country.
I will say that even though I have now been to 102 countries, that trip to Burma is still my favorite trip I have ever taken. I had plans to return in 2012, but unfortunately my life circumstances changed and I wasn’t able. Talking to people that visited in 2014 it seems like it was already a totally different place than what I had seen just three years earlier.
Myanmar generals used stolen election as the excuse for the coup just like the white Republican male terrorists in our own country. These terrorists have become an international network providing moral and sometimes logistical support to each other.
The US government needs to investigate all white Republican males for terrorism and at the very least get a sworn written oath under penalty of perjury from each that they do not intend to be a terrorist. Tomorrow is the one month anniversary of this attack and i will ask all your readers to keep a close eye om all the white Republican males they know. They might be terrorist sleeper cells.
We are still in immense danger until their leader, code name orangutan, is apprehended and put in prison for life. Last i heard he fled and is hiding in the jungles of the south eastern coast.
This is the BS that causes the country to be divided. Hint, it’s not the Republicans. It’s people like you, Debit
The persecution of Rohingya and other vulnerable groups is not going to lessen as a result of the coup, but rather likely intensify. Aung San Suu Kyi has been hugely disappointing, but even she is better than the vicious thugs in the military.
The generals take comfort from the fact that tourists continue to flock there ( mostly hipsters, trendies and faux- Buddhist types) now matter how egregious the human rights abuses). They’re likely quite pleased to use COVID as a cover for the coup, knowing that the tourists will return when the borders reopen.
My first trip there was in the ‘70s, followed by 2 or 3 trips in the ‘80s , but not since 1990.
Nice recollection. I can’t help but notice that you keep calling it Rangoon rather than Yangon and Burma as opposed to Myanmar. I don’t mind at all but is there any particular reason why?
Yangon and Myanmar were terms chosen by the military junta. I prefer to use the other terms.
Thats a bit like saying you visited Constantinople and not Istanbul…
Perhaps, though that has been a longer-term change than in Myanmar.
In calling the capital Rangoon or the nation Burma, I don’t mean to suggest support for colonialism.
On that note, I wonder how long Park Hyatt will continue using “Saigon” instead of “Ho Chi Minh City” for its Vietnam property? The very premise of that property is to sell you on the charm of Viet Nam’s French colonial past.
Interestingly, just last week, talking with my pharmacist, which is a 30 years old nice French lady, I mention something about Ho Chi Minh City…
She told me immediately: “I do not like that guy, please call the city Saigon”.
I guess she is from vietnam roots and altough she probably been born in France, she knows well the history… and what probably has been horrible for the people living there during this period and maybe now.
No one in Saigon ever called it HCMC, not even in the mad excesses of the new govt after 1975.
America should try to work with the generals not slap sanctions. If they are really stubborn then sanctions are a possibility. Maybe pay them a billion dollars to release Aung San Suu Kyi and see if they accept the offer?
Thanks for the photos and video!
Myanmar drives right but I suspect most of the cars are used cars from Singapore and Japan, maybe a few from Thailand, all of which drive on the left. It’s dangerous to drive on the right with a right hand drive car.
I see they use a lot of red and white paint to paint the curbs. Good idea. Make the curb easier to see. In the US, that is never done.
Did you see/find anything? Do not trust any white Republican males. They are terrorists.
For the other derek
I went in 2017. Rangoon was ok but not by any shot the main reason or place to visit. The best places in the country in my experience are the temples around Bagan and Inle Lake. Those were definitely the highlights of my trip. Stayed in fantastic hotels. Not points hotels but fabulous luxurious hotels. Highly recommend those places. I hope you didn’t just go to Rangoon as there’s so much more in the country. Glad I was able to visit when I did.
I really wanted to go to Bagan. Flights were sold out and time was limited, so I did indeed remain in Rangoon.
You would enjoy it very much; no doubt you’ll make it there in the future. Also Mandalay, although it’s no longer as charming as it once was.
I took a train from Bagan back to Rangoon, which was pretty basic but very charming. Getting up there involved flying on rather ancient prop planes ( Hawker Siddley or Fokker, IIRC), but it was more than 40 years ago…
There is a sobering parallel of how white Republican males and their leader orange orangutan used the playbook of dictators in other countries to steal the elections in the US and overthrow a legitimate govt. Stop treating these white Republican male terrorists with kid gloves. They are evil, they are stupid and they are dangerous.
Also for all the liberal numbnuts, having guns in the hands of the population ensures the military can’t overthrow govts. Whenever it wishes. Myanmar’s military is pathetic. They only distinguish themselves from the rest of the population by having access to weapons making them more powerful.
The Democrats would love to take away everyone’s guns.
Sheila Jackson Lee has a reputation for nastiness and Matthew has posted about her before. She is the sort of person who cries racism at the drop of a hat. She demands to be treated like a queen. What happened to “democracy?”