Burma

Elephants No. 33 and 34 – Mawlamyine, Burma

These elephants I am about to show you, my dear reader, are in fact not single elephants but two groups of elephants found in temples to the south of Mawlamyine that we visited on a day trip. We enjoyed our stay in Mawlamyine, not just because of its slow pace, glittering golden stupas, and stunning sunsets over the river, but because it made a great base for such day trips. Burma is full of weird and wonderful things – another sight visited on such a day trip was a temple based around a series of rocks balanced precariously on top of each, painted gold.  But onto the elephants… (more…)

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Burmese Days

We are now approaching the end of our three weeks in Burma (also known as Myanmar – there’s some controversy over which name to use). It’s an interesting country to visit, especially at this time when it’s in the process of opening up: Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party have just won a landslide victory and it looks like there could be a smooth transition of power in 2016. That looked impossible until just a few years ago. The general mood of the people we’ve met is one of optimism – although there is great poverty here, not to mention civil war and endemic corruption issues. But most people seem to think that Burma’s fortunes are on the rise. Even two or three years ago it was apparently dangerous to speak your mind about politics and tourists were warned to avoid mentioning any sensitive subjects that might get the local Burmese into trouble. But now people openly express admiration for “The Lady” (in a weird parallel to You-Know-Who in Harry Potter it used to be dangerous to speak of her openly) and dissatisfaction with the military regime.  (more…)

Elephant No. 32 – Hpa An, Burma

The main attraction of Hpa An is the collection of stunning caves in the surrounding area. We went in an EXTREMELY bumpy tuc-tuc to visit them (seriously – no metalled roads so way more bumpy than your average bumpy tuc-tuc ride). As they were religious sites they often had ornate entrances like this one, guarded by two white elephant statues. Them being religious sites also means you have to remove your shoes each time you go in – I stupidly wore lace-up walking boots thinking that as they were caves it would be uneven ground – and as a result probably spent more time putting on and taking off shoes than visiting caves. Nevertheless, it was an interesting day-trip, both because of the standard-very-surreal-bizarre Burmese statues in many of the caves, and a delightful boat trip out of one of them. I would thoroughly recommend a stop in Hpa An for anyone in the south of Burma.  (more…)

Fire stick festival, Kalaw

We were lucky enough to arrive in Kalaw, a small mountain town in Burma, on the night of the annual fire stick festival that takes place each year at the full moon at the end of November. This happened by complete chance – we had come to Kalaw to do some trekking and were just wandering round the town before dinner on the day we arrived and kept bumping into processions of dancing children carrying lanterns and realised something must be up!  (more…)

Elephant No. 31: Yangon, Burma

 

White elephants in Yangon



I found some more live elephants! These are in fact extra special elephants because they are “white” elephants – though if you look closely you will see that they are a pale grey colour with a faint pinkish tinge. The descriptor “white” actually refers to their supposed spiritual purity rather than the colour of their skin. They are not a different species of elephant but are albinos, and relatively rare – I have never seen one before.  (more…)