You Took my Soul and Wiped it Clean – A Letter to Myanmar
I had been tripping back and forth if I should write something about Myanmar. It has been 3 long months since I left Myanmar after my more than 3 weeks of backpacking.
The thought of writing an article about this gorgeous country has been lingering in my mind from pillar to post for the whole 3 months. I was afraid that I might share the guilt when Myanmar will turn into another tourist base camp.
Nonetheless, the realisation that I can actually turn this fear to something optimistic kicked in. This is a letter to Myanmar who took my soul and wiped it badass clean and to the travellers to PLEASE DO NOT visit that country if you will bring nothing but a bucket of complaints, immature personality, disrespectful attitude and irresponsible tourism.
The flight I took from Bangkok to Yangon served like a time machine to me. I was more than speechless how old everything was. The pastel faded colours of the buildings, loud and rusty buses, outdated private cars and taxis brought no words to me to describe how I felt that day.
The first smile I received, was from a staff in the Yangon Airport bathroom. It strikes me right through my heart. It was very genuine; I never thought that a simple smile could actually give you that huge amount of emotions. The traffic enforcer who helped us find our way assisted us with a big smile under a raging heat of the sun. Burmese smiles like we were good old friends.
I did my long overdue first attempt of hitchhiking with a friend who also never hitchhiked before. We never waited more than 20 minutes for someone with a good heart. Though I think, he thought that my friend and I was crazy. We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere but we never felt we were in an unsafe town.
The silly first conversation with a local who speak no English tried his best to communicate by pointing out on our phrase book. He managed to let us know that he is a smoker and a bachelor! What a nice thing to know!
This is the only place I enjoyed getting stuck in a traffic jam. I was on my bicycle, with the other locals in the middle of the local market. My friend and I can’t help but adore and laugh about it.
We stand atop of a temple to overlook the magnificent Bagan. Despite that we missed the sunrise and didn’t get a great spot for sunset, cruising around Bagan was purely glorious.
Spending a few nights in a monastery hosted by a monk and eating a delicious food from the alms was a once in a lifetime experience. I can’t remember meeting any teenager who is eager to learn English as much as the Burmese boys who served as our tour guide.
For the first time since I embarked on my travelling, I have to hand wash my own laundry; it was one of the great ways to remember Myanmar. Tourism in Myanmar is not that huge yet, compare to Vietnam and Thailand. Laundry service is not cheaply accessible.
Our local trekking guide from Kalaw to Inle Lake could never be friendly and energised enough. She was genuinely enjoying her job. I have blown away when she took us to the small villages. She let us experience taking a shower with our clothes on, fetching an ice-cold water fresh from the well, whilst watching the beautiful landscape of the mountains right before our eyes.
I wouldn’t lie that I was hesitant at first when a Burmese grabbed my bag to help me get off from the back of a pickup. After travelling in Southeast Asia, it is inevitable that a local will help you then will ask for money right after. However, Burmese helped me because they simply want to help.
When I sadly need to leave Myanmar and get back to Thailand, I realised how my experience changed me. I can clearly remember appreciating a clean bed, hot shower, and all small things I have.
We tend to take everything we have for granted. Until we crashed to the point that we have nothing but our dirty and smelly clothes or an ice-cold shower after a long day. Sometimes, we need places and people to remind us how lucky we are to have food on our table and a roof over our head.
Myanmar touched my heart, took my soul and wiped it clean. It restores my faith in humanity, it pushed me to my limits, and it lets me know myself better. It reminded me to appreciate small things I have and be thankful that I have them.
The title is actually a line from a song. Go visit Myanmar and let it charm you, just please please be extra open minded and responsible - enjoy!
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