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pg13 1
"People go to Burma?"
"People go."--Cory Kahaney…
Posted by pg13 on January 23, 2013 at 5:03 PM · Report this
The game looks like karam, marketed in the States as Carrom.
Posted by DN on January 23, 2013 at 5:10 PM · Report this
seatackled 3
A lot to digest, so I'll withhold comment other than to say that I enjoyed reading this and wouldn't mind seeing some follow-ups. I'm hoping Bethany will also give us her perspective.
Posted by seatackled on January 23, 2013 at 5:14 PM · Report this
Are Brendan Kiley and Bethany Jean Clement married or did this just go to burma together?
Posted by Hosono on January 23, 2013 at 5:29 PM · Report this
25 years ago in college I presented on the peace process in Burma, and was criticized as naive for my optimism. Turns out the instructor was right.
Posted by neverbeenthere on January 23, 2013 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Wow, sounds like an interesting place to visit!
Posted by Gillian Anderson on January 23, 2013 at 5:44 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 7
I gather that's the American Embassy in the picture. You see this all around the developing world. The line for a Visa to America wraps around the block and starts in the morning. I have never seen a line in front of the Pakistani Embassy in any nation I've been to, as an example. America is where the world wants to live. As goofy as America can be at times, it's still a magnet.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 23, 2013 at 5:44 PM · Report this
Reporting by tourists on their first parachute into a country... this should be entertaining.
Posted by U Tin Oo on January 23, 2013 at 6:59 PM · Report this
Thanks for this trip report. I visited Myanmar for a few days six years ago this month, and I agree about how friendly and welcoming the people were despite their poverty. Let's hope the government speeds up its liberalization (and stops its cruelty to ethnic minorities).

I only spent a day in Yangon to see Schwedegon Pagoda (impressive but a tad schlockly for my tastes). I preferred the Bagan's Archeology Zone, with over 2,000 temples and shrines crammed into 40 square miles 700-1200 years ago. Wikipedia has many good photos:

I used small guesthouses, restaurants and other services instead of the government-run ones (like Brendan and Bethany did) and I recommend others do as well. Tourism is a mixed blessing in poor countries, but I hope it will keep the Myanma government making progress.
Posted by KSea1 on January 23, 2013 at 7:00 PM · Report this

That is the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, where you have to apply in advance for a tourist visa. It takes four days so they can make sure you are not a journalist or human rights activist. Immigration visas to the USA are quite another story.
Posted by KSea1 on January 23, 2013 at 7:05 PM · Report this
Great read (as always) Brendan. Thanks.
Posted by gnossos on January 23, 2013 at 9:12 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 12
@7, #10 is correct. The US doesn't have an embassy in Burma. When I visited Burma several years ago, I too went to the embassy in Bangkok to get a travel visa. It is expensive and difficult to get a travel visa from the US; much easier to just fly to Bangkok and get your visa there.

If you travel in Burma any place that isn't government controlled, which is easy enough to do, they operate entirely on a black market economy. You ignore the official exchange rate, and exchange US currency for local currency on the black market, at a fraction of the official government rate. But this all has to be done with cash. No ATMS, no travelers checks. When I was there, there was no access to the internet at all. It was like going into a black hole, and completely losing communication with the outside world until I returned to Bangkok.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on January 23, 2013 at 9:17 PM · Report this
Holy Lonely Planet, Batman! Stay away! So why did you go to "Burma/Myanmar" but not "Rangoon/Yangon?" And what's this about future tourists being "the inevitable entitled jerks?" From the hipster patronization that your article (and its comments) shows so well, I'd say that the hipster Kathmandu-ization of "Burma/Myanmar" is well underway, as illustrated by one "inevitable entitled jerk" who wrote about it for the Stranger.

I'm so glad I went there almost 20 years ago, before the arrival of fuckedupness. The only thing missing was the promotion of opportunities for 20-something English teachers. I guess that'll have to wait for the followup.
Posted by Mister G on January 23, 2013 at 10:16 PM · Report this
wingedkat 14
@12 dissapearing into an Internet black hole sounds wonderful, as did this trip.
Posted by wingedkat on January 23, 2013 at 10:36 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 15're saying you went to Burma before it was cool?

I'd be careful about throwing around that hipster label, if I were you...
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on January 23, 2013 at 11:35 PM · Report this
#15, I'm plenty of things, but no one would ever confuse me for a Seattle hipster. I'm the fucker in the big pickup truck who edges you and your fucking bicycle into that power pole.
Posted by Mister G on January 24, 2013 at 12:17 AM · Report this

He's not saying he went to Rangoon before it was cool, he's saying "Burma" is a really disappointing title for Yangon's first album, and while he can see why newcomers like Kiley are drawn to it, he really prefers the singles.

For myself, I'm more interested in what Brendan is implying with this:

"Whereas Iraq and Afghanistan have been a rocky and violent examples of forced national-building from the outside, Burma looks like it's poised to begin the process from within."

I think what he means is "any foreign government the US supports is evil." But I suspect things won't play out exactly the way his magic decoder-ring has prophesied, what with the government of Iraq looking far more stable than it has any right to be, and the government of BuRaYaMyar looking like the very definition of "fluid."
Posted by robotslave on January 24, 2013 at 3:10 AM · Report this

You know, you're kind of making bhl's case there, rather than refuting it.

Your pickup-driving-real-authentic-redneck-who-nonetheless-lives-in-the-city identity collapsed under its own ridiculousness at about the same time Linda's Tavern opened.
Posted by robotslave on January 24, 2013 at 3:25 AM · Report this
pfffter 19
I love this post so much I want to marry it.
Posted by pfffter on January 24, 2013 at 7:43 AM · Report this
katrat 20
Wow look at those cool woven houses! And I expect the "Spy" photo will remain one of your happiest NYE memories your entire life. Fun, interesting. Thanks for sharing with us!
Posted by katrat on January 24, 2013 at 7:44 AM · Report this
Callie 21
@4 Yes, they're married.
Posted by Callie on January 24, 2013 at 9:12 AM · Report this
Why didn't you have a digital camera? Are there any restrictions? Thank you for the post. I plan to go to Thailand next month and perhaps over to Burma as well.
Posted by tedwardma on January 24, 2013 at 9:21 AM · Report this
treacle 23
My friend just went to Burma to assist with implementing a proper clean water situation for a hospital in Sittwe. The stories she's sending back are hilarious and amazing! Thanks for this story & history to fill in yet more of the gaps, and the photos too.

That game you are playing looks vaguely similar to a game called Carrom.
Posted by treacle on January 24, 2013 at 9:22 AM · Report this
@ 22 and 23:

I don't think the game was carom, but seemed like a variation on it. The name sounded like "la-tau-co," but I never saw it written down anywhere.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on January 24, 2013 at 9:38 AM · Report this
@ 24

I would second that the game looks like Carrom. Striker, men, corner pockets. Carrom originating in Burma. I'm sure they have a different name for it there but all signs point to Carrom. But then all I have is a picture to go on....

I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to let pickled snake liquid be rubbed on me :S
Posted by Dirk7 on January 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM · Report this
I read this article with lots of interest because my husband and I were in Burma/Myanmar during the same time as this author. I agree with everything he said about the people and about the country's future. I would add that if you plan on visiting, do some reading before you go. I read THE LIZARD KING by Karen Connelly and THE GLASS PALACE before going there and George Orwell's BURMESE DAYS while travelling through the country. There are many more books now available. We were glad we travelled to Burma/Myanmar but it was troubling to see so much poverty. However, the spirit of the people was inspiring and I hope their future is shaped by their dreams and reflects their spirit.
Posted by Chilliwack on January 24, 2013 at 11:12 AM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 27
@16--Oh, so you're saying you're an asshole. But you repeat yourself.

Grow a sense of humor. And some fucking manners.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on January 24, 2013 at 11:53 AM · Report this
w o w. that sounds magical. did you see any fun animals?
Posted by whiskeypony on January 24, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
St. Beretta 29
I just returned from Burma last night. I think I stayed at the place with the snooker/shuffleboard. I also talked to a fantastic Burmese guy there who told me about families on the coast that were forced to sell their land to developers at gunpoint and mangrove forests that were destroyed, all in the last 10 years. I'm very excited about the progress being made but I worry about the developments and exploitation to come.
Posted by St. Beretta on January 27, 2013 at 7:52 AM · Report this
#29, you're part of the problem. Burma has now become hip, so that's where the hipsters are going. You think you're any different from the rich guys paying $500+ a night for a top-end room? Really? The military government fucked over that country, but it's nothing compared to what's coming. And you helped. Congrats.
Posted by Mister G on January 27, 2013 at 10:06 PM · Report this

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