From my house to Waukesha, I couldn't find any of the following, so I went to Burma to see them: a five-man convey of motorbikes, each carrying another motorbike, upside down, on the back; a mother nursing her baby sitting in front of her husband who drove their motorbike; a man in the middle of a highway with a brush painting dividing lines; car drivers believing such lines were a suggestion, not a line of demarcation; 20% of motorbikes with no headlights on at night; hand-made wooden carts with five-foot high wheels pulled by bullocks; and herds of cattle blocking traffic. Such sights thwarted boredom while touring the country.
But, seriously, Burma does have positives, especially the incredible number of Buddhist temples, stupas, and chinthes (temple monster-like "guards"). It is astounding the reverence its people have for the 2400-year-old Buddha.
The official name of the country is now Myanmar (Mee IN mar), changed from Burma in the 1990s. However, I prefer the name the conquering English (1820s) gave to it, rather than the one the ruthless dictators changed it to. Civil war, rampant for decades, is still going on in various parts of the country, mainly the forested highlands, but less so recently, making it possible for tourism to develop. And the government is becoming far less authoritarian, so the country has a fighting chance to no longer be the poorest country in SE Asia. Most workers made the equivalent of 40-50 cents an hour, but adjusted for low prices, the real wage is closer to $1.50 an hour (of course, still extremely low).
I left home on November 18th and returned on December 3rd, which included a full-day layover in Bangkok, Thailand.
Mandalay is relatively new, built in 1857 by King Mindon as the new capital of Burma. It has just over a million people. The palace and much of the city was wiped out by British bombing of the Japanese occupiers during WW II. Most of the many temples were either repaired or completely reconstructed.
Bagan and Inle Lake
Bagan, the modern spelling of earlier Pagan, is considered to be the largest archeological site in the world. Its earliest history begins nearly two thousand years ago, but documented history begins in the 9th Century. It was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom from 1044 until 1287. During that time (of wealth), some 1200 Buddhists temples and pagodas were built. Most have been destroyed by earthquakes, but some 2200 still stand in an area of approximately 25 square miles. It is really, REALLY, some place to see--easily making it onto My Favorite 50 Man-made Places in the world. UNESCO agrees, as they made it a World Heritage Site.
A short plane trip took me east to Inle Lake, a lake about 20 miles long and three miles wide, with innumerable points of interest. I hired a man with a long, narrow motorboat for eight hours to tour the area for $16--for the DAY, not for an hour. Attached photos describe them better than I can.
The Hinterlands of Burma
Being a farm kid from Newton, I am always more interested in rural areas than in cities. That is especially true of undeveloped countries, as I get the feeling of how my farming ancestors in Poland must have lived. I visited my third cousin in Poland in 2012, who still farms "the home place." Quite the experience for me.
I find that my most interesting trips invariably turn out to be those taken in underdeveloped countries. Not always the best trips, just more interesting ones. It always makes me appreciate how good we have it here, and in our times. Even Americans below the official "poverty line" live so much better off than much of the world--as well as Americans of the 1800s, often not even being aware of it. As do I, it seems to me Americans would be happier with their lot in life upon returning home.