Mingalaba – “greetings to you” in the Bamar language! Recently I spent three weeks in Myanmar, escaping at least a bit of an unusually cold Toronto winter.
As well as a week on my own to explore Yangon and some nearby towns, I spent two very enjoyable weeks on an Exodus Travel – organized small group tour called Discover Burma (Myanmar), which focussed on the highlights of the central (and mostly Bamar) part of the country. We visited the site of the old capital at Bagan and its 3000 or so stupas; we also spent a few days in the later capital of Mandalay as well as three days in the Inle Lake area in Chan State.
Back in Yangon (mispronounced by the British as “Rangoon”) we ended our tour with a visit to the front gate of the home of Aung San Suu Kyi on University Avenue Road. While it is undeniable that the citizens of Myanmar have some serious political and social issues to deal with, I returned home with a more optimistic feeling than I had arrived with.
For a country that has only recently opened up to foreign visitors, it surprised with its vitality and modern ways. Still in evidence every day was the profound influence of Buddhism on the lives of the people, whose welcome made this trip memorable for more than just gilded stupas and Buddha statues.
It may also be time that we stopped insisting on calling the country Burma. The name is what the British made of the colloquial name Bama used by the people themselves. To the Bamar people who live in the heartland along the Ayeyarwady River, the formal name has always been Myanmar.
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