Myanmar, Where Hope Dies Last?

News stories take on increased significance when we’ve actually visited the place being covered. For example, we've recently been reading more about the effects of a harsh winter on the lives of ordinary people in both Tajikistan and China. As we read these stories, images of the people we’ve met become superimposed on a piece of news that we might otherwise regard with detachment.

We now follow Myanmar (Burma) more closely, as well. Just a few days ago, the junta (military government) there made news by announcing another “road map to democracy” and elections in 2010.

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Lonely Myanmar

Don't worry, we're not feeling lonely. The title refers to the current reality here in Myanmar where once bustling tourist sights and streets have been transformed into ghost towns. Strings of flashing lights still hang from restaurants advertising the best Burmese, Indian, Nepalese – and even Tibetan – food in town, but the sobering and obvious fact is that most of these restaurants have only a few customers per day…and that's on a good day. There are simply very few tourists here.

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Krabi and the Andaman Beach Scene

Most people visit Krabi to transit to the various Thai beach paradises nearby. We came to Krabi and stayed for two weeks. Though it doesn’t have any particularly amazing sites, the town and its people impressed us as friendly, approachable, and authentic. But as our days in Thailand came to an end, we opted to rejoin the tourist route to explore nearby beaches and take in some excellent diving.

Boats in Waiting at East Rai Leh
Mooring at East Railay

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Visa Run to Myanmar

Boy on a Boat - Ranong
Young captain on our visa run from Thailand to Myanmar.

When we told Audrey's mother we were going to Myanmar to extend our Thai visa, her anxiety level began to rise. “Don’t worry. Hundreds of British and Scandinavian men do it each week. If they can do it, we'll have no problem.”

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Cruising Phang Nga Bay

Most people come to Phang Nga to visit the dramatic limestone cliffs, islands and sparkling waters of Ao Phang Nga National Marine Park. We were no different.

Bow and Clouds, Phang Nga Bay – Thailand
Bow and Clouds, Phang Nga Bay – Thailand

Tour operators swamped us from the moment we got off the bus at Phang Nga bus station to the moment we entered our guest house, some 200 meters away. A note to tour operators: hard sells are irritating; find a new strategy. Our reaction to the hard sell is instant rejection.

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