A certain moral clash looms over the temple-rugged skyline of Myanmar. Torn by destructive cyclones and infested by ruthless military dictators, it will give you a hard time deciding whether to join the on-going tourist boycott or quite the contrary, boost local revenues and thus improve the quality of life. Dissonance is what you have to learn to deal with here, and much as you may loath the regime, you will immediately take to the people. A little skeptical and withdrawn, they endear with their gentleness, wisdom, and thoughtfulness. Regretfully, the collective outcry vanishes into thin air and bountiful resources will generate income anyway; plus giving this staggering country a cold shoulder is consciously depriving yourselves of an unforgettable spiritual experience.
In the late afternoon, when the heat is starting to die down in Mandalay, Theravada monks with their clean-shaven heads bowed low are whispering prayers as a little girl is coming of age in an ear-piercing ceremony. In order to reach neighboring Amarapura one has to cross the lake Taungthaman over a most amazing teak bridge to be found in the world. In Yangon, portable restaurants are either folding or setting up on sidewalks and dumbstruck tourists are gazing in disbelief at Shwedagon Paya. Yet it is Bagan that flares the imagination and inspires the utmost awe with thousands of sacred stupas scattered one next to another and tearing the sky that turns Venetian red in the setting sun.
Myanmar materializes the longing for a virginal piece of land intact by the insidious virus of globalization. Along the upper course of the Irrawaddy River, life is going on much as it was at the time of first British colonizers, with stilted villages barely resisting the monsoons, creaking carts drawn by mighty buffalo, and bamboo rafts scudding slowly with the current. The gravity-defying Golden Rock of Kyaiktiyo shines so brightly that it seems Burma has its own sun precariously perched on top of a mountain. Kalaw combines simplicity of life with sophistication of religious cult, giving trekking opportunities beyond your reckoning, and the gentle waters of Ngwe Saung Beach will sooth your troubled consciences. The decision is up to you.