Happy New Year’s

To celebrate 2009, we’ve put together a video review of one crazy year which took us to Sri Lanka, India including the Andaman Islands, Thailand, the US, and Myanmar. We’ve covered far more miles than we did in 2008. And stay tuned for more adventures to come in 2010!

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The Ethics of Visiting Myanmar

There are some serious ethical questions that travelers to Myanmar must ask themselves before planning a visit to the country. Am I legitimizing a terrible government? Am I helping or hurting the Burmese cause by traveling to Myanmar? Will my money flow directly into government coffers thereby funding oppression?

These are questions we considered carefully before making our decision.

Reports indicate that Aung San Suu Kyi, the world-famous Burmese opposition leader who has been under house arrest for years, has advised travelers not to visit Myanmar arguing that such a visit serves to support an unjust regime. She and similarly-minded Burmese activists argue that tourism does little to support the average Burmese person and that tourist dollars will ultimately end up with the government.

Others argue that visitors to Myanmar serve to Continue…

Biking Bagan

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Bagan will certainly be the highlight of our trip to Myanmar! Visitors can explore the ancient city by car, foot, horse cart, ox cart, or hot air balloon. But the best way to get away from everyone and see the remotest temples and ruins is by bicycle.

We’ve spent several days straining our leg muscles – and it’s so worth it. Watch Bagan through our eyes and see the temple city come alive.

Little Bike Repairman

Little Bike Repairman

This little guy was up early to check out my bike and make sure it was ready for today’s explorations of Bagan. Unfortunately, he must have missed something because I ended up with a flat tire on a dusty track miles from nowhere. Or, perhaps, the flat had something to do with my “short cut” through that stretch of thorny scrub. Hmmm.

Bagan

Bagan

Simply put, Bagan is extraordinary. So extraordinary, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not as famous as the Egyptian pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, or Petra. It’s the forgotten world wonder, lost in the geographical black hole otherwise known as Myanmar.

A dusty plain dotted with over 2000 ancient temples, pagodas, stupas and shrines, Bagan is epic and overwhelming. It is an unusual place, a 21st-century lost world that allows travelers to play Indiana Jones for a day – or better yet, a week.

Yes, travelers in the know discovered Bagan years ago and a limited number of tours do visit the larger more accessible temples. The site is not unknown. But the scale of Bagan is far beyond the number of people currently visiting the region. Anyone needing some space can grab a bike and take off on one of the dusty tracks to find a temple, and an adventure, of their own. In 2009, this is as good as it gets.

Barely Noticeable Bodhi Tataung

Laykyun Setkyar at Bodhi Tataung

It’s quite telling that Monywa and its ginormous Laykyun Setkyar at the wild Bodhi Tataung complex barely register as a bleep on the travelers’ radar screen. In what other country would a 312-foot reclining Buddha backed by the Laykyun Setkyar, a 423-foot standing Buddha (much taller than Lady Liberty) not merit a visit. In fact this standing Buddha is the second tallest statue in the world. However, in architecturally overwhelmed Myanmar, it’s just another massive monument.

True, they’re relatively new constructions, but they’re impressive all the same. If it makes snobby monument connoisseurs feel better, the towering figures are already starting to crumble and should look like ruins within a decade. Give the site time to mature.

Thomas and I explored the cavernous interior of the reclining Buddha, but I was a touch worried Continue…