Journey to Myanmar — Yangon and Inle Lake

Minga la ba! That’s ‘Hello’ in Burmese.  Myanmar (formerly called Burma) is truly a developing country, having suffered for decades under an oppressive military regime.  Over 25% of the population live below the national poverty level.  But the country last year held an election for the first time in many years, and newly elected officials could mean a move towards a more open society.   Still, Myanmar is filled with exotic atmosphere and wondrous sights.  Our 12-day journey began in the capital city of Yangon (formerly Rangoon), and then we flew on to the Inle Lake Region.

We spent two days in the bustling city of Yangon, with its stately, yet crumbling British colonial era buildings and its jaw-dropping Schwedegon Pagoda complex.  The city bustled with pedestrians, traffic, and outdoor markets.   The Pagoda is an entire religious Buddhist ‘city,’ with temples, monuments, and sculptures, all surrounding the 344 foot-high gold leaf-covered pagoda itself.  Thousands of lay worshippers and Buddhist priests and nuns filled the complex.

Then we were off to Inle Lake in central Myanmar. With an average depth of 5 feet, this 45 square mile lake is home to an historic culture built on fishing and hydroponic agriculture in Shan State, home to many ethnic minorities.   Entire villages built on stilts over the water; floating gardens of squash, tomatoes, and beans; village pagodas; weekly markets of unusual produce and goods (how about skinned rat for dinner?!) — are all aspects of life lived by the water. My heightened senses tingled.