Explore The World
Follow me on my solo adventures as a senior
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One of the delights of travel for me is to visit remote places. Sometimes getting to a place is as interesting as the destination itself. I knew Mrauk U would be interesting (ancient capital of the Arakanese kingdom, now know as the Rakhine state)
Buddhists like to build their scared places at the top of a hill. I’m not sure why. Maybe, it is because each step upwards expiates our earthly sins and carries us closer to a purer state in which we can enter the sacred spot.
In Myanmar, the sacred is intertwined with everyday life. Sacred buildings, gold and white, rise from the landscape, a testament to the Buddha’s teachings. And the people weave their spirituality into their daily life.
I’ve always enjoyed travelling by train, probably because I equate it with independence. At the age of eleven, my mother, full of fear and trembling, took me to Piccadilly Station in Manchester and put me on a train to Carlisle.
What is it that lures us back to places we have been previously? One of my first walks in Yangon on this trip was to find the Golden Smiles Inn, the guesthouse where I had stayed in 2004, well to the west of where I stayed in 2014.
Rudyard Kipling, the bard of the British Empire, was right when he wrote: ‘This is Burma. And it is unlike any land you know about.’
He could equally have said, ‘And Yangon (Rangoon in his day) is unlike any city you may have visited.’
Exactly a year ago (December 2014), I was in Myanmar, the Burma I heard about in my childhood. It was not for the first time. Burma, as it was then, entered my imagination during my childhood listening to my father (who was a Commando in Italy during World War II), talk about Wingate’s Chindits.
For Bruce Chatwin, inspiration for travel to Patagonia was the bit of flotsam that showed up in his grandmother’s china cabinet, a piece of a brontosaurus rescued from a glacier by a restless family member who had taken to the high seas in a merchant ship and washed up at the end of the world.
This was written on the last day of my 2014 -15 trip (March 26, 2015) in the paradise called Ubud in Bali where I had been watching the rice grow in the newly planted fields.