what was it about Burma?

image courtesy of Robyn Oretsky

IT IS inevitable that you will ask or be asked the mother of all questions when travelling: “Where has been your favourite country?” It crops up on a regular basis when wandering your way through the world. And of course this query is never complete without the subsequent “Why?”. On my part I try to mix things up by throwing in “Where was your least favourite?”, but there’s no way of escaping being drawn to the mundane.

When personally faced with the question I find that my answer frequently changes. Us human beings are complex characters with many facets to please at any given time, therefore our response to a place is dependent upon such situations as expectations, mental state, personal experiences etc.

As early as when I was even still in the country of Burma it would feature in my answer to this question. The name escaped my lips without a moment’s hesitation. Of course next would be expansion upon this choice, and this is where it became interesting.

“Why?” would stump me. Burma provided me with nice scenery, tasty food, unique experiences. But none of this seemed to sufficiently overwhelming to justify my response. I didn’t have a list of places you absolutely ‘must’ see or things that you ‘must’ do in Burma.

However after being faced with explaining myself on a few occasions it finally hit me. It wasn’t Burma’s physical attributes that left a lasting impression, it was the ambience, and more specifically, the people.

image courtesy of Robyn Oretsky

The Burmese people made me fall in love with their country. Their warmth and humility was incredible. I have never seen a face light up in quite such an overjoyed manner, tempered behind shy smiles in apparent disbelief that you have acknowledged them.

Their hospitality and desire to give was unyielding, with moments of generosity often unexpectedly popping up. Despite the Burmese being the ones to offer a service you would find yourself being the recipient of a gift. You hitch hike a ride: you not only get the ride but hunks of sweet loaves and cakes to take home. You stay at their guesthouse: they offer servings of free tea and fresh fruit. You go to drink at a beer station: your receive free soup, nuts and snacks. You go to get your haircut: payment is refused. I could go on…

image courtesy of Robyn Oretsky

What was special though was that this was clearly all done with kindness of heart, with no desire for anything in return. Perhaps it is due to the strong Buddhist culture; or the relative novelty of international tourism within the country. But it really doesn’t matter, because either way I found myself feeling extremely privileged to be treated in such a manner.

Unfortunately I cannot convey such feelings in physical terms, the simple acts. I can’t convey through pictures the consistency of feeling welcomed and safe throughout my stay. But perhaps an element of the Burmese people’s beauty will shine through in the following images.

image courtesy of Robyn Oretsky

image courtesy of Robyn Oretsky

image courtesy of Robyn Oretsky

image courtesy of Robyn Oretsky


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