Until we reached the border of Myanmar we had to drive another 500 KM. But thanks to the good highways of Thailand it was easily possible at one day. I praised so many times the big freedom of an overlander but we should not have it in Myanmar. It is like in China. When you travel with your own car you need a guide. And in Myanmar it was not only the guide. We need to book a complete travel with hotels and an exact plan what to do every day. This plan was approved from the ministry of tourism and every change of the plan would mean a lot of organization and additional costs. And since the new regulations we needed to have an officer of the tourism ministry who reported every day our activities. He seemed like a spy for us. He didn’t have a good time with us haha. But we also had one traveler more in our group. It was the Swiss guy Pascal who calls himself “The Legend”. He travels with his Ural-Motorcycle with sidecar since 2 ½ years around the globe and enjoys the life of a hippie. The group was completed by our excellent guide Myn Myn and the driver of the pilot car. The teeth of the driver were in terrible condition like those of many Burmese. They like to chew betel nut, keep it as long as possible in their mouth and spit it in a disgusting way out. Bad, red colored teeth are the result.
We started in this group the journey to the country number 17 on my way to India: Myanmar. But is it Burma? Or Birma? Or Myanmar? The official name of the country is “Republic of the union of Myanmar“. The name came from the military government so a lot of people don’t like this name. The British introduced during the colonial times the name Burma which came from the ethical group of the Burmese. In German the name for Burma is Birma. That’s why in German the name Birma and Myanmar is correct. In English only Burma or Myanmar.
We realized on our first kilometers the many golden tops of the pagodas which looked out of the forest. Myanmar is also called the “country of the thousand pagodas”. The purpose of a pagoda is quiet useful! If a rich human being is donating money for a new pagoda then their sins will be forgiven. And if a rich and powerful king builds even many pagodas, he can be sure that he will enter right after his death the nirvana. Isn’t it great?
Golden was also the color of a rock which was high in the mountains on a cliff. A legend says that this rock is only fixed by a hair of Buddha, which is under the golden rock. That is why this place is one of the most holy worship places in Burma for the Burmese. The pilgrims have to use a truck to go to the top. They sit on the cargo area and wait that they can put, once they arrive at the top, a piece of beaten gold onto the rock. If they arrive. Because some of he truck drivers are just driving insane. The whole scenery was for us a bit weird and it seemed like we were on a festival. Sometimes we’ve been an even bigger attraction as the Golden Rock so we had to pose for many photos. But at the end it was worth-it! The clouds of the mountains lay like a bed sheet over the forest. Hundreds of pilgrims tried to reach the rock. From a safe distance it seemed like they wanted to push the rock down to the valley.
While seeing the mass of gold we thought many times that they could have invested the money in a better and sustainable way. The country is rich on raw materials like gas, minerals and gems but most of the people are very poor. By the end of the Second World War 70% of the infrastructure was destroyed. Myanmar was occupied by the Japanese forces 1942. Allies forces under the lead of the British could recapture the country by the end of the Second World War. Japan lost in Myanmar 190.000 soldiers. It was three fifth of their army. The country was in ruins and was developing slowly. General Ne Win introduced the Burmese way into the socialism and started to nationalize all small and midsize companies. In the following years the military put a lot of money in their own pockets. Corruption was part of the daily life and they declared two times that certain money notes are not valid anymore. Millions of people lost all their savings. The lead politician of the opposition party Aung San Suu Kyi mobilized millions of people to rise against the system. With success. The stopped many sanctions after the political opening of Myanmar in 2010 and the country started to cure slowly. But nowadays it is still like that, that the companies with the most profit are controlled by the army which gets most of the profit. The profit and the economical success are not reaching the normal population. More that 25% of the inhabitants of Myanmar are living under the poverty line.