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There are few places of which we can say, “a land far, far away.” But Burma is still far far away not only in space, but in time and in consciousness. It's a sealed up land of lotus eaters, largely unaware of the outside world. And that's the way its ruling generals like it. The internet, satellite TV, foreign press, even I Love Lucy are forbidden to all but a few. And yet for all the ruthlessness of the ruling junta, it is a gentle land. A land where time is not a resource or commodity, efficiency is not in the lexicon, tomorrow is a long way away. Even the dottering old generals are a product of this tropic idyll. That's what keeps them ...

There are few places of which we can say, “a land far, far away.” But Burma is still far far away not only in space, but in time and in consciousness. It's a sealed up land of lotus eaters, largely unaware of the outside world. And that's the way its ruling generals like it. The internet, satellite TV, foreign press, even I Love Lucy are forbidden to all but a few. And yet for all the ruthlessness of the ruling junta, it is a gentle land. A land where time is not a resource or commodity, efficiency is not in the lexicon, tomorrow is a long way away. Even the dottering old generals are a product of this tropic idyll. That's what keeps them from emulating North Korea's Kim or Zimbabwe's Mugabe. Not that they are not odious. But they are not as effectively odious. Even they break for siesta. And so despite their best/worst efforts, as has been said of another Lala Land, “palm trees grow, rents are low and the feeling is layback.” Temples are stunning, the food is a culinary siren song of curry and rice, the culture is seductive. Some say travelers should boycott Burma. The counterargument is the Burmese benefit from exposure to foreigners. You have to decide for yourself, but I say, go to Burma.

Richard Sterling
About the Expert

Richard Sterling is the author of Lonely Planet's World Food: Greece, Eyewitness Travel Guide Vietnam, and many other books.

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Richard Sterling for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Myanmar is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, and India on the northwest, with the Bay of Bengal to the southwest
  • Language: Burmese
  • Currency: Kyat
  • Research: Burma | Myanmar
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall