You know more about Burma than you think you do. Myanmar, or Burma as people (including the Canadian government) who think the military government who renamed it didn’t have the right to do so still call it, is only now opening up to tourism after decades of authoritarian rule that took it off most people’s travel map. It is, in that respect, a new place that most people of travelling age have never had the opportunity to see, and most know little about. It makes any trip there one of absolute discovery. That being said, you may actually know a little more about it than you think you do.
1. Mandalay/Road to Mandalay Kipling/Sinatra:
Mandalay is the historic last royal capital of Burma, founded in 1857 by King Mindon as a tribute to Buddhism on its 2,400th birthday. Though it was taken over and mostly looted by the British just 35 years later, it became the focus of Burmese national sentiment during the long British Colonia period, during which time it also gained a reputation in the Western world, wth its ornate architecture and sculpture, as a symbol of the remote and exotic Orient. All of which fuelled one of Rudyard Kipling’s more distasteful poems, which in turn became a hit song by, among others, Frank Sinatra, called The Road to Mandalay.
2. Shooting an Elephant:
One of George Orwell’s most famous stories, the possibly autobiographical tale of a British soldier in Burma who has been ordered to shoot an elephant, and in the process of reluctantly carrying it out, becomes a symbol of everything that was wrong with British imperialism.
3. Crab Rangoon:
One of the more famous mid-20th-century bits of pseudo-Asian food, Crab Rangoon - crab and cream cheese deep fried into little crispy nuggets - was a mainstay of exotic North American cuisine since it appeared on the menu of Trader Vic’s in the mid-1950s. It was named — for no particular reason other than Burma’s inherent exoticism — for the current capital of Burma, now known as Yangon.
4. Burmese cats:
They’re sorta Siamese, but not quite, The result of an American soldier’s breeding experiment with a cat he brought back from Burma in the 1930s, these round-faced, short-bodied cats have become one of North America’s favourite breeds. Grumpy Cat is almost certainly a Burmese mix.
5. Burmese python:
One of the largest snakes in the world, the Burmese python became so popular as a pet in the US, warmer states, especially Florida, now have a huge problem with escaped, freed and discarded pythons roaming the countryside eating cats and scaring kids. They can grow up to 7 metres long, and get as big around as a telephone pole.
The best way to experience Southeast Asia is by being there. Discovering where to go next in your journey is one of our favourite things. Maybe Burma was on your bucket list and if not...maybe it is now.
Enjoy your travels!
From the GLP team