Just 8 years after Mayamar has opened its gates to tourist, how unscathed will it’s lands be? How much influence of the west already have seeped through the South Asian culture? Well it was day two and I was sat in a resteraunt that despite the Burmese chatter surely could have been some hipster New York/ London hang out! What I later to came to understand that though the people and way of life is still very much unaffected. Businesses, restaurants, cafes are quickly emerging, and when they do they are modern, clean, trendy, most only having been built in the last three years; creating a juxtaposition between what is a very poor Asian country, with very western over designed spots geared to western middle class wealthy tourists.
As we walk around the city, and hear the tales of its streets unravelled, we come to appreciate the corruption that the country has been subject to. We were told the stories of it’s leaders. how this somewhat developed city was once the hub of East Asia, the main port to access the rest of the world. With rich natural resources from teak wood to rubies it positioned itself as a leader. However, once in the hands of it’s military leaders they used the countries economic development for personal gain leading the country into a deep depression. The country was locked down, no exports, no tourists should enter all communications would be prohibited and censored. The papers controlled. Only in the last few years do locals have access to sim cards. Prior to this the military insisted, that to own a sim would cost you thousands. they did this to limit communications. When people started to realise the way of lives of their Asian neighbours and the true cost of things, they pushed back. Today, they are still fighting for democracy, but while they wait you can see the evidence of their history around you. Run down backstreets, with locals living with very little, close to the beautifully ornate temple and statues, in part a sign of their religion, in part a mark of the military ego who commissions it. Signs of guerrilla activist groups encouraging change. Grand buildings of English architecture from when they once reigned. Shops selling basic white goods, where they are starting to catch back up with their developed neighbours.
My favourite thing I came to learn though was of the hanging plastic bags from the streets. it turn out that the cheapest floor I a building to buy is the top, as the bottom can be used for commercial use. As a result the locals live several floors u p and to save them from walking down to collect their morning paper they leave a plastic bag out on a piece of string to pull it up once it has arrived!