Living under such scrutiny and oppression, you’d expect the people of Burma to be bitter, angry and resentful. The Burmese are the opposite. You can’t help but be moved by their resilience, strength and spirit.
Behind the brutal regime, you find the most wonderful people on the planet. I had heard this from other travelers before going to Burma, but it’s really something you have to experience for yourself. The people are truly gold – pure and genuine.
The Burmese are warm and welcoming, kind-hearted and generous. They have nothing and want to give you everything. They are curious, inquisitive and open-minded with a delightful sense of humor. They’ll come running across the street to shake your hand and with a big smile, they’ll welcome you to their country. After a brief introduction, they invite you to join them for tea or to take a seat next to them on a park bench to chat about life. They’re anxious to learn about life outside the country. Many study English religiously just to be able to chime in on these conversations. They’re not just interested in talking politics but culture, too, and, of course, football. You’d think they’d had a promising team headed for the World Cup finals for the amount of enthusiasm they showed for every game of this year’s tournament. Often forgotten about, they’re desperate to be a part of the world.
Burma is a place where cultural interaction is not only possible, it’s unavoidable and where every social interaction becomes significant. In a country where tourism hasn’t quite arrived, you find yourself one with the locals. It’s a place where a five minute ride in a rickshaw turns into a lifelong friendship, where meals are shared with strangers and where once an outsider you quickly become an insider. We’d sit down for dinner for two and finish up surrounded by locals who’d pulled up chairs just to chat. We slurped down piping hot tea with strangers-cum-friends at corner teahouses and soaked up a World Cup match in a teakwood hut with forty novice monks.
The Burmese are a special people.