What’s changed in Myanmar in the past months ? FREE articles about and FREE photos of Myanmar !

•August 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Well, to answer my own question, I would have to say :

1. Electricity supply seems to be regular ( at least in Yangon and Mandalay)

2. I can now access the web from my phone

3. Many sites that were deemed to be critical of Myanmar and its govenors are now accessible

4. Many people especially foreigners seem upbeat about the future. The locals dont seem that happy cos it is still the big crony companies that hog all biz here , land gets confisticated with gov approval for no recompense, Myanmar TV is still horribly boring….jobs and credit for the young still rare as rubies… the chinese gas pipeline is like a giant hedgehog burrowing under and all around the country and has really ruined my environs……a total blight upon us and daylight robbery it is…. a warning to future generations … that the shite of ur grand-daddies lives on even tho their bones may be dust in the wind !

5. Domestic print media seems a bit freer than in the past but then sued for defamation as soon as they write something critical…..

6. Private high schools allowed to open and recruit but have not been officially approved to operate and are in limbo as  of time of writing…

7. Cars cost less but we Burmese are still paying prices for ten year old jalopies from Japan that others pay for the latest set of new wheels.Bugger those import taxes …. but at the same time Yangon seems to be a great big traffic jam now….

8. Nothing concerning education in this country has improved yet….. its still rote memorization and eternal pursuit of distinctiions ( credits ) …. which according to me is bloody shite……..

9. Mandalay – Yangon buses are nicer ; meaning some are roomier and don’t cause my legs to cramp up and muscle-lock.

10. More fancy shopping malls in YGN and MDY …. mostly filled with gawkers ….as most of the populace is still just above penniless… but these  places have A/C to cool off in …

And don’t forget to visit, see and read some of my photos and articles at :

http://www.mandalaytours4u.com/photo-gallery.html
http://www.mandalaytours4u.com/travel-articles.html

You are free to use them in ur projects as long as u give me ( U Soe Lwin ) credit and add a link to http://www.mandalaytours4u.com

G’day all

Everyone , checkout my new gallery and articles on Myanmar

•August 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I have been a bit sick in July… cos of burn out and have not been able to post for a while but have been working on a travel site … my photography and writing articles …
So everyone check out these to pages in my site :

http://www.mandalaytours4u.com/travel-articles.html

http://www.mandalaytours4u.com/photo-gallery.html

Remember that everyone is free to use the articles and photos in school work, your own magazines, your own websites as long as you credit me U Soe Lwin and put in a link to http://www.mandalaytours4u.com

Thanx All

Spring ? Sprang ? Sprung ?

•February 11, 2012 • 3 Comments

Feb 2012 blabbing o’ mine :

1. I am glad that some who visited this country have had a good time.

2. No vacancies at my school for now, sorry guys , for all the hoopla in the news ,there has been no economic result that directly affects lowly people like us in Myanmar as so many still cannot afford learning  !
Actually I see that so many kids instead play computer games… en masse at game centers for whole days ……My…. that is what is in these days… can’t complain tho if it keeps them off class A drugs……

3. Funnily, today, the first day it is a bit hot in Mandalay there is a city-wide blackout LMAO !

4. For people thinking of visiting or etc….here and need of news about this country a bit different from CNN and BBC, I advise reading : http://www.irrawaddy.org,    http://www.mizzima.com,     http://www.dvb.no and     http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/ for a bit of background…..

5. And innit nice that the gov’nor of this country is gonna let in locust-like hordes of well-educated , technologically superior, uber-competitive people from aboad who are funded by easy credit to  “help”  the people of this country……. man !  the people of this place don’t know what they are in for….I just hope the old girl understands that it don’t matter being subjugated by ammo or cash …. the result is pretty much gonna be the same …..

6. And lastly,me grandly suggesting required reading for all those who would like to come here and do business and etc…. Orwell’s “Burmese Days” would be a good start. and does it have some juicy tidbits :

after all, natives were natives – interesting, no doubt, but finally…an inferior people.”
the lie that we’re here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them.

Of course no-one gonna be that elegantly honest these days but ….

•January 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hey guys I have written a travel article :

Really off the beaten track :  Yadanagu – Spirit Worship Festival

Think of something that is far removed from your daily life. Think of people who believe in things that you would say are impossible or fanciful. Think of mystic ceremonies, elaborate and arcane but rollicking and seemingly illogical with swirling dancers urged on by a cacophony of traditional orchestra music. All this evoking a wild and exotic past and at the same time heartily co-existing with the what-not of the present. This is Yadana –gu or a nat (spirit) worship festival of Amarapura.

Roundabout the end of August, a little-known spirit worship festival called Yadanagu which could be loosely translated as “Cave of Treasures” is held just outside of the town of Amarapura, near Mandalay on the way to the Irrawaddy Bridge. The festival is dedicated to a flower-eating belu ( ogre ) mother who supposedly died at Yadangu  after hearing of the execution of her two sons and became a nat or spirit.  Others say it is a festival started in the Ava period ( about 200 years ago ) to take the people’s attention away from politics and the scandals of the royal court of Ava, the ruins of which are not too far away from where this event is. Anyways, it is here that nat-kadaw (nat- wives / spirit mediums), nat-devotees and day visitors taking a  break from the daily grind  come to pay their respects to the belu mother with dancing and feasting with some shopping thrown in between.

It is easy enough getting to the place from Mandalay, we just took a taxi from Mandalay for about 30 minutes and when we saw large stalls set up and the crowds just south of Amarapura, we knew we were there . You can either walk to the nat spirit shrines from the main road which connects Mandalay and Sagaing or take a delightful sampan or boat ride to the main festival site. We took the boat ride.

There are about 4-5 main nat-sin ( nat shrines) where the dances and homage are given not only to the main  belu mother nat but also to the rest of the pantheon of 37 other Myanmar nats. Re-enactments of the brothers’ lives and their naughty deeds are carried out complete with with swigs of whiskey and bites of fried chicken by mostly tranvestite / gay spirit mediums in drag plus female spirit mediums. They beseech the nat for blessings and favour mostly in the form of material windfalls of money and riches from successful business deals  in the coming year.

Yadanagu  is held in the middle of raining monsoon season in Upper Myanmar, a place where it does not rain much but when it does, it pours.  And when it stops the humid heat is stifling.. incessant and over-powering. That is why at the festival grounds soft drink vendors abound with an assortment of locally-produced and only locally- known wares with names like ..Quench…. Star Power… Sparkling… to sate the thirst of all comers. The rural Burmese like their soft drinks very very sweet they say and maybe this has something to do with the need to replenish body fluids quick, when you are dripping with perspiration and depleted of necessary salts and sugars after labouring in the tropical heat.

The fairgrounds are full of vendors selling fried fish and prawns. I tried a prawn fritter ,tasted ok I guess but was rather brittle and the prawn’s whiskers and various other sharp points pricked my lips. Anyways I proceeded to wash it down with some cold Star Cola. After that I had a local palm sugar snack called some local Mont Lon which seem very popular with the local festival-goers.  I also noticed that compared to most other A-nyar ( Central Burma ) folk or religious festival grounds that the Yadana-Gu environs were far more neat and tidy, sans the mud and rubbish that plague the other such festivals.  But again maybe I should not be so critical as when the heat and rain and crowds converge upon small confines there would be at least a bit of unsanitary disarray.

Up to about 2005 these types of festivities. not being of the mainstream Buddhist religious variety were full of people drunk and wandering about joking teasing and demanding money for tipples. On the way to and back from the main shrines large crowds pushed and heaved and ladies’ behinds /  bottoms were pinched in jest and pickpockets used to have a field day they say.

Sadly those days are gone as the local authorities decreed that no alcohol was to be sold or consumed except for the stuff strictly used for the use in rituals and even that in severely limited amounts ,more for decor than sustenance and hearty effect  but I suspect secret swigs of the bottle are of course still taken when the prohibition police aren’t looking. Well it would surely be difficult to ban secret tipples when every nat-altar at the festivals (and there are hundreds of altars) is full of alcoholic goodies s on display in plain view as offerings to the nats. Also wouldn’t  the offerings of soft drinks  make great chasers or cocktail-ingredients ? Couple that together with the multitudes of fried goodies of chicken and fish to munch on after a crack at the booze.

The festival is visited mainly by locals and a sprinkling of foreign tourists. That is one of the pluses of coming to Upper Myanmar as most of the time you are the only foreigner around and the people are warm and friendly with genuine smiles. No foreign tourist-targeted souvenirs are for sale but I could see lots of wares that farmers would need on the farms: spades knives, hoes  etc. And lots of stuff their wives and kids would want too: costume jewelry, fake football jerseys and  toy plastic machine guns, dried fish and pottery all prettily displayed for sale. Just browsing along the stalls on the way to the nat-sin is a totally different experience from visiting the modern shopping mall. Maybe a fake Manchester United or Real Madrid football jersey for 1500 Kyats or 2 dollars might make a souvenir to laugh about but of course there are other implications comcerned  with that kind of purchase but it goes to show the popularity of football especially that of the English Premier League even in faraway Myanmar.

In a predominately Buddhist country and as a side trip from the usual tourist sites in the Mandalay region, the nat/spirit worship fest of Yadanagu makes for an interesting experience: exotic, quaint and delightful,  taking you certainly away from your usual comfort zone.

For photography enthusiasts this kind of festival is a place to challenge your skills. With the low natural light mixed fluorescent bulbs, the heat and people jostling you really have to work to get some good shots. I mostly used 50mm 1.4f lens with the ISO cranked up to 800 or more to get my shots

Visiting the festival  is best done in the afternoon or evening and can be combined with a trip to the wooden U Pein Bridge in Amarapura or the pagodas and monasteries of the Sagaing Hills.

When it is held :
For 10 days between the last week of August and first week of September. ( The festivals days are set according to the Burmese Lunar calendar ). So check with the hotel you stay at in Mandalay.

How to get there :
1. To Mandalay by air bus or train from Yangon via Bangkok, Thailand .
2. By taxi from hotel in Mandalay or buses that run south along 84th street to Amarapura
( approx 45 minutes from Mandalay )

What to do :

1. Take boat rides ( 500 ) kyat per person. ( Exchange rate : 800 kyat to the dollar )
2. Enjoy weight-loss inducing perspiration, dances, fairgrounds and shopping
3. Photography

March 24, 2011 dispatch from Mandalay

•March 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

OK all, I will be brief :

1. me can’t stick up pics here so will be pasting links to my FB galleries ,
here’s the first one : http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=52347&id=100000261236018&l=3fde2705ca

2. All VOIP i.e. Pfingo, VZO and Skype have been banned here, at least in the net cafes …
but about using them from ur own line ? possible I guess tho technically illegal.

3. Baking hot now after a few days of under 20*C and chilly rain showers in both YGN and MDY : La Nina weather leading to Cyclone weather they say…..

4. Condolences to Japan one of my favourite countries and many of my fondest childhood memories there……

5. Last night’s quake in Tachilek was approx 6.8 – 7.0 and we still can’t get thru to my sis-in-law who has a bookshop called Pyar-Laung Sarpay
near the Friendship bridge ( Tachilek-Mai Sai crossing )

6. Will be moving office and school next month !

All’s not right in this world but will keep the faith !

I am trying … to update own blog but can’t cos wordpress is banned here

•January 25, 2011 • 2 Comments

Now everybody knows why I have been absent. Most frustrating indeed !

It’s the endless summer upon us again

•March 24, 2010 • 3 Comments

Well as the title says we are gonna roast for a longish while over here. Already the midday sun comes searing down, mercilessly and we consume up to 20 times the amount of liquids we usually do in the cool months.

Not much has been going on in the US of Myanmar and that that has you can read up in news sites. No need to regurgitate that stuff. But will give my views on the upcoming events in post-modernistic essay-type poems that no-one can decipher or understand except for 3-4 people on this earth and that few does not include me,myself.

Short summary of what has been going on in my immediate surroundings in past few months :

me gained 5 pounds
wife is bald as was buddhist nun for a week
younger daughter can repeat Taylor Swift songs word for word
elder daughter broke leg
started up local education NGO ( will elaborate on that soon )

I have also continued to be a devotee of the art of making images with light ( known popularly as photography) and am finding great solace and inspiration in it. Will stick up some of my latest stuff on the blog for all to enjoy,criticize or slam later on.

Can you believe it ? I will be taking pics while perspiring like a hog in a sauna in the Upper Burma heat in the coming months ? So know ye all…. the images that ye look upon have been created with effort… much effort…and pig-headedness and recklessness too, against and in the elements that most would wither in ………..

But on this site you’ll not see pretty post card pics like the stuff that jump out of travel mags and nat geo and slap ur eyeballs… No No no sir ! …. only images of my home country … as I try to show it ….charming but gritty… elegant but unsophisticated….. restless,cruel but at peace…… wanting but satisfactory….. contradictions galore…. proud to be a denizen of this place “and” difficult to be inhabitant of it ….of a place of great natural beauty and fiendish poverty !

Tune in regularly folks !

 
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