Thursday, 7 July 2016

Myanmar, Serendipity and Jan

According to Wikipedia, the English word 'serendipity' is first attributed to Horace Walpole in the 18th century, supposedly derived from a Persian Fairy Tale 'The Three Princes of Serendip' (an old name for what is now Sri Lanka) whose heroes "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of".

The idea of "happy accidents" accords quite well with my own rather unstructured approach to life and certainly has played a large part in my involvement with Myanmar.

By the time I was 50 years old, I'd been fortunate in visiting a number of countries, mainly on business and these are briefly outlined in the post Jan Ford's Travels - The early trips. As I grew older, I decided I needed to see more of the world so, at the end of 2001, I set off on my first 'Grand Tour', visiting Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the United States in just two weeks. There's a very short report here. This whetted my appetite for further travel and, over the following years, a number of trips followed, selecting countries to visit in a fairly haphazard manner. Most of these later trips are summarised in the post Jan Ford's Travels. There's also a listing of countries visited with links to my (often indifferent) pictures on 'Flickr' in the post Jan Ford's Travels: Around the World in pictures.

In March, 2008 I embarked on a fifth 'Round the World' trip (posts at Round the World Five), starting in Myanmar with a luxury river cruise on the 'Road to Mandalay'. Myanmar was then only starting to emerge from its long period of isolation under military rule and I'd thought long and hard about the wisdom of the visit. After Myanmar, I spent one day in Bangkok before taking the long flight to Los Angeles and then on to Las Vegas. After Las Vegas, I flew to Cancun, Mexico to see the ruins at Chichen Itza. Then, it was on to Cuba and finally Panama before returning home with transits in Mexico City and Frankfurt. Each of the countries I visited gave me a host of memories but Myanmar had created a particularly special impression. In my 'Afterword' post, I wrote "I intend to return to Myanmar" but, at that stage, I didn't realise how important the country and the friendships I forged would become.

I was by no means alone in finding Burma very special. During England's long association with Burma, a number of British writers described the unique nature of the country and its peoples. Kipling is probably the best known, with his poem 'The Road to Mandalay' and the thought from one of his letters:-
"This is Burma and it will be quite unlike any land you know about".
I've written a short post about Kipling, which also includes a list of various books by English authors describing their experiences in Burma, here. One of the books I would particularly recommend is 'The Burman: His Life and Notions' by Shway Yoe (Sir James George Scott), first published 1882, re-published by W. W. Norton & Co, Inc. in 1963. The author spent thirty years as a British Civil Servant in Burma during which time he studied the people in depth, writing with affection and humour under the pen-name 'Shway Yoe'.

I didn't anticipate being drawn back to Myanmar regularly but, since my first visit in 2008, a pattern seems to have established itself so that I currently make an annual visit. So far, I've made ten visits to Myanmar, each producing a number of blog reports, listed in 'Related posts on Myanmar' below. Each visit broadly has four aims:-
1. To see more of the country and learn more about its people.

The most revered site in Myanmar: the Shwedagon in Yangon.

2. To visit some of the educational initiatives forming part of the charitable 'RTM Social Contribution'.

Ko Dut Drop In Centre.

3. To see the work of the charitable Bagan Medical Clinic which is supported by the 'RTM Social Contribution'.

The first clinic building (opened 2011). The fourth building is currently being completed.

4. To study Myanmar's railway system. There's an explanation of this, seemingly odd, aim in the post Myanmar, Railways and Jan.

Around the Circle Line in 2016.
Related posts on Myanmar

Year-by-year travel:-
Round the World Five (2008).
Far East 2 (2008).
Far East 3 (2009).
Far East 5 (2010).
Trip to Burma (2011).
Burma-2012 (2012).
Far East 6 (2013).
Burma-2014 (2014).
Burma-2015 (2015).
Burma-2016. (2016).

All Education Support posts:-

All Medical Support posts:-
Medical Support.

All Myanma Railways posts:-