Tornem a Birmània | Returning to Burma

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Foto: Eclipsi solar parcial. / Photo: Partial solar eclipse.

English version below

Tornem a Birmània

Doncs sí, tornem una segona vegada. Per què? Per que ens ha agradat tant i ens ho hem passat tan bé aquest últim mes que ens morim de ganes de tornar-hi? Doncs no és precisament per aquesta raó.

Tornem per que volem continuar la nostra ruta, el nostre repte, el nostre somni. El visat que atorguen és només vàlid per 28 dies així que esgotat el primer visat hem hagut de sortir de Birmània per tornar a entrar.

Reprendrem la ruta allà on la vàrem deixar, a Pyinmana amb la intenció de continuar cap al nord i nord-oest. Tornem a tenir 28 dies i si no canviem molt d’opinió, serà la segona i última vegada que tornem (en aquest viatge).

Ara ja coneixem molt millor què ens trobarem o què ens podem trobar. Ja sabem de quin peu calcen. Esperem continuar gaudint de totes les bones coses que hem tingut la sort de viure i també esperem minimitzar aquelles no tan bones que inevitablement haurem d’ afrontar.

Ara bé, hi ha un parell de temes que ja abans de començar sabem que ens faran MOLT la punyeta:

  1. La calor serà asfixiant. Totes les fonts d’informació consultades que vàrem fer durant la recerca prèvia al inici del viatge esmenten abril, maig i juny com els pitjors mesos per anar a la zona de Mandalay – Bagan, a on anem. Haurem de parar encara més atenció i aturar-nos més hores al mig del día.
  2. No existeix frontera terrestre entre Birmània i Bangladesh, pel que no podrem caminar fins el següent estat i haurem d’acceptar el primer gran forat o discontinuïtat a la nostra ruta. Com no podrem arribar a Bangladesh, triarem un punt o lloc on aturar-nos i donar per finalitzada la nostra ruta a peu dins Birmània. És un tema que coneixem des de fa temps però no per això deixa d’emprenyar-me moltíssim.

Per acabar aquesta breu entrada volem recordar que normalment la connectivitat a internet no és bona i el wi-fi tampoc, pel que no estarem en gaires bones condicions per respondre correus electrònics, publicar a la web… tot i que farem tot el possible per fer-ho.

Bare feet
After a week off, our feet are ready to start walking again. Next leg: Round 2 of Burma.

Returning to Burma

Yes, we’ll go back to Burma for a second time. Why? Because we liked it so much and we had so much fun last month that we are eager to go back? Well, that’s not precisely the reason.

We return because we want to continue walking as much of our route as possible and keep following our dream as challenging as it most days. The 28-day tourist visa Burmese officials grant may seem like a lot of time if you’re on a “normal” vacation, and is a vast improvement over what this country previously offered, which was no access to foreigners when it was a closed country under military rule. However, it’s not even close to enough time to cover all the kilometers we’d like to walk, and, as the system is currently set up or as we understand what’s been told to us, you have to leave the country to get a new visa if you want to spend another month there. This process, we hope, will improve as the rapidly changing country embraces tourism, and we have our fingers crossed that travelers who come after us will find this stamp-collecting hassle less cumbersome.

With a new visa in hand, we’ll return to Pyinmana and pick up our route where we left off. We’ll head north/northwest with the intention of finishing our walking time in Burma in the historic and culturally significant town of Bagan. We hope our arrival there coincides with Burmese New Year, which runs from April 12-16. After that, depending on how things unfold, we hope to either do some volunteer work or play tourists and visit some sites.

Unless we change our minds, this will be our last time in Burma during this walking trip. There are a few reasons for that:

1. The heat is killing us. Based on the research we did before starting the trip and what we now know on the ground dealing with 35-40+ degree Celsius heat every day, April, May and June are the hottest (and worst) months of the year to visit the Bagan-Mandalay regions, which are the parts we’ll be in during this next leg. We already are stopping for several hours during the day when the heat in unbearable and unsafe, and will continue to go ahead with care in avoiding heat exhaustion. Going into spring and summer, we will have to make other weather-related route changes, which we considered and factored in before starting this walk. As we said from day one, we won’t walk a straight, continuous line, and we will have weather, geo-political, health or safety gaps requiring walkabout workarounds.

2. There is no formal border crossing between Burma and Bangladesh that is open to foreigners. So, even if we wanted to come back for a third or fourth month, we wouldn’t be able to continue onwards into our next planned country. Also, we’re uncertain about the state of affairs in some Burmese provinces and whether we need additional special permits to be in certain places. We knew this going in, and that’s why we decided if we couldn’t go all the way across, we would have to accept this gap in our route, find a meaningful place to finish this stretch and keep moving forward. It doesn’t make us happy to have these “holes in our cheese” but we didn’t pick this route because it was easy. We picked this route because it would take us into places that are still relatively veiled from the world and not really on the typical backpacker circuit. We wanted to go to places that would surprise us, and on that front, we are not disappointed.

At least for the next few weeks, we know what we’re sort of heading back into and can manage expectations. It was a significant change crossing over from Thailand to Burma last month, and some of those differences threw us for a loop. For the month ahead, we hope to better enjoy the good things we’re finding in Burma and minimize the physical and emotional impact of the annoying little things that we got under our skins last month.

To wrap up, we remind you that Burma is not Thailand as far as Internet connectivity is concerned. Until three years, Burma didn’t even have access to the Internet. While it’s quickly catching up, the networks are still being laid out across the country and some places we’ve been in have frequent power outages. That means we won’t be online and connected as much as we were when we were back in Bangkok this last week. We’ll be slow in replying to emails, and social media and blog postings will be less frequent. Your patience is appreciated!

Happy spring!

Lotus blooming
One of our favorite flowers, the lotus. From some of the dirtiest ponds, something this beautiful grows. We hope to watch more beautiful things grow as we walk.


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