Burma at 50.
The idea was to spend my 50th birthday at a Somerset Maugham hotel in the Far East, and the Strand seemed the best option. Rangoon. What a name! I took the hotel's Mercedes limousine through the city at dawn, up to the Schwe Dagon, and walked around the pagoda, clockwise, for hours, looking out over the awakening city. It was one of the great experiences of any trip to Asia. The rest of the country did not disappoint either, as I spent two weeks exploring places like Pagan's ancient city and took a cruise down the Irrawaddy River that Kipling called, "the road to Mandalay." Read the Kipling poem (he spent less time in Burma than I did), and Maugham's classic travel memoir "Gentleman in the Parlour." In 1997 the country was just opening up to tourists, and the only other Westerners I encountered was a French tour group at Pagan, who ignored me. Because of unrest and isolation, Burma has preserved its exotic mystery, and looks like it must have appeared after WWII. In November 2012, President Obama and Secretary Clinton came for a visit, for six hours, including a morning stroll around the magical Schwe Dagon.Read More
1 / 222