This is Burma!

I'm in Rangoon/Yangon, Burma. I absolutely love this place. I went to the holiest shrine in Myanmar, Shwedagon Pagoda, today and it is absolutely beautiful. Even after seeing the world's largest temple complex, Angkor Wat, I was still impressed with it.

I'm travelling with some of my new friends: Alex (British) and Jon (American). We all met at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok. I also met a couple of French girls in Rangoon. One of them, who is of Indian-origin, wanted me to accompany her to Mandalay, but I've plans of going to Thazi and then to Bagan instead. I'm skipping Mandalay.

The Burmese people (like Cambodian) are some of the nicest I've ever met. I'm actually tired by smiling so much today. There are practically no foreigners in this country. I must also add that Burmese girls are very pretty (and simple). I think they like me too. :)

I'm heading to Thazi tomorrow by local train. Will be sittin' on a wooden bench for a very long time!

More later.

A Day in Bangkok

I had a nice Thai massage last night and a foot massage the previous night. It was must need relief after two days of intense walking in the hot and humid Bangkok weather.

I moved to a guest house on Surawongse road yesterday, which is located in the middle of where all the action is in Bangkok. Before that I was living in Saphan Khwai, which was very far from the city centre. However, it was still a convenient location because it was close to the Skytrain station. Speaking of the Skytrain - it is the best, fastest and coolest way to get around!

I'm waiting to get back my passport today with the Myanmar visa sticker on it. There are many reporters/cameramen outside the consulate today and a person at the consulate said they might close early because of it. I hope I can get my passport today, otherwise I will have to make another trip there tomorrow.

I think the fuss is all about Aung San Suu Kyi's "fake" trial that is going on in Yangon, Myanmar. Suu Kyi's is a pro-democracy leader who has been under house-arrest for several years. There's much pressure from Western governments to release her; but the Burmese junta will never do that.

It is interesting that the U.S. has applied many sanctions on Myanmar because its military government won't listen to them. Pakistan, however, which pretends to be America's puppet, is given "aid" money that is simply channeled for terrorist activities. Pakistan is not only a danger to its own people, but the entire world. The people of Myanmar are not a threat to anybody.

When I applied for the visa I had to fill out an "Employment History" form. Journalists, photographers, editors etc. are not allowed in Myanmar.

I'm moving to Bangkok's famous backpacker's area (Khao San Road) after picking up my passport today. I've yet to figure out how to get to the airport for my 7:00 AM flight to Myanmar on Friday...

Sweatin' in Bangkok!

Sawatdee Khrab (Hello)! I'm currently in Bangkok and it's damn hot and humid! Aside from the heat, everything else is cool. I applied for Myanmar visa (810 baht) on Monday and hopefully I will get it by Wednesday (2-day processing).

I'm going everywhere by Bangkok's ultramodern BTS Skytrain; it's the fastest way to get around.

As of today, I've moved to a different guest house; one that is closer to where all the action is. Tomorrow, after picking up my passport, I will move to another guest house (in the famous backpacker's area).

Do Svidania: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow...

I'm leaving for my trip tomorrow. I'm quite nervous, anxious, scared and don't feel like going anymore. I keep telling myself this is supposed to be fun and exciting. Going away for an extended period of time, as I am, I feel a bit overwhelmed. I felt the same way before going to Southeast Asia last year for the first time. But that was only for two weeks; this time my trip is more than twice as long. Another factor adding to my anxiety level is the fact that my plane lands in Bangkok at midnight. It would've been much better if I was reaching Bangkok during the day time. Anyhow, like last time, it promises to be an excellent learning experience and an adventure to remember.

I've no fixed plan; just a general idea of the things I want to do and see. It'll be just me and my backpack for quite some time. I'm hoping travel and change of place will impart some new vigor to my mind.

I'll try to put some updates on this blog from time-to-time. Until then, drop me a line or leave a note here.

I'll end with these words of wisdom from Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Beyond Rangoon: Myanmar and Laos

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"Add life to years rather than adding years to life." - Baba Amte

So far, the year 2009 is shaping up to be the year of uncertainty for me. We are now into May and I've yet to find employment. My most promising lead has fizzled out after four interviews since February; the position was put on hold for now.

Having said that, the job market is improving. I suspect the recession is coming to an end. Most global stock indices have rallied over 20% since bottoming out in early March. Stock markets are leading indicators of the economy and they rally well before we get confirmation that the recession is indeed over. Similarly, the markets had started dropping well before we knew we were in a recession.

So, after over three months of looking for a job, do I still think that the risk of quitting my job and going travelling was worth it? The answer is a definite yes. There were some things I wanted to do while I'm still young and I consider myself fortunate to be able to do it. Things like solo backpacking in Southeast Asia, travelling in India, trekking in the Himalayas, and mountaineering. Since when is it wrong to set goals and getting them accomplished? I just happened to have some non-career related goals at the time.

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