Journey to Myanmar
Decades of military rule kept Myanmar off most travelers’ lists until a few years ago, when the regime began to loosen its grip. But many problems remain. In the past few weeks, thousands of Rohingya — a Muslim minority — have fled persecution in western Myanmar. The situation has escalated into an international emergency and underscores Myanmar’s poor record in dealing with ethnic minorities. Tourists are kept away from areas of conflict, so most visitors to Myanmar will not see the full picture. But after years of isolation, the country is now more accessible than ever, and travelers can experience for themselves what life looks and sounds like in this complex nation.
Mandalay is Myanmar’s second city. Compared with traffic-choked Yangon (the former capital of Burma), Mandalay feels like a sleepy backwater. This makes it an excellent place to explore at your own pace on foot or by bike.
Biking through villages near Mandalay, one sees a mixture of fields, fruit trees, and the occasional smokestack. A textile mill near Amarapura contains machines that look like they may have been at home in Lowell during the Industrial Revolution.
In addition to being more relaxed than Yangon, Mandalay is also surrounded by good daytrip destinations. Tiny villages, factory towns, and ancient ruins dot the countryside.
By Scott LaPierre, Elaina Natario, Russell Goldenberg, Gabriel Florit