Once a major Asiatic crossroads, Myanmar (then Burma) became an English colony in the 19th century and gained independence from Britain in 1948 after being occupied by Japan for most of WWII. After independence, the country launched itself into the longest (still) ongoing civil war in the world. In 1962, during the midst of the civil war, the military took over the government and raised the Bamboo Curtain, isolating itself from the rest of the world for the next 50 years, and only opening its borders to foreign investment and tourism around 2012 (though technically the military opened the country in 1992, it wasn't fully embraced until much later).
We just arrived in Mandalay today, and already the vibe is incredibly different from the other SE Asian countries, (even Laos, which shares a similar history). Myanmar shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand, and is host to about 135 ethnic groups. Despite it's isolationist tendencies and brutal repression of enthnic minorities (still ongoing, though reportedly getting better) for the last half a century, a myriad of cultural influences can be seen even in a quick walk around the city. Already, it feels like a truly and uniquely different place, one I'm looking forward to exploring for the next three weeks. .
In this picture @jodiemohrhardt and I explore the outskirts of a large market near the center of the city.
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