Saturday, February 27, 2010

Burmese Days ....

Ever since my high school days when I read George Orwell's Burmese Days, I have held romantic notions of a country where time stood still, a country of such diverse ethnic groups, a land where legend tells us that Guatama Buddha once went to teach the people of Dhannavati in the Rakhine region of Burma, a country where the most remarkable monasteries and Stupas were erected.....a country in the cruel grip of a formidable military junta with no respect for human life or rights.

While traveling, we felt the deep fear in everyone around us. Universities were shut, no cell phones allowed, no internet access, very few foreigners. Away from the main cities of Yangon (f/k/a Rangoon) and Mandalay, the people whose path we crossed were kind, gentle, and with a sad tale to tell when they could find remnants of French or English words.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi, from her house arrest in Yangon for the past 18 years, has asked the world to stay away from Burma and to continue its full embargo (including no tourism) against the government. Although I have considerable admiration for Aung Sang Suu Kyi and understand her view that tourists spending money in Burma only benefits the regime, I don't agree with her in this limited sense: People should see Burma so as to witness the terrible hardships imposed on the country's deeply spiritual people, and to let them know that the outside world has not forgotten them.

We also went to see Burma's magnificent heritage and landscape. Via a french organization, I found a french speaking guide to expedite transportation and other matters, and off we went to this beautiful country that has touched the chore of my soul.

The taxi driver is holding the book of his life from which he read to us and
pleaded us to remember and tell his powerful tale of suffering ....
these words were all he had left of a previous life of learning, family and friends.

Bagan, the golden land with more than 2000 temples and pagodas built in the 1000s to 1200s

Mandalay in Upper Burma, once the center of Burmese culture and Buddhist learning during British colonial rule.

Below, a monastic life.... we were warmly welcomed in this monastery near Mandalay. A very old monk gave me a pamphlet on meditation...a five minutes guide to meditation... which is always on my night-stand.

Village life will transport you back in time

The villagers sending their children to the local monastery in hope that they will succeed as Buddhist monks or nuns

A fishing life on Inle Lake..Floating gardens are cultivated around houses built on stilts in the center of this beautiful lake.

Market day on the shore of Inle Lake

Forms of transportation ...

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, its age unknown, its origin lost in antiquity. Pure golden architectural marvel. Its lower stupa is plated with 8,688 solid gold bars, its upper part with another 13,153. The tip of the stupa is set with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies and saphires, 1065 golden bells and at the very top a 76 carat diamond... This temple exudes a soft golden glow at sunset and you will immersed in its serenity....a magical moment.

Ngapali, a small fishing town on the Andaman sea. Unspoiled beaches...pristine water

Sunset on the Irawaddy river.....A bientot Burma


  1. Francine, what do the people do as work to buy foods at the market or is it barter? What a beautiful, intelligent post which has taken my breath away. What we all need to learn, you have taught us well today, awareness. xx's Marsha

  2. Francine, what a beautiful & brilliant post. You have made me aware of the many hardships these people face day-to-day. Awareness. This is so important for each of us to understand in our world today. Thank you. xx's Marsha

  3. wow.... what an amazing story... brilliant post. it so reminds me of my trips to indonesia and thailand...and various places in asia and around the world.
    i think of what i have seen and experienced and i will never be the same. we are so blessed... truly...
    may i say it again?? BRILLIANT post.
    have a wonderful sunday friend xx

  4. Beautiful photos, beautiful back lit paper lanterns. Ethereal. Love the huge cage in the Inie klake photo. Merci, Trish

  5. Please leave this post up for a while. It is fantastic. My you are a brave person to go there, How beautiful. Hope you didn't get sick. I have a friend that came home ill for 2 weeks.
    Very sad for those people. I hope you didn't take that book. Customs there might be scary,,

  6. Hi Francine
    Thanks for popping over my way.. I have a friend who only travels off the beaten path and comes home full of wonder and sometimes sadness for the gorgeous countries he has visited and the people he has met. Your post is so interesting and the photos glorious. Funny.. you invariably find the kindest, most generous people are from countries with so little. I visited Bali sometime after the first bombing... The people would thank me as I walked down the street or entered a shop. Thanking me for returning to Bali and trusting them again. Very sad [yet strangely uplifting] to have complete strangers thank you in this manner... I had a similar experience in Thailand after the tsunami [mind you just coincidence i seem to follow disasters]..

    Great post.. thanks for sharing your insights and wonderful shots.. x Julie

  7. Fabulous, fabulous post. Beautiful photos and such an important reminder to us all of just how lucky we are.

    Leeann x

  8. Beautiful images, and a great story.
    Thanks for sharing

  9. Thanks Francine for popping back over. Actually I have some quite funny stories about Thailand.. but there never seems a right time to tell them [that seems appropriate]. Good thing you were safe in Indonesia... what a frightening experience. x Julie

  10. This looks like a magical place Francine...your boys look so happy.

    I'm sure it was more than are so adventurous!! Did you take these photos? They're beautiful.


  11. I just wanted to say thanks a lot for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment!

    Have a nice day.


  12. What a breathtaking and bittersweet post. Such sadness. Such beauty. Thank you for being a story teller. A story saver. We need the reminder. What BEAUTIFUL images you took!

  13. Unbelievable images and a beautiful post Francine...simply divine. I can hardly wait to meet you as you have had so many amazing experiences! Vicente Wolf has beautiful photos of Burma in his book Crossing Boundaries as well, the two of you would probably get on well as you seem to share a great passion for travel, humanity and design. The Golden Triangle is still on my must do list;)


  14. Hello Francine: I feel such a profound sadness for these people. Witnessing their fear, their pain, and hearing it from their lips must change a person deeply, to their core. I know I would come home having a heavy heart but feel enriched as well. Your photos were magnificent, truly stunning. Your sweet 'men' too; what a great photo of your boys.
    Thank you very much for asking how things are going with our decision process. Would you believe I packed my first two boxes today. We have decided that we above all need change, and some freedom from life's belongings. We are waiting for confirmation in regards to a contract of employment for Graham. The hardest part lies ahead. I would need to stay behind yet again to tie up all the ends. For many it would be a easy process as money solves so many issues doesn't it? My husbands dear mum is in her last days of life in Scotland. Her cancer has progressed by leaps & bounds and she is now unable to talk or move. So much to think about. Thank you for sharing your story with us all. You are such a valuable human being and friend.
    Thinking about your mother as well. x

  15. Gorgeous post!! And thanks for your kind words on my post :)

  16. Such extremes, really magical beauty alongside tragic hardship. Very thought provoking, and beautiful imagery.

  17. Dear Francine,
    What an amazing post. Your photographs show a country full of beauty and colour, hiding the sadness within, Such amazing Temples and buidings and the people look so kind and welcoming. You must have gained much from meeting them and seeing the way in which they lead their lives. Very grounding.
    I must apologise for not coming over sooner. It seems to take ages, commenting on everyones blog who have been kind enough to leave me a comment. I will put you on my sidebar when I have finished this comment. Thank you so much, Francine, for your continued support, I will be a regular visitor from now on. XXXX

  18. Thank you for sharing your Burmese story. It's one of the places on my list. Love the culture and appreciate the wonderful people. I have a handful of Burmese friends who radiate warmth and gentility. Your photos are gorgeous!
    I just discovered you today while googling industrial furniture and it took me to your Interieurs post. Will have to come by and see your store when I'm in the city.

  19. gorgeous. i'll never go - so this is a real treat. gorgeous!!!!

  20. Francine I've been thinking of you & hoping the move of your showroom is going smoothly? Such a monumental task and would imagine takes unending energy and determination. Hoping the whole family is doing well too? All my best to you x deb


  22. What an amazing post...and story!! So glad I came by,your photos are stunning,that first one esp. All the best,Chrissy

  23. Wow. Stunning post. Congratulations on going. I applaud your decision to go in spite of the embargo. Any exchange seems the better choice to me. They see us, and we see them, and interact and hopefully change will be sparked. You have awakened my travel bug. Thanks.


  24. What gorgeous romantic images... I feel like I've been transported around the globe on my afternoon tea break.

  25. Francine,

    Your travels are inspiring. Asia is on my definite list of place I need to see. But even though it's not in my near plans, your posts bring me closer to my dreams too. Thank you!

  26. super images and an amazing post.


  27. Thank you for taking me to Burma , a place I have always wished to travel to. Brilliant photos...especially the first - that is a very special little face. Have a wonderful weekend Francine, xv.

  28. such an amazing story and the images really can speak for themselves!

  29. This is just an incredible post. I will probably never travel to Burma so I've appreciated your views and photographs so much.

  30. My uncle goes to Burma frequently and talks about the old world feeling there as well. Beautiful architecture and that little girl is precious!
    Lila Ferraro
    Queen Bedroom Sets

  31. Dear Francine, Glad you are all OK. We had that storm in Midcoast maine and lost tree,
    the house next door had a tree fall through
    the roof. It was a Wicked storm. Take care , Pace yourself on that moving.


  32. Wonderful photos. Thank you for posting I've learned a lot of interesting things about Burma.

  33. Hi Francine,

    You know what a huge fan I am of your travel posts and the fact that you go to places in the world that most people would not venture. It is a reflection of your curiosity and open mind. As always your travel photos always transport me. The photo that really seemed magical to me was the photo you have of Shwedagon Pagoda. Your thoughts on travel are always well thought out and poignant. Are those your two boys in one of the photos? I'm curious to know how often do you travel somewhere far in a year?

    A fellow traveler,
    Karen O

  34. Bravo Francine pour ton reportage et tes magnifiques photos. Enfin j'ai pris un moment pour visiter ton blog et je m'entraine à lire en anglais ! En vous espérant tous en forme sans oublier tes Parents Caroline

  35. What an absolutely beautiful post, the photography is simply breathtaking!!


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