I was relieved as we approached the the International Terminal at Yangon airport. We could see from the taxi that our overloaded luggage cart was still there. After a busy, stimulating, inspiring, beautiful week-long visit to Burma (Myanmar), we hastily had left our baggage out in the open at the airport security desk in Yangon for more than four hours. We had planned to check our bags at the airport and go to dinner at our guide, and now friend’s, flat about 12 miles away. Our flight did not leave until 1:00 a.m. and we arrived from Began at 6:30 p.m. fully loaded down with bags.The Dragaonair ticket counter did not accept checked luggage before two hours from departure. We had done our very best to spread our money around in Burma and we had a lot to lug and show for it, too much to haul across town in a taxi. At the assurance of two well-meaning English-speaking travelers, we left our baggage cart and headed for a taxi. Airport security had agreed, through our volunteer translators, to watch our bags. Not thinking twice about it, we jumped in a taxi and sped away. Only after we were in the taxi a few silent minutes did it sink in what we had just done. We left our bags without a ticket or a name or anything but a nod and smile. Oh well, worst case scenario would be that it was all gone when we returned. I could live with that.
So ended a fantastic trip to Burma (I will continue to call it Burma at the behest of Aung San Suu Kyi). It is a wonderland for those wanting to see an authentic and emerging country. Tourists are finding their way to Burma, and it will change dramatically and quickly. The Burmese people are anxiously awaiting the changes and hoping for all good things ahead. After the visit of President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Burmese are eager to welcome American travelers of which there are very few compared to other nations. Never did we feel unsafe and the Burmese people are welcoming and genuine. Obviously we felt this safety and friendliness as we did not hesitate to leave our belongings so easily.
We started our time in Yangon. We had a recommendation for a guide that had worked with other Americans traveling from Hong Kong. Mr Han (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a treasure. He works for a local tour company, but is on the cusp of operating his own operation independently. He is well organized and plans well and he uniquely tailors your visit with your interest and considers safety in food and lodging above all else.
Swedagon Paya, The Strand Hotel, Feel Myanmar Food, the ferry to Dalah, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha, National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters, Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, Inya Lake were some of the many destinations in Yangon.
The crowing event, and one of the most exciting and humbling moments of my life, was when we were present at NLD headquarters when Daw Anug San Suu Kyi, appeared. Being in her presence was palpable. She exudes grace, determination and peace. I was totally unprepared when she stopped and made eye contact with me directly and asked me “Where are you from?” Tongue tied, I managed to say the USA and how much of an inspiration she was to me and the world. She then extended her hand to me and replied, “Welcome to Burma.” With that, she was whisked down the stairs and into a waiting car. Wow……..my brush with greatness, I will never forget it.