When I visited Myanmar for the first time, it had been ruled by a corrupt military government, which secluded the country from the outside world for more that 50 years. Then I was transported to a forgotten era where a few aged cars ran on near empty streets lined by rows of dilapidated colonial buildings. The chug of aging generators could be heard as hotels and restaurants used them to augment the barely functioning electric grid. Yet, despite the dire economic condition in which the people found themselves, they beamed with happiness and smiles and shared a widespread, truly genuine appreciation and respect for life, each other, and foreign strangers such as me. It was a most beautiful and positive experience.
During these past few years Myanmar has transitioned from its seclusion and military rule into a “democracy”. The result of this transition is a very surreal and sudden flood of foreigners, foreign investments and 21st century products into a culture that had, essentially, been frozen in time. I recently returned to Myanmar and found the streets now overflowing with modern cars with a flood of new hotels being built at incredible speed. Despite this abrupt transition into modernism, the sincere, beautiful people remain unchanged from the first encounter I had within the country years ago.