Kate and I found ourselves in the most ironic of situations being that in order to go to Burma we had to go to Burma. Yes our Thai visa was running out and needed to be renewed and the Burmese embassy wouldnt accept our visa application unless we well... went to Burma. So off we trotted to the friendship bridge in Northern Thailand where we spent all of twelve minutes visiting Burma. I even managed to buy a shirt and some bootlegged cds in the process. Now back in Chiang mai we're applying for our Visa which in itself is pure orwellian intrigue. All the anachronistic questions are coming out.... Fathers name, colour of your eyes, skin, pubic hairs and last time you attended an anti military rally with secret camera and hidden infra red anti government lie detectors.
Some of you might be saying... isnt it wrong to visit a country run by a military junta with one of the worst humans rights abuses on the planet and boycotted by the majority of the world including main opposition spokesperson Aung San Suu Kyi who has positively told tourists to stay away.
All very valid points indeed, but there are also arguments saying that tourism in the proper manner, ie staying with local people and avoiding expensive resorts, helps spread the word about what is happenning to Burma ( You wouldnt be reading this blog if I hadn't considered going for instance ) and hence raises awareness both outside the country and for people within the country of the great western lifestyles and flatscreen tvs they're missing out on.
We were also offered a trip with some really interesting people from the Elephant nature park and our plan is to observe wild elephants and elephants in the logging industry in order to report on their conditions. All very commendable stuff and you can recommend me to the Nobel Association in Stockhom whenever you feel ready.
Our fellow adventurers include
1)Lek, Time Asia person of the year last year, and founder of the Elephant Nature park
2)Chas, founder of Ele aid and also founder of the Tequila society in a London University 20 years ago which has achieved notoriety by becoming the UK's largest Tequila consumer... God help us
3)His girlfriend... who I hope is not as crazy as him
4)Jeff, a canadian engineer stroke full time elephant volunteer who keeps chickens as pets
5)Chom, a karen speaking crazyman who's gift to english is Oh My god muttered at every possible occasion. he is our translater and the one being the homosexual in the picture below.(one on the right is)
6)Laura, a seattle born American but we won't hold that against her... being American that is
7)Kate and Myself.... what we're doing on the list I have no idea... presumedly Kate is the Team Journalist so there you have it... visas permitting we leave on tuesday.... not sure if Internet is monitored in Burma but I presume it is so expect wondrous praise of the glorious achievments of the burmese military junta in this the year of the fifth five year plan.
By the way I should add that the correct name of the country is Myanmar but that just doesn't sound half as dashing as Burma.