This is gonna be a pure rant. So please refrain from reading it if you could not handle my long-winded nonsense. And I don’t think I would discuss further about it in comments although I would love to read what do you think about it.
So, call me a racist, I certainly thought white people were smart human beings when I was under 16. I had never been abroad at that time and there were only very very few foreigners in Myanmar except some tourists occasionally strolling around with BIG smiles on roads of Yangon or some tourist spots in Mandalay. And although my assumption about westerners was absolute rubbish, it was FUN. It was fun thinking they came to my country to explore what kind of isolation existed. It was fun seeing them wearing longyis untidily. It was fun smiling at them and having a very short (and shy) conversation. Good ol’ days.
There was no Internet in my life which made me speak lousy English. There was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest which made me feel very bad. And there was (officially) Than Shwe which made us voiceless kids. But there was no popular infamous NGOs. There was no Rohingya Saga. There was no monk named as Terrorist. And the list will go on.
Of course, I do like to witness all the scenes of Myanmar opening up gradually. Who wouldn’t love it? Coca Cola, Google and Facebook in Burmese, less people who wouldn’t have a clue which continent Myanmar is in, DASSK in her action, Obama’s visit, cheaper SIM cards, voices demanding rights for gays and prostitutes along with uncountable protests, Myanmar nearly-porn movies without rating for children, newer tricks of military transformed civilian government and you name it.
As a normal human being with somewhat functioning brain, I do agree that all changes have its pros and cons. But one of those irritate me so much that I have to rant.
So, here’s a list of self-proclaimed Myanmar Experts whom I wish I would not need to deal with in near future or further future.
Disclaimer : Those people are based on those who have contacted me to do something about Myanmar or those I repeatedly heard about them from trusted friends. You have full rights to accept it or not. And I become friends with many foreigners who contacted me via Facebook Message, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. and I was very glad giving a small hand to what they wished to do in/with Myanmar. And because of those connections, I am sometimes requested for paid gigs. I would continue doing so for all foreigners with decent attitudes. And I also believe that there are many “good” foreigners out there who really wish to see Myanmar as a developed country. And people in the list below are those who are not in my “white” list.
1) Kind-hearted Life Savers (or so they say)
Most of them work in NGOs or new foreign invested businesses. In their eyes, every single Myanmar was grown up in lousy condition with worst education on earth so that they have no knowledge about history or business or even healthcare. They totally believe that unless they save them, whole country will be torn down worse than ever. They usually involve (or strategize in their preferred jargon) in some NGO’s projects. They live in landed houses or expensive condos where monthly rental fees might cost more than their funds used for their projects. They always underestimate any Myanmar they would see on road and would claim they have been watching Myanmar very closely that only they can predict the future of Myanmar with awesome charts and graphs using the data from year 2000 or so.
2) Poor Tourists
They are poor because actual Myanmar is pretty different from what they expected. For instance, they might have expected to enjoy sunrise and sunset at Bagan but it was raining all three days they lived there so they couldn’t catch any good scene. Or they under-counted the number of pagodas they would bump into in Myanmar by forgetting the fact that about 90% of population follow Buddhism despite of enormous research they did. Or they thought their almost naked bodies would excite people there and it didn’t turn out so well. Or they expected to be able to go to floor of Golden Rock Pagoda with a high-tech cable train. Or they they assumed every places in Myanmar would be squeaky clean as Singapore does despite being one of the least developed countries in the world. When things don’t work as they highly longed for, especially with vague visa processes and expensive air tickets and hotel fees, they just quickly decided Myanmar is an overrated travel spot.
I am totally fine to see somebody doesn’t enjoy travelling to certain countries for whatever reasons they could come up with. It is also fine to spread the news on how they didn’t enjoy being there spending their time and money. What annoys me is acting as Myanmar travel experts just because they have stayed there for a week or a month. You absolutely should not go there to have some comfy time there. And what’s the point to visit a lesser known country without doing some proper research!?
3) Another Type of Poor Tourists
They seem they love Myanmar. They assume themselves they know pretty much about Myanmar after travelling there for some time. They sometime think Myanmar is awesome. All are good until they gave out wrong imaginary information on Internet.
They would think typical Shan food is spicy. They would write Myanmar men wear skirts. (If you call Tut Tut instead of three-wheeled car from Thailand or Pho instead of Vietnamese noodle soup, you should also learn what do Myanmar men actually wear rather than generalizing it as skirt.) They would share that Buddhists do not eat Beef due to religion commitment. (I would write about this later but just take that it is not completely true for now.)
Again, I do not mind to see some mistakes among tons of travel articles. But when they spread wrong information, those who would believe in it have wrong expectations and many of them end up being 2).
4) Information Beggars
They need to make something out of Myanmar – be it a paid assignment for news sites or a portfolio to show they are well educated about Myanmar. They have never been there so they would need to do more research and approach some Myanmar who can connect them up with locals they wish to meet. They do better research than anyone else, talk to different people and expect everyone should spend time for them as much as they want. And when they are in Myanmar, they would prefer to meet anyone they targeted and anywhere they would prefer.
I could confidently say that Myanmar people are pretty helpful and dependable especially when it comes to helping those who like to visit their homeland. But c’mon, Myanmar in 2013 also have their things to clear up. We might be able to refer them to someone who would know more about what they are looking for. We could introduce them with some nice people they might wish to talk. But when unnecessary demands such as forcing someone to meet at his confidential work place, buzzing someone repeatedly to explain them something which they might need to pay large sum of money elsewhere and all those annoying things you couldn’t imagine come up suddenly, well, Myanmar people are human beings, too.
I think I am going to stop here as I feel sick thinking about them and my time spent with such people. But I am really grateful that there are many other foreigners out there who love to see Myanmar growing up and helping to make better things happen there again and again.