Not too long ago, Daniel and I boarded a plane bound for Bangkok. Besides marveling at all of the modern amenities of a true, functional world-class city that undeniably emanates legitimate, thoughtful urban and social planning (imagine: handicapped accessible sidewalks…a clean, safe mass transit system…the most gruesome cigarette advertisements that I have ever seen…and affordable alcohol…okay, that last one is sort of unrelated but I still wholeheartedly approved). Traveling to Bangkok served as a place of importance to us. Not only would it be the primary meeting hub for us to reunite with our older siblings after what has felt like eons (!!) but it would also be the only convenient place for us to obtain express visas for our real destination: Myanmar.
Myanmar, also known to many as Burma (I can only say Burma if I use a haughty, elite colonialist accent: bUUUUhr-mAHHHH), easily climbed its way up to the top of my travel list upon hearing about the exceptional time that some of my most well traveled friends, Hannah and Ben, had recently had. However, if I had known about the epic journey that Rambo had once experienced, toughing his way through the overgrown jungles of Northern Thailand, likely beheading a couple of wild beasts along the way, perhaps I would’ve tried a lot harder to visit sooner… but really, I couldn’t have…
Myanmar has been living in isolation from the majority of the (especially Western) world, subsisting primarily on an IV of never-ending, blooding-sucking support from China. Until as recently as 2010, foreigners weren’t allowed to freely wander into the country without their movements being strictly controlled or monitored. But the metaphoric sleeping dragon has finally been awakened by the calls of the globalization beast. With recent elections promising larger strides towards a transparent democracy, reforms have been rapidly underway — most notably with the 2010 release of Aung San Suu Kyi, national hero turned international icon of peace and democracy, not to mention 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (among many other international recognitions), who had been in and out of house arrest since the early-90s. With the rest of the world’s investors and extraction companies eyeing the country like hungry, emaciated wolves, yearning to get their piece in this abundantly rich bed of natural resources, the country is transforming… fast, really, really fast, succumbing to both the conveniences and evils of globalization. I wanted to experience Myanmar while it still had its sleepy, humble, post-colonial charm. Is this what I got? To an extent.
Before the chronicles continue any further — an introduction to The Bear Family. Why the silly name? I don’t really know. Essentially we were all family. David adopted the name upon our second day together and it stuck throughout our travels. As time went on, it grew to become more endearing, especially once we realized how isolated we felt from the actual cozy holiday events with our families happening thousands of miles away, without us.
The matriarch, Mama Bear: Elaine (my older sister). She is the resilient, undeniably pretty, energizer bunny of all things. Eats like a truck driver and still stays so slim. I have never seen anyone carry around hot sauce and chili flakes in their purse with as much pride as she does. Do I have a bomb-diggity sister? Uh, duh. Did I also mention that she’s an incredibly talented jeweler? Shameless advertising? Meh-beh.
The patriarch, Papa Bear: David (Daniel’s older brother). The aficionado of fun, ice cream, and making friends, the gung-ho-let’s-go, will persuade you to follow him anywhere if you get caught in those charming baby blues. May forget to purchase plane tickets and bring his credit card to places of importance.
The voice of logic, Auntie Bear: Erin (Elaine’s childhood friend). The professional, the calm voice of all reason and promoter of equilibrium. Need hand-sanitizer? Bandaids? This girl’s got your back. Wanna know the current exchange rate of Thai Baht or Malay Ringgit to the US Dollar? Psssh, who needs Google when you’ve got Er? PLUS: Recipient of Honorary Sister Award.
The Bear family bookkeeper, Brother Bear: Daniel. The impressively organized tabs-keeper, explorer extraordinaire, fellow-wanderer, not to mention quiiite handsome and a kid charmer in the villages. Give him a soccer ball, he’ll bring you some friends that redefine adorable.
The wandering ATM, Baby Bear: Me. I may or may not have wandered off a couple of times to capture special shots or maybe just because I enjoy taking the road less traveled. And I may or may not have become a money lender, interest-free (man, I’m a nice person). Sometimes I lend my camera to boogerful children, this photo is a result of that.
Up Next: Bear Family Does Yangon