The International Steam Pages
Green to Gold, Rob and Yuehong in the Golden Land 2009, Part 2
If you enjoy the reports you will find much more like this from our other two visits in 2009/10. Collectively, they are a reminder that we are extremely lucky to have a choice of where we live and what kind of life style we follow:
This page contains links to our second 2009 visit to Burma mainly to film and research stationary steam engines in the country's rice mills but also to enjoy a very special country. Summary technical information is available on a separate introductory page.
From Burma we went to Thailand and on south to Penang, it's pretty bland in comparison but it's where I started out in south-east Asia nearly 40 years ago, but it was still a very special sentimental journey.
We visited Burma in early 2009 on what was probably our most interesting and successful trip here. We returned in late September 2009 to try to complete filming for a DVD about the village of Dakhondaing and its steam powered rice mill. It turned out to be a longer (and much more expensive and frustrating) trip than anticipated but the severely delayed start to the harvest gave us a window to revisit parts of the Irrawaddy Delta. We arrived in the rain and over the next 4 weeks the country changed colour as the universal rice crop ripened. Alas the extended rains were no respecter of our visa validity and we had to leave before harvesting could start. If your interest is in stationary steam as opposed to general travel, be warned, most of the steam engines are in the later reports but also in the more unexpected of places. And if you are potentially either a 'package tourist' or a 'Lonely Planet traveller' to Burma then best you 'look away now' because there is almost nothing here that you stand any chance of being able to see on your own visits.
As always the actual reports try to be as objective as possible and I try to save the editorial comment for this main page. This time we saw some very poor people spending a high proportion of their very small disposable income on pampering a set of Buddhist monks who lead a comfortable if basic life. It made for some spectacular video, but it begs the question as to whether a significant proportion of the money could have been better donated to the local school in the form of much needed books. We are not allowed to film in schools, to be fair this would be true in many other countries too, but even from the outside it is very obvious that the government does very little more than pay the teachers' salaries. The peoples of Burma have no choice in who governs them but any sympathy I might have had for their predicament has largely been dissipated over the years as I see more and more begging bowls and more and more pagodas being built and restored. It's all a question of balance, and it seems to me that if China is a country with absolutely no soul at all, then Burma has got far too much of it. No one would ever claim Thailand was perfect (for a start it's almost ungovernable) but it does seem to know collectively that there has to be a middle way between the 'here and now' and reincarnation.
If you are new to the joys of travelling in Burma, you might care to read Keeping Body and Soul Together in Burma (2006), since when not a great deal has changed. The roads have got a bit better and because train fares (collected in USD) are unchanged, going by rail is much more competitive and these days much more reliable with an influx of equipment from India and China (we used trains 35 and 36 twice each and only once were we as much as an hour outside right time). On a practical note, this is the current timetable for trains between Yangon and Mandalay/Moulmein as displayed at Bago station in mid-October 2009, by the time you read this http://www.seat61.com may have a more up to date version but it was out of date as of the time this page was composed:
Other explorations are described in pages linked from:
Summary technical information on the stationary steam engines is available on a separate introductory page.
Read more about our travels, follow the links in Rob and Yuehong in Burma, 2005 - 10.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson