This week’s edition of ‘A world of inspiration‘ is by Dave and Deb who hail from Canada. Dave and Deb are adventure travellers, traversing the globe on bicycles, in a kayak or by foot. They share with us an inspiring story which is a lovely tribute to the people of Myanmar, and a powerful lesson for us all.

The Man from Mandalay

There is nothing easy about traveling through Myanmar (Burma). Taking local buses can be difficult, uncomfortable and long. Trying to avoid government fees and staying and eating at locally run establishments is practically impossible and the poverty and suffering can be hard on your psyche. But when you meet the people and actually talk to them, you feel a little embarrassed about complaining about your difficult situation.

Friendly monks on Inle Lake
Friendly monks on Inle Lake

Their plight is heartbreaking. Trying to live under the rule of a military junta is incomprehensible. To be cut off from the outside world with no end in sight and to know that the rest of the world has all but forgotten you has to be a hopeless situation. Most of the time we questioned whether or not we should be there. After all, the country has sanctions put on it, people have been told to boycott any travel there and even imprisoned Nobel Laureate Aung Suk Yi urges tourists not to visit her country.

Friendly at the Market
Friendly at the Market

However, when we traveled in Myanmar, we felt welcomed. People were eager to talk to us, practice their English and to tell us their stories. Many people would approach us on the street. They would ask us where we were staying, where we were from and then they would talk to us about their lives.

There was one man when we were in Mandalay that touched us very deeply. He was involved in the student riots of 1989 and he told us about his difficult life. With a broad smile on his face, he talked about his time in prison. He walked with a hunch and slight limp because he had broken shoulder from carrying rocks while incarcerated. He let us feel it and had a sense of pride while he spoke of surviving his ordeal.

Always smiling
Always smiling

His Brother was still in prison and he was going to visit him next week. We gave him our sympathy, but he waved us off and stated that his brother is tough and is practically running the place.

It is a tragic story. He said that he doesn’t know what his future holds and yet he laughed, told jokes and quoted many popular English Sayings. He got a kick out of practicing his cool English phrases with us. Whenever we saw him, we would ask how he was doing and he would smile and say “I’ve got too many fish to fry working 24/7.”

We felt that we became friends in the short time we were there. We met regularly, had beers together and talked a lot on the street. He carried around a book that a previous traveler had given him quoting from it regularly and when we left him a couple of our own he was so excited and overwhelmed.

After traveling to Myanmar, we would never be the same.

The people of Myanmar humbled us. So many people had similar stories to his and many wanted to share them with us. It was like they wanted us to make sure that we told their stories when we went home. One man went as far as asking us to carry a letter from him to our government. We declined because you never know who is watching, but I sometimes feel guilty about not taking them with me.

A man and his children
A man and his children

They would go out of their way to show us back door entrances to Pagoda’s and attractions to avoid the government fees, they would invite us into their homes for tea and they would go above and beyond whenever we needed anything. They had so little to give, and yet they were willing to share it.

After traveling to Myanmar, we would never be the same. Our eyes were opened to a people that had a quiet dignity. A people that suffer daily and yet have the strength to laugh and live: a people that had warm and welcoming smiles and a people that touched our hearts.

About this week’s guest writer
DaveandDeb Dave and Deb are an Adventure Travel Couple from Canada. They have traveled to over 35 countries where they have taken on extreme adventures from Cycling from Cairo to Cape Town and Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Follow their adventures at The Planet D as they paddle, hike, climb, scuba dive and trek their way around the globe.

To complement this article, Dave & Deb wrote a wonderful piece on their blog titled “Inspiration Through the Eyes of Two Travelers“.

Follow Dave and Deb on Twitter.

Read other ‘World of inspiration‘ articles:

25 Responses

  • woww…Dave & Deb life adventure made me drooling….to taste the crazy travel adventure! Love that friendly monks pic!

  • Love the article – we too just finished traveling Burma and absolutely loved it. Being a backpacker and staying at guesthouses and eating at small restaurants and tea shops I found it extremely easy to avoid government establishments – but the attaction fees were another story!

    Did you get a chance to see the Moustache Brothers while you were in Mandalay?

  • Thank YOU for such an outstanding contribution. It’s the fantastic quality of the stories that makes this series works!

    Best regards,

  • Hi Keith,
    Thank you again for coming up with this incredible concept “A World of Inspiration” and for having us be a part of it. I am glad it was a success and I look forward to reading from more of your contributors.

  • Let’s hope that Ban Ki-moon can make some headway with the head of the junta this weekend. I so hope one day to visit Myanmar! One day soon!

  • I’ve heard many similar accounts of Myanmar – difficult govt. rules and regulations but the people and culture make traveling worth it.

  • Hi Got Passport. Thank you for your comments. I am so sorry that I misspelled Aung San Suu Kyi and got the riots off by a year. (that would be why I am not a journalist yet:-) I have so much to learn. I need to learn to fact check properly. If only I opened another tab and double checked. But at least you are here for us to set things straight and I have learned a valuable lesson.
    I agree with you that drops can become buckets and buckets and with people like you, and great blogs like VelvetEscape out there, we can make sure that the world has not forgotten about the Burmese People.
    I agree Audrey, When I think back on my time in Burma, it is not the temples that come to mind, but always the people that I met and the moments I shared.

  • How heart-wrenching it is for me to read this. When I return to my home country I wonder if the world has completely forgotten about the Burmese people. Broken hearted, I often feel very hopeless, angry and sad upon arrivals and departures- inevitable, unavoidable & uncontroable everytime-I cry buckets! @ first whatever I contribute may seem as though a drop in the largest of oceans, but I know deep down that drops can become buckets and buckets after buckets can & do make a difference to the individual(s) who receive the help.

    Like you I have met the many unsung heros of Burma in the US and during my travels to Thailand. I have also met & worked w many Burmese Rufugees who fled the country! Their lives & stories are just as amazing too.

    Thank You for taking the time to write this article. Thank you for not forgetting the humble people of Burma and telling their stories.

    The correct spelling of the famous Burmese woman mentioned, one of my heros, is Aung San Suu Kyi and the famous student riots took place on August 8, 1988.

  • Thank you Audrey and Amy for your comments. Kudos to Dave for taking such wonderful photos – they are a marvellous portrait of the Burmese people – and a big thank you to Deb and Dave for sharing this compelling story on the Velvet Escape blog!

    Best regards,

  • Myanmar/Burma moved us in a similar way. Even though local people lived through extremely difficult conditions – economic and political – we never heard people complain, but were instead resilient and resourceful. We enjoyed the temples we saw in Burma, but it was the interactions with its people that left the biggest impression on us.

  • Thank you guys. Dave gets all the credit for the photos. But also the people, they really loved having their pictures taken.

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  • Yet another fantastic post on World of Inspiration series. Great writing and very touching story. I’m glad Dave and Deb shares this story. It reminds us that there are still a lot of people out there who don’t enjoy the same freedom as us. Perfect timing to make people think about them while we (in America) celebrate our independence day.

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  • what an incredible story. i love the photos with it – showing the great smiles, despite the crushing circumstances of their poverty. thank you!

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