I had the opportunity to visit Myanmar recently. A country that just opened up, after many years of economic and trade sanctions. And yes, Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the driving forces of these changes and developments. Myanmar is fast being quoted as the last frontier and market in Asia for business expansion and economic opportunities. Companies are all rushing in to gain a stake and establishing offices to milk the untapped market place.
What I found most intriguing and refreshing is the predominantly Buddhist culture and life style of the country. The Buddhist Theravada tradition is practiced by 89% of the country’s population. It is perhaps the most religious Buddhist country in terms of the proportion of monks in the population and proportion of income spent on religion. No one really knows, but experts estimates that in Myanmar live about half a million monks (in a population of 52 million, that’s a quite few). The country is dotted with beautiful pagodas and temples. What impressed me most is how Buddhism is heavily ingrained in the daily lives of the people. Men are encouraged to live a life of a monk twice in their lifetime, once before 10 years old and another time before they turn 20. Each time for 5 to 10 days. Head shaved, donning on a maroon colored saffron robe, waking up at 5 am and asking for alms to feed themselves. This practice has been around for a very long time (didn’t get to find out exactly when it started), but the idea and leanings behind it is fascinating. My insight and interpretation, though I am sure there is a more religious component to it, it makes a person more grounded, real and appreciative. That life can be very simple and the act of receiving and giving is a wonderful gift. These are values that’s harder to come by these days 😉
With the foreseeable rapid economic development in Myanmar, I do hope it will not change this beautiful culture. And if you are planning for a short holiday, I would recommend the country. There are many direct flights from Singapore. Do include in your itinerary a city call, Bagan. It’s amazing.
One last thing, make sure you do not plan your trip on the first week of November, as November 6th, is our annual HPA gala dinner. Please mark your calendar. More details will be available as we get closer to the event. We do however; promise you another amazing evening 😉