BURMA is enjoying a heightened tourism boom as policies relax and travel becomes easier. If you plan to join the crowds heading there, here’s some reading to get yourself up to speed with some of the social, political, historical and cultural aspects of life in both the Burma of old and that of the future.
Burmese Days, George Orwell
This classic Orwell piece can be found in bookshops around Burma and most travellers will pick it up at some stage during their travels or before/afterwards. It’s a fantastic glimpse at the final days of British imperialism as told through the story of Flory, an expat that lives on the Ayerwaddy where life seems to revolve around the European club, whiskey, women and upholding British standards. It definitely portrays much of the darker side of the British empire and says much about human nature.
Lonely Planet: Myanmar (Burma)
The tried and trusted Lonely Planet released an updated version of their guide in January 2012. It could well contain the most up to date travel information you’ll find on the country. It contains all the usual details on travel with maps, hotel information, restaurant listings and destination write ups.
To Myanmar with Love: A Travel guide for the Connoisseur (To Asia with Love)
Things Asian gives a good alternative to Lonely Planet for a guide that made publication in May 2009. It contains articles and write ups from locals, seasoned travelers and expatriates. Not in the style of usual guidebooks this will give you more of an insight into the culture, sights, food and more – a great companion guide to the usual Lonely Planet fair.
Letters from Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi
If you admire Aung San Suu Kyi or just want to hear more about her remarkable life, this collection of short chapters about Burmese life are a must read. She covers everything from drinking tea to hospitality, ceramic bowls, politics and human rights in the bite size chunks which make it very readable and informative.
Freedom from fear: and other writings, Aung San Suu Kyi
This is another must read if you are keen to learn and hear from or about Aung San Suu Kyi. This book was actually edited by her late husband and contains a collection of her essays, speeches, letters, interviews and all her hopes and fears for her people and country.
Finding George Orwell in Burma, Emma Larkin
Emma Larkin is the pseudonym of an American journalist who has lived in Thailand all her life. However an interest in what was happening across the border led her to write this book that follows in Orwell’s footsteps around the country. Retracing his path around the country Larkin writes about her journey and life in the modern-day country as well.
Land of a Thousand Eyes, Peter Olszewski
Another book by a journalist, this one is about an Australian who came to train journalists at the Myanmar Times. Olszeski, also a pseudonym, gives accounts of daily life in modern Burma. It was published in 2005 with the subtitle “the subtle pleasures of everyday life in Myanmar.” It covers more details about the people and way of life rather than making any political statements.
The Glass Palace, Amitay Ghosh
This fictional book is a love story that begins in Burma when the British invaded in 1885 and also traipses across India and Malay. While it covers a century of history and starts with the shattering of the kingdom of Burma it is mainly about the early 20th Century and covers much of the changes that happened in Burma during this time.
The beautiful story is a way to learn about the history of the region while enjoying the story of a poor boy who falls in love and how that story shapes his life.