Monk spies. Hmmm…

(The green ones represent Chinese military spies)

Learned an interesting factoid. In Myanmar, and i’m told this is true all over SE Asia, China has installed ‘Monk spies’ to monitor and report activism within the Buddhist community. Anyone else think it’s odd how paranoid big bad China is about Buddhists, and organized dissent anywhere?


Bagan, Myanmar resto reco

Last night we enjoyed not just a great meal, not just a terrific organic vegetarian resto, but one of the great dining experiences ever, under the stars, in Bagan. The food bill was $8.00 for two. With beers, $14. Simple yet luxurious. If you’re ever lucky enough to be in Bagan

Over on the right…

Just past all the sleeping dogs…

And this guy…


Like everyone, I am terribly sad that this US school gun debate is even necessary.

Here in Myanmar/Burma, all, every MALE, spends some time as a Buddhist monk for some period, sometimes beginning as early as 3. One year, 3, 10 …away from their families visiting home max one day per week. Learning the way of the Buddha. The population is incredibly serene, helpful, joyful, pleasant, humble, respectful. Safety and trust are embedded in the culture. As Stacia and I or the kids walk around at night, we feel safer than anywhere I’ve ever lived, that’s for certain.
I know, I know, impractical, yadda yadda.
“You may say i’m a dreamer…but i’m not the only one…” But the fact remains, women leaders, (And thoughtful respectful boys), tend not to kill other mother’s children. (Oh, Slo, the irony of saying that from Myanmar. But that too is indecipherably complex)

Annika’s poem du jour


My mother is very sweet.

On my birthday, my mommy tries her best to make it perfect

This is the greatest mommy ever.

How does my mommy work so hard?

Even though my mother doesn’t give me everything I want, I still love her.

Rule rule my mommy rules.

Myanmar: How do you “open up” a country?

Myanmar crazy fun facts:

Men wear skirts in Myanmar. It turns out that longyi is a traditional Burmese outfit. It is worn by men and women.


Myanmar or Burma? Both names are correct. If you are writing about this country, you should use more official name,  Myanmar.

But when you are talking or mentioning this country in an unofficial way, then you should use the name Burma. And the people are Burmese.

Men and women use make-up here. Burmese make up is done only by thanaka. It is whitish-yellow paste made from ground bark (grinding the wood, roots or bark of thanaka tree with water).

It’s usually applied on cheeks and nose. But we also saw people with thanaka all over their bodies. There’s no rule how much of this paste you can put on your skin! In Myanmar, if you have make-up like this, you are more beautiful. Thanaka has been used by Burmese women for over 20 centuries!

You will see men spitting blood everywhere. At least this is what it looks like. In fact, they are not spitting blood. It’s a saliva coloured red by paan.

Paan is a strong psychoactive substance, made of betel leaf, areca nut and sometimes tobacco. It is chewed by many Burmese people to give them energy.

It is believed that chewing paan can be compared to drinking 6 cups of coffee with alcohol. It’s super strong but also very dangerous. Regular chewers are very likely to get an oral cancer in the future. More on Betel here:

When we arrived to Myanmar, everything about the traffic was “off.” And traffic is baaaad. The cars in Burma have right hand steering (like in the UK, or all the other countries with left-hand traffic). But ALSO AMAZINGLY the traffic in Myanmar is right-handed.

So Burmese people have cars suitable for left-hand traffic and they drive in a right-hand traffic. Why? Myanmar was a British colony until 1948. So the traffic was left-hand. In 1970 they changed the traffic on the right-hand for an unspecified reason. But the cars remained the same, suitable for left-hand traffic.

Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world with a half hour time zone. The time in Burma is UTC +6:30, which is 30 minutes different from neighbouring Thailand.

Burma is one of 3 countries in the world that doesn’t use the metric system. The other two? Liberia and the Unites States!

The capital of Myanmar for many years was Yangon. Like the country itself, this city has 2 names: Yangon and Rangoon.

Myanmar is home to the biggest book in the world. The book is situated in Kuthodaw pagoda in Mandalay. It has 1460 pages and 730 leaves. Each page is 107cm (3.51 ft) wide, 13cm (5.1 in) thick and 153cm (5.02 ft) tall!

If you cheat on your spouse in Myanmar you lose all your money and you and your lover each get 7 years in prison. Better be worth it.

Myanmar is a near cash only society, so bring dollars. The largest bank note is 10,000 Chiatt, about $7.00. People buy their apartments for cash. Entry level in Yangon is 35 to 40 thousand USD, paid for in rice sacks of cash. They buy their condos in shopping malls. UPON SIGNING, THEY WALK INTO THE MALL WITH SACKS OF CASH. That’s 5000 notes at $7.00 each

Internet penetration was 2% in 2013, vs. 60% today. Burmese will pass the entire desktop and laptop revolution, going straight to smart phones.