Going Off the Radar (Bangkok to Burma)

This will be my last dispatch for awhile.
I am sitting in a cafe in Bangkok, preparing myself mentally and physically for what comes next. Tomorrow morning on Friday the 13th I leave Thailand and enter into Burma, the country that has intrigued me for the past few weeks. Burma’s physical proximity to Thailand strongly contrasts her political, social and economic isolation from her neighbors. For two weeks I have remained close to the border with Burma yet she has eluded me as she has eluded many travelers before me. Fleeting time, evaporating money and the difficulty of obtaining a passport are enough to deter most travelers.
But I’m a go-getter, and I’m getting my ass into Burma.
Earlier today I was convinced that I would be barred entry into Burma. I nervously waited in line at the embassy, sweating in the tropic heat and trying to formulate a backup plan in case the consular official denied my application. Few tourists enter Burma, even fewer Americans. Our government is one of the most outspoken critics of the military junta running the country. Though the military junta changed the name to Myanmar, America and other critics have refused to acknowledge the change. To champions of human rights and democracy, the country remains Burma. I will refer to her as Burma from here on out.
Internet is slow and is often restricted to email websites only. I do not know if I will be able to access my website to post up reports from my blog. For the next few weeks, I might even have to give up the Facebook!
There are no ATMs in Burma. Credit cards are not accepted: they prefer American greenbacks but will accept their own local currency for small purchases. Road travel takes ages. The trains, planes and boats are owned by the government, so I will make every effort to boycott government enterprises despite the inconvenience. Finally, my penurious spending habits have found the perfect solution: save money and boycott an oppressive government!   Two birds with one stone! Though I may cheat the government a few bucks, I will be giving whatever I can to the local people to help alleviate their plight.
Many sections of Burma are off-limits to foreigners. My travel will be restricted, my passport and papers will be routinely scrutinized at checkpoints, and my conversations with the locals are technically restricted from talking politics. If you know me well, you know I love talking politics. This should be interesting.
Family members and loved ones, worry not. I will be fine. But starting tomorrow morning I will be going off the radar. I will unplug from the internet, escape the hustle and bustle of the Banana Pancake Trail, put my ear to the ground and try to feel the pulse of the Burmese people.
I’m bursting with excitement to experience Burma. I can’t wait to share my observations with you, but for now I need to maintain radio silence.
See ya in a few weeks.

Over and out.

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