Editor’s Note: Mero Geesey is a recent graduate of the University of Florida, where he studied biology and served as a leader in countless student organizations. In August, he will begin studying towards an MBA at Florida Atlantic University, where he has been hired to start an outdoor recreation program for students. He is a frequent traveler, who enjoys experiencing others cultures, interacting in foreign tongues, and going on spontaneous adventures.
On a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I wanted to visit a place that I knew very little about and that isn’t on the regional tourist circuit. I found Myanmar to fit both of these criteria. My first impressions of Myanmar pegged it as a scary and dangerous place, since my parents had claimed that it was full of crime and not a place for tourists. Going in, I knew that the country had been controlled a military dictatorship for nearly 50 years, up until last year. As a result, Western influences were few and far between in Myanmar.
Traveling affords an insight into places and cultures that you can’t get any other way, and I think that experiencing a place first hand is the best form of education, allowing you to learn in a unique way. Myanmar was no exception, and traveling there debunked any misconceptions that I had and provided an insight into a fascinating country.
Going to Myanmar was almost like a trip back in time. ATMs were nowhere to be found, credit cards are not accepted, Coca-Cola is smuggled in from Thailand, and traffic jams include oxen and horses. My favorite destination in Myanmar was Inle Lake, located in the center of the country. It was fascinating to see how the locals coexist with their environment in their everyday lives. The lake is more of a highway, a source of transportation between the various villages, some of which are built entirely on stilts in the lake or on the shore. The lake is their livelihood, a place to collect water, to bathe and wash clothes, to catch fish, and my favorite innovation- to grow food.
Above: Typical pagoda at Inle Lake.