Mingalabar from Bagan,
There’s a school of thought which argues that former colonies – since freed from the yoke – were better off with imperial rule, and would be better off today if they still were colonies of European nations. The argument is obviously an academic one as no-one can ever prove it one way or another, and nobody in the former colonies has any appetite to revert. Myanmar is a case in point.
If nations are built on the idea of getting the basics right first, Myanmar is well ahead of the curve. If the basics include water reticulation, sewerage disposal, communications, transport and disease control, much has been ticked off.
The sewerage system in France paved the way for subsequent development. The railway network opened up the agricultural areas of New South Wales. The national internet network in Estonia has enabled that country to be one of the leaders in communication in the world. Myanmar has the basics in place but these were not left by the British like the railways of India. Here the infrastructure was a flotilla of ferries on the mighty Irrawaddy River. (“Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?” Kipling)
a source of resources
These public investments created wealth, the beneficiaries of which were always the inhabitants. On the other hand, colonies were about the wealth being removed, appropriated to a foreign power: the colonising power. Even Australia was originally perceived by the British as a source of resources.
Like all colonised nations, Burma suffered from the mass withdrawal of managerial nous when colonisation ended. But Burma not only threw off the yoke but completely withdrew themselves from the British Empire. They were harbouring a lot of resentment towards their British masters. Their history since has obviously not been calm and peaceful but they are not interested in being a dominion or colony. Whatever development occurred in Burma was instituted despite the British, not because of them. The tourism boom about to descend on Myanmar is their doing, and nothing to do with Britain.
balloons over Bagan
This morning I went up in a hot air balloon; won’t be beaten as the highlight of the trip. There were 13 brilliantly-coloured balloons (no garish advertising anywhere) above the Bagan precinct, each one with a team of about 8 or 10 assistants on the ground. This is not only the best way to see the 2000 (!) brick temples on the sandy banks of a bend in the Irrawaddy, but a chance to do it before the tourism boom, which is inevitable.
Afterwards, Donna the Australian pilot vouchsafed that her first flight had been at Canowindra. She also thanked us genuinely for trusting the company “and giving these guys some work, which is the main thing”. There will be scores of balloons in the sky here when the tourist world finds out about this place.
Tada from Bagan, where the monsoon season is over, and it ain’t half hot, Mum.
Tomorrow, the road to Mandalay.
For there ain’t no Ten Commandments,
And a cat can raise a thirst,
For those crazy bells are calling,
And it’s there that I would be.