January 2010 • Any foreigner who visits Myanmar begins here, because land crossings are prohibited in favor of strictly controlled air arrivals. For over 20 years the city, as well as the rest of the country, has been beaten down by autocratic rule and international economic sanctions, yet the Myanmar people are the warmest, smilingest, most unjaded I've ever encountered. I'm not sure what explains it—maybe a unique alchemy of national character, Buddhist faith, and extreme isolation from the rest of the world. But all that is about to change. Two years after I first posted these photos, the government has shown tentative signs of reform, and Aung San Suu Kyi has rejoined the political process. Myanmar is now a white-hot travel destination, and developers are doing what they do best—surveying, planning, buying, profiteering—to take advantage of the tourist influx. Best of luck, Myanmar. All you need to do is look across the border at Thailand to see how ugly this could get.
33rd Street, Kyauktada township
Ferry to Dalah