RÈKÒRT: KAIDA DEN 37 DIA

Vários hende a kere ku e resien kaida di Gabinete Koeiman despues di solamente 53 dia tabata un rèkòrt den nos historia di demokrasia parlamentario. Esaki sinembargo no ta bèrdat. E rèkòrt apsoluto ta di apenas 37 dia i esaki ta riba nòmber di Gabinete da Costa Gomez (òf Kolegio-da Costa Gomez). Tuma nota ku ami ta tuma e periodo di demokrasia parlamentario den nos pais (1938 – aktual) pa mi hasi e komparashon aki. Promé ku nos atendé ku kaida aparatoso despues di 37 dia di Gabinete da Costa Gomez, ta bon pa pinta e konteksto polítiko di e tempu ei.

Nos a konosé un era nobo den nos demokrasia parlamentario na momento ku e konstitushon nobo a drenta na vigor riba 8 yüni 1948. E konstitushon nobo a hasi posibel pa krea pa promé biaha den nos historia un College van Algemeen Bestuur (CAB). E CAB tabata konsistí di un máksimo di seis (6) miembro ku mester a yuda Gobernadó den su tareanan di maneho di e seis islanan, Curaçao. Na promé bista e CAB awe lo no ta mustra di ta un ‘gran kos’ kisas, pero pa e tempu ei esaki tabata un paso grandi den e proseso di emansipashon polítiko di nos pais. E intenshon tabata for di un komienso pa CAB krese i bira un órgano mas independiente i no simplemente un instansha ku tabata yuda Gobernadó den su tareanan ehekutivo. Despues di un total di kuater (4) CAB nos a konosé Regeringsraad (RR) na 1951 i despues, Raad van Ministers (RvM) na 1954. Tantu CAB, RR i RvM tabata suheto na konfiansa di un mayoria den parlamento (Staten). Manera nos sa, historia parlamentario no a start na 1954, sino na 1938. Nos promé elekshon pa Staten no tabata na 1954, sino desèmber 1937. E promé CAP a sinta riba 21 ougùstùs 1948 i tabatin komo tarea prinsipal pa organisá elekshon di 1949 ku pa di promé biaha a permití tur hende hòmber i hende muhé mayor di edat vota pa tur nan representantenan den Staten. Delaster un miembro di e promé CAP tabata nombrá pa e Gobernadó. Despues di e elekshon di 17 mart 1949 ku a keda ganá aki na Kòrsou pa Partido Nashonal di Pueblo (NVP), dr. Moises Frumensio da Costa Gomez a surgi komo e formadó di lokual mester a bira e di dos College van Algemeen Bestuur (CAB 2). PNP no por a yega na akuerdo ku e otro partidonan di Kòrsou ku a saka asiento pa forma CAB 2. Ta trata aki di Partido Demokrat (DP) i Partido Katóliko di Pueblo (KVK) ku a haña respektivamente 3 i 1 asiento. Promé ku CAB 2 a sinta, esaki a haña masha resistensia den Staten, prinsipalmente pa loke ta trata aprobashon di e ‘geloofsbrieven’ di e integrantenan di CAB 2. Tantu na Aruba komo Kòrsou, AVP i NVP respektivamente, a haña hopi krítika. Riba  10 di mei 1949 porfin CAB 2 ta sinta. Da Costa Gomez por a konta solamente riba sosten di 13 (di 22 miembro) lokual opservadonan for di un prinsipio a konsiderá komo insufisiente. E difikultatnan den Staten pa ku CAB 2 a kontinuá ku tur intensidat. Oposishon tabata hasi bida di CAB 2 práktikamente imposibel. Un miembro di oposishon, Sr. Gerharts, segun nótulonan di reunion di Staten di 9 yüni 1949 a kompará da Costa Gomez ku Adolf Hitler. Segun Gerharts Mein Kamf tabata ekibalente na Nos Lucha; Hitler-jugend tabata ekibalente na Gomez-jeugd i Braune Haus tabata ekibalente na Cas di Pueblo. No tabata un sorpresa ku despues di 37 dia, esta 17 yüni 1949, CAB-2 a kai. En bista di e turbulensia di CAB 2, Gobernadó a disidí pa pidi pa un ‘zakenkabinet’ ku a sinta riba 21 yüli 1949. Esaki bou di presidensia di e polítiko Rubiano Kwartsz ku por sierto a partisipá na elekshonnan di Staten di 17 mart 1949 ku Lijst Kwartsz, pero no a saka asiento.

Fuentenan adishonal: De Staatkundige Ontwikkeling der Nederlandse Antillen, dr. Kasteel; mr. dr. M.F. da Costa Gomez: Voorvechter voor de politieke emancipatie der Nederlandse Antillen, dr. Boeldak; Grondslagen en Scheidingslijnen, dr. da Costa Gomez.

TUMA DESISHON RIBA UNION MONETARIO KÒRSOU-SINT MAARTEN

Gobièrnu lihé mester disidí riba e union monetario Kòrsou-Sint Maarten. Echo ta ku e no ta funshoná pasombra no tin, despues di 7 aña, mekanísmo pa atendé ku kordinashon makroekonómiko ka ta nesesario pa un union monetario. Tambe pa kasi dos aña no tabatin kombersashon entre di e ministernan di Finansa di e dos paisnan pa atendé ku e union. Mientras ku mester di kordinashon di maneho, kada pais ta hasi lokual ku e ke i konsekuentemente kada dia ta bira mas difisil pa start ku e kordinashon nesesario. Esaki ta lòs for di e situashon indeseabel entre di gerensia di banko sentral (CBCS) i su hunta di komisario. Tin falta di akuerdo entre di Willemstad i Philipsburg i pa kolmo e minister di Finansa di Kòrsou a bisa aña pasá ku evaluason di e union monetario no ta prioridat.

Kòrsou mester determiná kiko e ke. Nos ke keda den e union? Na vários okashon Sint Maarten a bisa ku e ta sali. Ta dolarisá? Sint Maarten si a bisa esaki. Nos ta warda te ora nan tuma e desishonnan importante pa despues nos drenta akshon? Den mi bista Kòrsou ku ta responsabel pa kasi 75% di e union aki no por sinta pasivamente mira manera e a hasi te awor.

For di 2008, promé ku e union monetario drenta na vigor, mi a oponé kontra di dje. For di e tempu ei tabata klaritu ku e desishon pa un union monetario no tabata basá riba fundamentonan ekonómiko, pero mas bien un obligashon pasombra Den Haag no ta(bata) konfia Sint Maarten ku su propio banko sentral. Den un resien artíkulo (https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2017/02/09/waning-hope-for-monetary-union-sint-maarten-curacao/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true) mi ta bai den mas detaye i ta demostrá ku no tin ehèmpel di unionnan monetario ku a sobrebibí ora nan keda formá pa paisnan ku anteriormente tabata huntu polítikamente.

Mi ta boga pa kurashi di Willemstad pa tuma desishon. Sea nos ta sali òf, komo opshon dos, ta keda basta tur hende realmente ke esaki, i ta start ku e mekanísmonan di kordinashon nesesario. Status quo no ta opshon.

WANING HOPE FOR MONETARY UNION SINT MAARTEN – CURAÇAO

In 2008 I vehemently objected to the decision to have a monetary union between Sint Maarten and Curaçao in anticipation of the political dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles (consisting of Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) on October 10, 2010. My reasoning for disagreeing was never judged on its merits. Instead, I was criticized because I was part of government and was apparently not allowed to have a dissenting opinion. Some newspapers even speculated that I was sure to be booted from the Cabinet and the political party to which I belonged. None of that happened, but the monetary union did become a reality.

The common definition of a monetary union is two or more countries with a single currency, one central bank, one monetary policy and convergence of macroeconomic policies. 

So what were my objections back in the day? First of all, history backed me up. There are dramatic illustrations of how monetary unions collapse after the political breakup of countries. I will not mention those that went belly up before the 20th century, but will instead concentrate on the 20th and 21st century. When the Austral-Hongarian constitutional union was dissolved in 1914, so did its monetary union and the common currency, the crown. The Soviet Union (USSR) broke up in 1991 and the USSR’s state bank was replaced by 15 central banks. Other examples include the breakups of Yugoslavia, and the State Union of Serbia & Montenegro, South Sudan that separated itself from Sudan and Eritrea that gained its independence from Ethiopia. Heck, we don’t even have to look very far. After Aruba broke off from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, it did not form a monetary union with the (remaining islands of the) Netherlands Antilles. Aruba must have read and understood the history books about monetary unions after countries call it quits and abandon their former political unions. There is just one exception history tells us. When the Czechs and the Slovaks abandoned Czechoslovakia, they initially decided to swim against the current and formed a monetary union which lasted a whopping 38 days!

When political unions dissolve in separate countries/entities, this is done so that each party can pursue its own policies. Usually this separation comes after profound differences and policy discords. Parties to a monetary union, as we have seen before, are forced to coordinate and/or harmonize certain macroeconomic policies. So why would they want to do that after just being separated? If that were the case there should not have been any need for a separation in the first place one could easily argue. So why did Sint Maarten and Curaçao form a monetary union? It was politically motivated. The Netherlands simply did not trust Sint Maarten to have it’s own central bank. So no monetary or macroeconomic arguments were used to arrive at this decision. Economists know very well that the theoretical analysis of a monetary union is first and foremost based on the theory of an optimum currency area (OCA) that was first developed by Nobel Prize winner in economic science, Dr. Robert Mundell with its emphasis on among others symmetry of business cycles and mobility of the factors of production i.e. land, labor and capital. None of that happened. The Netherlands forced this down our throats otherwise the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles would not have happened. None of us were prepared for this decision. As a matter of fact, in 2009, one year before the monetary union would come into being, the politically responsible authorities for economic affairs of Curaçao and Sint Maarten were gathered in Curaçao for a public presentation at the University of the Netherlands Antilles. I was then State Secretary of Finance of the Netherlands Antilles and after their presentations on how they saw economic development after the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles, I asked them what they were doing regarding policies that would have to be in place for the then upcoming monetary union. I never knew politicians could stare at each other and the public at such a complete loss for words. More surprising to me however was the fact that a member of management of the Central Bank uttered that the monetary union will work because these two countries used to be together in one union, the Netherlands Antilles. Exactly, used to be together.

And under this misguided premise we started the union thinking it would work without even taking a single measure for convergence of macroeconomic policies. As a matter of fact, I dare anyone to find a passage in the government programs of Curaçao or Sint Maarten that refers to concrete matters on coordination of policies in order to make the union work. According to the Minister of Finance of Curaçao (2012-2016), when I questioned him in Parliament, the monetary union was not a priority. Meanwhile under the watch of governments, the board of supervision of the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, we continue to think that somehow this monetary union will spontaneously function and be a success by pretending it doesn’t even exist. In fact, the Ministers of Finance of Curaçao and Sint Maarten haven’t even formally spoken to each other about this matter in over two years. To date, the is no mechanism, not even on paper, in place to coordinate policies relevant for the monetary union. It is as if no one wants to end the union, but instead prefers that it withers away, slowly and painfully. The best option is to start taking steps to dissolve the union. However close Sint Maarten and Curaçao might have been before the dissolution in 2010, fact is that we have drifted more apart and have much less in common today. If history is our guide, we should end this and go our separate ways. The second best option is to, for the first time in 7 years, have both parties unequivocally state their political commitment to the monetary union. On numerous occasions Sint Maarten has hinted it wants to opt out of the union. In Curaçao there is also a group that wants to leave this forced monetary marriage. In any case, if we want to move forward with the union – I think it is a little too late for that – there can be no clouds of doubts. And once this issue is resolved we must quickly invest in mechanisms to make it work. Not doing anything, as we have been doing since 2010, will lead to a slow, painful and costly death of this union. Let’s hope the authorities in Curaçao have the guts to make a choice.

CECIL THE LION AND THE DICTATOR WHO EATS BABY ELEPHANTS

Remember Cecil the lion? He was a prized lion in the African country of Zimbabwe until he was killed on July 1st, 2015 by Mr. Walter James Palmer of Minnesota. Cecil was a participant in a scientific study that an European University was conducting, and he had been outfitted with a GPS collar. The killing of Cecil sparked outrage all over the world, especially when it became known that it took, according to the tracking device, 40 hours for Cecil to finally succumb to his injuries inflicted by the American hunter. In Zimbabwe, authorities and especially its President, Mr. Robert Mugabe using his all too common racist vocabulary  (yes, the killer was white) were irate even though everything about this hunting trip was apparently legal and properly handled. In any case, Mr. Walter James Palmer was never indicted as previously promised by Mr. Mugabe. In no way am I trying to downplay the killing of Cecil. I think it was outrageous especially considering that African lion populations have fallen almost 60% according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. The point is that Mr. Mugabe, only 4 months before the killing of Cecil, while celebrating his 91st birthday bash had the following on his menu for the almost 20,000 people who attended his party: a baby elephant and an adult elephant, two buffaloes, two sables, five impalas and also a lion was killed and mounted especially for him according to Zimbabwe’s The Chronicle. Sickening? Yes. Especially when considering that Mr. Mugabe condemns ‘white’ safaris, but has no problems eating barbequed baby elephant at his party. The animals by the way were provided by Mr. Tendai Musasa, a close friend of Mr. Mugabe who was given vast lands seized from a white Zimbabwean as part of the President’s controversial ‘land grab’ policy. Last year, celebrating his 92nd birthday, Mr. Mugabe didn’t serve endangered animals, but the party was even more lavish than the previous one, costing Zimbabwean taxpayers more that USD 1 million. This year, at the end of February, the dictator celebrates his 93rd birthday. What he has in store for his thousands of invitees, is not yet known. But, what’s a party without a surprise element? He does however have a taste for the finest things in life (a villa in the Middle East, and he gave his wife a USD 1.3 million diamond ring celebrating their wedding anniversary last year). I get it. Being a dictator can’t be easy. All the ruling, the intimidating, the killing, the dealing with a bankrupt country, the 5 million starving people, will certainly take its toll on even the strongest of men. Mr. Mugabe is planning to run again for president in 2018 so we may have many more parties to look forward to.

AMIDST POLARIZATION, WE SHOULD EMBRACE DIVERSITY

Curaçao must, in no uncertain terms, send a message that it remains committed to protecting its minorities as the world sees a dangerous rise in polarization along religious lines, and anti immigrant sentiments. The government is not the only responsible, but it must see itself as a driver of policy and rhetoric that shows that diversity and being a minority is not a threat. The message should be along the line that we are all Curaçaons and that we must guarantee the freedom, safety and equality of opportunity to all, irrespective of our differences. This is however not only a government task. As a community we must make a promise to never allow the fact that we belong to the majority override the protection and rule of law for minority groups in our country. Stereotyping, stigmatizing, bullying are concrete ways individuals express intolerance. Daily anyone who is Asian or even of Asian origin is referred to as “Chino” on our island. People speaking Spanish amongst themselves – many of whom were born in this Country, have a Dutch passport but speak the language because they have been brought up by Spanish speaking parents – are considered foreigners who are stealing our jobs. I could go on, but let me mention this. It was painful to see Facebook pages of too many Curaçaons explode with discriminatory comments when it was imminent that Miss Universe Haiti was going to become either the winner or the first runner-up of the world beauty pageant. Why? Do we somehow feel superior by belittling others? We must remember that intolerance in a society is the sum-total of the intolerance of all its individual members. We have to stop this. And we have to stop being quiet when it happens. We are all part of the solution. If anything, don’t we know all too well how it feels to be discriminated in the Netherlands? Well, these people are not somehow immune to our xenophobia.  As for the Government and Parliament, it is well worth the time of the 21 Members of Parliament to dedicate some time to this issue. A wall-to-wall motion in the Parliament that makes the case for respecting diversity and building more inclusive societies to achieve this, would be a very good step.

THE WORLD IS NOT WAITING FOR TRUMP

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is not yet a household name. Chances are, you haven’t heard that the RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The RCEP until a week ago played second fiddle to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) until Mr. Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out, possibly killing this agreement after 8 arduous years of negotiations. With this move, the RCEP, under China’s leadership and without any U.S. participation is bound to now become the quintessential free trade agreement of the 21st century, a title previously held by the TPP. A tell-tale example of the U.S. relinquishing relevance and strategic positioning in the world.

The prospect RCEP accounts for 3.4 billion people (about 47% of the total world population) and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of USD 21.4 trillion (about 30% of the world’s GDP). The RCEP will link for the first time in history the world’s two most populous countries, China and India, while also pairing Asia’s two largest economies, China and Japan. Next month the RCEP partners will come together and they are expected to push ahead for the completion of this mega-regional economic pact this year.

The RCEP has received an enormous boost following the U.S. formal exit from the TPP on January 23, 2017. The TPP is an ambitious trade agreement pioneered by the former U.S. President Barack Obama and currently awaiting congressional approval, between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam. The TPP was a smart strategic move by the former U.S. administration to ensure that China would not get a free pass to continue with its plans for domination in Asia and the Pacific. With a stroke of his pen, Mr. Trump has now presented China with a golden opportunity to solidify itself as a regional and world power. A move that has been eagerly embraced by Beijing. Anticipating Mr. Trump’s TPP exit, the Chinese President, Mr. Xi Jinpeng according to the Australian Broadcast Corporation promised at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in November 2016 that: “China will not shut the door to the outside world, but will open it even wider and be fully involved in economic globalization”.

The inwardlooking and protectionist new U.S. President, Mr. Donald Trump has kept his campaign promise to withdraw from the TPP because it: “would undermine the U.S. economy and independence”. No question that the TPP has received a major blow when Mr. Trump decided to walk away from it. But is it dead? Some TPP signatories, including Australia and New Zealand have already indicated to be willing to consider a ‘reworked’ TPP without the U.S. Especially Japan seems eager to fill the void the U.S. has left. There may be good reasons for Japan to want to assume this role since it is eager to compete with China for more geopolitical influence in Asia and the Pacific. Some observers have hinted that China may eventually consider to join the TPP now that the U.S. has walked away, but that probability is small according to me. A much weaker TPP will probably mean a better opportunity for a successful completion of the China-led RCEP. India, another big player in world trade, never happy to having been left out of the TPP, will likely see Mr. Trump’s action as an opportunity to now push forward with the RCEP negotiations after dragging its feet during the previous negotiation rounds.

The RCEP is directed at tariff reduction (or elimination) and services liberalization between the signatories. This means that trade between China, Japan and South Korea, which are major trading partners with the U.S., will become more attractive than bilateral trade with the U.S.. Consequently it will put the U.S. at a disadvantage since it is not part of the RCEP. Had the U.S. not pulled out of the TPP it could have offset some of the disadvantages (trade diversion) of not belonging to the RCEP. Time will tell, but everything indicates that pulling out of the TPP will eventually prove to be a self-inflicted wound.

Mr. Trump’s action has also revived the interest in a China-led Free Trade Area for the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). Anticipating the U.S. President’s move on January 23, 2017, Russia’s President Mr. Vladimir Putin and China’s President Mr. Xi Jinping who met in November 2016 during the above-mentioned APEC meeting in Lima, Peru, promised to push for a free trade area of Asia and the Pacific, an idea that was launched for the first time in 2006. Additionally, an old idea that has been talked about for more than 15 years, a free trade agreement between China, South Korea and Japan, may also make a comeback after what happened with the TPP.

While it is unclear what the future will hold regarding the ever growing regional trade agreements in the world, (300, including those still being negotiated) one thing will become obvious: the world is not going to wait for Trump on trade matters as the U.S. turns to protectionist and inward-looking policies. Increasingly, Asia’s growing intra-regional integration is going to be providing a buffer against a protectionist U.S. be it the RCEP or other regional trade agreements. In this, China has been presented with a huge opportunity to swoop in and fulfill the void. In fact, I have argued before that these actions by Mr. Trump will surely hasten the passing of the superpower relay baton to other nations eager to fill the vacuum left behind. https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2016/12/24/foreign-affairs-transformed-beyond-washington-national-capitals-and-the-hague/

MYANMAR MESMERIZES

Myanmar, formerly Burma, was until recently known as the second most closed off nation in the world after North Korea. Although accessible to tourists since 2012, Myanmar’s infrastructure is struggling to keep pace. On the other hand, Myanmar is just waiting to be discovered. Myanmar is authentic and only just becoming truly known to the Western world. Its landscapes appear frozen in time and are mostly unexplored. If you want to submerge yourself in a realm that genuinely mesmerizes, then Myanmar is for you. Before getting into the details, I’ll provide some travel information.

Myanmar lies in Southeast Asia and is bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. It is larger than France and has a population of nearly 54 million people. The best way to fly into Myanmar is Yangon, its former capital and largest city. Out of many airlines I chose Korean Airlines (KE) because of hassle-free options arriving from San Francisco or New York City with just one stop in Seoul, South Korea. No visa is needed for South Korea for Dutch nationals. However, the Dutch need to apply online for an Evisa before traveling. You’ll need a recent digital passport and 50 USD. Use the official site http://www.evisa.moip.gov.mm and steer away from other more expensive and who knows, less reliable sources. You must provide a Myanmar hotel address (a private address will not be accepted) on your application, so be sure to make your choice before applying. The government of Myanmar promises a reply in 3 days, but I got a positive reply in less than 24 hours. When you arrive in Yangon, do not go to the ‘visa booth’, but straight to the immigration officer. Ask for a taxi at booth of the Ministry of Transportation inside the airport which costs about 8,000 Kyat (more or less 11 USD). Of course do change some money at an official exchange counter. Bring crisp, clean 100 USD bills or they will not accept them. No kidding! Now you are almost ready to be amazed. Here are some practical advise I would like to give first. Take pictures with your phone of useful words or names of places – in the Burmese alphabet – you want to visit. Not many people understand even very basic English. Second. The major cities are safe. Be aware though that in the Western part of the country there is an enduring bloody battle between the Muslim Rohingya and the Buddhist majority. As the United Nations Special Rapporteur in Myanmar put it recently: “I would not say that Myanmar is a democracy yet”, so I would advise to use this as a guide for your actions in Myanmar.

Interesting things to do in Myanmar.

According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda was constructed more than 2,600 years ago, making it the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world and one of the most scared ones. The base is made of bricks covered with gold plates. The crown is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies.

The Sule Pagoda sits in the center city of Yangon. This building has served as rallying point for uprisings against dictatorship and pro-democracy rallies. Sadly it has also witnessed the bloody reaction of the Burmese military junta against the protesters.

In downtown Yangon, “street food” takes on a whole other meaning, as makeshift restaurants spill from sidewalks onto the roads. With more than 135 ethnic groups and borders shared with China, Bangladesh, India, Laos, and Thailand, it’s safe to say that the street cuisine of Myanmar is diverse and tasty. By all means, make it a point to eat and drink on the street.

The chinthe, a lion-like creature is often seen at temples in Myanmar. Legend has it that a princess had a son through her marriage to a lion, but later abandoned the lion who then became enraged and set out on a road of terror throughout the lands. The son then went out to slay this terrorizing lion. He came back home and found out that he killed his own father. The son later constructed a statue of the lion as a guardian of a temple to atone for his sin.

The gravitydefying rock, sometimes referred to as Kyaiktiyo, is believed to have one single strand of hair of Buddha (Prince Siddharta Gautama) preventing it from toppling over. Only male visitors can come close to the rock. Females have to admire it from behind a barrier. The rock weighs about 546 tons. It is a mystery why the rock stays in place, reportedly for more than 2,500 years.

Bagan is an ancient city that was the imperial capital of the first Burmese empire. Bagan boasts more or less 3,000 Buddhist pagodas and temples. Bagan lies 630 km north of Yangon or 270 km northwest of the Burmese capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

Climb aboard a comfortable train for less than 0.25 USD and enjoy a half a day scenic ride and spend the day exploring Myanmar via a 39-station loop system connecting Yangon and satellites cities as well as suburban areas. Marvel at the pastoral landscapes, scenic towns, bustling markets and quiet villages.

The Chauk Htat Gyi temple in central Yangon houses the 66 meters long and 17 meters high reclining Buddha. It is the second largest reclining Buddha in Myanmar. The place is always full of locals who come to do communal worship and meditation.

People watching. Let’s be honest, what is travel without people watching. One of the first things that you will notice is people chew betel (a special kind of nut) incessantly. But that is not the problem. It is the constant spitting associated with chewing. It may be difficult not to be put off by this custom. The longer the person chews betel, the more dark red stained teeth he will have. Also, do not be surprised that more than half of the people you sea wears big light brown patches of powder, called thanaka, on their face and body. It is a special kind of all natural sunblock. Most men do not wear pants but a long skirt-like garment called. Myanmar people are very religious. Not only are there Buddhist stupas and temples everywhere, but most stores have at least three Buddha statues. When possible, talk to the locals, but steer away from politics