THE IDEA OF ROAMING throughout Burma is alluring – especially after having recently read Emma Larkin’s gorgeous and haunting investigation of what life is really like within the borders of the reclusive state. Yet the current political situation is such that traveling and spending money in Myanmar – with a tourism industry controlled by the government, and movement restricted and surveiled by a web of military bureaucracy – would likely give the traveler a skin-deep impression of life in the nation while pouring dollars into the coffers of a brutal regime.
It is for this reason that I was disappointed to stumble upon National Geographic Adventure’s blip about a near $4,000 vacation package to Myanmar – a nation copywriters euphemistically described as being “Preserved in Amber.”
The package, offered by Country Walkers, is a 10-day trek through the country and costs $3,898 (not including airfare to Yangon). According to the NG article, guide Rachel Baker tries to ensure that dollars go towards local people and not the regime. Yet the company Web site describes the accomodations as ranging from “lakeside chalets to deluxe hotels designed to evoke an exotic charm,” venues that likely demand relatively high rates, from which the generals are sure to scrape off the top.
I admittedly feel mixed about the idea of travelers foregoing Burma for political reasons – there is, after all, the possibility that some of the money spent might trickle into the hands of locals. I guess that this is less likely in the case of vacation packages such as Country Walkers’. But at the end of the day such little compensation will not pull the Burmese out of their suffering. We might do better to show solidarity with the people by not allowing the junta to have at our dollars and not indulging in the fantasy of an exotic Burma preserved in time, when the reality is much more grim.