The Burmese are largely followers of Buddhism.
Want to make sure your money isn’t fuelling the regime? Research the company/hotel/airline with whom you’re travelling before booking, and on the ground, deal with local communities. Suu Kyi’s message is that small-scale, responsible tourism can create more benefits than harm.
With Qantas now flying direct into the buzzing Chilean capital of Santiago, the time is right for some South American exploration. Perhaps start with the new Singular Patagonia, a wondrous hotel built into a heritage-listed cold storage plant in Puerto Bories. The establishment sits on the edge of the Torres del Paine National Park, with glorious views of the Patagonian fjords of Last Hope Sine, and Antonio Varas Peninsula. A sensitive approach to blending past and present is a cornerstone of Singular Hotels, which has plans to open in Santiago sometime this year. Singular Patagonia took 10 years to complete and is a fusion of Victorian-era architecture and modernism. Public areas are in the restored plant, while accommodation is located in the newly added glass cube. It offers incredible scenery, lots of silence and the chance to ride through pristine countryside on horseback or glide over Patagonia’s glaciers. www.qantas.com.au; thesingular.com/puertobories.
touring the land
A reputable company with great tour guides is essential, especially if you’re travelling around the country. Orient-Express offers luxury river cruises between Bagan and Mandalay, and for those who want something different, the Bhamo to Bagan 11-day trip that visits Ledo Road, running through Bhamo to thick jungle and stopping in villages en route to China, is the pick. www.orient-express.com.
Women carrying supplies across the Ayeyarwady River in Mandalay.
the rhythmic swish-swish of leaves the sound of a new dawn. The temple brings an unexpected bonus: internet access, which is sketchy across the country. Mobile phones usually don’t work here in Burma and power shortages are common. After a few days of not being able to check my messages, the anxiety eases. The pace here, even in the cities, is calmer. There is a gentle quality and a beautiful innocence to the people. One day, I visit a clinic with Dr Hla Tun, who contributes to local medical aid facilities, including after Cyclone Nargis devastated the Ayeyarwady Delta (west of Yangon) in 2008. Three hundred people wait patiently to see him each day, their needs ranging from the contraceptive pill to serious illness. Naing tells me that most people are genuinely happy, perhaps because 90 per cent of Burma’s 70 million residents embrace Buddhism. Last year, about 500,000 people visited the country, compared with six million tourists to Cambodia and 17 million to Thailand. Why do they come here? “Apart from the Buddhist pagodas, I think we have very 196 | Harper’s BAZAAR | may 2012
The Governor’s residence in Yangon.
“The people are very friendly to foreign visitors. The Burmese are a different race.”
nice people,” says Naing. “The people are very friendly to foreign visitors. The Burmese are a different race.” Sitting at a tea shop for a cup of chai attracts curiosity and the locals want to talk, especially about where I’m from. Many Burmese don’t yet feel completely safe to talk about politics in a public area. The junta is among the people in plain clothes and there are still many “restricted areas”. Hopefully, things will change. At the Bagan Market, two young girls selling traditional Burmese skirts — longyis — proudly show me a picture of Suu Kyi and Hillary Clinton on her recent visit to the country ... their smiles speaking a thousand words of hope.
courtesy of orient-express; courtesy of Singular Patagonia
The 65-metre-high reclining Buddha at the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda.
May’s message: embrace the globe. by frances hibbard
The Singular Patagonia hotel on the edge of the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
What to buy
• Lacquerwear, a tradition that dates back to the 12th century and is still practised today. Buy glossy black bowls at the markets or at lacquerwear stores in Bagan. They make great gifts, they can hold both hot and cold liquids, and you can use them for coffee “to go”. • Head to Bagan Market to buy fabric and they will make it into a longyi, a traditional skirt that grazes the ankles. The seller will whip it up, with darts for a perfect fit, in 10 minutes. For vintage versions in hard-to-find colours and pretty beads and ornaments, go to Yoyamay Ethnographic Textile Gallery at Bogyoke Market in Yangon. www.yoyamay.com. • Gill Pattison owns the River Gallery that showcases a core group of more than 30 young and talented Burmese artists whose work is gaining recognition worldwide. www.rivergallerymyanmar.com. • The hottest souvenirs right now are Suu Kyi T-shirts. The locals wear red tees, with a fighting peacock and the star of Burma on it, sold at The National League for Democracy headquarters and some markets.
BAZAAR LOVES …
a bold new world
Expand your horizons with Bold & Noble’s new World Type Map print from Kindred Gifts. The graphic screen-print is not only a handy inspiration for your next great escape, but is also ethical and environmentally friendly in spirit, as the name would suggest. Each map is hand-pulled onto recycled card, meaning the pieces are as individual as your travels. Bold & Noble World Type Map print, $97, from Kindred Gifts, www.kindredgifts.com.au.
Proenza Schouler’s retrostyled camera case, for covetable Box Brownie-era nostalgia. If this doesn’t inspire your inner travel photographer, nothing will! Proenza Schouler camera case, approximately $1750, Sofitel So Bangkok. www.proenzaschouler.com. www.harpersbazaar.com.au 197