Travel Photo of the Week: National Geographic in Myanmar

National Geographic in Burma

I often blame National Geographic for piquing my interest in the larger world outside my small town in Wisconsin, and others often say the same about their own childhood love affair with the yellow-bound journal. My grandmother would renew our subscription each year as the most awesome Christmas present ever (other than the telescope I received at the height of my astronomy geekdom in 6th grade). The issues that contained those bonus maps were particularly cherished, and I hung the maps around on the walls of my bedroom and our basement. So on my recent return to Yangon, Myanmar it made me smile to stumble across a few copies from 1957 as I walked through the markets.

The one shown here had a story about Istanbul’s Robert College in Turkey and how big changes were coming for that country back in the day. Now Myanmar — which was then still Burma — is in a similar period of big changes. I came to town for The American Center’s first education fair, hosted by EducationUSA. Ambassador Derek J. Mitchell, the first US ambassador since 1990, attended, as did Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Times are certainly changing.

And yet at the same time, Myanmar still maintains so much tradition and so much culture. Walking through the streets is like some kind of daydream after reading the pages of National Geographic. It’s what you imagine those photos (of which, by the way, there were right few back in 1957 – not even the cover) would be like if they came to life. Was this an expat’s stockpile left behind 50 years later? Had a local learned English and were they too traveling miles around the world in their mind to learn about the Turks or to cross the frozen desert to Byrd station or to sail the Long Island Sound? Did someone in Rangoon hang a ten-color map supplement of Antarctica on their bedroom wall? And what do the young Burmese think when they read modern stories of their own land?

Read some Myanmar Travel Tips on The Mad Traveler home site.