Around The World - 1977

by Mike Newman with help from Bill Garsden

Route Map - Burma

In 1977 you could only get a seven day tourist visa for Burma. The drill, as recommended by Tony Wheeler in "Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" was something like this:

Buy a bottle of Red Label and a carton of 555's, duty-free, before you fly in. As soon as you arrive head for the black market near the YMCA and sell this stuff. The profit, based on the "official" exchange rates for the Burmese Kyat, was enough to last you all week.

Spend a night in Rangoon to see Shwedagon Pagoda and buy a train ticket for Mandalay. Spend a day in Mandalay and then get on a river ferry for the 36 hour trip to Pagan. Spend the rest of your time in Pagan. If you could afford to fly back to Rangoon rather than take the train and bus you got an extra day in Pagan. So, that's exactly what I did.

Street market in Rangoon. I spent a couple of nights in Rangoon and then took a train up to Mandalay.

Stupe at Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon. This 98 meter gilded stupa is believed to have been built between the 4th and 6th centuries, AD.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon.

After a couple of days in Rangoon I took the train with traveling companions Patrick and Moira up to Mandalay. At every stop vendors were ready for us.

Twelve hours on this train. Patrick (blue shirt) was so thin at this point that these hard thrid class seats must have been horribly painful.

Once we got to Mandalay we didn't have much time to tour around. We got a hotel and rushed down to the docks to try and book a cabin on the ferry to Pagan. The cabins were booked, so all we could get was deck space. We did get out to see a few temples.

Emerald Buddha, Mandalay

Lions guard the entrance at the base of Mandalay Hill

Shwenandaw Monastery, Mandalay. Part of the former teak royal palace.

Shwenandaw Monastery, Mandalay

Shwenandaw Monastery, Mandalay


Sandamani Paya Temple, Mandalay. Located at the base of Mandalay Hill.

We met Ruth, a Christian, along with her husband and brother, who was a Buddhist monk.

River Ferry from Mandalay to Pagan. We boarded the ferry in the early morning. A cabin wasn't available so I got deck space. Bought a woven mat to sleep on. The ferry anchored at night for safety. We got to Pagan after two nights on the ferry.

The first night a friend and I went ashore (counter to instructions) to try to find a hotel. There were plenty, but they wouldn't rent us a room. Not allowed for foreigners. Then we went to a bar to buy a bottle of the famous Burma Rum. Not allowed. But we could drink there. Finally we arranged to buy the entire bottle, shot by shot. They dumped the shots into a bowl so they could count them, and charge us by shot. Then they poured the rum back into the bottle. We drank it on the boat in the hope of getting some sleep.

There were many boats of all sorts on the Irwaddy River

One of many boats on the Irwaddy

The restaurant on the ferry had a wide variety of food available. The European guy is the one who snagged the cabin. I'm sure he slept better than I did on my 5 Kyat woven mat.

Huge golden stupa (chedi) on the Irwaddy River

We finally made it to the ancient city, Pagan. I was there at the end of rainy season. The river was at flood stage and the rice paddies were full of water.

Pagan was the capital of the ancient Pagan Kingdom (9th-13th centuries), the first kingdom to unite most of what is present day Burma. The area has the remains of several thousand Buddhist temples and pagodas.

Temples every where you look.

Gawdawpalin Pahto Temple, Pagan

View from the top. Irwaddy River in the background


Reclining Buddha, Pagan.

Village life, Pagan

Typical home; the walls made of woven bamboo.

Men finishing lacquerware bowls.

I stayed in this guest house, made in the traditional style.

Pagan sunset

I flew from Pagan to Rangoon on a Burma Airways flight. Here's their barf bag.

I flew Thai Airways from Rangoon to Bangkok. I was, of course, in economy class, but the flight offered a degree of elegance I hadn't seen before or since. The meal was wonderful; probably the best I'd had in months. After dinner, the flight attendants came around offering many brands of cigarettes. If you chose one, they lit it for you with a gold-tipped match which they put out in a small bowl in which floated an orchid blossom.

Introduction England Scotland Europe
Turkey Iran Afghanistan Pakistan
India 1 India 2 Nepal Burma
Thailand Malaysia/Singapore Indonesia 1 Indonesia 2
Hong Kong Macau Japan Korea