Burmese Daze: Burma/Myanmar, 2004 and 2005

I was watching comedians Dara O’Briain and Ed Byrne take the Road to Mandalay the other day on the BBC and I thought: “I can do that”. “Well, OK, I could. And I did. So why don’t I post about it?” So I am…

This is a short series of travelogues I wrote after visiting Burma/Myanmar in 2004 and 2005. Each visit was pretty much a month long, and pretty much a year apart. Note the “after” there: it would have been nigh-on impossible to post them while I was actually in the country. For a start, while there were a few internet cafes, the connections were usually pretty useless; you could be writing something and the system would crash with absolutely no warning. Even when it wasn’t crashing, it was incredibly slow – like dial-up on Mogadon.

However, even if I had managed to complete a travelogue, I wouldn’t have been able to send it to my family and friends anyway, as Hotmail, along with most other ways of communicating with the world outside Burma, was blocked by the junta that was running the country.

On my first trip, in 2004, I managed to access Hotmail a couple of times via a proxy server, but by 2005, the junta had got wise to that and the proxy servers were blocked too. Hard to believe in the UK of 2017, I know, where practically everyone can access some form of high-speed connection 24 hours a day, but that’s how it was in Burma then. And yes, I am thoroughly aware that no matter how frustrating it was for me not to be able to access Hotmail regularly, it was like a thousand times more annoying (and unfair) for the people around me.

I have no idea what internet access is like in Burma/Myanmar now; I can only hope that it’s much, much better than it was in 2004 and 2005.

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