One of my friend visited to my country and she wrote article about Land of a thousand smiles in Jakarta post dated on 1st October '06.
I really thanks for her effort to introduce my mother land with the World.
I am pleased to share about hers as below:
Myanmar: Land of a thousand smiles
Features - October 01, 2006
Laura Schuurmans, Contributor, Washington, D.C.
It was another lovely summer day in Washington, D.C. I enjoyed the beauty of the city one last time as I wandered around with an American friend.
We walked around Capitol Hill, where my friend showed me one of his favorite secondhand bookshops. We went inside to have a quick look and he asked me, "Why don't you buy a book for your train ride to New York?" I had a number of books with me already, and initially was not interested.
However, as we walked out of the shop, the bookseller, a nice American guy with a big smile on his face, kindly asked, "So you are walking away without buying a book, does that mean I don't have enough to offer?"
I replied that I was not in the mood and that I felt sad I had to leave. We started a nice conversation and after some moments the bookseller offered a book, George Orwell's Burmese Days, as a gift.
I accepted the book and a huge smile came across my face. It was a reminder of precious memories of my beautiful trip to Myanmar some months before.
We continued walking to a nice market where they sell old maps of the world. My friend's eye fell on an old map of Yangon, Myanmar, and I broke into another smile. Some minutes later I found a map of Mandalay.
All of a sudden, Washington, D.C. started drifting away. I closed my eyes for a little while and my memory brought me back to Myanmar.
When I opened my eyes again, I was told it was time for me to leave. We smoked one last cigarette, after which we kissed goodbye and I continued my journey by train to New York, where my Myanmarese friends would be waiting for me.
The train started moving and I was on my way. I opened my bag, in which I had a large brown envelope full of photographs of Myanmar.
I opened it and looked at the pictures one by one: colored pictures of a colorful country and black-and-white pictures depicting Burma in its olden days.
The pictures made me smile yet again and I entered deep into my thoughts and precious memories of a wonderful trip.
I looked at a picture of young Buddhist nuns, dressed in pink with sweet and genuine smiles on their faces.
I looked at another picture of two young Buddhist monks, sitting in front of a temple inside the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, one of the most peaceful and sacred places I have ever visited.
I remember my first day in Myanmar, when I woke up at 6 a.m., had breakfast, walked not far from where I was staying and climbed the steps to Shwedagon Pagoda. I could not believe the peace and quiet I felt inside my heart, as if sacred angels had descended from heaven and were whispering good wishes into my ear -- for love and happiness, prosperity and good health.
The following afternoon, a train would take me up north to Mandalay, the ancient royal capital famous for its tapestries, temples and monasteries.
The sound of the moving train took me away in my thoughts for the duration of the trip -- almost 18 hours. Imagination can make life as perfect as one wishes, just for the span of a journey.
It was early in the morning when I arrived at Mandalay, and a nice young man, his teeth red from chewing betel leaves, took me in a taxi to my hotel, which was located not far from Mandalay Hill.
I visited some temples, the world's largest book, then came across a fortune teller who told me about my past. I continued my journey to a marketplace and wandered around for hours, all the time surrounded by thousands of smiles.
The day after, it was again time to pack my bag and leave, this time by boat on the Ayeyarwaddy River to my final destination in Myanmar -- the ancient city of Bagan, which I had wanted to visit for so many years.
The boat left when it was still dark and it would take another 10 hours to reach what I had been dreaming of for so long. I was afraid that in my imagination during all those years, I had changed Bagan into a city that did not exist.
I asked myself why it had taken me that long to finally come to this beautiful country, which offers so much more than one can imagine.
Finally, in late afternoon, from far away, I could see the tops of the temples getting closer and closer. The weather was very hot, the sun was burning into my skin and the temples were drifting in a sea of sand like an oasis in a desert, like mirages that disappear as you draw nearer.
I felt like I was crossing a bridge and stepping into an imaginary world, while at the same time, I was going back in a time machine and reaching a destination that existed only in fairy tales.
I saw one temple, then another, then one even bigger and more beautiful than the previous one. There were simply too many to count.
I went to the hotel, was given a beautiful room overlooking the Ayeyarwaddy and here I was, surrounded by beautiful smiles again.
I had several days in Bagan and each morning I went around this ancient city that dates back to the 11th century, enjoying the beauty of this tranquil and majestic site, full of thousands of temples, pagodas and stupas -- too many to count, too many to remember.
Old Bagan was much bigger than I expected, the temples even more beautiful than in pictures, and I simply could not stop looking around and enjoying every single moment of my days there.
I took out my Lonely Planet and read about the temples, I asked my tourist guide even more questions and at night, when I went to sleep, ancient Bagan would follow me in my dreams.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are reaching New York Penn Station, the final destination of the train."
I woke up and smiled after my nap in the train from Washington and New York, and somewhere in between, my dreams had taken me back to Myanmar.
I got up, took my suitcases and caught a taxi. "Please take me to East 69th," I told the driver. "And please hurry. I was supposed to arrive yesterday."
I was late and my friends from Myanmar -- whom I knew from Jakarta -- were waiting for me.
And so the fairy tale of Myanmar continued with an oriental princess waiting for me at the entrance of her New York apartment.
I have written this article for the people of Myanmar, whose genuine smiles are so beautiful; and whose smiles had given me so much joy and happiness on my trip.