Saturday, August 03, 2013

Rangoon and Back

It's been a while since I visited this Blog. A very long while. Just life getting in the way as it does with all of us. But I am hoping to get back in the groove of this but I will see.

I have been wanting to go to Burma for years now but held off due to the nature of their tyrannical government. But things are changing very quickly there now and The Lady has asked tourists to come visit. So I finally did this past week. It was a quick trip as I popped into Rangoon for five days of walking about. It wasn't the best time to visit as Burma is in the middle of the rainy season and for nearly all the time I was there it alternated between a hard rain and a light drizzle.

But even so, walking around this city stuck in time was a fascinating experience. It is in its way an Asian Brigadoon where time stopped in the early 1960's after the military coup and the rest of Asia went shooting by. But time was not necessarily kind as a general decay took hold of the city in its infrastructure, economy and its appearance. But to my outside eyes it was a beautiful decay that defiantly has waited for times to get better. Every street brings you something of interest whether it be an old British colonial building still proudly standing tall against time and neglect, multi-cultural places of worship, broken down buildings with the ever present laundry hanging out of the windows and satellite dishes on the roof or simply every day street scenes of catching over crowded decrepit buses or selling food on the sidewalks. All of this will probably not last long as there were businessmen from all over the world hustling around the hotel getting in on the ground floor of the "Next Big Thing". Glad to have seen this place before it all goes modern and clean.

But this is not a travel Blog so I need to shift the conversation to film. Apparently Burma had a thriving film industry in the 1950's but like every thing else it largely fell apart in the 60's. Still there are movies being made now that primarily go straight to vcd and are sold all over the city. And there are still some movie houses dotted around the city that have all seen much better times. I walked by a few of these and took a couple snaps. For those who dismiss the multiplex experience, feel free to go see Pacific Rim in Rangoon. I think I will stick to air conditioned impersonal multiplexes! Here are photos of six movie theaters that I came across. I never actually went to see anything in them. Maybe next time.


Mingalar, the name of the last theater, is Burmese for hello. The Burmese were amazingly friendly with many of them just joining me on the street wanting to talk about anything and everything. As I told my travel friend, give them another five years and a few hundred thousand tourists and they will hate us too. But for now Rangoon is a fabulous place to go. Tomorrow some Burmese movie posters.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see you back online, Brian!

I've always wanted to visit Burma. Sounds like I should get my butt over there sooner rather than later.

Brian said...

I think it would be great if you now took it upon yourself to become an expert on old Burmese Cinema in the same way you have with Hong Kong film! If not you, who?! I think anyone with a taste for the old and traditional would love going to Burma right now. It can change so quickly. I remember being in Angkor Wat when there wasn't another tourist in sight back in the early 90's. Now it's hard finding room to stand around the ancient ruins.

YTSL said...

He blogs! Great to see you writing again.

BTW, did you ever see "The Lady"? :)

Brian said...

No, actually I didn't. Maybe it's time I do though I expect none of it was filmed in Burma. In fact I read that Michelle had been banned from going to Burma because of her taking that role. Though perhaps that has changed now.

YTSL said...

Re "The Lady": I went in with low expectations and enjoyed it. Reckon Michelle actually did do a good job -- and in the final scene of the film, it really is hard to tell if the woman in the picture's actually Michelle as Aung San Su Kyi or the real Aung San Suu Kyi! :O

Anonymous said...

I still visit BRNS for the reviews, but what a shock it was to see your site breathing life once again. I am an ex-Brooklynite who is still immersed in watching Hong Kong films, but mostly the old ones. I miss the old days of walking around by the now demolished Sun Sing Theatre, and the other theatres in Chinatown that no longer exist...I Like your photos of Burma. I was there some years ago, but it still looks like the same place that I have been unable to forget. It wasn't too spoiled by mass tourism.


Brian said...

Thanks Anonymous. You started going to the Chinatown theaters before I did. I was a latecomer to the party and really only started going to the Music Palace in the mid-90's when it was basically showing one new crappy Cat III film and one old great film. Amazingly, we found out later that all those prints were still in the basement. Mass tourism hasn't hit Burma yet but it is only a matter of years now that the money situation has been fixed.