The Burmese man on the bike shouts at me with a broad smile on his face as he whirls past me.
While normally such behavior might shock or unnerve me, I’ve become used to being the center of attention in
Daily, passersby crane their heads to catch a glimpse of me. Women lean out of
train windows to wave and smile at me. Motorcycles and cars slow down so their drivers
and passengers can get a good glimpse of this blonde stranger. People sneak
photos of me from a distance. The brave ones approach me to chat or take my
photo. (I’m in dozens of family photos!) During my two weeks in Myanmar, it
seemed as if the entire population has stopped what they were doing to stare at
me. For the first time in my life I've had a real taste of celebrity during my two weeks in Myanmar!
This type of attention was a surprising change of pace from my home in
Westerners are a dime a dozen. Thailand,
is practically overrun with tourists in Same Same t-shirts and life-long
expats. Seeing a foreigner walk down the street in Thailand is really no big deal for
It’s really no surprise why I was treated like a pseudo celebrity in
aren’t many blonde, pale American girls wandering around on their own, so those
of us who do crop up are a rare specimen indeed! People were curious to see me
and talk to me and I was happy to have to chance to interact with them as well.
I spoke with vendors, students, Buddhist monks, fortune tellers, mothers,
children and other travelers. Honestly, I might not have approached people on
my own so it was actually great to have people come up to me!! And happily every single person I met was extremely kind and helpful.
While I received a lot of attention (often from men) it never felt negative or threatening. Like I said above, people were just genuinely curious about me-they weren’t trying to scam me or yell cat calls at me. All of the comments and stares were just out of innocent curiosity. At first it was very surprising and amusing to have so much attention directed at me. By the end of my second week though it became very tiring and draining. It’s tough to enjoy a solitary walk by the river when everyone is staring at you and taking your picture.
So, how long will we be celebrities in
While tourist numbers are sill relatively low in Myanmar, they are steadily rising. Western
tourists are flooding to this buzz country at remarkable rates! 2012’s 1
million visitors represent an over 20% increase in visitors from 2011. As more
and more curious Westerners ascend into the Golden Land we’ll of course become
less and less of a novelty. Eventually people will get used to seeing us like
they are in Thailand, but
for now: enjoy your 15 minutes of fame while traveling in Myanmar!