Trouble in Paradise / by David Johnstone

I’ve inadvertently stumbled into someone else’s idyll

I was cursing my luck about missing out on cheaper accommodation for my trip to the exquisite temple complexes of Bagan in central Myanmar, booking something too late that was way over-budget, had a poor online rating (depends what your idea of poor Is) and looked pretty drab. I was the last of the passengers off the minibus from Mandalay as the driver pulled into what I can only describe as a full-on resort.

‘Are you sure this is the Sipura?’ I asked somewhat taken aback. 

‘Yes Sir’.  

‘Are you sure?’ 

’’Yes Sir’.  

The place was upmarket - and some. And it sat right on Burma’s main arterial river, the Arrawaddy. I glanced out to the water as I was chauffeured to my room, the view breathtakingly beautiful. It turns out my accommodation was the ugly sister of the compound. Lovely but more like a council block, relatively speaking.

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Once I’d unpacked fully for the first time this trip - I’ve four days here over the New Year to chill and to draw and explore the temples - I wandered back to reception to catch the sunset. Talk about eye candy! Waiters on tap, pristine tables laid and chairs engorged with rich westerners enjoying their winter vacations.  

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The view, of course, was luscious. Timeless and beautifully rich. I caught the moment before sundown.  

I sat down with my cold, expensive beer and pondered my surroundings. I honed in on the jabber of the tourists and, in an instant, felt uncomfortable. 

This kind of place isn’t and never will be for me. I travel to see reality in all its forms, not to sit by a pool drinking imported claret with people I have little in common with.

I’m not criticising the wealthy for taking an expensive, luxurious break. Good on them. I might if I could afford $400 a night and was of that mindset. It’s just the reality that in a week’s time, for my 50th, I’ll be trekking to visit remote tribal areas where people live without electricity or running water. It seems unfair and a trifle nauseating  

Perhaps that’s the irony of the whole thing. That people with nothing will look at me in the same way I look at those white, bloated Westerners.  

Which reminds me. I’d murder a Sauvignon with that burger tonight...

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