It’s Shwebo!


I have a documenting problem, in that I document too much. I know it’s wrong, but pretty much any where I go I end up trying to ‘capture’ by my digital camera, then my video camera, then my journal — and THEN maybe I’ll take a note for whatever project I’m actually being paid to go there for. So I put together this little video to make it worthwhile…

I visited Burma a couple months after the protests last September, and found things — in touristy destinations or back-waters — more or less back to the normal day-to-day routine. One of the things I think is important to do on any trip, but particularly to a place like Burma, is get off-the-beaten-track and try to engage with people.

One of my favorite places in Burma is Shwebo, about three hours’ north of Mandalay by local bus — and rarely seen by anyone. It once was a proud Burmese capital; Alaungpaya revived a sinking Burmese empire in the mid 18th century — and nearly conquered all of Siam (Thailand) in his brief lifetime. Now it’s more known for the thanakha (powdered bark), that women and children apply in smears, dollops and stripes to their faces for sunscreen and skin moisturizer.

At a little teastand on the main street, a father and son sat down with me to chat a bit (in English) about Shwebo, Burma and the US presidential race. When I asked the inevitable question — ‘do you like Iron Cross?’ (Burma’s own Rolling Stones — their long-time biggest rock band) — both dad and son’s eyes popped open wide. Son was off to grab a CD, which he gave to me. ‘I hope you enjoy it.’

That’s Shwebo.

(I went with harpist Hlaing Win Maung for the soundtrack though. Apologies to Iron Cross.)

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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