Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

I hate flying. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not afraid to fly, I quite like airports, and I’ve even grown accustomed to the frustrating security process. But the airlines’ ever-changing baggage allowance rules are enough to make my blood boil.

Considering that I’m on the road full time and have to pack clothes for all types of climates, I travel very light. My clothes and toiletries go in a 22” rollerboard. Even though it is carry-on size, I check it, because I also have to carry a good deal of photography and electronic equipment to do my job. These items cannot be checked – the risk of theft would be too high – so I carry them in a medium size backpack, which is my one free carry-on item.

Specialized features of the Global Travel Clothing jacket with hidden pockets

Specialized features of the Global Travel Clothing jacket with hidden pockets

Over the past few years, the allowable weight of carry-ons has changed drastically. Most airlines now allow carry-on bags to weigh either 10 kilos (22 pounds) or seven kilos (14.4 pounds). Because my camera body, lenses, laptop, and assorted peripheral equipment always put me over the weight limit, I am constantly stressed out when checking into a flight, scared that one day they will weigh my backpack and force me to check it.

I’m happy to report that I’ve finally found a solution, the Ultimate Everyday Carry Jacket with hidden pockets from Global Travel Clothing. The pockets in this jacket let me carry a wide variety of gear that I would normally pack in my backpack. Soft lined pockets keep items like phones and glasses from getting scratched, and include a built-in glass cleaning cloth. Additionally, a series of hidden pockets safely stash valuables like a wallet, passport, plane ticket, and keys. Read More

Nuns share a mid-morning meal at a nunnery on Sagaing Hill, near Mandalay, Myanmar

Click on title to view photo in large format: Nuns share a mid-morning meal at the Tha Kya Di Thar Nunnery on Sagaing Hill near Mandalay, Myanmar. Each day at 10:45 a.m., the nuns gather in the communal hall to sing songs before sitting down to eat. Their performance is open to the public, and donations are always welcome. After their brief concert, visitors are welcome to walk around the grounds and visit Read More

View from U Min Thonze Cave Pagoda on Sagaing Hill, on the opposite side of the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay, Myanmar

Click on title to view photo in large format: View from U Min Thonze Cave Pagoda over Sagaing Hill, located on the opposite side of the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay, Myanmar. Only a handful of monasteries and pagodas existed when this area was the capital of Sagaing Kingdom, from 1315 to 1364. Today Sagaing Hill is part of Mandalay, and the entire area is covered in nunneries, monasteries, and pagodas. As the area developed Read More

Weirawsana Jade Pagoda near Mandalay, Myanmar, is covered in jade pieces and slabs worth $15 million

Click on title to view photo in large format: Weirawsana Jade Pagoda near Mandalay, Myanmar, is covered in jade worth $15 million. Inside the pagoda, jade Buddha statues occupy niches facing the four cardinal directions. The government of Myanmar represents it as the largest jade pagoda in the world, and the only one in the world built entirely of the precious stone. The 75-foot high structure was begun in 2012 and only recently completed. Funds for Read More

By mid-February, the lowlands of Myanmar were sweltering under an unforgiving sun. With temperatures in the mid-90’s and 60% humidity, I fled the crowded streets of Mandalay and headed for the hills. Rather than rely on slow, uncomfortable trains like the Circular Train in Yangon, I splurged a little and hired a “taxi.” Taxis in Myanmar are somewhat of a misnomer. In essence, they are rental cars, but since foreigners are not allowed to drive them, they come with a driver, and in my case, a translator as well.

Aung, my driver, spoke no English, but even if he could it would have been unintelligible. An ever-present chaw of betel nut tucked into his cheek made him look like a chipmunk hoarding too many acorns and rendered him mute. Whenever my translator, Win, asked him a question, Aung was forced to pull over and spew a stream of dark red liquid onto the side of the road before answering. Win’s English was somewhat limited, but we managed to understand one another well enough, and I left it to them to decide which sites to show me.

Truck traffic on the road to the Hill Stations of Myanmar

Truck traffic on the road to the Hill Stations of Myanmar

We left Mandalay early one morning, hoping to avoid the city’s horrid traffic, but just outside the city we slowed to a crawl. Before us stretched a long line of trucks and tankers, overloaded with rare teak wood, huge sacks of rice, raw rubber, fruits, oil, and gas, all bound for China. The only road leading to the northeastern hill stations of Myanmar, unfortunately, is also the main artery through which most exports travel to China. Read More

Bridal couple at Kuthodaw Complex in Mandalay, Myanmar, celebrate their wedding day with a visit to the famous temple where each of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings are housed in its own individual shrine

Click on title to view photo in large format: Bridal couple celebrate their wedding day with a visit to Kuthodaw Complex in Mandalay, Myanmar. This famous site is often described as containing the largest book in the world. After my first circuit of the site, I was mystified. I saw absolutely no evidence of a giant book. Further inquiry solved the mystery. Read More