Explore “Asia’s last frontier” and learn from the people, the culture and the social issues driving rapid change
LAB’s Myanmar (Burma) program introduces Asia’s fastest changing country through a wide range of experiences in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan. After 49 years of harsh military rule, the country has opened up to international trade and political liberalization; Japan has been especially active with in government aid and corporate investment. For the first time, the Parliament is led by the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, giving hope to many people for positive change.
What we do to create a deeper learning experience
LAB participants are introduced to this country through the active guidance of Yangon students from the Pre-Collegiate Program. They lead us from local markets to upscale malls and from urban slums to bright new apartment buildings. Through long conversations over lunches and dinners, these students also explain their confidence in their country’s future.
- Explore Bagan, the cultural heartland of the country, with its thousands of temples, stupas and pagodas)
- Visit Mandalay, the second-largest city and a religious center, where we’ll meet with young monks, visit a pioneering school and understand how it serves the city’s poorest students
- Meet with NGO and UN staff and activists who are involved with the country’s problems and work to overcome them
- Japanese and Thai members meet with diplomats at their countries’ embassies; Taiwanese meet with officials of the Taiwan Representative Office
- Travel with a select group of motivated Japanese, Taiwanese and Thai students
How to prepare
Our participants bring the following tools to maximize their learning experience
- An open, inquiring mind
- Some reading and other preparation beforehand
- Enough English to communicate effectively, as it is our only common language within our group and among those with whom we meet. (Note: Perfect English isn’t required but enough to understand and to be understood—and the bravery required to use it.)
Flight to Yangon international Airport. Transfer by chartered bus to hotel.
Morning orientation meeting with local students from the Pre-Collegiate Program who guide us in the afternoon across the river to Dala, the low-income area which serves as home to many of Yangon’s workers. Evening visit to the cultural core of Myanmar: the famed Shwedagon Pagoda which dominates the city.
Days 3, 4 and 5
Myanmar students guide our entry into their society, whether through meeting with the staffs of NGOs where they volunteer, examining the colonial architecture, talking in one of the many sidewalk teashops and having dinner one evening in their homes. The emphasis is on building personal relationships as well as observing daily life. A briefing by UNICEF staff will introduce some of the nation’s social challenges. Japanese, Taiwanese and Thai students will meet with their Embassy officials.
Morning flight to Mandalay, the historic capital and the country’s second largest city. After having lunch and settling into our hotel, we’ll visit the Golden Palace Monastery and a nearby pagoda with the world’s largest stone books. Shortly before sunset, we travel to Mandalay Hill which overlooks the city, the Irrawaddy river and the far hills.
We visit Phaung Daw Oo School, started by a Buddhist priest to serve children who are too poor to attend public schools; we’ll meet with the priest, with teachers and with students. In the afternoon, we’ll talk informally with students, including young monks, at an English school.
The group visits one of the area’s largest monasteries where thousands of young monks study and walk the historic, mile-long U-Bein Bridge. Free afternoon for independent exploration of Mandalay.
We float down the Irrawaddy river on a ten-hour boat trip to reach the fabled plains of Bagan, dotted by thousands of 800-year-old temples, pagodas and stupas.
Day 10 and 11
With our local guide, we visit some of the most interesting of Bagan’s fabled sites, whether the huge Ananda Pahto temple or the small stupas found in the fields. We’ll also explore the local marketplace, a village-based toddy-palm enterprise and have dinner with local people. On Tuesday afternoon, we’ll hold our final group reflection session and take an early-evening flight to Yangon. After a final group dinner, the Japanese group departs on an overnight flight to Narita. Taiwan participants depart for Taipei the following day.
Arrival in Tokyo and Taipei.