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Burmese Tourism

By Reck

In Burma I traveled to the Golden Rock, a rock precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff. The rock includes a small pagoda like shrine on top and is covered in layer upon layer of gold leaf. The rock is a golden rock in another sense as well: it stands as a significant international tourist attraction, and with tourists come money and opportunity.

The rock itself is located in the mountains in eastern Myanmar. Despite being in a relatively isolated area there is a large and bustling community huddled together on the back sides of the mountain, and around its base. I wandered to the edge of the shrine area around the Golden Rock and was in awe of the sounds of life and activity I heard, it was overwhelming.

The single most recognizable sound was that of construction, hammers pounding, and more hammers, everywhere. I was left astounded by not only the number of people that lived way up here in the mountains and fog, but also the life and activity. This was no old village, but a living growing town. I could not find any reason for this town to be here other than we ourselves. We, the international tourists, provide the jobs in the hotels and restaurants that we, and the local community, depend on.

Tourism alone, though, might not have built this town in the mountains of Myanmar. In his paper "The State and The City: 1988 and the Transformation of Rangoon," Donald Seekins discusses increased tourism as one of the government's goals in the transformation of Rangoon. Likewise, the government is another factor in the development of the city around the Golden Rock. Without government approval no tourists could travel there, there would be no hotels built around the rock catering to the international tourists, and no economic motivation to move to the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

International tourism is a large globalizing force in its own right, but it did not create this town entirely on its own. The government in Myanmar cannot be ignored, in any aspect of life there, especially not where foreign tourist dollars are involved. The town on the mountain around the Golden Rock, is a product of neither the force of transnational tourism, nor of the vernacular government of the state, but a result of both working together towards different goals.

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