Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Destination of the Month: Myanmar (Burma)

I know where you're going. Throughout these long winter months I've watched the travel shelves closely. It's not hard to discern, from the ruffled maps of South America, from the gaping holes in the Cambodia and Costa Rica shelves, where you are. Not surprisingly, this winter everyone in Boston is heading for warmer climes. You're going to the beach.

And some of you, like my parents, are headed for the quieter beaches of lesser known destinations. In their last report from the beaches of Burma, (or Myanmar--my choice in this case was purely alliterative), I received a photo of my nephew, who has spent two-thirds of his 9-month life in the country, proudly displaying his first sand castle on an almost-deserted beautiful beach. Looking at that photo, I don't blame you for going. In fact, I envy you.

That's why we're celebrating Myanmar as January's destination of the month. Of course, there are many other reasons to celebrate this country other than its beaches. To better understand the remarkable changes taking place in this developing nation, pick up some of the fascinating literature we have at Booksmith, books meant to guide you into a deeper engagement with your new surroundings.

The Lady and The Peacockthe latest biography on Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi may not be the best beach read, but it is sure to prepare you for the people you meet and give you an appreciation for the country's struggle toward democracy over the past decade. Explore deeper into the country's past, into the age of British Imperialism, with Amitav Ghosh's novel The Glass Palace and Burmese Days from George Orwell. Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma is a great companion to his novel, as Larkin follows in the footsteps of the writer, revealing the political situation of today.

Not going to the beach this winter? You, too, can travel to Myanmar through Naomi Duguid's gorgeous cookbook Burma: Rivers of Flavor. This is much more than a cookbook. Duguid traveled extensively in Burma over the past decades, culling recipes, stories, and photographs that lead her readers into a direct engagement with this unique people and land. Interwoven with the recipes are tastefully told anecdotes of Burma's history, culture, people, and, of course, food. Filled with gorgeous color photographs, this book allows you to immerse yourself in the warm sites, stories, and sensations of Burma without even leaving your kitchen.

For those of you headed to Myanmar, a customer picking up Lonely Planet's guide to Myanmar just informed me that the Irrawaddy Literary Festival--the country's first ever English language literary festival--will be taking place this Feb 1-3, 2013 at the Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon. The festival's patron, Aung San Suu Kyi herself, will be speaking. Beaches and books, what more could you want?

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