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Southeast Asia’s Last Hidden Gem

October 1, 2018

TEM Lab, Fall 2018
Myanmar, Heho Potato
Written by Tyler Stringham

As I bite into a plate of locally sourced dragon fruit and stare into the bustling streets of Yangon, I contemplate one fact. Myanmar is the first country I’ve ever travelled to that does NOT have a single McDonald’s. The golden arches are not the only thing absent in Myanmar. You will be hard-pressed to find a Nike Shop, Apple Store, or Ben & Jerry’s anywhere. Only in May did Starbucks open their first location in the entire country. That’s because these commonalities of western civilization don’t exist… yet.

TEM Lab in Myanmar

A plate of Myanmar’s finest dragon fruit

To be completely honest, I’m not even disappointed. Although Ronald McDonald’s golden arches may be missing, Myanmar feels no lack of the color gold. In fact, Myanmar is cleverly called the “Golden Land” for its towering shining golden pagodas that seem to be inescapable every couple blocks. Shwedagon Pagoda is by far the largest, most revered and impressive of these monuments. Our TEM Lab team was lucky to not only view it during the day, but also during the night, when it illuminates as far as the eye can see. This is just one of the many wonders of this untouched land.

TEM Lab in Myanmar

Schewedagon Pagoda in central Yangon

For many, when someone mentions Myanmar, they reach for a map to find it. It is definitely the road less traveled and less known. This is part of why it is so fascinating and beautiful. The culture is in its original intact state. It is mostly untouched by the throngs of tourists and cookie-cutter globalization. You will seldom find it in your average travel packages. What truly matters is what lenses you use to see the world. Thunderbird has helped us see the world through global lenses and given us a global mindset. Instead of complaining that you cannot find a pumpkin spice latte, consider the wonders of a new land, people, culture, and way of life. One of my favorite quotes is by Saint Augustine when he said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.”

TEM Lab in Myanmar

Brian and Tyler donning Burmese traditional Longyi

I truly feel that this is true. For as we travel, we become a child again. Every sensation is a novel idea in our minds. Our pace of learning speeds up, and we are inspired by the unknown. I know that we have been inspired on this trip, and we strive to inspire others with the amazing education we have gained at Thunderbird School of Global Management. We do not regret a minute of our time in Myanmar, for it is the last hidden gem of Southeast Asia.

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