My name is Rolf Schierbeek. I am Dutch citizen, a seasoned, spiced and curried traveller; who likes Japanese gardens, Asian culture, historic cities and ... moving around asia. My favorite transport methods are bicycle, walking, motorbiking, (steam)train, flying and gliding. I have been bicycling around old cities like Mandalay, Chiang Mai and Ankor.
Apart from many bicycle rides in rather remote locations I have done a lot of motorbike riding on many different types of motorcycles, from a small Honda Wave to offroad dirt-bikes to large motorcyles.
I'm interested in colonial history and have spent a considerable time in India; and I have also been to Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, the United States, France and a few other countries. I'm also interested Buddhism and Hinduism, and for example like to study the reliefs in the temples of Angkor Wat.
I'm rather allergic to tourist traps and try to avoid them. Usually I manage that; occasionally not.
On the Shwesandaw pagoda, Bagan, when it was still climbable.
Myanmar / Burma.
I first visited Myanmar in 2009; and it was one of the most fascinating countries I ever saw as most people who travel there can imagine. It was clear to me that the international boycott had made Myanmar a very poor country where ordinary people suffered most but the elite rulers prospered. I created the Myanmar website in 2010 because of a few reasons - the myths and misunderstandings being the most important ones. Misinformation about which currency to take, how to travel and how to arrange it, and many other misunderstandings.
The "Go now, before it is too late" nonsense. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has made an official warning that it could be 30 years before Myanmar achieves the level of development of its neighbour Thailand. And in those 30 years Thailand will have moved ahead and probably have high speed trains. In 2023 the Myanma Railways upgrade program will reduce travel time from Yangon to Mandalay to 8 hours; however the VIP busses already do that trip in 9 hours.
Myanmar is actually a country with many different ethnic groups: in the central area the Bamar (the majority), in the east the Shan, in the North the Kachin, the Karen in the South-east and so on. Though a few opposition groups still prefer to use "Burma"; my experience is that the majority of inhabitants prefer the name "Myanmar". Also to call the country Burma would imply that minority groups are irrelevant. Burma was named after the Bamar population; which live in the central Irrawaddy valley of Myanmar.
In 2009 I made my first bicycle trip around Inle lake, which resulted in a pedal which broke off, and a trip back to town on top of a farmers' cart. The next trip was more succesful. Back home I crafted the bicycle map of Inle lake, which seems to have caught on because there are at least a dozen copies on the internet. When I returned to Inle in 2011 the bike trip had become popular, and there were bicycle rentals around town. A few years later the rental shops were everywhere, and bikers and groups of bicyclists following a tour guide were everywhere. Why is it so popular? Probably because it is easy, the mountain weather is cool, the terrain is mostly flat. Inle lake is quite a good place for a bicycle trip.
Bicycling around Inle lake has become really popular; and people from many countries have done it and blogged about it. My bicycle map has been copied many times and I am not very happy about that. I try to have people take down these copies, though it is a lot of effort. Just copying images and even complete pages from other peoples' sites is an infringement of copyright, and copying something without asking is very unethical.
Finally, below we take a peek into the interior of a small temple in Bagan.
Above, a Buddha in Bagan, the left photo is original, the right one has been digitally enhanced (photoshopped). So the photo on the right might look like it was 700 years ago.
The painting is original, 13th century, the Buddha statue is not.