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   If Burma becomes free, I would like to visit it. (September 13, 1998)

For too long it has been the forbidden kingdom, its people totally subjugated, I wonder how the military succeeded in subjugating them for so long.I have also never been to Sri Lanka and would like to visit it, travel up into elephant jungles, though the present may not be the right time to do so. And Bangladesh, another neighbour I would like to visit one day. It is a country where people die like flies for various reasons, natural and manmade. I am always reading about thousands being killed in cyclones, floods, famines, hundreds under junta tanks. They call it Sonar Bangla and only the melodramatic Bengali would do so.I have been to Nepal more than once and I have enjoyed it every time. The first time when it was almost a forbidden kingdom, climbing across the hills from Bhimpedi to Amlekganj, later, in a bus, after the Indian government had constructed the Tribhuvan Rajpath.I have seen Kathmandu change, from a small city of the Ranas, with one Hindu restaurant, and no hotels to a tourist centre with the Soaltee casino, Toyota taxis and shops selling Mao's Red Books and Taiwan Levis.Sikkim, of course, is now a part of India, and, probably, its loveliest part, with orchids carpeting the mountainside, and Kanchenjunga standing right across the town, presenting a far better view than that from Darjeeling. It has also some of the cheapest liquor in the country and by far the best Indian manufactured whisky. It has got something to do with the spring waters of Sikkim.

Bhutan is not India. It is not even a part of this world. Phuntsoling, at the base, is like India. But, from there, as you rise into the mountains, through veils of silver mist, the world changes. Thimpu, the capital, stands in a green Himalayan meadow, a population half saffroned-monks, half civilians, men in butch haircuts and tartan skirts, practicing with bows and arrows. This is a cultured sport, not a tribal weapon.Though it is a lot easier to visit it now, it is still a land veiled in mystery. At one end of the town is the walled dzong, which is both the government secretariat and the main monastery. They say that there are dungeons below, and above are the monastery's towers, you climb into them on removable ladders.One day, I would like to visit Bhutan again. But that would be after Burma and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Because, Bhutan will not change, it will be like that for ever.

 
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