John Fago      
 

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In February of 1984 after a few nights in the then rough-around-the-edges Strand Hotel (When in Singapore, the Raffles - when in Rangoon, the Strand… a colonial expression once advised) I got a sleeping berth on the night train, traveling north with the clothes on my back, a small shoulder bag, an extra camera, 50 rolls of film, a spare t-shirt and a tooth brush.  At that time most foreigners were limited to seven-day visits but luck and persistence landed me a three-week visa from the Burmese consulate in Hong Kong, greatly expanding my possibilities.

Ten days in, I arrived at a grand crescent in the Irrawaddy River that was once the city of Pagan, which stands today alongside Ankor Wat and Borobudur, as the three great sites of Buddhist antiquity.  I found simple lodging in a farming village to be able to explore the remains of a city that embraced Buddhism a thousand years ago, built thousands of brick temples and later decamped for what is now Mandalay.  Seeing the state of my clothes and lack of luggage, my hostess insisted I take clean clothes she found for me to use while she washed everything I had been wearing.

Days later as I prepared to travel on, she returned my cleaned and pressed clothes and refused any payment.  With the grace and goodness at the heart of the Burmese people, she said simply, "You have come from far away to visit us.  I am happy and grateful to be able to help you on this journey."

 
 
     
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