As a travel writer, sometimes you find something so awesome, you feel bad writing about it. You think about how special the experience was, and how you do hope everyone gets to experience something special like that, but also don’t want to ruin the place for locals by seeing it become a huge tourist destination. It was created for and by locals, so you don’t want to ruin their fun.
With that being said, this post is going to be coded…and there are rules. If you are able to figure out the code, great! Make sure though:
1) You never go with more than two other foreigners.
2) If there are already foreigners there, leave it be.
3) Be as amazingly warm, welcoming, and thoughtful as the locals or don’t go.
Please and thank you.
In a northern Myanmar town that rhymes with the word whamo, off the beaten path you will find an outdoor, obstacle laden, sweltering hot roller rink. Locals come before work, school, etc. and jam out to techno versions of western songs, while attempting pretty intense roller disco moves. Some of the skaters present can pull of these ripping feats, while others unfortunately take pretty big spills, leaving the compound with war wounds and bandages.
I was traveling with an Australian friend, and what made the experience so special was that locals frequenting the skate park welcomed us with open arms. Bold Burmese would come grab us by the hands, leading us as fast as we could go around the park. They would show us their tricks, and speak in broken English. In return, we shared our water, smiles, gratitude and hopefully will be able to send some of the pictures we took.
The experience was something very special, and may even be the best I’ve had all trip. I thought a lot about development while skating, and even though there are more pressing issues in the country, seeing youth get to have fun, sneak in a hand hold with the person they like, and forget about pressures in their daily lives made me incredibly happy. Development needs to be based on education, clean water, health and food, but why not lace that with fun things like this that can aid a person’s overall well being?
If you ever make it to the north of Myanmar, and find that town that rhymes with whamo, go skate. Go smile, laugh, make a fool of yourself, and brighten the day of yourself and the locals whom you skate with. Even the heat on the bike ride to the park won’t seem all that bad after the fun.