Trekking in Burma in the Footsteps of Two Literary Greats

Trekking through the incredible landscapes of Burma will give you an experience that will linger on in your memory long after you return home. But, be assured you will not be alone in this as two of our greatest writers have been struck by the impact of this region and their words have immortalised it. If you plan a holiday trekking in Burma, take the time to explore the work of these two esteemed writers before you go.

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling acknowledged his life changing experience when he wrote his poem Mandalay in 1890. The poem tells the story of a soldier returning to a damp, cold and culturally restrictive Britain and his nostalgia and longing for the exoticism of the Asia he had left behind. Kipling had just returned after seven years in India and had travelled back via an eastward route. He had stopped at Moulmein (which is the modern day Mawlamyine) where he had been struck by the beauty of the Burmese women. He wrote “When I die I will be a Burman… and I will always walk about with a pretty almond-coloured girl who shall laugh and jest too, as a young maiden ought.” His poem mentions the Moulmein pagoda but Kipling claims that he hardly noticed it as he was mesmerised by a Burmese beauty sitting on the steps. Trekking in Burma will give you the opportunity to visit the places that so inspired Kipling in some of his most famous works.

Kipling’s poem was adapted into a song ‘On the Road to Mandalay’ by Oley Speaks. The song uses the first, second and final verses of the poem and was made popular by the Australian singer Peter Dawson. Frank Sinatra also recorded a version but the Kipling family objected to his version, possibly due to the changes to the lyrics. The original poem read: “By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea, there’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me; for the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say: Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!” But Sinatra’s version changed the lyrics to: “By the Old Moon Main Pagoda, Lookin’ eastward to the sea, there’s a Burma broad a-sittin’, and I know she’s got a yen for me!” It certainly loses some of its romanticism in translation!

George Orwell

George Orwell is another writer whose experiences in the country make good reading for those about to head off trekking in Burma. Orwell’s (real name Eric Blair) maternal grandmother lived in Moulmein, so in 1922 he chose to take a posting to Burma. After training he served as an Imperial Policeman until 1927 when he contracted dengue fever and returned to England to convalesce.

It was during this convalescence that he decided to become a writer. He wrote about his experiences as a policeman in Burma in his novel Burmese Days, about the final days of British colonialism. The novel was published in the 1930s and it is a harsh portrayal of colonial society. There were worries that the novel was libellous as it was too closely based on real characters, however Orwell later disproved this. He also wrote the essays A Hanging and Shooting an Elephant about his time in the country.

Before you embark on your adventure trekking in Burma take some time to read the words of two of our greatest writers who have visited this wonderful country before you.

Tony Maniscalco is the Marketing Manager for Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. Join us on a holiday trekking in Burma to see the most scenic locations & landscapes at the best value prices. We offer over 140 guided group walking holidays in over 60 different countries.

Article: Tony_Maniscalco


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