For the last 2 millennia, the people of Burma were part of an imperialistic power struggle, eventually succumbing to the British empire. Soon after gaining independence in 1948, Burma was torn apart internally by tribal restlessness, leading to a half century of rigid military dictatorship. In recent years, there has been a gradual opening towards democracy. In 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi became head of state, giving hope that the transition of power from military to civilian will finally begin in earnest. A visit today reveals several ethnic groups living a simple life in a beautiful land, deeply rooted in Theravadic Buddhist tradition mixed with animistic traditions. A closer look reveals a more complex reality. A closer look reveals a much more complex reality, with ethnic tensions flaring as well as serious challenges to democratic aspirations.