I’m so hungry I could eat a scabby baby

>Apologies in advance … this email is perhaps a bit long but I did try to cut it down.

It is amazing how skilled you can become at doing nothing. When I last left you I was doing nothing in Chiang Mai and unfortunately I must admit that I continued on doing the same for quite a while. Not in the same location, but I think a change of scenery is not enough to suggest that I was actually doing much other than playing cards and reading etc. My productive activities stretch no further than staying up to date with my emails!

I decided that it was time to leave Chiang Mai when my junk food intake became so high I had to go to different shops due to embarrassment! Leaving the Julie Guesthouse was very difficult as it’s the only place that has felt like home for the entire time I have been travelling. Home because of the people who stay there and work there. I miss the familiar cosy atmosphere.

Leaving a place when no-one says goodbye is a terrible thing but luckily for me everyone there seemed to enjoy the company of the girl from Oz, who rarely moved much from the bamboo bed or the rooftop hammock. We all waved, exchanged emails and I even got a heartfelt hug from Elie (Sorry Elie, I didn’t come back to Chiang Mai as time was running out so I changed my ticket). Thank you to everyone who kept me company there!

On to Yangon/Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma. Feels like a little bit of deja vu as I find myself back in the Chiang Mai international departure lounge where I was once before from Kunming to Bangkok. Perhaps I was in a daze reminiscing … I miss my flight call and am hurriedly whisked through and empty doorway, downstairs and quickly onto a waiting bus. There awaited three other passengers … sounds like a busy flight.

Shortly afterwards the bus headed off (with two more passengers), drove perhaps 20 metres where we all disembarked to board the Air Mandalay adventure. As I climbed the steps to the aircraft, I was a little disconcerted by the following series of events. Firstly, one of the two tyres I could see was bald … as in completely … and you could even see clear holes through the tread to the inner sanctum of the tyre. Then I noticed that the other tyre was quite flat. Next, the first flight attendant I came across had a great big stain on her uniform (like myself a thousand times after any meal), the second flight attendant must be new as her uniform wasn’t stained and I had to help her show people to their seats (she couldn’t work it out). Following this she lounged around in the nearby chair chatting with passengers. The arrival/departure card to Myanmar is also stained and my writing is quite messy, no doubt influenced by the SHUDDER of the plane.

It’s all good I say … apart from the turbulence and the shudders … oops, just broke the food tray!

Some of my first experiences in Myanmar are very interesting. Take for example Burmese TV. I’m not so sure that it places any value on entertainment. Imagine annoying little kids, admittedly in nice traditional costumes, doing some of the worst dancing and strutting you have ever seen. The kind of thing that as a parent you have to endure and applaud, but for anyone else it is actually quite painful. The fact that it is televised on national TV is very interesting.

In Yangon I visited the Strand Hotel. A bit stylish, rooms at a minimum are US$425 per night. Understand me correctly here … I wasn’t staying there, just browsing. They were kind enough to give me a glass of water (I probably looked a bit horrid from the heat) then a look at the drinks menu. Prices started at US$4 for a soft drink which was about the same as I was paying for my room! Deliberated about stealing a napkin, broke the newspaper holder then thought a quick departure was the best idea.

The next morning I departed Yangon. Arriving at the bus station we were immediately ushered onto a bus (being rushed along), only to sit there not moving for one hour! Later, when we were moving, we were treated to English movies … not the whole movie mind you, just the last 15 minutes of three films were shown. Better than the first 15 minutes I suppose.

Next stop was Bago … famous for I’m not sure what. Think I went there because the taxi driver said it was a good place to visit. Well we were under a 6pm curfew as there was rioting between the monks, the muslims and the police or something like that.

It was on this day that a funny thing happened … judge for yourself, perhaps my humour has become strange. I sneezed, but that’s not the funny thing. I said excuse me as you do, but that’s not the funny thing either. The funny thing was that the taxi driver said, “Ah, no problem”. Must’ve taken me excusing myself quite literally. I’m sorry, but during the heat of the day I did find this quite entertaining.

I remember asking the same taxi driver if there were many tourists in Bago. As it was off the beaten track for most I expected an answer such as “not many” or “a few” etc. When he replied by saying “Eight”, I was stupified. Partly because he knew exactly how many and partly because there were so few. This is the thing with Myanmar, they keep tabs on you everywhere.

Whilst in Bago we visited Kha Khat Wain Kyaung. This is one of the three biggest monasteries in the country, housing over 1000 monks. We timed our visit perfectly to watch and enjoy the monks procession to the meal hall. I was almost in hysterics when a few of the cheekier monks were throwing food from table to table in a food fight frenzy. How funny it would have been if all of them had joined in!

Stopping in Inle Lake only briefly, I eventually arrived in Mandalay. A huge sprawling city with a few things of interest. I went to see the Moustache Brothers – a comedic troupe. The show was entertaining, educational and original. Most importantly for me there was some political information about the brothers’ situation.

I spent quite a few days in lovely Maymyo. Relaxing in the cooler temperatures, visited a waterfall, ate some cake etc etc. We found a great confectionary shop although the things they sold seemed to taste horrible. No point being polite and saying they were ok because they were horrible – quite difficult to chew and even more difficult to swallow. Don’t try washing it down with “Star Sprite” either as this stuff seems quite bad as well.

If anyone wants to ask me about the hoses provided in the toilets, please let me know. I have quite a lot of useful information due to a bet/pact.

This email is getting quite long so lets just say I went to Bagan which was amazing. Cycled around for half a day and saw many sights. A definite highlight. From Bagan there was a long and demanding journey through Pyay and onto Ngapali beach. Basically we were on the road for approx 27 hours and none of it was in the slightest bit comfortable. The only highlight was about 24 hours into the journey when we still thought we might see the beach around the next corner … we had just passed through a village when words escape me and I start hitting Maud in the arm and pointing excitedly to some elephants! So amazing and so beautful … and while I had my head down changing a roll of film, so scary when they make great big trumpetting noises!

As for Ngapali beach … when we finally did get there, it was amazing. Beautiful warm water, few people, great accommodation right on the beach so that you fall asleep listening to the waves and you wake up with a morning swim. There’s not really anything else there to do but who wants anything else when it’s so amazing. This is the best beach I have seen. Better than anything in Thailand (ok so I have only seen Koh Tao)!

I could continue forever, but for now all I will say is that I have left Myanmar and now find myself on the beach in Koh Tao. Have managed a little bit of diving and not much else.

I will be home soon …

Many thanks to Renagh, Maud, Julien and Mel for sharing my journey with me in Myanmar. Thanks again to Renagh for providing the title of this email … one irish quote I could never forget.

Hope you are all well and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Love Cheryl