Published: January 13th 2007January 12th 2007
Apparently the largest book in the world, there were hundreds of these white things at the monastery engraved with sacred Buddhist scripture
So my mom was pressuing me to put my pictures of Burma and my blog so here it is. I am definitely back in the US and have succesfully overcome jetlag from 4 flights back ftom Bangkok totaling 30 + hours. I was atrting to like plane food.. especially the pasta and red wine. Thank gosh for Thai tranqulizers. I had to go to the doctor for bacterial infection acquired abroad in my fingers but I am now on anti-biotics and they are clearing up.
Before Burma I went to Ko Phi Phi. I had a private beach bungalow which wasn't so much fun alone. But ther beach was one of the most beauriful beaches I have seen.
I arrived into Rangon (or the renamed Yangon). The airport was pretty small. Unfortunately I didn't see my friend when I was there so tried calling him from the phone stand outside the airport. Actually I didn't call him. Some guy outside the airport who I didn't trust did - I had a feeling he was a government spy. Hr took me in a taxi which wasn't a taxi but a privae car which was stupid of me to take. Oh
The water taxi
Private water taxi that took us to porvate beach on Koh Phi Phi
wait - I forgot after landing I got on the weird Chinese bus with maps of China and everything in Chinese to take us to the terminal. Because the US and the EU have sanctions on Burma many many ptoducts in thr country, including cars are Chinese. So he reccommended a hotel which I declined to stay at because I was afarid it was bugged. I took another actually taxi to the Motherlands Inn which was listed in Lonely Planet as non-government run. The driver overcraged me and wanted 6 USD which of course I didn't have so he took 3 dollars and 300 Baht... got ripped off.
One needs to take all the US money into Burma that they need. There are no ATMs and credit cards can not be used. Foreigners are charged 3-4 times as much for everything including hotels, tourist sites and trains.
After resting in Rangoon (I was exhasuted - I stayed out too late in BKK the night before) I finally got reach of KD John and was able to take a taxi to his house. He lives with his mother and older sister and many cousins in one fairly large apartment
and his other relatives live a few floors down. We ate really good dinner at a Thai place (ironic) then I went back. The next day we played tourist and went to Shwedegon Pagoda, and the ethnic "theme park" with model etyhnic villages. Its funny that the government supports such a thing as they wanto to kill off most of the minoeities. Rangoon was weird - it was definitely a big city - and now that the government moved its capital to Pyinmana many hours North there really isn't too much of a military presence there. I met his mother who is so sweet and attended their early Christmas service where I was treated to noodles and givena gift of a pink t-shirt.
We left for Mandalay by bus. I don't recall how long the bus ride was. I think 14 hours? In any case the bus was comfortabe and nice and we made frequent stops (however there was no bathroom). We arrived in the morning and only stayed one night. Mandalay (and most of Burma) is a city of pagodas and monks - Mandalay Hill was beautiful providing an incredible view of the pagoda dotted city. We wanted
Streets of Rangoon
Outside Shwedegon Pagoda
to take a bus to Bhamo in Kachin state where my friend is from but foreigners were not allowed on this route.
Come in overnight train #1 (see pictures). After paying way too much (in excess of $30 when my Burmese friend paid 8) I was "treated" to a dirty sleeper car. The trip from Mandalay to Myitkina (spelled wrong), the capital of northern Kachin state was over 24 hours and the great Burmese rail infrastructure was the bumpiest ever. I kept getting thrown from my bunk. We meet Soothai, working in Malaysia from Kachin state who stayed in our hotel and went to a good dinner with us at the karaoke place. We only spend one night in Myitinka not seeing too much besides the market. I got to meet KD John's grandmother which was incredible. She was still mourning the loss of her husband but a great women. They all wished I spoke Kachin. Liottle to no tourists here so I constantly got the staredown.
Again, there were no buses I could take further North so we had to hire a car to Bhamo. Most of the way there were no roads - just stones and
dirt... not going to lie. At times in the probably 1984 care I thought I would die. Along the way we stopped at several villages where KD John had family (he does throughout the whole country) which was nice. The trip took about 6 hours. But we made it to Bhamo safely. We met with KD John's adopted family who he stayed with for a while as a youth. We were treated to dinner without electricity with food cooked over a fire but it was really good and I loved his family. It was nice to experience a true Burmese home.
Again we had to be creative in how we got back South to Rangoon so we took a "fast ferry": to Khata from Bhamo. It took 6 hours. My friend, being a national, somehow finegeled us into "upper class" which was sharing a small upper hold with 6 people. We arrived in Bhamo and boarded right away a one hour train to Naba, the closest train station. I hated taking the train the whole trip as Myanma Railways is government run but we didn't have a choice unless you fly everywhere which gets epensive. We then had to
get on a 16 hour train ride back to Mandalay. There were no sleepers available so we had to get "first class" which was benches with a table. It was Xmas Eve and we met a German couple who we sat with and celebrated together. My toiletry bag cointaining my glasses, contacts and electric razor was stolen on the train - we moved in tyhe moddle of the night so we can lie on whole benches and I must have forgotten to take it.. I had to buy a few things in Mandalay. Ondce we arrived all the street be4ggar children rushed thr train and grabbed any food or other items they could find.
We stayed in Mandalay again for one night before departing again for Rangoon. Another 16 hour train ride but this t8ime in oridnary class on wooden benches during th day. I was going to go mad. I survived though. We arrived back in Ranggon, ate and slept and I left the next day.
What can I say about Burma? Poverty yes. People selling everything possible for every hour of every train ride... waiters making about $1 a month, although food and board was provided.
No electricity or if avaoble sporadic. People bathing in dirty rivers... I was a little disappointed more people did not want to talk about the situation there. Perhaps fear. But I must say. Out of all the places I have traveked the Burmese people win the award for friendliest by far.
I went to a protest at the Embassy about a week after I got back. Two former women Nobel Peace Prize Winners Shireen Ehmadi from Iran and the leader of the US Committe to Ban Landmines went to the visa section to try to gert a visa to vsit Burmese democracy leader and the only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Su Kyi, under house arrest since 1991. They were unsuccesful along with th ex-President of S. Korea and several others. Apparently they were deemed with a threat. The Embassy shut down and would not let the women into the embassy or the consular section and thtreatened them with trespassing...... although they just freed thousands of political prisoners it seems as if the regime will be slow to change...
There are more photos below