Snippets of conversations on the road up north

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December 2nd 2011
Published: December 2nd 2011
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Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

View over the plains of Bagan
Painting seller: "Where do you come from?"

Me: "Holland."

Painting seller: "Oh, that is a beautiful country. You are very good at football? Do you know Robben?"

Me: "Yes, football, and yes I know Robben."

Painting seller: "Is this your first time in Myanmar?"

Me: "Yes."

Painting seller: "Do you like it?"

Me: "Yes, it is a lovely country."

Painting seller starts unfurling his rolled up paintings and getting to the point: "Do you want to see my paintings?"

Me: "No, thank you."

Painting seller: "Just look at them, you don't have to buy them."

Me: "No, I am really not interested, sorry."

Painting seller: "Maybe later?"

Me: "No, also not later?"

Painting seller: "Maybe tomorrow?"

Me: "No, never."

Painting seller: "Ok, maybe tomorrow then."

Me: "Sigh..."

- Painting seller in Bagan -

Monk: "Do you know Bogyoke Aung San?"

Me: "Yes, he is your national hero, he brought you independence."

Monk: "Yes, he did. In the Second World War, we first fought with the Japanese against the British, but the Japanese were worse than the British so
Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

we changed sides. We didn't have guns, so we used farm equipment and sharpened bamboo sticks. The Japanese and the British only knew how to use guns, but guns are of no use up close. The Japanese and British were useless up close, they didn't know how to fight without their guns. Actually the Japanese were better, they knew some martial arts, but the British soldiers just stood like statues, they were so stupid."

Me: "Aha."

Monk: "I don't like the Chinese."

Me: "Why?"

Monk: "Because they invaded Tibet. If they would invade Myanmar we would fight them, just like we fought the Japanese and the British. We are not like the Tibetans. I would also fight them!"

Me: "But you are a monk, you are not allowed to fight are you?"

Monk: "Well, if I wasn't a monk, I would fight them. In my next life maybe."

- Monk on Sagaing Hill -

Trader: "Have you been to Paleik?"

Me: "No, I haven't. I have heard of it though."

Trader: "Yes, it is really nice. You should go."

Me: "I would like to, but I don't have time.
Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

Statue inside Ananda Pahto
I am on my bicycle and it is already late and it will take an hour to get back to Mandalay. I don't have any light and I don't want to arrive in the dark."

Trader sadly: "No tourists ever go to Paleik."

- Trader at Inwa -

Monk: "Are you political?"

Me: "Err, I guess so, well, not really, I don't want to go into politics or anything, but I know what is going on in politics."

Monk: "I am very political, but we should be careful, that is dangerous in this country."

Me: "Yes, I know, I don't want to get you into trouble."

Monk: "Is your country a democracy?"

Me: "Yes."

Monk: "Who is your president?"

Me: "We don't have a president, we have a Queen, we are a monarchy. But she doesn't hold any real power. We have a prime-minister."

Monk: "I see, how often do you have elections?"

Me: "Every four years, unless the government falls before that."

Monk: "Have you been a democracy long?"

Me: "Yes, a very long time."

Monk: "In my country we don't have a democracy.
Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

Ananda Pahto
No elections. We had fake elections last year, but it is the same rulers as before. You know they shoot their own people here."

Me: "Yes I heard about that, it was terrible."

Monk: "Maybe one day it will change. I think so, than I will go into politics."

Me: "I hope so."

- Monk in Mandalay -

Wesley: "You see that plant there? (Takes a leaf of it and shows it to me)"

Me: "Yes, it smells nice, what is it?"

Wesley: "They say it cures HIV!"

Me: "You got to be kidding me?"

Wesley: "No, but only at the initial stages, if you have had HIV for a long time it doesn't help you. Only in the first three months or so."

Me: "And you believe this?"

Wesley: "I don't know. There are men in Kyaukme who have had HIV and now say they are cured."

Me: "Well if I were you I wouldn't test this presumption, protection is the only way to avoid HIV. Believe me if there was such a cure and it was here, all kind of companies and people would be here
Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

View towards Thatbyinnyu Pahto
and the world would know. But please if you hear anybody else spreading this rumour tell them it isn't true, because the more people believe it the more people will be infected by HIV!"

- Wesley, my guide in the Shan hills outside Kyaukme -

Wesley: "Gedoo, gedoo, gedoo."

Me: "What?"

Wesley: "Gedoo, gedoo, gedoo. It is an appology."

Me: "To whom am I apologizing?"

Wesley: "You just urinated in the woods, we believe in Myanmar that there are spirits residing in all living things, big and smalls. When you pee in the forest you might be urinating on them so we apologize after-wards, otherwise they get angry and bad things will happen."

Me: "Like what?"

Wesley: "Well, I don't know if this is true, but a man in our village one time urinated without apologizing. The next day he became very ill, he couldn't pee anymore and his bladder became bigger and bigger, so he went to a witch doctor and asked him what was wrong. The with doctor asked him what he had done lately and they found out he had urinated in the forest without apologizing. So the doctor
Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

took him back to the exact spot where he had urinated and he apologized and made an offering. After that he was fine again."

Me: "Hmmm, sounds bad."

Wesley: "I don't know if it is all true, but it can't harm to apologize just in case."

Me: "Right you are!"

Wesley: "In some forest you can't pee at all, even if you apologize it won't help. But I think this forest is alright."

Me: "How do you know which forest is good to pee in and which not?"

Wesley: "It is best to ask the local villagers."

- Wesley on urinating in the woods -

Wesley: "Do you believe in white and black magic?"

Me: "No, I don't"

Wesley: "Me, I am not sure. I had a friend who told me this story which I don't know if I can believe. He went to a Shan girl in the hills who he liked a lot. He came to her house and they sat down. He wanted some tea so he took the tea pot and tried to pour himself some tea, but nothing came out. Then the Shan girl
Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

said, it is alright if you have some tea now. And when he tried again, tea came out of the tea pot. He felt a little uncomfortable after this so he decided he wanted to go home. So he tried to get up to leave but he couldn't move. Then the girl said, if is fine if you leave now, and he could move again. He left and never came back."

- Wesley, again -

Villager: "It is not easy to have seven children."

- Shan villager in the hills outside Kyaukme -

Me: "What does the scene in this panel depict?"

Monk: "It is a man who is being adulterous, as you can see he is seducing a married woman."

Me: "Oh, and the next one, what about that?"

Monk: "It shows what will happen to a man who is adultrous in his next life."

Me: "So, what happens to him? I don't understand the picture."

Monk: "In his next life he will not be a real man, only half a man. He will be a gay man!"

- Monk in a Shan village outside Kyaukme - (just
Bagan  Bagan  Bagan

Teracotta tiles at the Anauk Petleik Paya
to clarify, these are not my thoughts and I don't agree with them, but some monks do seem to believe this)

Baz: "Wear sunscreen!"

- Baz Luhrmann, film director -

Additional photos below
Photos: 61, Displayed: 28


Bagan  Bagan

Bagan  Bagan

Dahmmayazika Paya
Bagan  Bagan

Frescoe in the Payathonzu
Bagan  Bagan

Field with temples
Bagan  Bagan

Bagan  Bagan

Sunset and birds
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More sunset over Bagan
Bagan  Bagan

Shwezigon Paya
Bagan  Bagan

Nat figures at the Shwezigon Paya
Bagan  Bagan

Buddha inside Dhammayangyi Pahto
Bagan  Bagan

Historical and Future Buddha at the Dhammayangyi Pahto
Amarapura  Amarapura

Monks on U Bein's Bridge
Amarapura  Amarapura


2nd December 2011

Nice pictures, interesting conversations
It's always a pleasure to follow your paths.. I am helping out here: with the organisation of the library and learning a great deal about Burma's history. I wonder if people can read your blog from inside Burma? and if you publish this comment whether it will be blocked? Anyway, if you come by ChiangMai, drop in. I will go into Taschilek in a couple of days so as to extend my visa - so I will visit Burma again - but briefly...
2nd December 2011

Stunning photos Ralf! And I really like the idea of printing the conversations you had with all those very different people, it is interesting to hear what they think and feel. I think it gives a better picture of a culture. Love Linn
3rd December 2011

Interesting to hear what the people of Burma have to say, especially things critical of the military dictatorship. Burma looks like a great place to visit, hope I'll make it there again soon.
3rd December 2011

I second the comments of Linn. Great novel idea to include conversation snippits along the way. Keep on smiling
4th December 2011

hi from Argentina
Hay, I love your blogs. They are so funny and deep... Tell me, how and where did you get your visa por Myanmar? I am planning my trip for next year. I know it´s a bit complicated, right? What time of the year did you go there? Thank you. Hugs from Argentina, Graciela.
4th December 2011

hilarische quotes en ook weer beeldschone plaatjes! veel liefs!

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