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Published: February 20th 2009
Typical day - shocking roads, humping dogs and Buddhist temples
I'm back in the internet room, they've had another power cut, so I've not been able to have a shower at the guesthouse nor able to see anything in my room.
Anyway, John and John got the bus from Yangon to Bago which is south west of the capital. We had to get a taxi from the hotel to the bus station which took nearly an hour, because for some reason, bus stations in Burma are located out of town. We were accosted with loads of hawkers and people selling fruit and snacks and drinks. Then when we waited outside the bus, people just stared at us as if we were the weirdest looking people on earth. We returned the curious smiles and stares by taking photos of the women sellers in their wide brimmed straw and bamboo hats and thanakha
The bus was basic and the roads were basic-ally... the worst roads I have ever been on. Yes, about as bad as the bloody pavements. Totally rotten, bumps, pot holes, too narrow. Other observations, Thailand drives on our side (the right side) but Myanmar,
the old British colony changed over to the left side. To completely bugger this up, vehicles are both left and right hand drive! It's interesting how people drive here, they just survive. Lots of cyclists along the way and the women look very slim and elegant cycling along in their longyii and skirts. I think I've developed a thing for Myanmar women.
In Bago itself we got approached practically as soon as we stepped off the bus by two guys who took us to the bus office (a room with a desk) and there we got sorted out with a good deal to hire motorcycles around the Buddhist monasteries and sights around the town. First with their goodish English they sorted us with some food, which was egg fried rice and vegetables. Chatting away about the English Premier League (they are bloody obsessed with it here and watch it avidly in cafes as well as with magazine and newpapers) and discussing our countries. One of the guys (fat and a little too suave for my liking) asked me about the UK and where I'd been in Yangon (Aung Sang Suu Kyi's house for example) - he asked me that
He was so persistent in selling us oranges, he took to the Burmese language book I had and perused it.... for more persuasive English...?
the government is good in Myanmar, yes? I shrugged sarcastically.
Anyway, I forgot bout that and we got motorcycled around town which was cool, our first stop was a monastery, the second largest in Myanmar. We actually motorcycled in through the corridors! Then we got to see the students taking their examinations in a big hall, all in their robes. It was pretty cool stuff, then I saw stray dogs humping and shitting everywhere, not so cool when you're trying to have an intellectual conversation with a ethnic Shan
driver with tatts who used to be a monk for 15 years.
Other trips to big temple (paya) complexes with massive stupas - most of them are being repaired and their gold leaf being reapplied in Myanmar because of the pretty devastating Cyclone Nagas two years ago. Colossal statues of the Buddha reclining and a giant 115 year old Boa Constrictor who is meant to be the reincarnation of a monk. The highlight was being taken to a Burmese cigarette/cigar factory to see how they are made. It was a large open thatched but with about 30 women rolling away on mats at tables. We were royal guests basically
and it was fun to smoke one whilst making the whole room laugh with my attempts at Burmese. John's rider sat next to his girlfriend who worked there, one of two in addition to a wife - what a player. A fair few of the women were pretty gorgeous I have to say and since that moment I've been on the look out for a Myanmar wife.
We went back through the town and passed a line of novice boy monks on their way to the monastery. Traffic, including us stopped as they passed, pretty cool sight. Buddhist monasteries are pretty common here and most Buddhist families send one son to the monastery for a few years before they turn 18. It's a pretty magical, if common, sight to see boys in monkish robes around Myanmar.
We got back to the bus station (a large dusty yard with shops) and found out we'd have to stay two nights in Knaiktiyo if we were to go see the Golden Rock. So, we reluctantly decided on going north to Toungoo and staying the night there instead. Well, it was John's idea, and I just went along with it. Bad idea
in the end.
Lastly, my Shan driver had told me in our political/Nagas conversation that the fat guy who asked me questions whilst we were eating was a government informer. So, I wasn't particularly keen when he approached us again with some bullshit about practicing English and how England was the mother country to Burma and all of that sycophantic rubbish. I ignored him basically, as I thought he was after something or would try and get me in to trouble. The fat and good English speakers seem to be Government related.
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