I am departing Australia on Friday 24th October 2008 for 12 months. I am leaving behind my home by the beach for a mountainous and forrested location in Thailand. Otherwise known as the "City of Three Mists," I will be living in Mae Hong Son and working along the Thai-Burma border. I will be assisting refugees who have fled from Burma with their preparations for resettlement to Australia as well as embarking on my own educational and cultural learning experience. I am hanging up the high heels and suits for a slower pace in life and an awesome opportunity to learn more about different hilltribes and their lifestyles. Something that fascinates me the most about travelling and of course I can't wait to wear the local dress.
I have visited Thailand twice and there is so much to love about this country. Not only the food, culture, weather and people will make my 12 months enjoyable but I can take advantage of authentic training in their national sport muay thai. Will I want to return home?!
I am looking forward to this experience and hope to share this with my family and friends who I will miss dearly.
I have lived in MHS for over 8 months and have managed to avoid an outing to the infamous “Chalet” up until now. The “Chalet” is MHS’s only nightclub and I am certain that if it had been playing the sounds of Armin Van Buren or trance I would have made an appearance sooner. Definitely not Dome in its prime but it does have kathoeys (ladyboys) so there is one similarity. The Chalet plays Thai music and everyone dances (Thai style) around the seats and tables. It only starts to get busy around 11.30pm, which is past my bed time nowadays (gone are the days when that was the time I was only getting ready to go out!) As assignment due dates were a couple of weeks away I agreed to join Lou and some MHS ... read more
As classes were reduced in the month of August our section at work organised a half day trip to Camp 1. Although I had seen many of the places we visited before it was good to reconnect with the community and be a part of camp life again. We caught the children just before they went off to school and a few colleagues joined in on playing elastics. The children and camp populace were just as intrigued by us as we were of them. We visited a nursery, the hospital, a few projects operating in the camp and various sections of the widespread site. At the high school in the camp they were hosting a fashion parade and one of our lovely colleagues agreed to join in on the fun. That aroused interest and amusement from ... read more
After having a disagreement at Yangon airport with the woman collecting our departure taxes because she refused to accept any of our US$20 notes, I couldn’t wait to return to the sweet sound of Sawadee ka and the traditional wai Thai greeting. The Burmese government only accepts brand new, not ripped, crinkled or torn US notes which is almost impossible when you have been travelling for 2 weeks! However there seemed to be no problem in the country giving us their kyat notes which are all tattered, weathered and sticky taped together. Fortunately we were able to do a money exchange with another traveller in Baht who was waiting in line. As much as I appreciated our Burma experience, the people especially, there were moments such as these that were frustrating and were reminders of how ... read more
Before we left Kalaw we paid a visit to the Catholic Church (photo in previous blog) and met the lovely priest, Father Paul. It was interesting how many places of worship there were in this small town - a mosque, various Christian Churches and numerous temples. Nevertheless the government has been known to discriminate against those who are not Buddhist, so while people practice different religions their freedom of worship is often inhibited. We were told that the government had tried to open up schools and businesses on Sundays in Burma and had to retract their plans once they realised that other countries closed on these days (particularly in the western world) and that it would be unsuccessful. About 87% of Burma’s population is Buddhist. We heard regular chanting and bells ringing from temples in all ... read more
Joseph wanted a rest after our day trek so his co-worker Mr Aye took us on the second day. Mr Aye also spoke English well but was Chin ethnic. He had served in the military 30 years ago and had battle scars as a reminder of his service. Although you would never have guessed it, he was as fit as a 20 year old and it was like running behind “Road Runner” when we were nearing our destination for lunch. The best way to describe Mr Aye would be to say that he was the Burmese equivalent of Mr Miyagi (the Karate Kid). He had such a vivacious character, was thirsty for knowledge and information and was the other key person who stood out as enriching our Burma experience. He would frequently stop to talk to ... read more
While it took us quite a while to eventually make it to Kalaw, after a long flight delay in Mandalay, we were not disappointed. Shan State was one of my favourite destinations in Burma (both Kalaw and Inle Lake) because of its spectacular mountainous scenery. If it wasn’t for all the government restrictions and red tape, Shan State would be a lot easier for me to access from MHS because they practically border one another. We arrived into Heho airport and then caught a taxi for an hour to Kalaw. The town sits on the western edge of the Shan Plateau at an altitude of 1320m and was once a popular hill station in British colonial days. Kalaw has a diverse population of about 20,000 consisting of Shan, Indians, Muslims, Bamar and Nepalis. It has a ... read more
By the middle of the second day (or it could have been at the end of the first) many of the ruins started looking quite similar to me. Don’t get me wrong Bagan is an amazing place, however knowing little about architectural styles except a slight understanding of the difference between Thai, Khmer and Burmese, it can get slightly monotonous. At least the vistas from the top of the payas remained amazing no matter which one or where it was located because they overlooked different viewpoints. On the second day we broke up the monotony of temple hopping and cycling by taking a boat ride down the Ayeyarwaddy River. We left just before sunset to see life on the river and Bagan from another viewpoint. In the afternoon on the third day we explored some of ... read more
Bagan is one of Burma’s most famous attractions. It is a notable archaeological site and has over 2000 pagodas and temples of the 11th-13th century. At one time there were 13,000 temples, pagodas (payas) and religious structures. UNESCO has been unsuccessful in trying to designate it as a World Heritage Site, which is unfortunate as it is worthy of such a title. Bagan is located in the dry central plains of the country on the Ayeyarwady River, 145km from Mandalay. While the distance doesn’t sound too far, on the rough, rugged roads it takes 8 hours by bus. We decided to catch the plane to most of our domestic destinations because of our limitations with time. As soon as we arrived in Bagan, a $10USD fee was collected for entering the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone.’ For the ... read more
Formerly known as Maymyo, Pyin U Lwin is a hill station 69km out of Mandalay, about an hour and a half drive. As it is 1000m above sea level and enjoys a relatively cooler climate it once was the summer capital for the Raj in Burma and a retreat for the British from Burma’s scorching heat. As a result, Pyin U Lwin is well known for its colonial style houses. There still remains a large Indian population because during British times it was the military centre of the Indian Army. Pyin U Lwin is a production centre for silkworm rearing, pharmaceutical production, flower and vegetable production. It is also the home of the Defence Academy of the Burmese military and an important military base. If you took away the military presence and the green uniforms it ... read more
This was one of the best day trips we had. It was full of Burmese history, culture, food and people. The highlights included: Mandalay (photos in previous blog) Visiting the stone carvers workshop Purchasing longyis (Burmese traditional wear and getting help from the locals), a wall tapestry and a puppet at the weaving and handicrafts shop. Amarapura It is 11 km south of Mandalay and most famous for its teak bridge and lake. Maha Ganayon Kyaung: a monastery currently home to around 1300 monks. We arrived before 11am to watch them queue for their last meal of the day. It was a picturesque sight, all the monks dressed in their saffron robes, holding their alms bowl lining up along the leafy road. U Bein’s Bridge: a 1.2 km wooden footbridge (longest teak bridge in the world) ... read more