Monday, November 20, 2017

Seriously lost in translation

November 17th 2017
Ngapali, Myanmar

At the beach, at the Hilton. Really. Still expensive at half off, but at half off it’s pretty sweet.

Okay, so here is the situation.

At the conclusion of the first day’s ride with Bobo, I asked the price for the day and he gave me a very low price and smiled. I doubled it, and he said it was too much. I told him, I’m good.

Second day after dinner I go to hand him the packet of bills equal to yesterday, plus a hint more. He waves me off. Tells me No. I’m not having that, so I hand the packet to Marmar (Mrs. Bobo) who does take it, smart woman that she is.

Third evening, I just bypass Bobo and go straight to giving the cash to Marmar.

This morning Bobo tells me when he got home Marmar asked for the horse money. Ha-ha. Then when we get to the airport, in all seriousness Bobo brings this up again. Obviously, not joking. Now he’s thinking I’m trying to stiff him. I explained day 2 and day 3 with the horse money going to Marmar.

I’m now thinking that the cash I handed her she thought was for her alone, not horse money. I could have easily done and had briefly thought about doing something like that, but I was afraid that she might take offense to it. I know I would, if I invited someone to dinner or to stay in the guesthouse and they offered to pay me. They are a guest, not a customer. I am the customer of the horse.

Now I’m feeling like a rat. I should have thought quicker and realized the situation and given him to amount yesterday’s fare would have been. So here I am feeling rat like and my nose isn’t even pink.

Well back to our normal bitching and moaning, and today is going to be a lot of both of those. Since I will be around my peers most of the day I expect I’ll find lots to complaining about.

After I left Bobo and feeling under a cloud instead of sadness I pulled my bag to the right counter among a dozen on them in the gymnasium sized airport. Did the passport and ticket dance and was given a sticker to place

on my tit. I chose left. This sticker hows where you are going and on what airline. A green sticker with a black border means Yangon on KBZ, Yellow and pink means something else. I was told to sit over there and followed her directions.

I was sitting at the end of a four seat row. Instead of walking to the next aisle this woman (she was probably French) steps over me to walk to the end of the row and sit on that aisle. Then Mr. Probably French does the same thing, instead of using the aisle and stepping over his bride.

The tourists this time are a great deal different than they were three and a half years ago. Then Myanmar had only been open to tourists a short time. Then it seemed to be mostly kids on a gap year and older people with time. People looking for a hint of adventure and knowing to value their experience. At one airport a guy came up to me like we were long lost family. We had been on the same flight (different rows) two or three places before, and he wanted to say Hi. Small world sort of thing.

This trip I seem people I saw and made eye contact with on the ferry the day before and can’t even get a grin. The kids seem to be using Myanmar as a different Thailand, not so many bars. When it comes to bars, the number on their phones are the ones that count. Don’t think that there are real people who live here. Rent and E Bike and let the carts and taxis find their living off of some other sucker. Then there are the tour groups. Where there were 5 at a temple there are now 20. All 40 on each bus trying to get that selfie in the 10 minutes this stop allows, so don’t get in my way !

Pretty soon my sticker indicated I move to a different room for departure. This is one of those bus airports, where you get on a bus to get to the plane not a ramp. Now let me tell you the secret to plane buses. Wait until the bus is almost full then get on. That way you are first off and first to the plane. There were people pushing and running their suitcases over my feet to get on the bus first. Really! When we got to the plane one of the guys was actually pulling his girlfriend through the people like Uncle Tom pulling little Liza across the ice flow. She hanging on looking embarrassed. The plane was two rows of two, so he wasn’t going to get stuck in a middle seat, and if he did it was a whopping 45 minutes.

The plane got us to where we were going. A document review and we were back in the real world. I saw my hotel sign being held and made a bee line to him. He carried my bag to the van and we were off to the Hilton. A real Hilton. The room was on special on from out-fucking-rageous to just plain exorbitant. I walked into the lobby and knew I made a mistake. It was nowhere near the location I wanted. Oh, it is plush, the plushest I have been in in years. The room is the size of a small town and it even has a huge jetted tub. There is no sandy beach, only rocks and so the light stroll to a small stand to sit on the beach and sip coconut drinks at sunset is not there. It is a great place, just not my place.
I told the clerk that I would be staying one night and moving to a different hotel, and told her, It’s me, not you.

I called the hotel I wanted to stay at and was told they were totally sold out. Okay. I checked and made a reservation at that hotel for tomorrow. I don’t understand the workings of hotel management. I’ll be honest it’s going to be a step down from the Hilton.

I didn’t do very much today. Went for a short walk near the hotel, had dinner wrote this, got a few nice sunset photos. Nothing of any consequence. So instead of rambling I think I’ll close.

p.s. I'm going too be in an internet iffy location for a bit

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Everybody laughs at farts

November 16th 2017
Bagan, Myanmar

Before dinner yesterday we went out to climb yet another temple to get a better view of the sunset. I don’t know what it is with these vacations that require seeing the sun set. It is just in the vacation laws I guess. I what people do when they go to Alaska in the winter for the required sunset viewing, or worse in the summer!

Of course the only way to properly see a sunset here is to climb as high as possible in a temple. The designers of these temples must have had stork legs and mice feet. The steps inside a temple are sometimes a six inch rise and then you’ll hit an 18 inch rise and the steps are never wider than the ball of your foot. Of course they also failed to put any sort of windows or port holes to let in some light. I’ve taken to climbing up feeling my way with my hands, both up and down. It isn’t graceful or appealing to look at but it is better than teetering on your heels gong down, hoping there is a fatter person in front of you to cushion your fall when you all act as dominoes and fall.

After sunset we clip clopped back to Casa Bobo. The horse got the rest of the night off and we went to dine with the family. Well that was my plan. Their plan was a table set for one with a candle and mounds of food. At east this time Bobo sat with me while I ate. The food was again outstanding. I found out that the meal was prepared by his daughter and supervised and tasted by his wife. Some crunchy things that reminded me of bacon was chicken and I didn’t ask any further questions about that dish. Some pork in oil, and chicken in oil, finely chopped vegetables, and a spinach type green leafy dish. Of course a heaping helping of rice. I may need to buy two seats on the plane home.

Since the horse was resting we motorbiked back to my hotel, after securing from me a confirmation of dinner the next night. Cripes I haven’t paid for a meal here since the first night. I did tell them I wasn’t the queen and would not be eating and served alone. We will see how the seating goes tonight.

Morning came early, 4 am wake up for 5 am saddle up and a 530 temple climb for – yes you guessed it – sunrise.

I think that 5 am is early for anybody. This morning’s ride was no exception. If it wasn’t for a big cup of Starbucks instant I’d have been asleep n the ride out. We got about two blocks down the main road and the horse let out a thirty second stream of farts. Not only was it loud it was also long. I looked at Bobo and we both laughed. I hope we didn’t embarrass the mare too much.

I looked up at the stars, totally clear and bright. Not much light pollution once you got outside of town and my sunglasses slipped off my head. Do yo know that the light on your phone is pretty worthless to find dark glasses, on blacktop, on an unlit country road? I did find them but it was shear luck

Today’s climb was on the outside of a temple. The first tier was a little easier angle and much more even steps up to the first landing. I mean you could fit half your foot on them even! Now the next tie they decided that your foot must have shrunk on the way up because it was back to the ball of your foot only steps. A hand rail was never considered, at least when you were inside to had the walls to used as a touchstone, here was good old Myanmar air.

I ladder climbed up one more tier and decided it was good enough. There was another tier and a half but I assumed the next tier would be big toe wide and the last half toenails only.

The sky was still back lit by starlight and just a toenail of a moon in the sky. Slowly the sky lightened and began to change colors and the temples in front were back lit with reds and pinks. Off to the left were large humpbacked things off in the distance. One of them lit up and I realized they were the hot air balloons getting inflated for their morning flight over the temples. I’d love to try them sometime, but am too cheap to pay $300 for a ride, even if it does include Champagne at the end of the ride.

The sky became brighter and the balloons came closer. I was alternating between shooting with my Nikon and sending instant messages and photos with two friends back home. That still astounds me.

Then it was face to the temple and butt to the world as a monkey climbed down the tier I was on. The main set of steps I sideways crab walked down them and back to the cart.

We haunted a couple more temples, by now one was running into another and we stopped at one and I was going to tell him we had already visited this one, but Bobo was working on the horse so I decided to go look at the darned thing again. Whoops! This was a totally new one to me, well the outside looked like we had been here before. I knew then it was time to end my temple raiding and return to camp.

I had given some thought to staying here another day and going out of town to see what was around, but started counting days left an factoring in travel time I am not so sure that time would allow for that. I came here this time primarily to see Murak U and it is one o those places “You can’t get there from here”. One travel agent said I’d have to go to Yangon (Rangoon) and then fly up to the nearest big city. That would be like flying from Chicago to Dallas to get to Helena Montana.

I knew that a flight went daily from a beach resort town and that town was just over there, just over that mountain. Well maybe a little further than that, but a flight there would bypass Yangon and I could spend a day drinking Mojitos on the beach. That sounds like a nice reward for getting culture for three days.

A stop at a travel agent on the way back to the hotel and plane ticket from here to beach tomorrow morning was secured.

I read a tale or saw a television show where a woman was attacked and when her lover found her she said she wanted revenge on the attacker. She could remember him clearly. They drove around and she yelled “It’s Him !” and pointed at a man. Then guy stops the car and kills the guy. On the drive home she yells “It’s him !” and points at a different man and then another and then another. Day Yesterday someone picked up and walked off with my Lonely Planet guide book. As I was sitting by the pool today a man carrying a Myanmar Lonely Planet walked by. It’s Him ! I sneak past him to see if he has left my bookmark in place, then I leap on him and wrestle it out of his thieving hands. He’s too smart for me he’s already ditched the telltale bookmark. I ask him if he picked that up in Myanmar and he explained he got it for his birthday, and his wife said “It cost like $35 and now I see them around here for $10, being sold outside the temples.” Hmm. Maybe this isn’t the miscreant I thought.

Loafed around much of the afternoon and then went out for a last sunset cart ride. Nice and simple and easy. The clouds killed the light for sunset pictures. I may have to return after Mrauk U if I want something good at sunset’s golden hour. We had a few laughs and the horse had a nice slow easy afternoon too.

Back at home we had dinner, I again ate alone and the family watched me eat. You know after a couple nights the food should have slowly merged into the sameness but every time it was new and exciting and fresh. I don’t know how they do it with an open fire and inexpensive ingredients.

They both walked me back to the horse cart. She put my arm around her shoulder and we walked down the lane. I offered a tentative sideways hug but it went unanswered. Probably isn’t the thing here. Back at the hotel I packed and listened to my book before lights out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Making friends, new and old

November 15 2017
Bagan, Myanmar

Sorry for not writing in a couple days time and tide waits for no one, and me least of all.

When Last I wrote it was the end of the day in Mandalay. In the next morning at the ungodly hour of 530 I met the taxi to go to the ferry from Mandalay to Bagan. Between 9 and 12 hours depending on that height of the water and how many times the captain ran us aground on the sand bars. He must have done pretty well because we made it in 8. I think we only ran aground once, based on the lack of motion and all the yelling coming from the front of the boat. Pretty good by my standards.

I as actually the first on the boat, except for the crew. I picked out the best deck chair. Front row rail side. My hat and Lonely Planet book got the seat next to me. Yes I am THAT person. But we all know that I am special, an it seems my hat is very special.

There really isn’t too much to say about the trip. Sit your ass down and wait until it is time to get off. The deck chairs were among the most uncomfortable chairs ever Not long enough to lay on with out your feet and half of your calves hanging off the end. Then if you scooted up enough to rest your feet on the deck then there was no back support. When you lay back your your feet akimbo you had to thrash about like a turtle on it’s back to get up and slip forward enough to plant your feet. My hat and book seemed to fit just fine.

A boxed breakfast was serve and a cooked lunch of rice and stir fry for lunch. I need to write the previous day’s happenings so went into the main cabin where there were tables to write. Upon my return a F’ing French cow with Klingon wrinkles between er eyes has without the honor deserved tossed hat and book onto my seat. Then she laid the Evil Eye on me. I immediately got some salt to sprinkle around me and hat the ward of the eye. Then she invited a French cow and her neutered steer of a husband to pull chairs in front of us and pontificate on the price of beef or some crap like that. All they while they gave me Stink Eye. I had to get up for more salt and second cow couldn’t even slide her feet to the side to let me past her size 12’s.

We docked in Bagan around 3 and ran the taxi, horse cart gauntlet into town. Of course there was the taxi pest. Taxi pets don’t have a car. They latch onto you and then direct you to their pals and I assumed get a little nibble later, because the cost of the taxi was three times what would be normal here in Burma. Even though he promised me he had and drove his taxi, I somehow ended up in a friend of his’ taxi. Funny how that worked out. And I only had to say “You are beginning to fucking piss me off!” twice for this to happen.

The hotel (Number 3 in T rip Advisor and starred in Lonely Planet) is not one of those quaint ones. It is a room renting machine. Come to Bagan for 2 days with your mates, sit by he pool, E Bike to the temples, drink a bit and never leave the pseudo Myanmar your entire time.

My room was a reasonable size, with not working hairdryer, not enough plugs for a phone and computer at the same time You couldn’t sit on the toilet and open or close the door. Toilet that ran continuously unless you jiggled it’s handle. I ordered a bite and went to sign it to my room and was told cash only, even though they had insisted on a $50 cash (not credit card) deposit. Worst of all, twin beds. One night and ta-ta, adios.

I wanted to find the horse cart driver from last time, knew his name and his horse cart number and where he generally hung out trying to get a fare. On my way I found myself talking to a different driver and he knew Bobo and where he lived. He side he’d take me there. On the way Mrs. Bobo passed us and we followed her home. I waited in silence for Bobo to come home as they chatted among themselves. Pretty soon he came home and looked right through me, he didn’t recognize me. I mentioned 2014, still nothing, then I mentioned my hotel and I think he put it together. A pick up time for the next day and it was back to the hotel.

In he morning I packed bags to leave and asked the desk clerk to to keep them for me and I’d be back later to pick them up. The day manager came over and I told him see you later. He asked what was wrong, I told him the bathroom was too small. He said well take a look at our balcony units for $10 more. The balcony turned out to be the exterior walkway with a chair or two. The room was the same size, with a larger bathroom, which made the living area smaller and still with the twin beds. Thank you, no. Take a look at our next step up for $10 more than that. I told him I wasn’t going to pay that. He suddenly lowered the price by five bucks. Okay I’ll look.

Big room, big bathroom, plenty of outlets, king size bed. I caved in.

Yesterday is kind of a blur as far as temple crawling. It was hot and I was hotter. WE started out too late for goo light and the heat had started to rise before we left the hotel. Then the pick up in the afternoon was too early, and it was still hot, and we ha to kill time before sundown. The sundown location as not the best seat in the house. Maybe Photoshop can make it look right.

Bobo had invited me to dinner at his home and I had accepted. I’d brought along a big bag of Hershey Mini bars in case this happened. We arrived and there was one place setting and a wonderful array of food. Rice and seven or eight side dishes. Uhh……… This was not what I signed up for. I was expecting dinner with the family, not my private restaurant. Well better to just go with it, instead of embarrassing myself and offending my host and hostess. I sat down to a large helping of rice and then took a spoonful of each dish. Enough to be polite and get down in case it was awful, but not so little to look picky. There was chicken in an oil sauce, some fresh water prawns in a vegetable mixture. An unknown other meat and several vegetarian dishes.

Okay, time to put up or shut up. The first bite, I couldn’t help myself. I let out a moan with pleasure. It was wonderful. I can’t remember the last time I had that reaction to food. I was totally shocked. God it was good. The rest of the meal was the same. Great flavor, made with love and care. One of the dishes must have had peanut or cashew in it based on the crunch. Turns out it was pounded chicken bones. The shrimp were teeny and I assumed to be eaten in their shell based on their preparation. They kept wanting to put chicken chunks on my plate and I kept opting for the other dishes. I can get chicken at home. I have been fighting a light cold for a few days and my nose was drippy. I asked if they have any tissue. No, but In was welcome to use me napkin. I am not going to my snot on your napkins. What about these other napkins, they are smaller. No, you are not going to have to was my snot. I’ll be fine. Five minutes later a new package of travel tissues arrived.

I ate until I couldn’t fit any more in and still food was left. I figured out they ate in shifts, ladies and kids while the men were working and then the men when they got home for the evening. I guess I was dinner 1.5.

We killed a few minutes after I finished, but lack of language for in the way both ways, so I begged off. Thanked the hostess and her daughter for everything and instead of the horse cart, rode the motor bike back to my hotel.

Bad night at the hotel. Room was great. Runny nose raw from blowing. Headache. Gross. Maybe I just meet Bobo hand him a couple bucks and beg off sick. No, what you miss out on, you’ll never experience. Take an Advil and be an adult.

Well if Jesus was a Buddhist he would have a fit with the temples here. On the temple grounds and in some of the temples they are lined with trinket sellers. I needed a small clutch to hold walking around money and y hotel key card. I found what I needed and made the exchange and she took the bills and started slapping them in the rest of the goods. What did my money do to deserve this punishment? She said it was Lucky Money, first sale of the day. I guess it is showing the other goods what they need to bring throughout the day or else get smacked around tomorrow.

At a different temple, one of the women was good to be a sort of guide and I handed her enough to buy many of the things in her kiosk. I already had a full suitcase. She was offended. Maybe I should have bought something with that money from her. I’ll know next time.

Dinner at Bobo’s tonight, again.

Away from the heat for a day

Monday November 13th 2017
On a boat Someplace between Mandalay and Bagan

I woke up yesterday to that old Mexican saying. “Mi microbe es su microbe”. Not horridly, just enough to know that the Myanmar microbes were not being friendly with the US microbes. This and knowing that we had a full day on the road set my alarm bells a changing.

After a light breakfast I met the taxi at the appointed time and we were off to a hill station that served as the British summer capital during colonial days. Sitting at about 3500 feet it was a way to get away from the oppressive heat of Mandalay. Heck for me it was a joy to get away from being a water fountain. I have heard that you are in trouble with dehydration when you stop sweating. I can promise you I was never in any danger of doing that.

We started on our way trough the city streets and perhaps hour we were driving through the countryside. Jojo said the same thing we all say. My grandmother aid it, and I’ve said t too. “Twenty-five years ago this was farming (forest, desert, ruins – take your pick).”

He was munching on small nuts from a bad and offered me some. There were whole cardamon seeds. I had never thought about them as anything besides a spice for cooking. Not sure I’ll change my mind but I might give it a taste when I get home.

The road was sometimes good and sometimes bad and occasionally not a road. It was one of those car killer roads. Not only was the tarmac in spotty condition it was also a slight but continuous climb. One of those roads that you see cars on the side of the road with their hoods up panting from the heat. We made a pit stop to let the taxi do just this. Kill a little time before there are problems.

A little shack selling local jams and dried fruit. Grape wine and whiskey. Chips, cookies and candy. There were also cellophane wrapped star shaped circles of round things stuck together. Off to the side there was a woman making them over an open fire. She had a he wok with hot oil over the fire. To her right was a bowl filled with powder coated round things about the size of my little fingertip. I figured they to be Chickpeas dusted in flour or maybe something sweet. I found out it was rice flour. She’d take a small handful of then and place them on a small round ladle and they formed a circle. He would lower them into the oil and let them rest and then release them and pick up one of the floating ones and set them aside to drain. At home I’ve baked them as a crunchy treat, this might be a new addition to that theme.

At all of these small shops there was always a running hose, sometimes two. A car or a truck would stop pull up to the hose and start squirting their wheels. Te steam from their brakes would pour off and float way. It seemed like a perfect was to warp your disc brakes but it seemed the thing to do here.

Back on the climb, past private toll boots and government toll stops in the middle of nowhere. Trucks, buses, motor bikes and cars all vied for their position on the roadway amidst the diesel fumes and horn honking.

When we got to town it was expecting a Hill Station, meaning a perhaps train station sized biding. Instead to was just a normal Burmese town. We drove past the Anglican church that was in need of some deferred maintenance. A few of the former English mansions had the equivalent of blue tarps on their roofs.
After a short bit we arrived at our first stop. The national gardens. A nominal fee and a ‘Go that way.” and I was in. The gardens were really spectacular. Green, green grass. Lovely contained flower beds. A sparkling lake with geese and swans gliding across. It was a Sunday of a three day weekend and it was packed with families and couples. Young couples off by themselves holding one another close. Large families on the grass picnicking or posing and having group photos take. A few young soldiers in freshly pressed uniforms with families. The families beaming to be with such a nice young man.

Oh ! And me. I was the only European face that I saw the entire two hours I was there. I strolled the rounds taking a picture here and there. I slowly made my way across a bridge to the side of the lake that had a walk through aviary, It was closed. I only got a glimpse of a Horn bill and a cage of Cockitils. Well I guess I’ll mosey through the elevated forest walk. It was closed. Further on the butterfly and orchid exhibit was open, for a fee. I Was more interested in enjoying only sweating moderately instead of seeing parasite flowers (darn Google turns out they aren’t parasites after all, ruined a good line) and probably dead insects.

I made my way slowly back to the taxi. Passing people and almost always having a beautiful smile returned by both men and women. As we were driving through town we came to a huge parade. Music blaring from truck mounted speaker, followed by huge garland covered signs. Behind the sign was a parade of maybe a hundred young women. All dressed in their absolute best embroidered silks. Not a hair out of place. I was thinking it must me a beauty contest. The taxi driver told this was their last day and on their way to become novice nuns. Yowzers ! That was a shock. Then looking closer I noticed they all had their rice bowls clasped in their hands.

I see monks and nuns all over the place. Rules, rules. Hey get preferred seating on buses. Women can’t touch monks without giving them cooties. If you donate cash to them they can’t touch the money. There must be dozens more I am unaware of. With all this I sometimes forget that they once were normal, everyday people before they became monks and nuns.

Driving through town there were horse carriages for hire. In stead of them being drawn by two or four in the British tradition. There was one lone pony to pull these monstrosities. Close coaches like small, very small stagecoach. All designed by some Acid Head who thought he was in London in the 1800’s. Garish and tacky are he words that come to mind.

Next stop one of two waterfalls. One easy one, one easy to get to and not so easy to leave. I didn’t like the idea of walking downhill for forty five minutes and then having to come back up. I mean I don’t want to miss my plane going back to the states in a couple weeks. So the easy one it was.

They were full to overflowing. Sunday at the local pool with all the expected madness. Mostly young men and some girls in the water below the falls having a grand old time splashing and generally having a wonderful time. The weren’t spectacular, but the were cute in a miniature sort of way.

The road wound around and lead to another set of lower falls. The only across the rive I could see was a suspension bridge over the fast moving water. It looked okay from a distance, but once stepping on it, I became this would not be covered by my travel insurance. It was wobbly and built with left over timber from some construction project. The middle of the bridge was swaying like a Hula dancer’s hips. At the landing on the other side was a vertical stairway that nearly everyone had to scoot down on their butts.

The lower falls were a disappointment to me, with a concrete enclosure to create a pool and the Merry-Go- Round kind of like the idea of a waterfall among nature.

Next stop a temple on top of a hill. Then first moon of some month they have a hot air balloon festival. Not human sized but instead rice paper and candles. One of the significant things about this spot is a guy commissioned this Buddha to be carved and exported to China. Along the was it fell off the truck and try as the might Buddha didn’t want to get back on the tuck and go to China. So he had this Buddha schlepped up here gave it to the locals. The local people donated money and jewels to build the pagoda around this miscreant Buddha.

A short stop at the recreated English Governor’s Mansion, where they wanted $5 to walk thorough it. I decided to pass on that, besides it was getting late and I ha several packing, moving things to do before the morrow.

The drive back was longer than the drive up, but that was only because of a half hour roadblock.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Same place different time of day

November 11 2017
Mandalay Myanmar.

Got to Myanmar as you can guess by the header. Bangkok was there and gone. Nothing real special.

I hung around the hotel most of the day. Cat napped a bit, sat by the pool a bit and went for a walk to some 10 story mega shopping mall full of names and prices I would never buy. It was so fancy schmancy that when you passed through the (seemingly unworkng) metal detector the Naval uniformed minder saluted each and every person. The mall had a cruise theme, and not a Village People kind of cruise. Each of the floor were named after some sort of salt water body. The Caribbean, the Mediterranean, etc. I went down to the Aral Sea and realized even the bargain basement stores were out of my league. I decided to pass on the higher seas.

I wimped out for dinner and ate in the hotel. I was going to try something exotic, but the waitress almost insisted that I go with the Phad Thai. I gave in into her strong suggestion and it was good and everything she promised, it was just too much like going to the Seattle and ordering a burger, when Salmon is on the menu.

Mr. Sandman arrived around 9 pm and “Mr Cold Water in the Face” arrived around 2:30 am. Flop around as I might I could never convince myself that it was time to sleep and finally threw off the covers at 4.

I left for the airport five hours in advance. Sitting around the airport killing time seemed a better alternative to clicking through TV channels in the hotel room. I mean, maybe the airport has the Thai version of Starbucks.

Past the check-in, past Immigration, past TSA and what do my wandering eyes see ? A flipping Starbucks ! A real honest to God Starbucks. With coffee and Cran/Orange scones ! I was home. Coffee, croissant, crossword and soon enough it was time to board the plane. Middle seat, row 4, not business class. An hour and 45 flight.

Watching people come on, frequently wondering how the can call those mid sized suitcases “Carry on”. Then there was the overly dressed, middle aged woman with the 5 shopping bags from Italian names we all see mentioned on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I heard the flight attendant say “Row three” and watch this woman proceed to the rear of the aircraft, only to see her a few minutes later, pushing, shoving and worming her way back up through the loading passengers to the row in front of me. Then she had the nerve to take the middle seat right in front of me and pressed the recline button and slammed the seat back into my face. I took my revenge by checking the seat pocket in front of me frequently and open and closing my tray table as often as possible. Ya, it was childish, and I do feel a little bad about it – but not too much.

Arriving in Mandalay was easier than I expected. Immigration, look, flip ages, look, type stamp, stamp. I was afraid of a delay at Customs, since the declaration had a foreign assets control question asking if you were carrying more than $1000. Instead the Customs officer looked at the form, and waived me through. I traded in a $100 bill for a novel sized pile of currency, and got a SIM card for my phone, went through the taxi hustle and was at my hotel in no time.

The hotel is nice enough. The grounds and main floor very attractive. The room, well it is an older room with new things stuck on it. New porcelain in the bathroom, new flat screen on the wall, but still just window dressing. To be honest I’d probably say the same thing about some of the classic hotels in New York. The A/C was cool, the bed comfortable, the door locked and the toilet flushed. I didn’t find out until this morning that the hot water was luke cool. I let it run long enough to wash and dry and curl my hair and it never got much past body temperature the entire time.

I digress. The room didn’t hold a lot of allure so I decided to catch a cab and go to the U Bien bridge and see about getting a few sunset photos. The gate guard pantomimed just stand there looking stupid and a taxi will stop. I knew I could easily accomplish that task.

So I’m standing there and a snake in the form of a man in dire need of a dental hygienist slithered up. Where are you going? Want to go on a motor bike? (mind you the bridge is nearly an hour away through city traffic and some open roads). NO, Thank you. You want a taxi? The price he quoted was a fair tourist price, but internal alarm bells were ringing and I told him, no. He slithered away and a taxi did soon stop. How much to the U Bien bridge? Huh? Where? – Oooo Be In bridge – Where ? Then my phone was remembered with SM card. OK,Google. What is the name of that big bridge in Mandalay Burma? – in a flash it was in my phone and also written in Burmese was the name. I showed him the web entry and he said “U-bay !!” Ya, right. We negotiated a price higher than the snake’s price, but it was a price for peace of mind.

We arrived without mishap and so did everyone else. There was a large flotilla of tourist filled canoes on the water waiting for the sun to set. I walked past the boxing ring that was beings set up. The people assembling it were stuffing sponges into the gaps of the rings floor. Walked down to what looked like the best location for framing the shot would be. It was alright, a few more months into to the dry season would allow me a better location, but you gotta take what you are given. The pictures came out fine, not National Geographic quality, but better than a snap shot.

I found my taxi and we wended our way back to Mandalay and instead of the hotel I asked him to drop me at a restaurant a few blocks away. I went to pay him the agreed on price and then he charged me the fare that it would have cost if I was a new fare. I paid him and decided we didn’t need to ride together any longer. Adios cowboy.

The restaurant was named the Minga La Bar, which is Hello in Burmese. It was Trip Advisers top choice and it sounded like a good place to try Burmese food for the first time this trip.

Big huge place. 90% of the patrons were anglos. Some in small bus tour sizes and some in fours, with a local with them. Obviously the ringer was their guide. With a cringe I took my seat and looked over the menu. It didn’t look too westernized, though it was in English. I ordered a chicken dish and a glass of orange juice. The waiter asked if I wanted ice and something else I didn’t catch. Okay, that will be a chicken blah blah and an orange juice with no sugar and no ice. That will teach me to say No to mumbles.

First came he soup. Then the dishes started arriving. There was cauliflower, there was mystery stuff, there was bean sprouts and bamboo shoots. There was spicy stuff and also very spicy stuff. Oh, there was also some chicken in a sauce and a heaping heap of rice. It was all very tasty, well one small miss. I ate until I didn’t want to eat anymore and there was still a ton of food left. The chicken was my only complaint and that was the poor fowl was cleaved into bite sized pieces without though to whether there is a bone in there of not. So I sent the majority of my chicken time fishing out pieces of bone. Then came desert, which I passed on.

The bill? $6.50.

As I was leaving a taxi was dropping off some people, so I didn’t have to stand there looking stupid. I hopped in and off we went. The guy spoke passable English, his car was clean and well maintained. By the end of that short trip I had arranged pick up the next morning at 930.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I wonder what this button does ?

Thursday November 9th 2017
9:30 am, Bangkok

Sorry no pictures yet

Somewhere between there and here November 8th disappeared. I think I saw it fly under us yesterday someplace between Alaska and Japan. It was an unusual flight for me, It never got dark. The sun was visible the entire trip between Seattle and Tokyo. At one point the heat from the sun on the aircraft was so intense I was having hot flashes. I kept asking myself “Did you take your pill, yesterday?”. Knowing full well that I did.

The flight from Seattle to Tokyo was the first time I have ever flown on Boeing’s 787. The call it the Dream liner and I do believe it lives up to it’s name. The seating configuration is the same cattle class as any other cattle class in any other airline. The windows are huge in relation to other aircraft, at least twice the size as the 727. Instead of having a pull down window shade that blocks all view from the window. Below the window is a up down button. Press the button down and it incrementally darkens the window until the view in bright sunlight looks like a full moon lit night. I loved it, now I can look out the window and help to pilot fly the plane as my seatmates can still watch reruns of Knight Rider.

The 10 hour flight of course necessitated a trip or two to the loo. One of the three toilets available to us was mansion size. I have often wondered how two people could join the Mile High Club in an aircraft toilet. The are generally barely big enough for one person, much less two. This one could have handled a threesome. Saving time for everyone involved.

The actual throne was as expected, except for some buttons off to the side. Two with red or brown icons showing one and two sprays aimed at the back of a seated pelvis. One blue one aimed at the front of this seated pelvis. It was a button, I had to push it. Nothing happened, then my nether regions were squirted with warm water. That was pretty nice, actually very nice. It kept going, and going. Certainly more than I expected. Uh … how do yo turn it off? It was nice but enough is enough. What do I do if it doesn’t turn off? Stand up quickly and slam the toilet cover down and wait for the scream form the next passenger? Maybe I’ll just sit there fr the rest of the flight. About the time I started to really panic the water stopped and everything was Jake. This entire experience took perhaps 30 to 40 seconds. Fortunately I didn’t need too try either of the other two buttons.

I generally carry 4 to 6 $5.00 Starbucks cards to give to the cabin crew. I don’’t do this for any particular reason except to see what happens. Well maybe when they drag me off the overbooked plane they wont bump my head too many times as they pull me down the aisle. But other than that it s more just an experiment. The last time was a short trip to Las Vegas for a friend’s birthday. The crew was overjoyed. I mean I was embarrassed. Each of the cabin crew came by to thank us and even the flight crew. Heck we even got little plastic kiddie wings to make us honorary pilots. Then we were asked to deplane last where the pilot and co-pilot offered us a chance to sit on the flight deck while at the gate. That was special. The return flight I did the same thing to a different crew and they were accepted with the same “Thank you” as if I had handed her an air sick bag. Maybe Karma got worn out on the first flight.

This flight being a Japanese flight I made certain to make it pretty. I handed the card to the flight attn dent in my area and she graciously took it. Perhaps an hour into the flight she came back and returned the envelope to me. I tried to explain that it was her and the crew’s but she wasn’t having it. Okay, so it goes. About hour 8 she came back and handed me a small wrapped bag and a note. The note in essence said that the were not allowed to take anything from the passengers due to Japanese Customs but they appreciated it and brought a smile to them.

The movie choices were less than ideal for me, 4 different languages of Planet Of The Apes and three for Transformers. Plus Pretty Woman and Grand Tourino. If I had a vocabulary other than English maybe I would have had more selections.

Tokyo was Tokyo. Re screen for their version of TSA, walk forever to the next gate and wait. Get on the plane for six hours of medieval iron maiden torture and finally Bangkok. Another walk through Immigration, and a bit of chanting that my luggage actually made it to the same place I was. It did! Yay !! It was totally unzipped and only held closed by two plastic snap buckles. Boo !! I did a quick inventory and everything seems intact and the zipper was repairable still, I with the thief or TSA would have used the zipper and not just jammed a pen between the teeth of the zipper to gain access.

Outside a metered taxi and a slight confusion to my destination and from wheels down to head on pillow was about an hour and a half. Really not bad at all. Almost exactly 24 hours from Welcome to ANA bow to bed, I’ve had worse.

Five and a half hours f sleep and slow starting day put my at breakfast around 8 am. Today I have no plans at all. None. Maybe dinner, but that is about it. Maybe catch the sky train to a mall and wander, but it is a nap and relax day.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Following The Great Circle, again

Tuesday November 7 2017
10:40 am

At SeaTac awaiting at the gate for a flight to Tokyo and then on to Bangkok. A sleep and a half and then on too Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma). In the past I have flown into Bangkok and spent a coule days dealing with the visa to Myanmar process. This time I sent my passport off to the consulate and got a visa before leaving home. I hate doing that. My passport into the hands of a foreign government and worse into the care of FedEx. Nervous all the time until I have my passport back in my hands.

As usual I caught the airport bus from home to here and spent he night at a hotel. Not a bad hotel this time. Certainly so much better than the one I took the night before going to as Vegas last month. It didn’t used to be but if you loo up Ramada in the dictionary you will see a picture of a dump.

A light dinner at Denny’s and then TV in the room until time for lights out. I had planned something a little fancier for dinner, but friends took me out to a nice last American Burger lunch before leaving home.

I am not flying my normal airline, Delta. Instead I am trying ANA (All Nippon Airlines). The check in counter wasn’t open when I got to the airport. So instead of going to sit and kill time I decided just to stand there and kill the same amount of time. The said it would open at 9:20. At 9:19 all the desk agents stood before the counters and formed a line. The at 9:21 the lead agent said “Welcome to ANA, thank you for flying with us.” This was repeated in Japanese and then in unison the agents all bowed towards the waiting passengers and the counters were officially open.

A quick stroll through TSA and a last American Starbucks (though I don’t suppose there is an American Starbucks now that they are world wide). Now sitting at the gate killing more time. I did pass a little time with a man who lives 40 miles from me. Learned he is married to a Japanese woman and they are going home to visit. He is a former froward air controller in Vietnam and was contaminated with Agent Orange and now has cancer. He is a 1005 disabled vet and …… well you get the idea. I know more about him than I do most of my close personal friends now.

I have an hour before they even start boarding so maybe it is a good time to recycle that Starbucks. – See you n Bangkok