Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pictures are posted

Just a quick post to say that I put up the best of the photographs I took while in Myanmar (In my opinion) Click on the "Pictures Here" to access the page.

             Pictures Here

Friday, April 4, 2014

Buddha in the sky with diamonds

April 3rd 2014 – 8:30 p.m.

I suppose the Thailand part of the date and place is redundant, because everyone knows Bangkok is in Thailand. This is going to be either very boring of very short. Hopefully one and not the other.

I slept in until the alarm went off. A surprise for a change. There wasn't time for breakfast. At least that is the way it looked until I got to the airport and had more time than I expected. Then the hurry to get to the airport turned into waiting for the plane.

The plane came I got a middle seat, the aisle lady moved so I had an aisle seat. The woman in the window was in the aisle lady's seat. Of course she was the high maintainance passenger. Needed help with the Immigration forms, had to go potty twice on an hour and fifteen minute flight. She must have had a bladder the size of a peanut.

The hotel is the same one as I stayed at last year. It's rooms are smaller that the suite I had at the Raddisson, but it has a nice restaurant overlooking a lush green pool. I move back to the Raddisson tomorrow.

After dropping my bags exchanging some mony and getting cooled off under the A/C I waited until clse to three to face the heat of the day. I caught the skytrain down to the river and got on the ferry until it came to the stop that the woman at the hotel said was Chinatown and a must see. Her one word of advice was “Don't buy anything there”. I am not sure if I found it or not. All I found was a major street lined with gem shops and a few antique shops. Everything looked closed up and nothing looked quaint as I had expected.

I found an information booth and with her help back to the ferry where I continued upstream to see the reclining Buddha that I missed last time. They closed at three thirty. Every tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok was willing to take me around to see a plethora of other sights. One was a reasonable amount and then the I don't know what kind of scam came the drivers who were willing to drive me all over town for thirty cents and then down to fifteen cents. I am kind of assuming it had something to do with a gift shop involved in the picture some where along the trail. Something was fishy there. Maybe I should have gone just to see.

There is a huge park across the street from the palace and it looked like Bellingham bay with all the kites being flown this eve. Then back to the ferry and the skytrain and presto chango back at the hotel. I thought I'd take a beer and perhaps dinner on the deck overlooking the pool, except the was some sort of corporate function going on. So Just had the beer and opted to walk down (or up) the lane and have dinner at a names “Cabbages and Condoms”. They have something to do about unwanted babies The place is jammed with people. The food is good, but I think the name is more of a draw that the food.

So I am about 'peopled' out. Think I'll close and get the check.

April 4th 2014 – The next day

I am really confused now.

After a good night's sleep and breakfast at the Ramada I packed up and moved almost across the street to the Radisson. I moved from Soi 12 to Soi 13. I rolled my luggage up the Soi to the main road. All the even Soi's are on one side of a six lane (probably on two lanes each way but the lines don't matter here) divided main road. The only real way I can figure out how to cross is by going to a pedestrian overpass and I think I remember seeing one of them a couple Soi's away. I hope to find a passing tuk-tk and have him take me up the road, do a U-turn and over to 13. Instead I find a taxi cab. He knows he has me and his price is way over what it would be metered, but honestly in the real world it wasn't that much.

The hotel is located and I start pulling my two bags out of the nack seat of the cab and one of the desk clerks comes out and says “Welcome back”. He ushers me into the hotel. I give him my passport and credit card. He says he wants to upgrade me to a suite, but the room isn't available yet. Would I like some breakfast ? I am not a Hobbit, so second breakfasts are generally out of my reach. I opted for some coffee instead.

The room really is large. I have a couch, a full desk and a kitchen table with sink and ¾ size refrigerator in one room and the other room has huge bed and dressing area along with the necessities. I would guess it is 900 square feet in total. Later in the day I was chilling in the room and the doorbell rang. A woman was there with a small plate of fresh fruit and a note personalized to me by the manager welcoming me back.

When I made the reservation before leaving for Myanmar I made it for the basic room and the woman taking the reservation reminded me that I wasn't getting a deluxe room. I just don't understand this special treatment. I am not complaining at all, just a bit dazed and confused.

Yesterday I went down to the King's palace and he was closed for the day. So today I went down to see him earlier in the day. I took the usual trail. Skytrain and ferry boat. I get off the ferry boat and the first person who greets me is a hustler who tells me the pagoda I want to see is closed to foreigners until two thirty and so perhaps I should spend the intervening two hours on a tour in one of his tuk-tuks for a cool thirty bucks. I think I'll pass on that deal for, say …. the rest of my life.

The next driver I talk to is an actual driver sitting in a tuk-tuk and pestering people on the sidewalk. He pulls out the universal map showing all the wonderful places he would take me, including the obligatory shopping center. I start to walk away and he immedietly undercuts his pal by fifty percent. It is still too much for a tuk-tuk, but let's see where this goes. Ok, I want to see this and this and this but NO SHOPPING. Oh, no. You see this and this and shop here and see this. You are not listening- NO SHOPPING. – this is the point where he tuns his back on me, the universal go fly a kite gesture. So it appears these guys are shopping hustlers with a tuk-uk. Not tuk-tuk drivers who take you to the shopping.

The heat has really begun to build, I am about through my first half gallon of water and I enter the King's palace only to be told by the guard at the door that I do not have sleeves on my top. I kind of thought that was obvious. Then he informs me that I needed to cover my biceps to gain entrance. He points to an area where a line of similarly dressed westerners, some in shorts are waiting. I turn around and point at the gate I had just entered. He shakes his head and tell me – No go there they give you top. I've worn those sorts of things in the past. Kind of like a light polyester bathrobe that does not breathe. No thank you. Seeing a King's house or another Buddha. It is just another variation of a theme. I have some longer sleeved shirts in my luggage, I'll put them on tomorrow in the morning and come back first thing, before the heat cranks up. I turn to the guard and say – No it's too hot, I'll see you tomorrow. – and he sarcastically says with a big grin “Ya, it will be much cooler tomorrow.”. I had to laugh.

April 5th 2014 – 1 p.m.

My last day in Bangkok. Tomorrow morning at six thirty in the morning my plane is supposed to depart for the U.S.A. via Tokyo and get there three hours after it takes off. I think there is a flaw in that logic someplace.

They say that the third time is the charm, for me and the reclining Buddha it was the fourth time. I got up early did breakfast, caught the skytrain an the ferry boat before it got too hot. Since Buddha here requires shoulders to be covered I wore a long sleeved shirt and got to see Buddha laying down. The is a pretty big guy. His feet are six feet wide for pity sakes. It wasn't any cooler today than yesterday, in spite of what the guard said. In face the weather report calls for thunder showers and the air is really extra humid. Not very many tourists at reclining Buddha this morning. I had heard it is generally crazy wacko in the afternoon with the tour buses. This morning it was just we tourists not with a tour. So I finally got to see reclining Buddha. Was it worth it? Sure. Was it worth going four times and succeeding once, probably.

So this should be it. See ya in the U.S.A.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stairway to Heaven

April 2nd 2014 – 7 p.m.

Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar

At a pretty expensive hotel. The Savoy. The choices here in Yangon are either crappy and expensive or pretty nice and very expensive. I reviewed my bank roll and opted for the latter. This hotel is in the same family as the one at the beach, though you get less for more here. Eventually They only had a room for the night, tomorrow they are full. I thought about staying for another night in Yangon, but the only thing that is an absolute must see is the big temple on top of the hill that is a fifteen or twenty minute easy walk unless you count trying to cross the street then it drops to exciting. I decided rather than spend another day in Yangon and see what there is to see, perhaps if I return to Myanmar (and I just might) take in the other sights then.

This morning I woke at my usual four-thirty. Check out time was noon and the bus to the plane left at twelve thirty, so I had some time to kill. I made a mug of coffee and sat in the dark on the porch and listened to the waves. With the caffeine charge I went and got my trusty spooked charger and pedaled the three miles To the fishing village at the end of the road. It was so nice having the entire road to myself. Only on occasion having to pull to the shoulder to let a three of four wheeled vehicle pass. The remainder of the time down the middle of the road cruising along. Heck I even got into second a time or two.

The residents were a tough crowd today. When I was the only thing on the road people said hello. Once things got a bustling though I couldn't get a smile of a hello from anybody. I am really perplexed what the change was. The only person who seemed really excited to see me was that same darned village drunk. He wasn't nearly as obnoxious this time. Said hello, called me police, saluted and was on his way. The harbor had the same number of boats as usual, but the men and women who off load the boats were pretty idle. Maybe it was the Indian;s day to fish or something. The unloaders were waiting and even some ox carts but not much action. Possibly I was a tad early by half an hour from the previous time. Whatever I watched the sun rise and scooted back to the hotel in time for breakfast and a shower. Not in that order.

I hung out on the porch for a while, made some more coffee (not a smart idea in a squat toilet country with travel on your mind.) I didn't nap but I did set my alarm on my iPod to alert me when it was time to leave the room. – in some ways I've felt a little like living in a Las Vegas casino, I have not seen a single clock in any hotel room on this trip. The Raddisson in Bangkok at least had a clock built into the television. – The hotel bus left with a half dozen of us on time and in a few minutes were were doing that think I hate so much and volunteer to do so frequently – wait for a plane. Tge plane was late and the process for finding your plane is unique but it works. Each airline and sometimes each flight has it's own sticker that you stick to your boob. When it is your time to board they come through the waiting area and if you haven't responded to their vocal notification they look for stickers and tell you to get to your plane pronto. An odd process but one that worked for me so far. I generally looked for someone who I thought was from Myanmar with the same sticker. When they go up so did I.

By the time we had landed in Yangon I had decided that one night in would be enough and since I didn't have enough time to go anyplace else in Myanmar I might as well hit the road Jack and return to Bangkok tomorrow. I kept running into the same German couple as on the plane. I tried to get some money changed but all the exchanges were on break..Everyone at the same time. So I thought I would see if the airline I flew to Mandaly on could sell me a ticket, since it was getting close to four and travel agencies here close at five. I found the airlines check in area and was directed to over there with that common wave of the hand. Over there were several doors and one one in teeny letters was AirAsia. I knocked lightly and cracked the door. They must have been having a staff meeting because I was told to wait outside. About this time the German couple showed up. They had to pay their checked luggage fee. They paid and skee daddled. Te woman at the desk said they had two flights tomorrow. One at 8:30 and one at one. I told her the 1 p.m. Would be great, thinking if I got up early I could see some oof the town before having to leave. She came back and said you are on the 8:30 airplane it was thirty dollars cheaper. She seemed so proud of herself I didn't have the heart to correct her.

With ticket in hand I left and was found by a taxi driver in a New York second. As I waited for him to juggle things around who should walk by but the German couple. I told them I would meet them someplace in Bangkok tomorrow.

The hotel was not expecting another check in.so I caught them a little off guard. The doorman escorted me to the bar when I entered until I asked if this was reception. Reception did the old owl look. Who are you ? I told them I had a reservation and they looked like I had lost my mind. Finally I said the magic word “Patrick” the manager at the beach. Thgey did the mad scramble then, again reminding me it was just for one night. Ok, fine, let's get this check in thing done so I can get to sightseeing.

In the room I dropped my lggage and my hiking boots. Donned my sandals, camera and Indiana Jones and was off in search of the temple of Yangon fame. It really wasn't much of a search as it is the biggest thing in the city. Dodged traffic and was walking up a hill to the temple, but it didn't feel right. So this guy and his girlfriend were having a spat. She was sitting on the sidewalk nt looking at him or responding in anyway to his entreaties. This is the guy I'm going to ask directions from. He reassured me I was going in the right direction. I found the entrance, dropped off my sandals with the shoe guard, went through the metal detector and was waved on by from the magic wand lady and walked up the steps. – Jesus went crazy with the money changers a long time ago, If Jesus saw the walkways to his temples like these are he would be a whirling dervish. The entire length 0of the walkway was lined with vendors of all sorts of things. They are as aggressive as on the street, but still ….

I climbed the stairs, I thought I had read about an escalator but the only one I found had nail polish on it's toes. What a sight. Everyone I asked about it on the trip told me it was worth the time and effort to see it. Boy were they right. If your God lives there he is a pretty powerful guy. Pictures to follow. I walked around the Stuppa the wrong direction the first time. Remember that right and left thing. Right side to the stuppa. On my second pass I run into a French couple I met some place. They both had a sticker on and I didn't think they were waiting for a plane. I asked about the sticker. He said that was to show that as a foreigner you had paid you entrance fee. – Uhhh... I didn't get one – I'm probably going to God jail. Maybe that is where the escalator was at the foreigner's entrance where the guy fighting with his lady should have directed me. Maybe he was distracted.

The walk back to the hotel was easier. Not due to anything on my part but because the major street I had to cross was totally grid locked. So sidling through the stopped cars was reasonably easy. The hotel has two options to eat that I found. The bar for bar food. Burgers and such and a U.S. Priced French restaurant. I thought about bar food at pool side because the bar was totally full and a din of noise. It was just too hot for hanging around the pool even at seven at night. Inside to modern A/C and French food. It was a good choice over all. Really good service and very tasty food. Had a really nice glass of French Chardonay., a goat cheese salad and duck breast in a pepper sauce. I was really happy with everything. I left a 20% tip and I could see in the server's eyes that this was WAY more than she generally got. Whoops! If I was home I certainly would have tipped 25% maybe a little more, the meal was that good. I thought I was doing well dropping it down. I guess I should have dropped it down even further, but I probably wouldn't.

I wish I had more time to explore the hotel. The room was very nice. But you can read my TripAdvisor.com review if you are all that interested.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Tide Is (almost) High

April 1st 2014 – 7 p.m.
Ngapoli Beach, Myanamr

Sorry no April Fool's day stunt here that would be too predictable. Besides spelling the name of this place probably is foolish enough as I seem to spell it different each time.

I got to sleep in today ! Nothing to do until 9 a.m. It was like a morning off. Got up make a cup of Starbuck's best instant and sat on the porch watching it become lighter and day break. The hot water thing and then to breakfast. Breakfast here is among the best this trip. Not the most varied, but the most tasty to my uneducated palate. – hmm .. an absolute sliver of a moon tonight, almost not even there. – Sorry had an ADD moment. – The manager was at breakfast as well. WE bid one another good morning and passed the how are you doing, that no one really cares, conversation. I finished my breakfast and since his English is rather good I asked if he could recommend a hotel in Yangon (Rangoon). He looked up from his iPad game and said he would let me know later. I hope he does or it's demerits on TripAdvisor.com. Not for him forgetting, but for blowing me off AND forgetting because he was into a game on the tablet.

Around nine a.m. The tourist wrangler arrived. He had mask, flippers, snorkel and water for a morning on the water. I had on my cargo pants and a t-shirt. Not exactly skin diving clothes, unless you want to appear to be wearing only skin afterward. I just don['t think the boat men were getting paid enough to be subjected to me coming in last place in a wet t-shirt contest.

The boat I had rented for the morning (a three hour cruise – cue the Gilligan's Island song) had a skipper and a young man to fetch and tote. On the S.S. Minnow the mate was the goof and the captain straight. Today's boat was the other way around. A very serious young man. The captain backed the boat through the light surf until the stern was grounded with the long tail shaft in the air. I put my butt on the gunnel spun around and I was now aboard. Things were stowed, the whine of the turbine, well actually the putt-putt started and we were off. The boat nosed through the small breakers and soon we were in the morning's swell. What a great day for crabbing kept running through my mind and not a pot in sight. There is an island perhaps a mile off shore. It is about the size of Cypress Island in Puget Sound. Out past the confines of the bay the slight swell of ocean larger than Puget Sound became evident. The boat would be lifted up and then slowly rock and drop on the back side. The breakers on the shore outside the bay were more aggressive but not like you see in the open ocean. I am not so sure about the geography but we are sitting on the Bay of Bengal.

We cruised around the island and then crossed the other mouth of our bay and around a point of land into the bay I biked to yesterday morning. We puttered through the fishing fleet, such as it is, and then promised me a great photo opportunity. There is a huge Buddha on the opposite shore. It was too far away, it was back lit with the morning sun so none of it's features were clear for photography and frankly it really wasn't that great of a photo op. But not wanting to offend I clicked the shutter button a suitable number of times. Then back to the island for a pit stop for lunch or whatever. My choice was a Coke. The mate kept me company and we had the conversation that you have about family and all. He wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. Quite an ambition. At that stop there was also a photo shoot going on. I had seen them yesterday on my afternoon beach walk. Two pretty girls in long dresses. Support staff, make-up, reflector, gofer and people with clipboards. Everyone fussing around the “Talent:. One of the “talent” wasn't getting fussed over enough and showed a flare of anger. I looked at her and thought “I guess she's okay, but different strokes for different folks”

Back into the boat where we cruised a hundred yards off shore of our bay and hotel row as the mate recited the name of each hotel as we passed it. We stopped at a piece of calm water near the hotel. There was a small dance getting the bow pointed asea and I stepped into six inches of water and sand.

By now the heat of the day was very evident on land so I went and hid between A/C and my veranda fo0r the rest of the afternoon. In the late afternoon did something I never do on vacation. I left my camera in the room – on purpose. I went for a walk down the beach. Stopping at tide pools to look for critters ( did see a really cute little striped fish and some fish I had seen in aquariums in doctor's back home.), not much in the way of crustacaeons surprisingly. One man was trying to do some handheld drift netting om the tideline. And out poor, poor models were still at it only this time on mostly dry land.

A fancy froo-froo drink at the Green Umbrella as the sun set or should I say melted into the heat mist.