November 11 2017
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.