September 2006 Archives

Just for the record, here is the official "public announcement" about the coup sent to American citizens in Thailand this past week. If you are interested, you can sign up for periodic messages from our friends in the U.S. Embassy. The subscription information is at the bottom of this message.


    Public Announcement - Thailand

  1. This Public Announcement is being issued to alert U.S. Citizens traveling to and residing in Thailand to the recent military coup in Thailand. This Public Announcement expires December 19.

  2. On September 19 a military group calling itself the Council for Democratic Reform Under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) seized control of the Thai government and declared martial law. The CDRM banned any political gathering of more than five persons. The CDRM also banned the hoarding of goods or the increasing of the price of goods of any kind. The CDRM announced it will appoint a civilian government within two weeks as the first step to returning the country to democratic government.

  3. The military deployed troops around key government facilities and other strategic locations, but there is little visible military presence elsewhere. There have been no indications or reports of any violence at this time.

  4. Road traffic throughout the country continues to flow normally, although at reduced volumes. Public transportation is in service and all airports and most border crossings appear to be operating as normal. There have been reports of difficulty crossing the border with Burma at Mae Sot and Ranong. Americans who are scheduled to fly into or out of Thailand in the coming days are encouraged to contact their airline to ensure that the flight schedule has not been changed.

  5. Given the fluidity of the current situation, the Department of State advises all American Citizens in Thailand to continue to monitor events closely, to avoid government installations and any large public gatherings and to exercise discretion when moving about.

  6. The Department of State and the Embassy in Bangkok are continuing to follow developments closely. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

  7. American citizens traveling or residing in Thailand are encouraged to register with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General. American citizens may also register at https://travelregistration.state.gov. The Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road in Bangkok. The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy can be reached by calling 66-2-205-4049 and by e-mail at ACSBKK@STATE.GOV. The Consulate General is located at 387 Wichayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand. The telephone number is 66-53-252-629.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To subscribe or unsubscribe to this list, go to: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/embassy/acsemaillist.htm

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section is located at 95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand (Nearest BTS Skytrain station: Phloen Chit)

American Citizen Services Unit Window Hours:
Monday - Friday, 7:30 - 11 AM and 1 - 2 PM
Note: The ACS unit is CLOSED on the last Friday of every month.

Tel: +66-2-205-4049 Fax: +66-2-205-4103

E-mail: acsbkk@state.gov

Day After Coup

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The Thai word for today is ba-tdi-wat, or coup. This word is on every front page newspaper in Thailand. 2Bangkok.com has an interesting photo gallery of today's front pages and my friend Johan has scanned and posted the front pages of the two English language newspapers

There are a lot of sites that are giving good information and several blogs that are giving play by play accounts, for example: Bangkok Pundit's Part 1 and Part 2 as well one of my favorite Thai bloggers, Lynn, reporting on various rumors and facts that are swirling around today. There's even a Flickr photoset of last night's events.

humvy.JPGPiyawat and I just went out for lunch and were surprised to see that soldiers in camouflage with big guns have been posted all up and down Ekkamai and Thong Lo streets. We also saw a few big trucks with guns on top cruising the sois. Here's one of them that we were driving behind. Sorry for the terrible quality, but we never got a good angle. (And yes, the guy on top is sitting behind a VERY large gun.)

Right now, at least in this part of town, things are mostly normal. People are out having lunch, seemingly relaxed and unworried. However, the rumors continue to spread, with the latest being that the worst is not over yet. I don't think Thaksin will go down without a fight. In any case, I think I'll stay close to home for the rest of the day.

Living Through a Military Coup

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I've seen the scene played out on CNN before: tanks rolling through the streets of some large capitol city as the army steps in to take control. The only difference is that the tanks are rolling through the city that I am now living in.

It appears that there is a military coup in progress here in Bangkok as I type this. No one is really sure what is going on, but it looks like the military is taking advantage of the fact that the Prime Minister is in New York at the UN right now, and they have surrounded the Parliament building with tanks and soldiers.

I don't live near this area of town at all, so the only thing I see is the long lines at the registers of local convenience stores and the fact that all of the public TV stations are playing music to honor the King.

Just now, an announcer came on TV to say that the military and police are now in full control of Bangkok and surrounding areas. A lot more information can be found online at the normal new outlets and at my favorite Thai website, 2Bangkok.com: http://www.2bangkok.com/highemer.shtml

So we will see how this plays out over the next few days. I have to admit that I am a little bit worried, though, since the Prime Minister also has a lot of allies in the military. It seems that a worst-case scenario is if the military starts fighting itself. That would obviously be a bad situation.

However, for now, the bottom line (for those of you who know me), is that there is no fighting going on now. I am safe, my refrigerator is stocked, and I am not in danger.

Big Life Changes Ahead?

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The new visa regulations that I wrote about in my last post appear to be for real. Several articles have now shown up in the regular media, so it looks like the days of unlimited visa runs are now over. This will obviously affect me, since I have been relying on these visa runs for a while now, but the question is, what should I do about it?

I came up with a list of about 10 options for myself, but it seems like the best two are: 1) start teaching at the University again and get a work permit and work visa, or 2) become a student in Thailand and get an education visa. I am not quite ready to start teaching again, so maybe becoming a student is a reasonable option.

I mentioned this to a few friends, and one of them recommended that I get an undergraduate degree at the University I was teaching at before. And it's not a bad option. I've seen the exams for most of the courses, and I think that I already know enough to pass. Especially if I major in something like Business English. I won't even have to go to class. Or, better yet, I can get a degree in Computer and Multimedia Studies. Afterall, I was one of the ones who designed the curriculum, so hopefully I would do well in the classes!

Seriously though, this visa situation has thrown me for a loop, and has made me re-evaluate my life and what I am doing and where I am going. In 2006, I have had a pretty good system worked out: a good work-life balance with lots of travel (which I of course love). But now things will have to change. To be honest, it's not a welcome change.

This soul-searching has been weighing heavily on me this week. Why am I in Bangkok in the first place? Are potential future red-tape hassles going to be worth it to stay here? Or should I think about moving somewhere else? I still have the luxury of living pretty much anywhere in the world that I want to. I am very appreciative of that luxury of choice, but I have been happy where I am and have not seriously considered moving. Until now, that is.

So I am really not sure where to go from here. And I know I am not the only one in this position. A friend of mine and his wife are moving back to England at the end of the year because of the visa issues. And judging by the ThaiVisa.com web boards, there are a lot of people who have big life changes ahead of them as well. Who knows how it will all turn out

New Thai Immigration Laws

I'm on the verge of being banned from Thailand.

There are some serious changes afoot in Thai Immigration laws this month. It is a very confusing situation, but the way I understand it now is that Thai Immigration is trying to crack down on foreigners who live in Thailand on tourist visas. As I have talked about here before, this year I have not been working in Thailand and instead I have been going to the border every now and then to renew my tourist visa.

What I was doing was not illegal but now the rules are changing so that I won't be able to do this any more. So for those of you who also make monthly tourist runs, here's the situation:

The old rules:

* You are given a 30-day tourist stamp in your passport at the BKK airport or at the border.

* Every 30-days, you have to leave the country and re-enter. This is often done at border crossings. Just step across the border and re-enter Thailand and you're good to go. You can do this indefinitely.

The new rules:

* All of the above, except: You can only get THREE 30-day stamps. After that, you are banned from Thailand for 90 days.

That's right, I said BANNED. And since I have had more than three 30-day stamps this year, the next time I leave Thailand there is a chance that they won't let me back in.

In some ways, it makes sense because I am not really a tourist so I shouldn't be living on a Tourist Visa. So, what I have to do is just figure out what kind of visa I should have before I leave the country, and then apply for that visa at the Thai Embassy wherever I go. I think I should be able to work it out, but I'm afraid that there are a lot of farang who are going to have a difficult time staying in Thailand.

The discussion boards at ThaiVisa.com are raging now. For more details about the new rules, and some insight into the people that they are affecting, check out the Thai Visa discussion board:

Thai Visa Forum Thread 1

and

Thai Visa Forum Thread 2

and here's the link to the article from the Phuket Gazette from yesterday:

On-arrival visas: 90 days and you're out!

Personally, I think I will be OK, but I am afraid that these changes are going to have a big effect on the expat community here, and quite possibly on the Thai economy as well, since it it seems to be so dependent on foreign dollars that are spent in Thailand.

So now I am home in Bangkok, in my palatial 2-bedroom air-conditioned apartment with drinkable water in the pipes, three Starbucks just down the road and pizza that can be delivered if I make a call with my cell phone...

Yes, I am experiencing a bit of culture shock coming back to modern Bangkok from the streets of Yangon.

I think I wrote more on these pages over the last four days than I ever have done on any trip before. Looking back it is easy to see that I was very touched and affected by what I experienced on this trip. There were many things that I observed that didn't quite make it into my journal entries so far. For example:

  • There are a lot of female monks (nuns) in Burma in addition to the usual red-robed male monks. They shave their head and wear two-tone pink (yes pink) robes. Seeing the young girls in pink with shaved heads and shy smiles walking along the street on their morning alms rounds was one of the highlights of the trip.

  • On the walk to the top of Golden Rock, there were tiger teeth, tiger claws, and tiger skulls for sale. They say that there are still quite a few tigers roaming the jungles of Burma.

  • Unfortunately, Myanmar is a very trashy place. There are no trash cans anywhere, and so people just throw their trash on the ground. On my trip from Golden Rock to Yangon, I was sitting in the back seat and was horrified to watch people throw trash out the windows the entire trip. I tried to convince my monk friend that this was a bad thing. He didn't agree, but I noticed that by the end of our time together, he wouldn't throw his trash on the ground. At least not in front of me.

  • The electricity supply in Yangon is not very stable, to say the least. We were in a taxi at one point waiting at a stop light when all of the lights around us went out. The traffic light went dark as well, at which point ALL FOUR directions of traffic thought that they now had the right-of-way.

  • In Hanoi, all you see on the streets are motorcycles. Here in Bangkok, taxis and busses are added to the heavy traffic mix. But in Yangon, there is hardly any traffic at all, and almost zero motorcycles. Instead, everyone is walking. It's odd to me to see sidewalks and the edges of the streets full of walking people, even in the blistering heat of the day. It just doesn't happen here in Bangkok.

  • Speaking of traffic, I don't think I ever saw a car that was made after 1990. The taxis have no air conditioning, no radio, no electric windows, the speedometers and odometers never work, and often times you can see the road below you through holes in the rusted floorboards.

My friends here in Bangkok all want to know how the trip was. I sum it up by saying that it was better than I expected, and worse than I expected. I don't think I was ever in physical danger or in danger of being harassed because of the passport I carry. But the infrastructure is so lacking that it makes travel very difficult and tiring.

So do I recommend that people visit Myanmar? I think that everyone has to make their own decision on this tricky issue. It is an easy trip in some ways, but very difficult in others. The country and it's people are very poor, yet are very rich in culture and heritage. So travelers are advised to do a little research beforehand to find out what they are getting themselves into.

As for me, though, all I know is that I can hardly wait to go back for more!

Guess what? I missed my flight home to Bangkok this morning.

It was completely my fault. A stupid mistake, or a subconscious self-sabotage? I don't know. All I know is that I really, really did want to get on that plane to Bangkok. And I was quite angry with myself when I was at the tiny Yangon airport and could actually see the people boarding the plane at the gate, but I was too late to join them.

But as you might imagine, it turned out that I am very glad to have had another day in Myanmar.

I spent most of my extra day on a walking tour of Yangon. I visited several of the fanciest hotels in town: the Strand Hotel on the river, which was built by people connected to the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore in 1898, the way-past-its-prime Dusit Hotel at Inle Lake, and the very fancy but government-owned Kandawgyi Palace Hotel located at the very beautiful Kandawgyi Lake and Park. I also visited Shwedagon Pagoda, the towering golden chedi that has become one of the national symbols of Myanmar.

But before I go on with what happened today, allow me to relate an experience I had last night. I was walking around town to see what life at night in Yangon was like. I had just said good bye to my young monk friend and I was feeling a bit melancholy. Partly because I was alone again after having constant companionship for 3 days, but also because I wished that there was something I could do to help improve this young man's life. But of course there really isn't much I can do.

In any case, I decided to stop at an Internet Cafe to see if it is as heavily censored by the government and as slow and unusable as I have heard. Both turned out to be true. Both Yahoo Mail and Gmail were blocked. The guy sitting next to me started to show me possible work-arounds when the connection for the whole shop went down.

At this point, I had been in the shop 10 minutes and I had yet to see a web page, so I decided to leave. The guy next to me left too, and outside on the sidewalk he struck up a conversation with me. It turns out that he is a law student at a local university. And even though all of the guide books have said that Burmese people don't want to talk about politics, I have found the opposite to be true. By the second question he was offering his position on the current state of affairs.

And just as my monk friend the day before, his biggest dream was to see another country - with the first choice being the USA. But he knew that was a pipe dream and that really anywhere outside of Burma would do.


So last night I had a small taste of "life at night", but tonight, on the night that I was supposed to be home in Bangkok, I decided to experience a little bit of "nightlife". So, I headed over to one street at the Theingyizi Market that seems to be the heart of nighttime entertainment in Yangon. It was still a little early, and I was quite tired from walking around in the blazing sun all day, so before I reached the market I stepped into one of the many teashops for a rest. I sat down at a table next to a much-appreciated fan and next to a young Burmese couple.

After a short time, the boy started talking to me. I don't think he knew more than 100 English words, but that didn't keep him from trying. Eventually he was able to convey that during the day he worked at an AIDS clinic in Yangon and at night he and the girl worked at a night club at the market. He said that many of the people at the AIDS clinic are either intravenous drug users and/or sex workers.

The two of them invited me to join them at the club, and of course how could I resist? And I have to say I have never seen anything like it. The club was made up of one huge, long, but dark room. A big dance floor was at one end of the room, tables and booths ran along both side walls, and a big bar was in the center.

The 2500 kyat (US$2.50) admission came with two Myanmar beers (which actually ended up being mostly drunk by the couple's friends, which I encouraged). Around 9:00 PM the show started. It had several acts: a four-boy dance group, a transgender fashion show, a female fashion show, and a transgender lip-synching performance, and then more of the same.

My friend was constantly introducing me to Burmese people of all persuasions, and would now and then point out the sex workers that were in the bar. But even with this crowd, the atmosphere and show were not at all sleazy or sexual. It was almost classy, or at least as classy as it can be when everyone around is living on a few dollars a day.

The show wrapped up around 10:30 PM and we were all out on the street shortly after. I walked back towards my hotel with a diverse group of people and listened to their Burmese banter. I have no idea what they were talking about, but I'd guess that unlike my conversations with the monk and the student, this one had nothing to do with politics.

At the Sule Pagoda, we parted ways. They went on to catch busses home, and I headed back to my hotel alone. It was at this same pagoda that I met my monk friend four days ago. He gave me my first insight into life in Burma, so it was fitting that I said good-bye to my last group of friends (who had a completely different perspective on life) here as well.

But I have to admit that I had a feeling of hopeless as I walked back to my hotel. I want so much for these people to have a better life. Or at least to have a chance at a better life. They deserve more. But what can I do? Sure I can buy dinners and beers. I can tell them stories about the US. I can encourage them to study hard and become fluent in English. I can try to give them hope and encouragement.

But what does that do? How can that help? It's like drops of fresh water in a salty ocean.

Golden Rock, At Last

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Highlights from yesterday's Premier League Football is on TV with Westlife blaring from the stereo. Am I in an English pub in London? Of course not; I'm in a Burmese tea shop at 7:30 in the morning.

My friend and I are waiting for the truck to take us up the mountain to Golden Rock. The truck only goes when there are at least 25 people in the back, and each person pays US$1. Right now there are only three who are waiting, so we sit here eating noodles and drinking tea to pass the time.

If nothing else, this trip is an exercise in patience. My American "I want it now" personality has to be kept in check here. Otherwise it will cost me dearly. We can rent the entire truck for US$40. But I think that's a bit steep for a ride up the mountain.

My friend says that the trip is much easier in the summer (and by "summer" he means the dry season that starts in January) because many Burmese people make the pilgrimage to the rock and the truck therefore makes frequent trips. But today, there are no crowds of travelers, so there is no telling how long we will sit here.

Around 8:30, three Japanese tourists show up at the truck. By this time, about eight Burmese people have arrived as well, so after a bit of negotiation (we are always negotiating) we reached a happy medium: Eight Burmese people pay US$1 each and the four foreigners and one monk pay US$5 each.

The truck doesn't go all the way to the Golden Rock. The last, quite steep two kilometers or so has to be done on foot. On the way up, the weather swung wildly; one minute it is cloudy and cool, the next it is pouring rain, the next has blazing hot sun. But the five of us persevere and eventually we make it all the way to the top.

The travel brochures call the Golden Rock one of the wonders of the world. To be honest, though, that's a bit of an exaggeration. It's simply a big rock that looks like it is balancing on the edge of a cliff at the top of a mountain. It has been painted a bright gold color and has a small golden pagoda on the top. But the views from the top of the mountain and the pilgrimage itself make it a worthwhile trip.

But now, at the top of the mountain, we were only half-way through our journey; we still have to make it back to Yangon to catch my plane back to Bangkok early tomorrow morning. It has taken us 28 hours to reach this point, but my plane leaves in 20. Needless to say I am a little worried that I will miss my flight.

So we walk back down the steep trail to the truck, but of course we are the only ones who want to take it. We didn't want to split the US$40, so we decided to walk all the way down ourselves. As we started walking away (in the rain, I might add) the price suddenly dropped to US$25 for the five of us, which we happily paid.

After the truck ride down, the next leg required another truck ride to the main road. My monk friend told us that there were no busses to Yangon after 1 PM. Unfortunately now it was 2 PM, so I was naturally a bit pessimistic. But then, not five minutes after we arrived at the main road, a bus to Yangon appeared. Six bumpy hours later, we were back in the city, tired, sore, dirty, and hungry, but very, very happy to be back.

So it has been an amazing three days in Myanmar. My flight back to Bangkok leaves at 8:30 AM tomorrow. I have to say that I am a bit sad to leave. There is so much left here for me to explore. I guess it will all just have to wait for "next time".

A Pilgrimage to Golden Rock

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Before my monk friend left me at my hotel last night to return to his countryside monastery, he promised he would be back to meet me at 7 AM this morning. But since he doesn't own a watch, and lives so far away, I was sure that it would be 8 or 9 before I saw him, if at all.

He was knocking on my door at 7:04.

Before we left the room, we talked a bit about what we would do. The original plan was to make an overnight trip, visiting Bago (Pegu) and Golden Rock. Bego is about 80 KM from Yangon, and Golden Rock is another 120 KM. But of course things didn't go as planned.

If I have learned one thing so far in Myanmar is that independent travel is possible, but only if you are willing to be completely flexible and can handle less-than ideal transportation options. And it helps to be able to negotiate. Luckily my monk friend has handled the latter. It seems like every time there is a transaction, there is a 10 minute conversation about the when, the where and the how much.

It took us a couple of hours to make it to Bego by songthaew truck, and that was after false starts at two other bus stations. But our planned stop in Bego ended up being just a lunch break and truck change. A couple of hours later we changed trucks again at another small village along the way. Finally, we took motorcycle taxis to the village at the foot of the mountain where Golden Rock is found.

All in all, the 200 KM (124 miles) trip took us about 8 hours. The roads were terrible and the songtaews made frequent stops along the way. Needless to say I was quite tired and sore by the time the trip was over. Luckily though, traveling with a monk has it's advantages: we were allowed to sit in the (relatively) more comfortable front seat with the driver. But of course there was no air con, so when it started raining hard (which it did quite frequently) the windows had to come up and we sweltered in the heat. And when the windows were down, there was always a chance that a passing truck would hit a water-filled pothole and send dirty water through the window and into our face. This actually happened twice.



The first year of living in Bangkok I spent most of my time in a state of pure euphoria. I suppose that being in a completely foreign environment and having all five senses stimulated and magnified all the time made me feel like I was living in a dream. But as the years have gone by, the exotic has become the commonplace, and most of the time I don't feel like I am walking on clouds any more.

But that feeling came back when I arrived in Burma. The sights, sounds, smells were somewhat familar, but at the same time very strange. Yesterday I walked around Yangon led by my monk friend and I was just so happy to observe all that was going on around me.

However, the eight hour trip to Golden Rock knocked most of that feeling out of me. It was truely a trying day, both mentally and physically. I was beginning to wonder if I the trip was worth it or not. But, before collapsing in bed, I walked around the small village a bit. It was now dark and there were not many tourists around, so the villagers were just living their life. Kids were huddled around candles doing their homework. A few satellite TVs drew big crowds to watch football, or kung fu movies, or dramas, and to sip tea and laugh and talk and to spend time together.

And so the euphoria came back to my tired body for a few moments, and I went to sleep happy.

A Monk's Eye View of Yangon

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Let me start by saying that my first day in Myanmar did not turn out at all as I expected. But don't get me wrong, it has been absolutely wonderful.

The Air Asia flight to Yangon was smooth, but left Bangkok late (as is often the case with Air Asia). The Yangon Airport, 20 KM outside of town, looks like its going through a major renovation. But all construction stopped when we arrived (assuming they were working before!) so that the workers could line up and stare at the latest load of tourists. Immigration was smooth as well, as was getting a taxi outside the airport. There were no pushy touts and no need to haggle. Five dollars (actually paid in US Dollars) was all that was needed to ride into town. I checked into my hotel and of course headed out to see the sights ASAP.

On the hour and fifteen minute plane ride from Bangkok, I had studied my Lonely Planet and mapped out a plan for the day. Ten minutes after leaving the hotel, however, I changed my mind and went in a different direction. As it turned out, it was a great decision. I walked a couple of kilometers into the town cneter, exchanged some currency with a decidedly un-official money changer at the Bogyoke Aung San Market. (1250 kyat = US$1)

The clouds had been threatening all morning, and by the time I arrived at the Sule Paya (a big chedi in the middle of a giant traffic circle downtown), the heavens opened and the rain fell.

As soon as I stepped into the temple, a college-aged, burgundy-robed monk who was sitting along the side of the temple smiled and waved at me. The rain was coming down hard now, so I figured I might as well go try to chat with a local for a while.

It turned out that his English was pretty good, but I could tell that he didn't often hear native English speakers. It seemed as if he had probably learned vocabulary mostly by himself by reading. For example, at one point, I spent about five minutes trying to convince him that "phone" is not pronounced "pone"

The rain finally stopped and the two of us walked around the stupa as he explained what we were looking at. I quickly realized that this boy was a true student of Buddhism. He knew a lot about the different Buddhas, about Buddhist theory, and about the mythology that surrounds the centuries-old sites in Yangon. He was such a good tour guide (even if I only understood about 80% of what he said), that I didn't resist when he invited himself to show me around the city.

We crossed the street and walked through Mahabandoola Park, which has a big obelisk-shaped Independence Monument in the center. Even though I had been told that Burmese people would not be willing to talk politics in pubic, at the monument the monk made a comment about his opinion of the current political situation. I was very surprised, not by what he had to say, but instead that he was so bold about it.

The next stop was Botataung Paya (Pagoda) to visit the hair of the Budda that is on display. This temple, on the bank of the Yangon River, was beautiful. But the most unique aspect is that the huge golden chedi is hollow, and visitors can walk through it. The main chedi was destroyed by an Allied bomb in 1943, and many antique sculptures and other religious objects were found inside. When it was rebuilt, the builders made a passageway through the chedi and housed the artifacts in glass cases along the walls, as if in a museum.

My excellent monk guide kept up a running narration throught the walk, pointing out models of Indian temples or naming some of the Buddha's disciples who were represented in gold images. He also told me more about his own life, and that he lived in a monastery outside of town. "Would I like to visit?" he asked. But of course!

So soon we were in a taxi, riding through the countryside dodging people, dogs, cows, bicycles, busses, other taxis, and thousands of potholes. Once we arrived at the monastery, we didn't stay long, and soon we were in another taxi heading towards a temple that is located on an island in the middle of the Yangon River.

When we arrived at the river, an interesting scene took place. There were boats to take worshippers out to the island, but my monk friend couldn't convince them to take us. First the boat captains said that the temple was closed. But then they took two Burmese people over. Then they said that, acording to my friend's translation, "This boat no good for foreigner."

I tried to convince him that I wasn't expecting luxury, and that any boat would suit me fine, but eventually I realized that what he meant was that these boats were not "government certified" to carry tourists. After several minutes of negotiation and waiting another 20 minutes, another boat appeared and we headed over.

By the time we were back from the island temple, it was getting dark. But before we headed back to Yangon, we stopped for some "Shan Noodle Soup" at a tiny roadside stand that my friend recommended. (The Shan State of Myanmar is in the northeast of the country.) And in fact the soup was delicious. The "noodle" and "soup" parts were what I am familiar with, but on the top was a big scoop of ground chicken in a mildly spicy tomato sauce.

Eventually we made it back to my hotel in Yangon. Originally, I had planned to spend tomorrow on a boat ride down the river to Twante. But my little monk friend has convinced me instead to let him take me on a road trip to the ancient city of Bago (Pegu). So he has promised to be back at my hotel room at 7 AM tomorrow, at which point no telling what adventures await me and my new red-robed travel buddy.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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