Nywoman in Thailand and Myanmar

Old Nov 5th, 2009, 07:02 PM
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Nywoman in Thailand and Myanmar

Am writing this in Yangon from memory, have none of my notes with me nor internet connection to bring up information. Sorry if it is a bit sketchy.


Was dutifully picked up 6 am and got on a flight to Bangkok. It was like coming home, because everything was familiar. Agneta was there to greet me, caught up on internet and e-mail, then I went for a treat. Manicure, a badly needed pedicure and finally eyelashes. There is a salon across the street from her house that does all of the above. Had decided last year to get the lashes, after seeing all the Korean
flight attendants lashes, but didn't. This year the Singapore hostesses also had impossible lashes, so I knew it would be a reasonable desire.

Fir those of you not in the know, there is a technique where false lashes are applied one by one on top of your own, the look is very realistic. The cost in NYC $200 in Bangkok $29 and they last for a month. Not quite movie star but a definitive improvement.

Next morning I took a commuter boat on the Klonk to a market which was enormous, actually am not even sure that I was in the market I meant to be going to. There was very little that appealed to me and when XL barely made it over my head, the rats were running around and motorcycles drove amongst the very narrow lanes I decided it was time to leave. Grabbed a taxi and showed him where I was going on a map. I wanted to try Chote Chitr and it was clearly marked on a hand drawn map, together with a lot of other good eating places. The driver was a true Thai, he smiled and said I know, I know, that should have alerted me that he didn't. We circled a few times and finally I got out and found my location. The owner was there and pleasant enough, she served me a banana flower salad and river prawns, that with rice and a bottle of water was 490 baht or $14. The food was good especially the mixture served with the prawns was delicious. The owner was very funny, I thought, as she told me that Thais eat the head of the prawn but Americans not, so I was served beheaded prawns

The next day I met Carol and Brad we ended up having lunch together and spending the afternoon just hanging outm got to meet Maeng which was also a treat, until it was time for me to go home and change for the dinner at the Swedish Ambassadors apartment, preceded by drinks around the pool at Rembrand Hotel, where all the meetings were held. The Ambassadors wife met us in jeans, am not sure if that was a statement on her part, the reaction from the guests was less than positive. The Thai buffet dinner was delicious and everyone left happy.

Thursday Madeleine, who lives in Luxembourg, had arrived as the other house guest and she and I went to MBK a shopaholics paradise and my nightmare. MBK is indescribable, it is a huge vertical mall, with anything your heart desires at great prices. I found a pair of dressy shoes, Madeleine her bag, DVD's and underwear for her son. We had a really fun lunch there in a Japanese Shabu, conveyor belt, restaurant, we had an electrically heated soup bowl in front of us and then everything we wanted to cook in it came off the belt. The concept was pure genius, all you could eat in 1 hr 15 minutes for a set price if you stayed longer there was an additional fee.

After lunch it was time for serious shopping, we were going for jewelry, well I wasn't. I had the name and phone numbers of a place that had been recommended by Kathy, the taxi driver had no idea, so in the end we walked in to a hotel and asked for help. The jeweler came to pick us up in one of their minivans, and took us to this emporium. I had always imagined this place to be small and intimate, no such thing.
They had beautiful jewelry, and I bought some things, also gave them some repairs, the cost of which was much less than in New York. I am happy with what I bought and so was my friend, whether we got great bargains or not, who knows.

Since this was a regional meeting for Swedish women from all over Asia but with attendees from other parts of the world, sight seeing tours had been set up. I had signed up for the Grand Palace which was combined with a tour of the flower market,, a Klong tour, and lunch. The Grand Palace was spectacular, it was fun to see the Emerald Buddah after having visited the original temple in Vientiane. The temples were exquisite, and everything very well maintained, the rest of the tour I could have done without.

Getting back to Sikhanvout took forever and a bit, finally I asked to let off by the nearest Sky Train station since I had to get back home to change for the Gala Dinner. I made it to the dinner, with a few minutes to spare but only after having hailed a motorcycle taxi. If you have never ridden on the back of a motorcycle taxi in Bangkok you have not lived, or maybe it is almost died. These young men ride between the cars, take every opening, however slim, sometimes ride on the sidewalks and get you to your destination very fast.They are more expensive than the regular taxis, but very efficient. The drawback is that you are exposed to all the exhaust fumes, am not sure if my subsequent bad health was due to that or something else.

The next day we left early for Chiang Mai where we stayed at a beautful new hotel called RatiLanna.

The guides that we had with us for the three days were very efficient and entertaining, a great contrast to our Bangkok guide. The entire package had been arranged by Nordic Tours on behalf of Swea, am not sure how much thought had gone into it. There were 32 of us, which meant a large bus for transportation, which we all piled into after checking in. We were taken to a lovely spot for lunch the name I unfortunately don't know the name. It was located on a small pond, and the food was very good
When we returned into town we all were taken by rickshaws to see a temple with a wax statue of a monk who had died at the age of 96, and is to be cremated next month. There was a very lively debate going on between us whether he had blinked or not. It certainly was a very lifelike figure, sitting there.

After the Wat visit, it was time for a Thai massage. It was a very painful experience and though I indicated that she should leave my poor knees alone, they were contorted into various positions. Since it was my first experience with a Thai massage I don't know if torture is part of it. All I know is that I have been in pain ever since.

Back to the hotel and a cocktail party on the lawn. There was a wedding going on at the same time so we had some really good dance music to get up and gyrate to. The unfortunate part for me, was that my throat at this point was very painful as were my legs and it was impossible to sleep because of the music. Eventually it stopped and after a few hours sleep it was time to get up and do merit with the monks. A very different experience than in Luang Prabang, here we had packages of cooked food to distribute, plus a beautful Lotus flower to each monk. They did not come in an orderly procession rather 6 or 8 at the time. When we had given them the food we were blessed by beautiful chanting, this continued a few more times until there were no more packages. Am not sure that I feel this to be a very meaningful experience, though the food I am sure is put to good use. We had coffee and croissant, my case rice porridge, for breakfast before we continued up the mountain to yet another temple.

The road was long and winding, there was a bike race going on at the same time. Why, anyone would put themselves through such agony, is beyond me but then again if perhaps I pursued some form of physical exercise those knees might be better?

We returned to the hotel and had a lovely large breakfast, then it was shopping time, we were taken to a silk factory and then a silver factory and lastly leather factory. After a few minutes at the silk place I asked if there was any way to get back to the hotel, since this was not how I wanted to spend my time. A car was procured and 4 of us returned to spend a few hours by the pool, for a much needed breather.

That evening we were taken to a very lovely part for dinner. It belonged to the University of Chiang Mai and there was a collection of traditional buildings, the tables had been set up on the lawn where we were treated to a dance show and procession.

Our last day was quite spectacular. First we went for an Elephant ride through the jungle, which was exhilarating, followed by a slow ride on a bamboo raft down the river. The evening started out by watching the Ley Krathong parade, with spectacular floats and lovely young people marching in various costumes. This was supposedly the commercial interest, the private sector would be represented the following evening. We then went to a restaurant in some god forsaken place, though very lovely where we floated our own lit Kretongs and also sent lit lanterns up to the heavens for our wishes to be fulfilled. It was very moving and beautiful to see all the lit lanterns like orange dots against the dark sky.

Do not ask me what Chiang Mai is like, I have no idea, our visit there could have been anywhere as far as I could tell. I did get to visit a few pharmacies, situated in malls, am sure that is not unique to C.M.
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 07:24 PM
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NYwoman... good to see your report! I'm glad you enjoyed our afternoon together, as Brad and I did, and I do hope you will visit dear friend Maeng again. She really would like to take you to that "real" Thai place you two discussed. Name escapes me. She looks forward to seeing you again.

We enjoyed Loy Kratong in Bangkok, from hanuman's balcony on the river! It was fantastic. Did you have fireworks? I did not see them on your list of events for that evening. I have heard that Chiang Mai is beautiful for Loy Kratong... must be all the kratongs and lanterns. There were many many kratongs on the river in BKK, but the wind blew the candles out as soon as the kratongs hit the water! We saw a few lanterns, but maybe not as many as I had hoped to see. It was still fantastic though. Glad we got to experience it!

I hope you enjoy Myanmar. Safe travels, memorable experiences, and lots of laughs and smiles! Please give everyone my best at the GTG in BKK since I'll be missing it (but I'll be in Switzerland, so all is not lost).

Carol
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 07:28 PM
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Fanny-your the advance scout for the panda tribe that is descending on Thailand on 11/15/09.You will have absconded to Myanmar by then, but we will keep a place fpr you on your return to BKK.
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 08:05 PM
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great report....keep away from those sweedes....they are all true blonds, or so they claim...

i'm trying to picture you on the back of a cycle/taxi with a ball gown on, skirting through the streets of bangkok...
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 06:49 AM
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You're in Rangoon! You have internet access! Good to hear from you.

Fanny, did you use my name when you purchased from SJ?

Thai massage is not for everyone... not for me either.
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 07:05 AM
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How I enjoyed your Thai report -- well, aside from the painful massage -- and I can hardly wait to read thoughts on your time in Burma. Be well.
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 07:24 PM
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Kathy,
Of course I used your name, you are quite well known. We had a very funny incident there. Lily had her day off but the woman who owns the place waited on us as did loads of others. When we were done she showed us a picture of the queen of Sweden shopping there. My friend asked "do you want our picture too?" a most horrified look came across her face, then she smiled and declined.
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 08:18 PM
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Lol, good for you, Fanny.
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 08:59 PM
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Yangon Tuesday the 3rd

The flight from Chiang Mai via Bangkok was incredibly smooth. The luggage is checked through and I am labeled, in such a way that I can sit in Bangkok Airlines transit lounge, with complimentary snacks, internet etc. My cough is bad and I am in a panic about not being able to enter Myanmar. Fortunately all the medication is holding up and I sail quietly through immigration and the health screening.

Sleep most of the time in the back of the taxi until we arrive at Beautyland II $15 per night. It is more than adequate. The bed is comfortable, I have a window. The shower is hot and the refrigerator works, haven't tried the TV nor the phone yet. I am so tired, this chest cold is taking its toll, but I venture out first to change money at Scott’s market which is 5 minutes from the hotel, and then to walk down to the Sule Pagoda and the tourist office for maps.

Yangon how to describe this extremely vibrant city? Where every sidewalk is a market place the buildings more rundown, than anywhere else I have seen, the sidewalks in total disrepair and I am in heaven. It is so alive, with activity everywhere and some order to it if hard to discern. It reminds me of Mumbai which makes sense as it was another part of the British Empire.

Take my life in my hands a few times crossing streets, but it is not as bad as Hanoi, while continuing down to Monsoon a restaurant that had been recommended. It is situated in an old colonial building with a very eclectic menu. I start with a tea leaf salad that I didn’t like, it was much too oily, later I learn it should be eaten with rice. Am not sure what possessed me to order Spaghetti Carbonara, perhaps the memory of it at the Butterfly Farm in Siem Reap. This version was not particularly memorable but with a carafe of wine I managed to finish my meal. Taxi back to the hotel and a very bad night, the cough never let up and I am exhausted the next morning. After breakfast I go visit Santa Maria travel agency, they are on the next block. Get my schedule set, not exactly as I had envisioned but have no energy to not be generic.

Nov 8 Air Bagan W9 011 Yangon- Heho 7.30 am arr 9.20 am Paradise Hotel in Nyaungshewe
Nov 09 Nyaungshewe
Nov 10 Nyaungshewe
Nov 11 Air Bagan #W9 141 9.00 for Ngpali beach Lin Thar Oo Hotel
Nov 12 Ngpali
Nov 13 Ngpali
Nov 14 Ngpali
Nov 15 Air Bagan #W9 141 10.15 to Yangon arr 11.05 Yangon Airways YH731 to Mandalay 15.00
Nov 16 Mandalay Hotel Honghta
Nov 17 Mandalay Hotel Honghta
Nov 18 Mandalay Hotel Honghta
Nov 19 Boat to Bagan
Nov 20 Bagan Kaday Aung Hotel
Nov 21 Balloon over Bagan
Nov 22 Bagan Kaday Aung Hotel
Nov 23 back to Yangon
Nov 24 Yangon – Bangkok

Today Saturday is the first day that I am feeling half way decent, not so tired, am looking at the schedule and wondering where was I when it was made. Am sure it will fine, if not, the worst that could happen I change things around and pay the extras.

So far I have been for sunset at the Shwendangon Pagoda, it is as magical as everyone says. It wasn't until last night that I realized that it is actually illuminated. Been to the night market in Chinatown, loaded up on more medications in a very modern supermarket. Had dinner at a sidewalk restaurant, sour hot chicken quite good, took the circular train around Yangon. The train is a trip in more ways than one. I paid my $1 and was given a very official receipt and am then escorted to the train where I am seated behind a rope together with a gentleman who is the money collector. In the middle of the car is an ancient looking metal box, next to him piles of leather pouches, at each stop he receives a pouch and gives out an empty one. The full one goes into the metal box, this goes on for 3 hours at each and every stop, when he is finished with the transaction he waves the green flag for the train to continue. Somewhere in the middle of the journey, bales of green leaves are thrown in through the windows and doors. Don’t know how many but the entire car as well as the next one were filled with these bales.
Women throw on bags of rice, this is as much a freight train as a commuter train. Markets are going on on the tracks, kites are flown, little boys play ball as we go past rice fields and farmland. This was a trip I am so happy I made even if it was uncomfortable. Since I only have energy for one item a day this was enough, get back to the GH and sleep for 10 hours

One morning I met Sylvie, friend of the Swiss people I met in Lao, spent a lovely time with her and had lunch with her husband and daughter. They have been here for 7 years and are presently under contract with WHO. It was interesting to hear how life as an ex-pat is here.

Take myself to the National Museum which was actually quite interesting, had no idea that there were several languages and alphabets here, nor that the king had a chief wife as well as lesser ones. After the museum I decide to hire a taxi to go Kyauktan where there is a pagoda in the water. As usual Lonely Planet is wrong, the taxi doesn’t want to be hired for the afternoon, the fair is also double quoted. We compromise and he drives me to the bus station. Again I am given privileged seating on the minibus next to the bus driver. This is a dubious distinction, apart from the comfortable seat and not being cramped, my heart is in my mouth., he drives like a car thief, with the hand on the horn, no seat belts, no speedometer, constantly spitting out his betelnut juice. The drive is very lovely we pass many, many Payas. 1 ¼ hour later we have arrived, because of a misunderstanding I think I only have 45 minutes for lunch, and don’t get to go the pagoda. It was lovely sitting on the deck of an outdoor restaurant amongst the fishermen looking at the boats on the lake and the very lovely pagoda. There were market stalls and a lot of mangy dogs around, certainly a slice of Burmese life. The driver’s wife shows up an elegant woman, and seems very lovely. Back to the city at the same breakneck speed.

Tomorrow am off to Heho and Inle lake
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 03:04 AM
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Go Fanny, go. It sounds fantastic.
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 03:36 AM
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Excellent!!!!!! Your fans await further word! I hope you feel better soon..
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:06 AM
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Sounds wonderful! Travel is an adventure! Will keep watching your report.
Carol
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:20 AM
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I am reading your report with great interest as I am in the throws of planning my own - have you an approx. idea of what this trip will cost in $$ just for the days in Myanmar - not the external flights?? I hope you get over your cough and that it does not spoil your travels.
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:41 AM
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great reporting....

you are far braver than i
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 07:18 AM
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Chicken Little is far braver than his Bobness.

Fanny is of a much higher order of bravitude than we can conceive. There must be some Swedish medal for this. The sad news is that her Myanmar journey will be quickly followed by dinner with me and Bob. What a let down!
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 09:33 AM
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Outstanding report and continuing saga. Let's hear it for Fanny the fearless traveler. Your sojourn really inspires many of us. And, please bring back a few recipes for that banana flower salad, if we can get banana flowers in NYC.
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 09:40 AM
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I'm following your experiences closely as we will soon be in Rangoon! I had read about the train around Rangoon, not sure we'll have time for it but it truly does sound like a trip!
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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The train trip around Rangoon sounds like a real adventure. Wish we had known about it when we wee there...oh. well, an excuse to go back. k
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 04:32 PM
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While I feel bad for you on account of your chest cold and am impressed that you took the LP recommended train trip, it does not appear that you have interacted with the locals much at all. You do mention visiting an expat but many of your observations such as the mysterious green leaves (tea perhaps?) being thrown on your train, although interesting remain unexplained. You appear to be observing Burma from a distance...

I hope you are feeling better once you reach Inle Lake and will have more opportunity to interact and to report on what the local perspective is.

We had a meal at Monsoon also - it was our best one in Yangon but we ordered local food and had a great conversation with our server...
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Old Nov 8th, 2009, 04:31 AM
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Craig,

The mysterious green leaves were not tea, nor tobacco, there was nobody who could explain to me what they were. The moneyman told me the name but have not had a chance to investigate.

The chance of you getting me to report on what the local perspective is probably next to nil, since that is not how I write my trip reports. Then we all travel and experience things very differently which is a conclusion that I have reached in the last few days.

There is really no right or wrong way to travel some of us like top drawer, others backpack and worry about spending $3 instead of $2 for a room. My experiences are truly my own as are everybody else's.

I write as I see things and observe them, maybe from a distance from somebody else's perspective, to me I am very much in the moment. Language is a barrier and communication not always possible except smiles and nods and signs of recognition of things in common.

Anyway my final report on Yangon follows
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