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Trip Report Nywoman in Thailand and Myanmar

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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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