Bumming Around Before Burma

Trip Start Dec 31, 2004
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Trip End Apr 22, 2005


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Wednesday, February 9, 2005

I had reasons for not buying all of my airline tickets at once prior to leaving New York. I wanted a degree of flexibility and I also knew that often times it's cheaper to buy tickets in the country of departure. The main reason was that I was concerned about political unrest in certain places on my proposed itinerary. One that I was most looking forward to I had scheduled 10 days just for one city. That city was the capital of Nepal: Kathmandu. A little over a week ago the king dismantled the entire government, cut all phone lines including Internet connections, halted the freedom of the press, scraped the constitution and stopped all flights in and out of the Himalayan kingdom. One Thai Airways flight was diverted back to Bangkok when it was denied landing permission. It was clear that my plans to spend time in possibly one of the most exotic and otherworldly cities on the planet had evaporated. I still desperately want to go but at present it's an impossibility. People who are there can't even leave.

It's important to remain flexible. I had intended to travel to Bangladesh en route to Kathmandu with a free stopover on Biman Airlines from Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar). I still hope to travel to Bangladesh but will have to let flight prices decide that for me. As disappointed as I am those extra 10 days can be spent elsewhere and now other possibilities are presenting themselves.

Even today when I spoke to Chris about meeting up for dinner he suggested that we do something tomorrow since he was tied up with a new business. In this case my plans are not flexible since there's only one flight a week from Chiang Mai to Mandalay and I'm booked on it. Instead I went to the post office and shipped home a package of some souvenirs by seamail, which by the way prior to this visit I didn't know the term existed. One learns the term quickly when airmail is cost prohibitive. My package will take roughly two months to arrive and will probably be in my apartment before I will. That hit me when I was sitting there boxing up my things with the mail man and I liked it.

I went strolling about and had to pick up a few things from the pharmacy before heading into Burma tomorrow and booked a hotel for my first night. With most of my tasks done for the day I was ready for some good ol' round eye, old-fashioned white folk food. I was sitting at an outdoor table tearing up a large plate of Weinerschnitzel with applesauce and a refreshing Diet Coke and had just written my first postcard. I looked up and it was Daniel from the elephant trekking trip and cooking class and he ended up joining me for lunch. He's heading up to Pai the mythical place up north that everyone and their grandmother is saying is the next it place in Thailand. I wanted to go as well but I used up my Pai time in Luang Prabang, which I certainly do not regret. It gives me another reason to come back to Thailand. He's actually driving a motorcycle up there. Now that's something I am not going to do when I return some day.

I've met some wonderful people here in Thailand. Today at the place where I bought some great stickers for my luggage the owner gave me two oranges "for good luck". Our interactions were rudimentary at best but they were heartfelt. She was adorable. The waiter who I see at the hotel every morning is sweet as he can be and goes out of his way to come over and talk to me about what I'm up to. The other night I had dinner with an American woman from Baltimore who's here doing research for her Ph.D on the Burmese refugee camps further up near the Burmese/Thai border. We kept running into each other at the same Internet cafe and at the Lai Thai Guest House and decided on her last night to have dinner together. We had a terrific time and I took her to the place where I went with my fellow elephant trekkers a few nights before. She was fascinating and can damn sure weave a yarn. I wish she'd been around longer to hang out with.

It's time however to move on to the next destination where I'll have to set my clock back 30 minutes and 60 years to the virtually forgotten land of Burma. If I could I'd extend my trip here in Thailand by a few more days but get the hell out of Chiang Mai so I could see more of the north and the new-found paradise, Pai I would. Unfortunately when there's only one international flight into Mandalay a week I don't have that option. My roommate Cameron will be in Mandalay on Tuesday morning and I want to arrive before she does. I won't have any jet leg and will be able by the time she arrives to give her a brief tour before we skirt around the country for a few weeks. I'm very excited that she's decided to join me on my trip and especially that she chose Burma as very few travelers actually venture there and I understand it can be lonely for a solo traveler. There'll be a lot to explore there together for certain and it'll be fun to share it someone, as well.

Now I only have to pray for the political situation in Burma not to explode while we're there and we'll be fine. I've already listlessly scratched off one country of my list and I'll be damned if I'm going to do that again.

Onward!
Christina
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