as I was saying…we left Singapore half-in-the-bag with four girls to travel thru Myanmar for a few days. one of caroline’s old co-workers was living in singapore and her and some friends had invited us to join their private tour and we thought: “what the hell? not like we have jobs to rush back to and it would be a nice break break from coming up with our own inside jokes”. so, with me more backed up than juvenile we set off to see burma with an acquaintance and three new friends.
our first stop was in the town of a thousand temples, bagan. getting to bagan you basically take the flying version of an airport pickup van stopping every 20 min at 3rd-world airports that use t-shirt stickers as check-in confirmation. 3 stops and 300 miles later we arrived in bagan and had dinner as a group. this would prove to be one of a few times i would leave a dinner early to go back to our room and take a bath…yeah i said it, bath. the next day caroline set out to see some temples and a lacquer market while i decided it was time to call in a doctor which turned out to be a waste of $50USD. i was given some broken english diagnosis about inflammation (not that i was expecting any english) and possibly every pill she had in her bag. it wouldn’t be until we got to yangon that i would finally load up on the proper meds to relieve my illness (word play). caroline was also still feeling bad and decided to come back early from the day out with the girls to sleep it off. sorry bagan, the mogans failed you, we just weren’t healthy enough to enjoy all of your thousand temples and take hot-air balloon ride.
next day feeling pretty much status quo we made the long trip to inle lake for one of the cooler experiences thus far. on the way we dropped in a nearly 150 yr old monastery built of teak wood, shwe yan pyay, and the local tour guide began to lay the ground work for what would be a pretty soft attempt at shacking with one of the girls on our tour. we drive as close as possible to our hotel then jump on long boats (see below) in order to get the rest of the way. inle lake is a floating city, really a fishing village, that lies between 3 mountain ranges and is nothing short of breathtaking. after a brief check-in at the hotel we took off to hit the key hotspots: phung daw oo pagoda, silk weaving village, a local blacksmith, jumping cat monastery and (my personal favorite) the myanmar cigar factory. if child labor is your thing then this place is the bees knees. a classroom of kids sitting around rolling disgusting tasting cigars for the locals to buy at rock-bottom price…priceless. we again attempted to have dinner as a group but i didn’t make it pass the appetizer before i excused myself to go lay in the fetal position. girls stayed out and downed a couple bottles of cheap wine.
we ended our ventures in burma with a few humbling days in yangon. our tour guide kyu-kyu who also called herself judith for no real reason was about as useful as a third nipple, but one of the katies in the group had recently been to yangon and graciously stepped in to set the agenda. this ended up being way more rewarding than anything fake judy offered. we started our day with a pretty awesome outdoor lunch at some colonial style home then headed off to the other side of the river to see the real yangon. we jumped on a rickshaw to take a tour of the slums and visit a monastery, orphanage and a candle makers house which was beyond archaic in their production process. we then made an impromptu stop at one of the guides home’s in the village to meet his family and some neighbors. this is one of those truly eye opening experiences that makes you feel bad about ever complaining. this family of 8, spanning 3 generations, all lived together in what was probably a 200sq ft shack with no bathroom or running water (yet they had a flat screen TV with cable) and couldn’t have been more kind and inviting. they never once asked for anything beyond our company. while enjoying some tea the neighborhood kids pet the girls skin explaining it was good luck and hoping some of their paleness would rub off. they also made the not-often-missed observation that i am fairly good looking, i believe their words were something along the lines of “blessed are women among you”…so yeah, there’s that.
after such a humbling experience we decided to go to a super nice dinner at some french restaurant and drink a few bottles of wine. with my confidence high, i’m starting to turn a corner with the meds and i’ve even begun eating again and nearly finishing whole meals.