Thank you and good night

Let’s get it right this time

First:my family
Who had the belief to let me go wandering for 3 months when I should be getting a job.
Thank you. Xx

I know from comments ive had that everyone else i mention reads this blog from time to time so :

Mr John Millnik : A young man who will one day do great things. You read it hear first.
John.., thanks for being a mate in Bangkok when I was on the point of losing it. And sorry I was so quiet.

Lulu and Sean : what a lovely platonic couple. Sean literally carrying Lulu when she couldn’t walk. Lu Lu : Do you really know how much he is devoted to you? Thanks for the motorbike tours and the hot springs

Erica and Gregor. Thanks for a fun night in Yangon. Was he really a drug baron? (I’m writing this in the sky Bar – and Gregor – its 5000 for a Myanmar beer! And the expat night in The Strand was interesting! ( Dont forget i want an invitation to wedding. )

Colin: kanchanaburi : not my best place. But thanks for your companionship i hope you find peace

Brian in Kanchanaburi : go back and find her.

Usman: I know you don’t speak English but your fish farm accountant does and he has this blog address. I hope he tells you how much I owe you for rescuing me in the hills when I was lost I have never been so happy to hear a truck …

Abdul : I was on the point of quitting in the hills and had spoken no English for 3 days Can’t remember the village name but thanks for finding me food and a room and football on the TV

Therese, Steve, Pete and Roger. Yes we were an odball group but it seemed to work. Born To Be Wild!

Roger…I finally remembered the resemblance. Jaret Reddick : Check him out.

Martyn the Czech “kid” : thanks for showing me how to dodge the tourist fees… we fought the law – and won !

Maxim: are you still wandering ? Are you still alive ?

The young French couple on the Perenthian islands. Is the money still lasting ?

Akexander the Great and Greater : thanks for the tea on my first night on the trail when I thought I’d made a terrible mistake. But I did warn you it was muddy …..

Martina: have you stopped laughing yet ? 🙂

The Aussie couple and their Dutch friend who took me to that “nightclub” I remember giving you the blog address but buggered if I can remember your names! But it was ….surreal !

Trude: No matter where , there’s always someone from Holland ! Penang was fun
Fatih on Abrahams Path

And finally …to that petty minded twat of a railway clerk who refused to sell me a ticket at 4am in Mandalay because I didn’t have US dollars …you were the only jerk i met in Burma (ok so he doesn’t read this blog but I wanted to vent my spleen)

Final apologies to Rudyard

Occupying myself on the long flights home this time. Sitting in Bangkok and heading to Doha
Feels odd

But that’s all long behind me
Just a month but far away
And there ain’t no trams a’running
From Market Square to Mandalay,
And at last I’m finally learning’
What The Woman always tells
That when you’ve heard the East callin’ you then you won’t heed nothing else
No you won’t heed nothing else
But the smell of incense burning and sandalwood upon on the breeze
And the buffaloes a hollerin’ and pagodas in the trees

And the creakin’ of that old teak bridge
As the sun began to rise
And the villagers all tramping from their homes to t’other side
Of that lake where early morning the fishermen cast their nets
Where deals were done along the bridge
When the red-toothed tribesmen met

Well there weren’t no flying fishes
On the road from Mandalay
But he heard the boatman’s siren
As they stopped along the way
At the jetties and the wharves
Where the ragged children play
And sweated up the gangplanks
With goods all bound for Mandalay

Come you back you English traveller
Come you back I hear them say
Where the ancient leaking tramp boat still ploughs the road to Mandalay
Where the Shwedagon still shines its lights
And thousands come to pray
Where we climbed two thousand steps up that hill in Mandalay
Where the royal palace is guarded by soldiers who say
Welcome to my country welcome here to Mandalay
Where Bagan’s cooking fires and morning mists brings in the day
And it’s impossible to believe you’re just 15 hours from Mandalay

But I know that’s over now
And I never will go back
‘Cos i know what is a’comin’
All along those jungle tracks
Yes the West is heading eastwards
those places will never be the same
And I know it’s only progress
But it’s still a bleedin’ shame
And when the strip joints open
On the road to Old Bagan
Ill remember those days of trekking
And the kindness of the Shan
And when it’s shoved behind me long ago and far away
Ill sit and smile and remember
When I took the road to Mandalay

Times they are a changing

This is a rant but from the heart

I ‘m not pretending I’m a travel expert. I knew nowt about Asia before I got here and I’m not much the wiser now

Got a lot of things wrong on this trip.
But of this I am certain:
If you are one of those people who profess a love for South East Asia or are thinking of visiting Burma….
Get here now

Not in two years. Not as a long term project.
Now
Because- to expand on an earlier theme – it is changing
Hotel prices doubled almost overnight in Rangoon/Yangon when the NLD ended its tourist boycott.
I think it’s cheap here but other travellers in the region say its relatively expensive
But it’s not the prices that worry me
The culture is bound to change.
In how many major cities do strangers stop you to say hello and shake your hand. And welcome you to their country ?
Where pick up trucks are rammed with passengers who cling to the roof and wave at you as they pass?
Where a gun toting Shan soldier offers you a lift on his bike?
Where strangers invite you to sit with them on a street corner cafe and buy your drinks all night?
Where villagers marvel at the fact you’ve made the effort to get there and invite you to their home..feed you and refuse all payment?
Where farmers still plough with oxen and 50 year old buses make lonely journeys down empty highways?

This – without any shadow of doubt – is the Land of Smiles.

But you can see the cracks

I spent the day at the Aung Sang market. Overwhelming in its size.
But I was getting hassle from street sellers to buy tat…and at Bagan and parts of Inle it’s worse

On my second trip to Bagan I had to rescue my friends from a guy who was doing a hard sell on horse drawn tours.
I knew he was over charging and he wouldn’t let them go until I stepped in

In the three weeks since I’d been there the “tourist charge” to visit the Bagan plain had risen from 10 dollars to 15. (And maddeningly that goes straight to Government coffers)

The money changers on the streets rip people off. Don’t EVER go to the black market here,despite what Lonely Planet says.

But I’ve felt safer here than any other place I’ve visited Not once did I feel threatened. Even when dazed and confused and lost in the slum quarter.

However in two years I reckon this place will have changed out of sight

The Chinese are buying Up land. Speculators are moving in. Big foreign 4 by 4s are on the roads. Posh 5 star hotels are being built. Big tour groups get priority …probably cos their money goes straight to the Govnt unlike independent travellers who can channel (most) of their cash to locals

A vignette: a group of us went to a club in Mandalay billed as a local karaoke bar.
There was a stage filled with beautiful Burmese girls (modestly dressed thank Christ) Essentially they just walked aimlessly around the stage with the minimum of choreography. They didnt have a clue. Eyes on the ground. Bored. Embarrassed
But they sung beautifully
But here’s the thing: In a few years time I reckon they’ll be swinging round poles, half clothed.
Or worse
And tourists will come and gawp because “it’s part of the Burmese culture”. Which it bloody well isn’t.

And the road leading to the ancient Tharabar gate in Bagan will be lined with English and Irish theme pubs selling Guinness.
Full of fat fucking Englishmen with their arms around a beautiful Burmese girl. And they are very beautiful

There will be a McDonAlds at the bottom of the Shwezigon Pagoda so you can have a burger after watching the sunset

You think I’m exaggerating ?

On the top of the Shwezigon I got talking to an American business woman

She started to enthuse about the “development opportunities” in this country.

She’d seen a girl working in the fields in the heat and told me in all seriousness how much better it would be if she worked – for example – in Coca Cola bottling plant

“Yeah great,” I replied
“So all the kids leave the village to work in tourism or making fat profits for Western companies. Soon there are no kids in the villages..just like rural Turkey ”

Then she told me how great it would be to have a a chain of enchilada food shops here. Or juice bars.

So goes the world