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Bangkok a must visit!

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Well this big city hater has had to add Bangkok to the “like” list along with Panama City & Copenhagen making it one city per continent visited. Guess could add Montreal to the mix for NA.

Still a lot of Bangkok to see but have made a quick visit to most areas including 4 days on Khoa San Road which is known around the world as the favored back-packer destination & is it’s own version of Thailand with its carnival atmosphere, American fast food joints, Thai street food & T–shirt vendors + any thing else you can imagine including Mulligans Irish Pub across the street from the 7-eleven!

Then there is the Embassy district with the high class hotels, shopping centers to rival any where in the world. The plaza where I got my computer fixed was 4 floors on any & all things computer related with repairs made while you wait at super prices. Not sure about the price of components but picked up an external drive for my acer net book to play DVD’s for the equivalent of $47 CAD.

Got a good deal so I moved to 13 Coins Boutique hotel in the Surawong Rd area near the river & Chinatown where I am the only nonasian face & there are no English signs, more on this area later but seems pretty handy to bus, sky train, water taxi’s + the train station.

A couple of things I have found is that while in the main tourist areas there is no problem getting directions or anything knowing only English, heck most menu’s include pictures so you can just point & the staff can’t mistake what you want no matter their language skills. Also Canadian restaurants could sure use a page from their book on politeness & customer service! However once you get off the beaten track you can’t let yourself take for granted they understand as the might, unintentionally, think you mean something different & you don’t realize it until too late.

Secondly NEVER take a cab if the driver refuses to use the meter or you will pay at least double the metered fare. Of course this is mainly due to the insanely low rates, so can’t really blame them at rush hour but is a pain when trying to flag a cab & no one will pick you up. Then you are forced to use tuk tuks whose negotiated prices are higher than metered cabs but cheaper than you can negotiate with a cab driver who doesn’t want to go to your destination!

Trains & other things

Monday, December 28th, 2009

myanmar-burma-302.jpgOK back in business. Not sure what the guy at the internet café in Mandalay did but had to get windows reinstalled to get things back to normal & the good news is only cost 200 Baht ($6) just gotta love Bangkok!!!!

Good old Lonely Planet guide (pretty good source of info most of the time) on Myanmar recommends not using the trains, or gov’t run boats as the US$ tourists pay goes to the government’s repressive regime. They also rant about them being late yada, yada, yada & advise using the bus, like buses never run late or breakdown? Yeah right!! Also a long trip in an Asian local bus where you are packed into the small seats with no leg room like sardines & that stop for a break every 3-4 hrs is no joy!!

Well I look at it from a different angle. When traveling on the train I am paying the taxi (or whatever) to get to the station, porters when needed, once on board I am buying food from the vendors that come aboard at the stations, then transport to the guest house, not to forget some of my ticket money goes to maintain the infrastructure & pay wages. To date I have traveled from Yangon – Mandalay on the local train 16 hrs & was on time, then Hsipaw – Pyin U lwin 8 hrs about 1/2 hr late but this trip crosses the Gokteik Gorge, an amazing experience not to be passed up by any train buff! My total ticket cost US$36.00 so I sincerely doubt that amount is buying many toys for the leaders & with the Thayts spent directly with the locals it is a nonissue IMHO!!!

Yangon (Rangoon) with it’s Shwedagon Paya, Bogyoke Aung San Market, lakes & other activities is an interesting place to spend a few days & has cheap city buses, but with 5 million people it’s a bit big for my liking + the hydro supply is not very reliable.

Mandalay at about 1 million is better & a bit cooler but the hydro situation is worse so don’t waste money on a room with AC. Actually more to see there with the Mahamuni Paya, Shwe In Bin Kyaung monastery with it’s fabulous carvings & all made out of teak, Mandalay Hill, Mandalay Palace not forget the world’s biggest book. Then in nearby Amarapura is Bein’s Bridge the world’s longest teak bridge at 1.2 kms.

Must visit Hsipaw (silent H) (take a sweater for the evenings) just to walk around the small hill town & check out the clock tower, if nothing else then on the return trip to Mandalay take the train to Pyin, spend a night or 2 but make sure visit National Kandawgyi Gardens & watch out for the stage coaches!

The Slow Boat from Mandalay to Bagan on the Ayeyarwaddy River is a “Bucket List” trip for anyone wishing to spend a day (13+ hrs) relaxing while watching the past float by. Kipling wrote “This is Burma, it is quite unlike any place you know about” & he would still feel right at home as on the river it still pretty much the same as in his day.

Self-employed people my age (old fogies LOL) see things in a different way than most people.Had breakfast in a small Indian place (stayed at Grace 2 probably the only guest house in Burma not including breakfast) where conversation with the owner, a 3rd generation Burmese resident (family originally from Nepal) whose grandfather moved there before the British took over, revealed a happy man satisfied with his life & family. He owns his home but rents the unit housing his restaurant where his youngest son also works & pays very little to the tax man. He wasn’t concerned about civil rights or politics only with the fact that Burma has given him the opportunity to run his business, raise & educate his family in a comfortable lifestyle. Some thing that used to be possible in Canada until the turn of the century.

Went to the Moustache Brothers show my last night in Mandalay & it was worth the money, Par Par Lay is now out of prison & back in the show. However in talking with the owner’s son of the New Park guest house here in Bagan he had never heard of them so there is censorship as to what news the local population (that doesn’t have contact with tourists) has access to.

Myanmar as it has always called, except when the British occupied the land & called named it Burma, is a definite bucket list destination for any traveler who is looking different, safe & great people.

Think I have found a source of travel income, just charge all the Chinese & Burmese girls that want their picture taken with me! LOL

Bagan tourist trap?

Monday, December 28th, 2009
myanmar-burma-508.jpgSi. Oui, Yes but in the Burmese way, tamer than most. Food & internet are high compared to elsewhere in the country but not extortionate & once you get past the feeding frenzy at the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bye bye Burma

Monday, December 28th, 2009
myanmar-burma-447.jpgWhere men wear longi (skirts) & there are red banana’s My 21 days in this fascinating country have flown by & were the minimum to get a taste of what Myanmar has to offer the visitor ... [Continue reading this entry]


Friday, December 25th, 2009
Have updates written on windows writer but some where in Myanmar at an internet cafe they changed something on my computer so I can no longer publish my updates to my blog or access explorer so until I figure that ... [Continue reading this entry]

Don’t you just hate when that happens!!

Saturday, December 5th, 2009
Well managed to do it again, clicked on the wrong thingy & presto my 1st post on Myanmar vanished to the nether regions of cyber space!! Oh well s**t happens so here we go again. The disappeared post was basically about ... [Continue reading this entry]

Myanmar (Burma) cont’d

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
myanmar-burma-034.jpgYangon is a big city of around 5 million so it's not particularly to my liking as with all cities (Toronto included) you have to constantly be on the watch for rip-off artists. ... [Continue reading this entry]