The Runway to Mandalay

Mingalarbar from Myanamar!  i guess i've gotten spoiled in my travels, but

this is the first city i've been in in a long while which does not yet have

internet access.  because of that, i am using my hotel's e-mail and paying,

of all things, by the kilobit, so i am going to try to be brief!  also,

please forgive my prose as i'm currently suffering the effects of the

myanamar beer (yes, dave, there looks to be a beer can in this for you)

consumed at dinner.  ordinarily i'd wait, but given the precariousness of

the e-mail situation here, i figured i'd best send this out while i can.

okay, burma - stupendous, amazing, beautiful, untouristed, peaceful.  on

the 40 minute drive from the airport to yangon (rangoon) we probably passed

as many oxcarts as we did cars, although the bicycles outnumber both & the

horsecarts (real live, amish-esque) probably come in fourth, ahead of

motorcycles (what did asians do before bicycles?).  we drove past sunflower

fields and fields rice and radish (daikon) and peanuts, all being worked by

teams of bullocks.

the most important pagoda in burma is in yangon:  shwedagon.  all burmese

try to get to it at least once in their lifetime.  i forget the stats, but

it is covered in tons and tons of gold with a diamond studded ball on the

top (capped by a 50-odd carat diamond) - - it's kind of like a buddhist st

mark's - - you're barefoot on the cool marble, children are laughing,

people are praying, the spires of all of the smaller stupas are shining

gold in the sun, there's the smell of incense and flower offerings, someone

is singing - amazing.  icing on the cake was watching the full moon rise

over the whole scene.

the people here are lovely - very friendly and very talkative, especially

the monks.  we have had quite a few interesting conversations with the

people we've met.  most everyone here wears a longyi (lawn-gee) which is

kind of like a sarong thing, even the men.  it's pretty cool to see

everyone in their skirts.  and many of the women and children wear this

funky paste stuff on their faces as both sunscreen and decoration. 

sometimes the stuff is in patterns like leaves on the cheeks or a squiggle

on the nose.  the children look particularily cute.

we flew here to mandalay after one day in yangon (plenty) and had the

pleasure of getting up at 4:45 to do so.  yesterday, we took a 45 min boat

ride up the irewaddy river (the burmese mississipi) to an old town which

can only be reached by boat.  we had the whole 20-person boat to ourselves,

the water was sparkly, the temperature was most excellent, there were

temples dotting the hills - awesome awesome.

tomorrow we get up at 4:45 again (i know, i know, other people relax and

sleep in on their vacations, one of these days i'll learn!) to catch the

express boat down the irewaddy to bagan (kind of the angkor wat of burma). 

it should take about 9 hours, provided we don't get stuck on a sandbar.  i

have no idea if i'll be able to write again before i return to yangon on

the 17th, but if i can sweet talk some nice hotel manager off of their

computer for a few minutes, i will!

until then, ta ter (burmese for bye bye and apparently pronounced ta ta -

how apropos!!)

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