All linked images and associated pages copyrighted © by Don Chesnut, 2008
I signed up for a river "expedition" on the Chindwin and Upper Irrawaddy Rivers operated by Pandaw Cruises (www.pandaw.com). The trip is only offered during the height of monsoon season (September, in this case). The river has to be high enough for the riverboat to get over the sandbars. I would also like to point out the excellent photographs of fellow passenger, John Mitchell at jmprphotography.com. The following is a daily account of my trip to Myanmar in 2008 and includes most of my photos. Or you may just want to view the photographs in the thumbnail directory (no maps or descriptions).
30 Aug 08, Saturday
I woke up about 3:40 am. Anne woke me up just as the alarm went off. I took a shower, hugged Nora goodbye and Anne drove me to the airport. Elizabeth is at Wittenberg and Mary spent the night at Chaucey's house. I told them "goodbye" earlier. It was a bit foggy as we got to the airport. I said "goodbye" to Anne and walked to the Delta check-in area. They didn't open till 4:30. I tried electronic check-in, but it didn't recognize my reservation. A few minutes later, some Delta people arrived. Apparently, I have a complicated ticket. I have to catch five flights to get to Myanmar. I'm not taking any check-in luggage, so I'm not so worried about loosing anything through the various flights. I have two carry on bags, my small red day pack and my camera bag. These are my usual travel items. Nora took a picture of me with my luggage last night (see above). I'll be gone one month; I come back home Sept. 30. I finally got my boarding passes for my outgoing flights, except for the flight from Bangkok to Myanmar. I'll have to check-in separately for that one.
I went through security, and got a cup of coffee in the gate area. The Delta wing is much larger and nicer than my last flight from here. It must have been rebuilt recently. I took a 25-minute flight to Cincinnati airport. I waited there for two hours and boarded a crowded flight to Los Angeles.
On the flight, I had peanuts and a ginger ale. One had to pay for a meal. They handed out menus that included breakfast and other meals. I saw the in-flight movie Narnia: Prince Caspian. Headsets were two dollars, but I used the one from my MP3 player. I think it's better anyway. I landed in LA about 10am local time (1 pm EST). I had to leave the terminal and walk down to the Bradley International Terminal. After going through security again, I got to my next gate about 10:50 am. My flight to Taipei on China Air leaves at 3:55pm, so I have a lot of time to kill. Maybe this terminal has more shops or cafe's, but they used to be located on another level. There is not much on the level of the gates, and I walked the entire length of the terminal. I only found one place to sit and get a sandwich and something to drink. Here, you pick the pre-made cold sandwiches from a cooler, so I wouldn't call it a cafe. I got a glass of cabernet, but nothing to eat. I filled out a bit more in the journal.
The China Air flight left a good hour after it was supposed to. The plane is huge, a 747-400 and it is absolutely full. Most of the passengers, about 97%, are Taiwanese, Chinese, I think. The flight is about 13 hours long. I sat near the back of the plane. After dinner, the movie started; it was Narnia: Prince Caspian, again, so I didn't watch it. I talked to the fellow sitting next to me. He worked at a company that operates call centers in Malaysia. I said, jokingly "so you're the person responsible for all the phone calls I get. Let me have your phone number." He told me that when they get someone like me, they put my number i9n the system and call me 6 million times. He was an entertaining fellow. After that, I slept most of the "night."
1 Sept. 08, Monday
As we approached the Bangkok airport, I noticed a distant thunderstorm, lit by occasional lightning, out at sea. We landed about 1:00 am. I went directly to Immigration and showed my passport and form I filled out on the plane. I walked out the airport and saw an AOT taxi stand in the lobby. I asked "how much to Convenient Resort." They said 1,000 Baht. I said "that's too much." Then they said, 800 Baht. I worked them down to 600 Baht. I paid the fee and took my taxi to the hotel, Convenient Resort (www.convenientresort.com). It was not on any touristy road. We pulled into a private drive that ended at the hotel. It was a blend of Motel 6 and any hotel next to a bus station in an old American town, but without the charm. I checked in and asked for a wake-up call. I also asked for the hotel shuttle in the morning. I prepaid 200 Baht for the ride at 6:30 am, only a few hours away. The room was nice enough, but they're not going to have breakfast that I could tell. I couldn't sleep for several hours, but finally dozed off around 5:30. My alarm went of at 6:00 am. I took a quick shower. They had a German-made water heater on the wall. The water got nice and hot, but it wasn't mixed with any cold water. So I had a very hot shower, too hot.
I noticed when I checked out that the hotel did have internet computers for a fee. I'll remember that next time I'm here. I went outside to get in the shuttle. There were several westerners and orientals waiting. I said "good morning," but no one acknowledged that I was there. I sat in the minivan next to the driver. The ride to the airport was one of the wildest I've ever had. I thought we were going to wreck and take out a lot of people with us. In the daylight I could tell that the hotel was located in a farm field. There was no hope of shopping or walking around if you stayed there.
I got to the large and modern airport about 6:45, happy to be alive. I searched for the Myanmar International Airways counter and finally found it, but it didn't open till 7:45. So I sat down and caught up in my journal. At 7:45, I showed my ticket and passport at the counter. I got my boarding pass and walked area. There are very many shops and cafes, sushi stands, etc. I bought a nice Myanmar map at a bookstore.
I passed through security for the D gates. I was the only westerner waiting. One fellow passed and asked if I were going to Burma. I said yes and he responded "very good, very good" and held up his thumb. At the gate, I'm watching BBC talking about hurricane Gustav's approach to the Gulf Coast. I don't know when it's supposed to hit, but they showed McCain and Bush talking about it.
I boarded the plane, a medium small twin-engine jet (I forgot to identify it). Even though the flight was only an hour, they served a croissant sandwich with crab salad and a dish of chopped fruit. I had tea for drink. I took a couple of pictures of the very swollen Sittaung? River as we descended to the airport. I disembarked and went through Immigration and Customs without any problem. The temperature must have been about 82 degrees F, because of heavy cloud cover, but the humidity is very high. It's actually hotter in Kentucky now, perhaps in the 90's. The time zone here is unique; they're a half hour earlier than Thailand to the east. It's the first time I've been in a country that was on an entirely different time system.
Upon exiting the security area, I saw a lady carrying a sign with my name on it. What a relief. I don't know any Burmese, so it would be difficult for me to get a taxi to my hotel. Anyway, the lady and driver worked for Pandaw Cruises and they took me to the Chatrium Hotel (everyone still knows it as the Nikku Hotel)(chatriumhotelyangon.com). I checked in and went to my room. I took another shower and then walked around the very nice hotel to take pictures.
After a beer at the swimming pool bar, I called the Rowell's home. Brent (who works for an NGO in Myanmar and formerly of Lexington) and his family lived within sight of the famous Schwedagon Pagoda, which I can see from my room. Brent said he would come by to pick me up around 3 or 4 pm. I told them that I didn't want to inconvenience them, but he wanted to show me around a bit. My schedule for tomorrow is already set by Pandaw, so this is my only time to see the Rowells.
Brent called from the hotel lobby about 4 pm. I had fallen asleep from jet lag. Brent took me to their home; they just moved in 2 weeks ago. The house was very charming; it's a wood frame house with high ceilings and ceiling fans. I took several pictures of the family. Their daughter, Andy, is 15, between my Mary and Nora. She goes to a baccalaureate school owned and operated by westerners, but there are more Burmese students than westerners. They asked about my family and I told them what everyone was doing. Brent walked me around the yard and told me about the damage done by the Nargis cyclone. Most repairs have been completed, but they have a lot more sunshine now. Brent mentioned that the city had been clothed by 100-year-old trees, that are now all gone. The entire city has lost most of its shade.
After awhile, they took me to Sabai Sabai, a good Thai restaurant. I asked the Rowells to choose dinner and they ordered fish cakes, papaya salad, a chicken dish, a green leafy vegetable dish, an egg dish and soup. We also had satay and for dessert a sweet coconut tapioca, watery, gelatin soup. It was all very good. This was my first non-airplane meal in three days. It was good for my spirit. I wanted to pay for the dinner, but they wouldn't let me. I'll get the next one. After dinner, they dropped me off at the hotel. I caught up on my journal, watched TV and went to bed by 10:30. By then, Hurricane Gustav had hit the Louisiana coast and had dropped from a 3 hurricane to a 2. High storm surges are predicted for New Orleans for tonight.
2 Sept. 08, Tuesday
I woke up at 4 am and couldn't sleep anymore. I got up at 6 and took a shower. I was given a breakfast voucher when I checked in and went to the Emporium Restaurant. They had a large buffet of Chinese, Japanese, Burmese and western foods and they made omelets on the spot. I had fruit, cheese and croissant for the first pass and a curry vegetable dish for my second. I talked briefly with a young couple from Granada, Spain. I told them that my wife and son had visited Alhambra in the past. They are not on the cruise. After breakfast, I wandered around the hotel and examined musical instruments in the lobby area. Last night a man and woman were playing them. The xylophone was made of bamboo slats. Both instruments were highly decorated. I also saw a set of thanakha stones. These are used to help grind a particular wood into dust. Water is added to the dust to make a paste which women put on their face as a sort of make up, sun screen, and drying agent. It's also supposed to be fragrant. I examined the wood but couldn't smell any fragrance. I then walked out onto a patio to take some pictures. I met an Australian couple who were also on the cruise. We had an enjoyable conversation. They are from just north of Sydney. I told them about my travels in Australia and mentioned Charters Towers in Queensland, where the lady grew up. After 15 minutes, they went on to breakfast and I went to my room. I'm supposed to meet Brent at 9 to see his office. The temperature this morning seems to be about 72 degrees F with some humidity. I saw a small bird that looked like a cross between a humming bird and a wren. It was taking sap from the Bird of Paradise flowers in the swimming pool area. I also saw an attractive white butterfly with black stripes as well as pigeons and Asian Crows. I heard other birds but didn't see them. There are a great many short-haired dogs freely roaming around everywhere (not at the hotel though). I don't know how they survive.
From my window, Yangon looks like a plucked chicken with a stubble of down and young feathers sticking up here and there. All the fallen trees have been removed. The coconut palm trees are still present; they bend in the wind. The big trees are all gone. Mango trees are still standing, but are stripped of their branches. Young trees and small trees previously stunted by the shade are energetically growing. All the green canopy that covered Yangon is gone. The old trees were a hundred years old, so it may take a while before the canopy is restored.
Brent came by the hotel and picked me up by 9:30. We went to the IDE office, an NGO that assists in agricultural needs. They developed a foot-powered pump to help with irrigation for areas where people carried water for this purpose. The pumps cost about $20 to make. IDE (International Development Enterprises, www.ideorg.org/work/myanmar) helps set up small local businesses to sell the pumps. I met the staff in the office and sent a quick e-mail to Anne to let everyone know I was OK. The office also changed about $80 to Myanmar chat. I got a stack of money, bound by rubber bands, that was 1 inch thick. After an hour or so, Brent brought me back to the hotel.
At the hotel, I found the business center. They had internet computers available for $2 per 30 minutes. However, Hotmail and several other sites were banned. All the correspondence I do by e-mail is through Hotmail, so I won't be able to send my usual e-mail journal entries till I get to Thailand. Gmail is not banned, but I don't have my password for that one.
I went to lunch at the hotel. We were given a voucher for lunch by Pandaw, so I used that. The cruise passengers ate at one big table and I introduced myself to most of the group. There are about 5 German-speaking Swiss as well as Australians, Kiwis, Brits and Americans. I think there are 5 Americans. Most everyone seems to be retired. And they are all a very friendly group. I had Sea Bass for my choice for lunch. I sat next to (Swiss) Richard.
At 2:30 pm, the group met in the lobby. The German speakers had their own small bus and guide. English speakers had a larger bus. Our guide is Myo Thant (same surname as the famous U Thant, UN secretary; "U" is an honorific title). We toured Yangon and visited downtown area, the large Reclining Buddha, and the very impressive Shwedagon pagoda. I'm glad I wore sandals because we had to take our shoes off a couple of times. I took lots of pictures.
Back at the hotel, I took a quick shower and went to dinner by 7:15 pm. A dinner voucher was again provided by Pandaw. All of our meals have been in the Emporium Restaurant in the hotel. There are several restaurants in the hotel. Dinner was a buffet of hot oriental dishes. I had a Myanmar beer for $5 for a 1 liter bottle. All drinks are extra, even coffee. They offered ice cream for dessert, which was nice. I sat next to two American ladies and Max (Swiss). The two ladies, Ruth and Darlene, often travel together. Darlene lived in southeast Asia for years.
I was too tired to stay awake after dinner (still jet lag) and went to bed.
3 Sept. 08, Wednesday
I woke up at 3 am, but stayed in bed till 5:40. I got up, took a shower and gathered my things for our departure later. I went to breakfast a few minutes after 6. I was the first of our group there. It was a buffet much like the one yesterday. I started with fruit, cheese and croissant and then had some curry with meat and some Japanese miso soup, dofu and Japanese pickles. We don't have lunch till about 3 pm due to our travels today. I had breakfast with (Swiss) Richard and (Brit/Aussie) Peter.
After breakfast, I went to my room and finished packing my little red pack and sat it in the hallway in front of my door. At 8:30, they will collect the luggage and transport it to our plane and then to our cabin on the boat. I had some spare time, so I caught up in my journal. The lights have gone out intermittently throughout my stay here, but the hotel generators kick in within one second or so. There is a flash light on the night stand, so I assume the power goes out all the time. I have no complaints. I don't know what it does to computers though.
The other passengers couldn't believe that the little red pack was my only luggage. The luggage steward asked for my other luggage but I told him "that was all." The BBC is showing the Republican convention. Bush is speaking now (taped I guess). I'm amazed that they are devoting so much time to the American political convention.
We gathered at the lobby and boarded a bus to the Yangon airport. We flew Air Pagan to Mandalay after 2 hours. At Mandalay, we took on a couple of new passengers and refueled. We took off again and flew to Kalemyo ("Kale" town). I took pictures of the Irrawaddy, Chindwin and a volcano.
After we landed at Kalemyo, we boarded two buses and two trucks. I got on a pickup with a roof over the back. We took off for a 2-hour drive along the Mytthia (?) River to Kalewa. After a few minutes on the road, I climbed onto the roof and enjoyed the breeze and the view. I took many pictures. We had to walk across one bridge. The road was pretty rough and collapsed in some areas.
We finally got to Kalewa at the confluence of the Chindwin and Myittha Rivers and boarded the Pandaw IV boat. We took off our shoes to be washed (they keep the boat very clean). We had a briefing in the Saloon Bar and were given our keys. Mine is a cabin (#318) on the Upper Deck over the engines. There is a constant sound of the engines running. My room was very cold so I turned down the air conditioning. I didn't have time to unpack, but I did check out the cabin; very similar to the Pandaw on the Mekong.
At 6:30, I went to the Sun Deck for the Welcoming Cocktail. I had a gin and tonic and met a nice British couple. He has a PhD in Waste Management and they have two daughters with PhDs in biochemistry and geochemistry. [I lost their business card in the storm.] A few minutes later, we went to dinner (I had butter fish) and I sat with a very nice Swiss couple and three Brits, also extremely nice.
After that I went to my room to catch up on my journal and then went to bed.
4 Sept 08, Thursday
I slept well till 3:00 am and was wide awake after that. I stayed in bed till 5:30 and then took a shower. I went to the Sun Deck by 6:10 and we had already cast off (6 am) from Kalewa and were heading up the Chindwin River. I had coffee on the Sun Deck and had breakfast buffet around 7. I had fruit, croissant and cheese.
By 9:30, we tied up on the starboard side to the village of Gazat. We walked around for about an hour, taking pictures and smiling at the locals saying "Mingle-le-bah" which means hello and goodbye. "Jesu-bay" means "thank you," and "Jesu-tin-bar-day" means thank you very much.
After the shore excursion, we had lunch buffet, a mixture of hot dishes and salads and vegetables.
At about 4:30, we tied up at the village of Kindat, where we got out and walked about. A young man offered me a green packet; it was a green leaf with betel nut and lime (caustic lime, not the fruit) and clove. He showed me how to put it in my mouth. I thanked him. Many of the older people have red-stained teeth and receding gum lines from chewing betel nut. I chewed it and spit out an orange-red juice. It had a pleasant flavor, but I'm not sure why they do it. The betel nut comes from a variety of palm which grows along the village street.
After the village walk, I got back to the boat, still spitting red juice. I took a quick shower, changed my damp clothes (high humidity and sweat) and went to the Sun Deck for cocktails. Dinner was served shortly after. I had beef with Thai red curry (not very spicy). A number of us went to the Sun Deck to watch a thunderstorm, not unlike a good Kentucky electrical storm. However, this type of storm was new for the other westerners. A bolt of lightning hit a tree a few tens of meters away, which was impressive for all of us. The rain came down heavily, but we were under a very strong canopy. [Shades of things to come.] The storm was over about 11:30 and then I went to bed.
5 Sept. 08, Friday
I woke up at 4 am this morning, an hour later than yesterday. I stayed in bed till 6 am when the engines (under my cabin) started. I took a shower as we untied from the bank at Kindat and headed upstream. I went to the Sun Deck, had a coffee and talked with the other passengers. It's still cloudy and rainy. I went to breakfast buffet at 7 and had fruit, cheese, croissant first and then some Burmese soup with ear fungus and transparent noodles and dried leaf tofu. The flavor was nice. I added crushed red chili, lime and soy. After breakfast, I sat with some others on the Upper Deck walkway and caught up on my journal. There is a steady, gentle rain. Someone pointed out an eagle and I took a picture of a red and black assassin bug about 3 cm long. It's very pleasant this morning. I can see farmers plowing their fields with water buffalo in the rain. There is a book in the boat's library on the birds of Myanmar (in color) and we have a couple of birders with binoculars on board. There is very little boat traffic now. The population is very sparse in this region and the villages are spaced by greater distances.
At about 9:30, we tied up at the bank of the Yuwa village. This town is situated at the confluence of the Yu River. Yuwa means "mouth of the Yu." It was raining and very muddy when we got out to walk. We were handed umbrellas for our walk and we needed them. It was a very charming village and I took lots of pictures. At one tea house, our guide Thant told me that the locals thought I was Chuck Norris. Apparently they see lots of old American martial arts movies. I went around saying I was Chuck Norris. My new Teva® sandals were perfect for walking in the mud. When I got back to the boat, my mud-covered sandals were too slick to walk on the boards laid down for us, so I just walked in the mud to the metal grated gangplank.
After boarding the boat, I took another shower. At 1 pm, I went to lunch buffet. I had Burmese noodle soup- which was good. It had transparent noodles, ear fungus and perhaps cabbage. I added the usual condiments.
We had very heavy rain most of the afternoon (this is monsoon season).
By 4:30 or 5 pm, the rain slackened to a mild, but constant rain. We tied up at Sitthaung village where boats of the old Irrawaddy Flotilla were scuttled to prevent them from coming in the hands of the Japanese during the war. People were waiting on the bank to see us. We were handed umbrellas and left the boat (some stayed on board because of the rain). I walked up a "cart path" that was a 38-mile road to India (we are very close to the border). After a short distance, we came to a covered set of stairs leading to a stupa. We took our shoes off at the bottom and walked up. At the top, there was a nice view of the Chindwin and rice paddies. I found a large, but dead beetle that was iridescent, metallic blue, It was beautiful. I held it to take pictures for myself and for others, after they saw it. We walked back down toward the village and I walked up a "street" to view the houses. Most everyone was inside to avoid the rain. One house had a bear cub for a pet.
We boarded the boat again and the crew sprayed water onto our
shoes before we stepped aboard. Then we took our shoes off. They always
return our shoes later, all clean. Back on board, I took another
On board, the Cruise Director, Win, gave a slide show on their (Pandaw's) rescue effort, with Merlin, to help with the Nargis cyclone victims. They converted this boat to a hospital ship and the Merlin staff doctors treated patients. Merlin is an NGO here in Burma and a Scot lady (Janette) that is a program manager for Merlin, is a passenger on board this boat now.
After the talk, we went to dinner. My choice was vegetarian curry which was a pumpkin curry. I love pumpkin and this was good. After dinner, I went to the Sun Deck to talk to the other passengers After that, I went to bed.
6 Sept 08, Saturday
I woke up at 3 am, went back to sleep off and on and heard the engines start about 5:40. I got up and took a shower and went to the Sun Deck for coffee. I talked to Janette about her NGO work in Burma. I told her about Brent's work for IDE in Yangon and she was familiar with the agency. I also told her about the water treatment "Living Waters" group in the States. At 7, I went to breakfast and had the usual fruit, cheese, roll and Burmese soup. The soup today was noodles with an egg broth. I've never had anything like it.
Around 9 we pulled up to and tied up at the very small village, Helaw Kyunn, on a large longitudinal bar in the river. It has not rained today, so far, and the bank and bar are not particularly muddy. The bank was full of people waiting to see us. We walked to a little one room school and the children recited their ABC's and numbers and a few songs for us. I took a lot of pictures.
Back on board, I went to the Sun Deck to update my journal and talk with my friends. I went to lunch buffet at 1 pm and then took the boat's tour through the galley, engine room, water treatment and wheelhouse. They have no GPS, sonic depth finder, or radar. They test water depth with a bamboo pole.
About 4:30, we tied up at Thaungdut where, again, many people were waiting for us. We walked up the hill to the local pagoda. There was also a small monastery and a meeting hall where the sawbwa's meetings were held. I saw a game where fellows kick a woven bamboo ball. The game is similar to hacky sack, but one is given points for the difficulty in kicking style. One fellow was able to consistently kick from behind his back with his foot, with the ball flying over his back to his facing opponent. The game is called chinlone (Wikipedia entry).
Back on board, we attended a very interesting slideshow by Dr. Desmond Kelly. He lived here before the Japanese took over and at the age of seven, he and his family had to escape by walking across the mountains and over the rapids to reach India. He has written a book about it: Kelly's Burma Campaign: Letters from the Chin Hills (2003, Tiddim Press ISBN 0-9540238-1-1).
Immediately after the lecture, we went to dinner where I chose beef. The beef had an excellent flavor despite the slight toughness. After dinner, a number of us went to the Sun Deck to talk. I went to bed fairly early because some of us signed up to go to early market tomorrow.
7 Sept 08, Sunday
I got up at 5 am, took a shower and went to the Sun Deck by 5:15 for coffee. It was still dark, and the Pagoda was all lit up. About 5:30 we disembarked and rambled through the local market (still at Thaungdut). I took many pictures. Most of the market was operated by women. I bought 3 elephant hair rings for my girls. They are supposed to bring good luck. I couldn't buy rings for anybody else because the available ones were too small. I got 3 rings for 2000 chat.
After an hour, I went back on board and had a coffee on the Sun deck. I brought my journal up to date as well. We shoved off by 7:15 and headed up the Chindwin.
At about 7 am, I went to the breakfast buffet and after breakfast, I sat on the Sun Deck and took pictures along the way. I saw many butterflies of many varieties fly along the boat. One was a fairly large, deep purple color. I couldn't photograph any, however. Dr. Stephen (England) found a nice brown moth that I photographed. I have also seen a large cicada on deck. At one point, I saw an eagle (?) fly across the river. We passed a huge teak lumberyard on the east bank along the way. We will pass it again tomorrow.
We had buffet lunch at 1 pm, which included paella, a creamy gazpacho and other options. It was all very good.
At around 3 pm, we tied up at Homalin, our most northward point on the Chindwin. We walked along the streets. The sun was very bright and the temperature in the mid-90's F. Everyone is very friendly and I took lots of photos. A fellow gave me two green chewing packets of betel nut. This had a white paste (caustic lime, not the fruit) put on the leaf by a finger and then some segments of chopped betel nut and a sprinkle of what might have been Indian tobacco. Another game I saw was a type of Parcheesi, where they had a board with lots of squares and a die tossed in a bowl. I also bought a bottle of Dagon beer and a bottle of Spirulina beer that is supposed to "keep you young forever." I saved the labels.
We returned to the ship by 4:30 and we cast off and headed downstream this time. It was pretty hot. I took a shower and laid down for a minute and fell asleep. I almost missed the special "Sun Set" cocktail to commemorate our most northern point on the trip. We had champagne and freshly barbecued kabobs (satay) of chicken wings, faux crab legs, pork, sausage with chili sauce, peanut sauce and others. I took some photos of the very nice sunset, but they really can't do justice to the real thing. After the snack (6:30), we headed to the Lecture Room where "Mrs. Janette" (from Scotland) gave a lecture on the Merlin (NGO) medical project in that region (Chin Region) of Burma. This area is largely Christian because of the American missionaries of the 19th century.
Dinner was at about 7:30 or 8. I was not hungry, so only had the seafood cocktail and tomato soup and no entrée. I went back to my room and soaked beer labels and caught up on my journal. I am still not sleeping well, so I went to bed fairly early.
8 Sept 08, Monday
I got up at 6 am when they started the engines. My cabin is directly over the engine area. Many people said they would not like this cabin location, but it's perfect for me. It's the most isolated cabin on the boat. I showered and then had coffee on the Sun Deck. I talked to Janette about her experiences in living in this remote area. She loaned me her Myanmar language book. She said the book was available in Yangon and comes with a CD. I have not seen it before. I went to breakfast at 7:10 and had my usual fruit, cheese and Burmese soup. I also had some sort of yogurt/cottage cheese type food about the consistency of oatmeal. A western hot breakfast is always available with cook-to-order eggs, but I have not had it. After breakfast, I returned to my cabin to update my journal and look over the language book. The weather seems nice again today.
Around 9, we tied up at the town of Paungbyin and went ashore to walk around. It was very hot in the sun, perhaps in the mid 90's F. I looked at the shops, food stands, telephone centers, pagodas, and billiards stands. We also saw people playing carroms, using their fingers to flick sliding discs on a table. As we began to pull out from the village, one fellow from the crowd did a sharp, two finger whistle. I whistled back and they all thought it was funny, so several passengers as well as others in the crowd whistled back and forth with much amusement. Several times I would blow air and the whistle wouldn't come out and they thought that was funny.
Back on board, after cooling down a bit and taking a shower, I went to lunch buffet; a wide variety of salads, dessert crepes with fruit and honey and hot dishes. The hot dishes included spicy butterfish (excellent), meatballs, thai noodles, okra, and garlic rice.
We continued downstream and I went to the Sun Deck to watch the landscape. It is getting cloudier and rained briefly. On board, I saw one of the guides and a steward playing Chinese checkers.
We arrived at the village of Auk Thang about 4 pm. We walked around the village and ended up at a school where we saw Middle School children in Physical Education class doing a sort of callisthenic exercises. It was very interesting. We talked to the teacher briefly and then returned to the Pandaw. Again, a large number of people turned out for our departure. This is Pandaw's third cruise up the Chindwin and they have to get special permission for their passengers to get into this closed region. The trip is only done once a year and it is not done every year, so the locals only see foreigners once every few years. It's a big event.
After we returned to the ship, we were shown two short documentaries about the history of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company at 6:30. At 7:30, we had dinner. I had for entrée, a vegetable cutlet and rice. At 9, I returned to my room to take a shower and write in my journal just as a steady, moderately heavy rain started. We moored for the night at the village of Khawe, but we are not getting off to see it.
9 Sept. 08, Tuesday
I slept till 5 am and then fell back to sleep until the engines started at 6. Apparently it rained during the night, sometimes very hard. This morning, it is very cloudy with the occasional rain. Temperature is about 72. I hope it stays like this. I went to the Sun Deck after my shower and had a cup of coffee. At 7, I went to breakfast buffet where I had fruit, cheese, bread and a thick fish and noodle soup. I also had a new fruit called a custard apple, which was delicious. It has many seeds, and, despite its custardy texture, tastes a bit like apple.
At about 9, we tied up at Mawlaik, once
the British administrative center for Sagaing state. We got on trishaws
(3-wheeled bikes) and toured around the town looking at British
buildings, etc. built in 1916. There was even an old golf course and
golf club building. We stopped at a hospital and an old British office.
The office was converted into an office and home for the four-members
of the forestry department. We had also stopped at an outdoor market,
which was the most interesting for me. It was hot in the sun, but nice
in the shade. We got back to the boat by 11. I tipped my driver, who
looked to be 14, with a 500 chat note.
Back on board the Pandaw, I went to my room and took a shower. I also caught up in my journal. Then I went to the Sun Deck for the view as we proceeded down the river.
Lunch was served at 1 pm. I had salad buffet, dentdelion soup (not made of dandelions) and sampled a little pumpkin lasagna, mutton curry with potatoes. I had another custard apple for dessert.
At 3 pm, we tied up at Kalewa. This is the same place we first boarded the Pandaw at the beginning of the cruise. It is a truckers' town at the junction of the Indian-Myanmar Friendship road (e & w) and a north-south Myanmar road that parallels the Chindwin. It is also an important commercial dock at the confluence of the Chindwin and Myittha rivers. Because of the commercial traffic, it is a muddy, dirty town. We walked around and visited a hill-top pagoda. I walked down the road and found people hand loading damp coal in baskets to carry to the coal boats. I saw pyrite cleat mineral on one block. The coal has roughly 90 degree face and butt cleat and is a common bright banded bituminous coal with vitrain and clarain. One vitrain band was 1.5 cm thick. I don't know the age nor where it comes from, but probably not from far away. A couple of the passengers said that a Myanmar geologist was supervising the mining and loading. They took me back to meet him, but we couldn't find him. It was very hot when we first started our walk, perhaps the hottest walk of the trip so far. In the sun, it felt like 100 degrees F.
I got back on the boat by 4:20 and then took another shower, and filled out my journal.
At 7 pm, we had a briefing in the Saloon Bar about tomorrow's events. Dinner was at 7:30, but I was not hungry at all and just had tea-leaf salad and water.
We tied up at Goung Hti village for the night and we will depart at 6:30 tomorrow, so we will not visit this tiny village. Even so there were people out to see us tie up.
I went to bed earlier than usual.
10 Sept. 08, Wednesday
I slept off and on through the night. I guess I went to bed too early. I was awake by 5 and took my shower at 6. I went to the Sun Deck for coffee at 6:30, about the time we pulled out of the small village. I went to breakfast buffet where I had fruit, cheese, banana bread, glass noodle soup and strong tea. After breakfast, I went to the little shop on the Sun Deck and bought a CD of Burmese harp music and the DVD of the history of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Each was $5. I bet the DVD is in the European format and not the American. I should still be able to play it on my computer.
The morning was foggy and I got some interesting shots of sun-lit mists rising from the distant mountains.
Sometime around 9 am, we landed at Kau to visit a teak-carved monastery. The temperature was very hot, about 95 degrees F and somewhat humid. Then we walked for about a half hour to the village of Kyi Taung Oo, where we visited a hill-top monastery with golden buddhas. This morning we also saw the Pandaw I boat, the original one salvaged from the sunken flotilla. The government owns it now. Most of the passengers were American. I met a Mr. Harris from Lexington, KY (now in Connecticut) who went to school at the University of Kentucky and is a cousin of the Faubush boys I knew from London, KY. After a hot walk back to our boat, I took a shower and updated my journal as we cast off at 11:30.
We had lunch buffet at 1 pm with a large variety of salads, creamy gazpacho, and a variety of hot foods, pork with cumin, butterfish cooked in banana leaf, vegetables and rice. After lunch, I bought a longyi (pronounced lon-jee) in the gift shop. It is a cylinder of fabric that men wear. They taught me how to put it on and tie it. I probably won't wear it much back home. Later, the crew gave a demonstration on how to make ginger salad (I got the recipe), how to put on a longyi, how women put on their version of the longyi (it's not called a longyi for them). They also demonstrated how to make thanakha paste using a thanakha grinding stone and the bark of a special tree from the Bagan area (can be species of Murraya or Limonia acidissima). When it is the right consistency, women and children put it on their face to make their complexion good and as a sunscreen. All the women wear it.
At 7 pm I went to the Saloon Bar for "briefing" about tomorrow's events. We had to wear our longyis because tonight is the special Burmese dinner. I had to get help in tying my longyi, but now I think I have it. For dinner we had multi-course dishes including vegetable curry, chicken curry, mutton curry and beef curry. I liked it all. It was a good dinner. I gave my dessert to another person at the table. I haven't been eating desserts.
After I went to my room, I noticed that there was a very loud voice coming out of a loud speaker on the bank where we tied up (at Monywa). The person has been talking for an hour. I hope it quits soon; you surely can't sleep through it. I found out that it is a tape recording of a monk reciting Buddhist scriptures. He finally quit about 10:15.
11 Sept. 08, Thursday
I got up at 6 and took a shower. I went to the Sun Deck for coffee and talked to an English lady (Ms. Potter) researching her father's history as an administrative officer of some sort in Burma. She is writing a book about his experiences.
I went to breakfast at 7 and had fruit, cheese and banana bread as well as honey dew melon juice. No soup available for today's breakfast.
About 8 am we boarded 2 air-conditioned buses and drove to Phowin Taung Hill. We passed several conical hills that looked to be old volcanoes. Then we saw the copper mines in the area and that confirmed it (Lower Chindwin volcanic field). I took photos of family-owned leaching pits where they concentrate the copper compounds and then sell the high-graded liquid product to processing plants. I also saw numerous toddy palms that are used to make palm sugar. I have eaten some of the sugar in the market places. One can see narrow bamboo ladders going up the palm to collect the palm nectar.
After about 1.5 hours, we arrived at the Phowin Taung Hill site of carved niches with buddha statues and murals. The niches are carved into a reddish brown (i.e. weathered color) sandstone. There are apparently 400 niches built between the 14th and 18th centuries. I took a lot of photos. Temperatures seem to be in the 90's.
We returned to the boat, now moored at another part of Monywa, by 12:30. I took another shower and then had lunch at 1 pm. I did the usual soup, salad bar and a small helping of the hot foods (beef and chicken curries and some lime, mixed pickle which was very good. I also had another custard apple and a mangosteen. They also had one dragon fruit; if it's still there by dinner time, I'll get it too.
At 2:30 we boarded the two "mini" buses and drove to Moe Hnyin Than Boaddai Temple (Thanboddhay Paya) with one half million buddhas and the most brightly painted temple I have ever seen. After the temple, we drove up the Po Khaung hill to see the longest reclining buddha (330 feet) and tallest standing buddha (412 feet) in Myanmar.
After that, we re-boarded the buses and had a driving tour of Monywa. We got back to the boat around 5:30. My new Teva® one-click sandals have been very useful going in and out of temples. We also have to remove our shoes coming back on board the boat. They wash the dirt off and put them in front of our door. They (the sandals) have good traction on a muddy bank and give good support in all directions. Anyway, when I got back to my cabin, I took another shower and then went to dinner. It was a multi-course meal as usual and I opted for the sweet and sour prawns. After dinner I went to the Sun Deck to sit with the other passengers and talk. I went to bed about 10.
12 Sept 08, Friday
I woke up at 5:30 and the engines started at 6. I took a shower and went to the Sun Deck for coffee. It is a rainy morning with some thunder. I saw an unusual set of mountains on a plain and I'm sure it is a volcanic cone from the Lower Chindwin volcanic field (prob. Letpadaung at lat 22.0766, long 95.0941). I took a couple of pictures in the rain, so I'm not sure they'll turn out.
The water level is dropping on the Chindwin and the boat had to re-moor last night to avoid being stuck in the mud. There are many more sand bars visible in the water compared to our previous experience Water has dropped 9 inches overnight. The crew are sounding water depth with poles and they say something like "doyay" when the pole does not touch bottom. The captain had a hard time spotting the submerged bars in the heavy rain. I mentioned to two of the Swiss couple sitting next to me that Mark Twain got his name from a phrase used on the Mississippi for sounding the depth to bottom. They were familiar with Mark Twain and this origin for his pen name, which surprised me.
I went to breakfast at 7 and had the usual cheese, fruit, bread and soup (glass noodles and fungus) and tea. I sat with a Swiss couple and an Australian couple.
After breakfast, I went to the Sun Deck to update my journal. We passed under another bridge. According to Dr. Kelly, this bridge (at Anein) was built by the Japanese about 10 years ago to reach the copper mines. The two authors/researchers, Dr. Kelly and Beatrice Potter (a distant cousin of Beatrix Potter) are leaving the boat later today along with about 13 others tomorrow. Several new passengers come aboard at the same time. Both Ms. Potter and Dr. Kelly are researching for books about their parents' experiences in Burma.
Today we spent most of our time traveling down the Chindwin. Mid-day we entered the Irrawaddy River and continued downstream. At about 3 or 4, we moored at Bagan (Pagan), a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, UNESCO extricated itself from the area several years ago. Bagan has 32 or 4 thousand pagodas and stupas scattered over a very large area. They date from 1044 to 1287 AD. We left the boat and boarded an air-conditioned bus to tour a variety of sites in Bagan. I took many photos.
At about 6:15 we returned to the boat. I took another shower and put on my longyi (man dress) to go to the briefing in the Saloon Bar. It took me a good 15 minutes to tie the knot correctly and adjust the length so that I could walk. I went to dinner at 7 and I had fried beef tenderloin with some sort of sauce. A number of people leave in the morning and several people said their farewells.
After dinner, I went to the Sun Deck and about 10 of us gathered to talk for about an hour. I went to bed around 10:30.
13 Sept. 08, Saturday
I got up at 5 am and took a shower. I went to the Sun Deck and got a cup of coffee. At about 5:45, a small group of us got on several buggies (horse carts) and rode around some of the stupas at sun rise. It was cloudy, so there wasn't much of a sunrise. It had rained during the night, so it was muggy even in the early morning. We were accosted by hawkers at every stop.
We returned to the boat about 6:45. I washed my hands and went to breakfast by 7 am. I had the usual fruit plate, but also had porridge (I don't know what kind).
At about 8:30 we boarded a bus and went first to a local market. I took photos of vegetables, fruit, fish, etc. I also bought 3 T-shirts for the girls and a small bronze bell. Then we went to Shwezigon temple, built in the 11th century. After leaving Shwezigon, we visited several stupas and pagodas in Bagan and an archaeological site where they have uncovered the foundations of the old palace.
We returned to the boat around 11:30 and I took another shower. My room was warm and my air conditioning wasn't working. A circuit breaker had popped open in the rear half of the boat and it was easily fixed. I met four of the new passengers; they're Aussies and seem very nice.
I had lunch at 1 pm and had salad buffet, a good soup (but I don't know what it was) and some mutton curry along with home-made mixed pickle, which is wonderful.
We tied up at Ohn Ne Choung village around 3:30 and walked around a bit. Petrified wood is everywhere. I took lots of photos of children, basket making, and net making. I also met the new Scot couple and they seem very nice.
We re-boarded the boat at 4:30, cast off and made our way up the Irrawaddy. And I took another shower. I have been underestimating the temperatures. One of the passengers said there was a thermometer on the Sun Deck that said the temperature was 100 degrees F. I thought it was mid 90's. I found the thermometer (it's in the shade), so now, I will register more accurate temperatures.
The Irrawaddy is a much bigger river than the Chindwin, perhaps 3 or 4 times bigger and there are many forested islands and bars on the river. It looks more like a lake that a river from the boat.
This next part is written on very damp paper. I went to my room and put on my longyi and walked barefoot to the Saloon Bar for our briefing around 6:30 or so. I could see intense heat lightning all along the eastern horizon.
The captain has his spot light on, looking for a place to moor on the eastern bank. While in the Saloon bar, I suddenly heard the wind pick up and felt the boat rock with the wind (this has not happened before). And then the wind and rain got very, very strong and the boat started pitching and rolling. Outside the Saloon Bar, I could see that the crew men were running and shouting at each other. The Captain started yelling orders in Burmese through the PA system. We could feel the ship tossing and turning but couldn't see anything. Rain was blowing horizontally. The wind picked up to 80 or 90 miles per hour. The boat pitched to port about 30 degrees (I had no visible frame of reference) and all the passengers, chairs, and tables went sliding to port. All the liquor bottles toppled and smashed to the floor. I could hear all sorts of crashing throughout the ship. The boat stayed at this angle for several seconds. Then the boat pitched to starboard and then to port again. No one could stand. Then the lights went out and everyone gave an audible gasp; it was dark and we were about to capsize. The emergency lighting came on. I sat down on the floor against the starboard wall; I couldn't stand for the pitching. All the passengers were sitting on the floor or on chairs on the port side where they had slid. [The first time the boat listed to port was the cause of most of the damage. I had been thrown about 6 feet toward the bar and I braced myself with my hand to keep from harming a lady at the bar. As a result, I bruised my palm on the right hand.] The Captain ordered us to abandon ship. We had run aground against a grassed-over bar in the channel. I was the last out of the bar. The floor was littered with broken glass and I was barefoot. I grabbed hold of the belt of Max, a Swiss man, who had some physical deformities and I knew he couldn't swim or stand very well. I helped him out of the bar. We made our way down the stairs and had to hold onto the banister and railings with both arms in order not to be blown off the boat or loose our footing. The wind was very strong. We climbed over the railing onto the deck of the service boat (a longtail) and then onto the marshy grass. The crew were very diligent and assisted us with no concern for themselves. We stood in the mud in driving rain and wind. I was afraid the top heavy boat would still topple onto people. We were told to stand about 100 feet from the boat. During lightning strikes, I could see the shredded canopy slapping over the side of the boat; it used to cover the Sun Deck. I heard that the Captain had ordered the canopy to be slashed while in the channel because the canopy was acting as a sail and he was worried that it would cause the boat to topple over.
I stayed between the passengers and the boat, trying to monitor what was happening. I was soaking wet in my longyi, barefoot and my glasses were covered with rain. The crew brought out chairs and tarpaulins to cover the passengers after the wind died back. Trevor, Colin and I helped to spread the tarp over the passengers. I helped carry towels and other gear to the passengers. I couldn't see out of my glasses because of the rain. One of the crew brought a chair, umbrella and partial table to the marsh and a crewman was brought to the table. They held a light to examine his foot. I could see that he had several gashes in his foot (I guess from stepping on glass). I went back to the passengers to ask if there were a doctor in the group. I didn't think there was. A man, a new passenger, said that he was a doctor, so I took him to the crewman. A first aid kit was found the the doctor examined the patient in the rain.
The crew asked several of us to come aboard and help, so Trevor, Colin, the Dr. and I went on board. They asked us to clear out the dining room so it could be used as a staging area for the passengers. I quickly went to my room and put on my sandals and dry shorts and dried my glasses so I could see. My room was trashed. We cleared out the broken dishes and glass as best we could and moved tables about. The dining room was all ready for dinner before the storm came and food and dishes were everywhere. After half an hour, and after the boat was successfully moored, a gangplank was set up and the passengers re-boarded the boat. They all went to the dining room as a staging area. I went back to my room for a flashlight for the doctor and all the deck chairs were piled up against my cabin. The door was wide open. The wind had blown it open. All my papers and journal were on the floor and soaking wet. My camera didn't work either.
I went back to the dining room and heard that none of the crews' cell phones, nor even the satellite phone worked. The generator was working and we had some lights. The captain was able to restart the engines and back out of the bank and they re-moored the boat. Myint, the chief boatswain told me that we were very lucky. The boat didn't topple and no one was blown overboard. This flat-bottomed boat had been blown one kilometer from the eastern bank to an island close to the western bank.
The doctor (Michael, from Australia) attended to injured crew and some bruised passengers. One lady had a very swollen face when she fell to the floor. Several ladies had badly bruised legs when a marble-topped table slid into them when the boat first pitched to port. One lady had a cracked or broken rib. I think I'm the one that hit here. The crew continued to work furiously. They managed to provide food (fruit, potato chips, cookies and drinks) and cleaned cabins (enough to make them habitable). Some of the rooms were so bad that one or two passengers had to change rooms. One bed in my room was wet (it was in front of the door), but the other was amazingly dry. My wet papers were stacked on my desk. I pulled apart the pages of my journal and put dry paper between all the pages. The covers were soaking wet, so I tore them off. I took the batteries out of my camera and took the chip out in hopes that it would dry. I spread out my other papers and map onto the mostly dry floor (by now). There were still a few puddles in my room. My lights are working (they didn't for awhile) and now the toilet flushes (it didn't before). I went to the deck close to the dining room and talked to the Doctor and another Aussie. By then, many of the passengers had opened a great many bottles of wine and some were pretty drunk. I had two glasses of wine after everything was over, about midnight, and went to bed.
[Fellow passenger, John Mitchell provides photographs of this event at jmprphotography.com. My camera wasn't working this evening.]
14 Sept. 08, Sunday
I woke up at six am when the engines started and we successfully left the bank and headed upstream. I took a shower and was surprised that we had hot water. I still had mud caked between my toes. I have a little scratch on two toes, an insignificant scratch on my left knee, a tiny scratch on my nose (I have no idea how I got that) and a sore right palm. I got coffee in the dining room and talked with others on the side deck. The crew worked all night long, including the injured ones. I went up the back way to the Sun Deck; I was the first passenger to do so because I knew a passage that the others didn't. There were masses of torn canopy, broken chairs, dirt and gravel on the deck (from the large potted plants) and general disarray. The clock stopped at 7:25 when the storm hit last night. A heavy serving cabinet had sheared away from the floor and had scooted to the port side. I took pictures using Mary's old Nikon digital camera. Using a heavy pry rod, the crew managed to open the main entrance to the Sun Deck and other passengers arrived to survey the damage.
We went to breakfast around 7 am. The tables had been put together into one long table and fruit, cereal and hot breakfast was available to order. I had a soft omelet, toast and bacon for the first time on the cruise. There was still some broken glass on the floor under the table, so we had to be careful.
After breakfast, I took my wet camera and notebook to the Sun Deck to dry out and update my journal. Lyle, an Aussie, suggested I use the hairdryer in my room. I went to my cabin and used the dryer on the camera and notebook and other damp things. I took two of my shirts and my longyi to the chairs outside my cabin to dry.
According to Win, we will sail for 10 hours to reach Mandalay by tonight. Several of the crew will see a doctor there for stitches, etc. and we need new provisions and, I'm sure other items. I believe we will continue the trip on up the Irrawaddy after Mandalay. The crew re-established communications this morning. There had been some talk of the cruise ending. I hope we are able to continue.
The crew continued to be very busy making repairs. There were still bits of broken glass along the upper deck. I got a broom and dust pan and swept the walkway. I was done after about 1.5 to 2 hours and I was completely wet.
I went to lunch at 1 pm and was amazed that the dining room was fixed up as if nothing had happened. A full menu was also offered as well and it was very good. I had Tom Yom Goung soup (with prawns), the salad buffet (including lablab bean salad, "fancy" tuna salad, seaweed salad and several hot items.
After lunch, I took my small bottle of naproxen sodium to Ms. Penelope from England, who had fallen in the Saloon Bar the previous night and had a bad limp and a black eye and swollen jaw. I hope it helps. They want to take her to the doctor in Mandalay, but I don't think she'll go.
All the pages in my journal are dry, but my camera still hasn't dried out. My camera bag is damp and the cough drops in it have turned to goo. I emptied out the camera bag and set it out to dry after washing it out. We pulled into Sagaing (actually, Shwe Kyet Yet) about 9 miles from Mandalay at 6:30 pm. The Pandaw II, sister ship to this one, is tied up here and we have pulled up close to her. She is being refitted here. We will take on some new furniture and other items while here.
At 6:45, I put on my mud-spattered, but dry longyi and went to the Sun Deck for an expected briefing. The dinner gong was sounded at 7 pm. I could see that provisions were still being loaded onto our boat. The injured crew were escorted off the boat and presumable were sent to the doctor's office. At dinner I had butter fish and it was very good.
After dinner, at 9 pm there was a traditional puppet show. The puppeteers came to meet us from Pagan, but were not affected by the storm. It was amazing how they controlled such subtle movements, even raising the eyebrows. I took pictures with Mary's old camera which I carried as a back up. I was very tired and went to bed at 10 pm.
15 Sept 08, Monday
I woke up at 5:30 and took a shower at 6. I went to breakfast at 6:30 and had fruit and porridge. The galley is "broken," according to the waiter. Gas lines were severed during the storm, so all the cooking is done on a portable, two-burner stove. The staff has also had very little sleep. After breakfast, I went to my room to continue drying things out.
We boarded an air conditioned bus to see the sights in Mandalay. We went to the Mahamuni Paya Temple where one could put gold leaf on a large buddha. I was going to do this, but was not allowed because I had shorts on. I forgot my longyi. I did take photos. The buddha (1st century AD) has about 6 tons of gold leaf on it. We also went to the Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung (Golden Palace) monastery made out of carved teak. It is now a museum. We visited marble carver street where they make carved buddhas from a 200-year old quarry near here. Much of the raw marble blocks are shipped to Japan and Europe. We visited a place where gold leaf is made by hammering gold with heavy wooden mauls. We also visited a workshop where tapestries were made and wood carvings were produced. We visited a place with the world's largest book (Kuthodaw Paya). Each page is a stone slab carved with Buddha's sayings in the Ba Li script.
We got back to the boat by 12:30. I took a shower, put batteries in my damaged camera and everything seemed to work but the monitor screen. I took a few pictures and gave my chip to a photographer on board who had a hard drive-monitor combo. According to his monitor, the pictures were on the chip. I have used Mary's old camera for two days, but can go back to the Canon. I will have to use the viewfinder only, however.
I had lunch at 1 pm including radish soup, a good selection of salads, and hot dishes of lamb curry, thai noodles and a vegetable dish. It was very good. I took a short nap after making journal entries.
At three, we boarded the same bus and went to Amarapura. We visited a silk-weaving factory, but I didn't have enough money with me to buy anything. Then we stopped at Maha Ganayon monastery and talked to a young monk who was studying English. This is one of three of the largest monasteries in Myanmar. Then we stopped along a series of shops along a shady lane. A lady cooked a sort of savory pancake using quail eggs. There were chilies, tomatoes and other items in it. Very good. Then we went to the "U Bein" foot bridge built in 1849. At 1.2 km in length, it's the longest teak bridge in the world. After walking half the length, we were met by sampan row boats and were served cocktails as we were rowed back to shore.
We got back to the boat about 6:15. I took another shower and put on my longyi for dinner. I updated my journal and went to dinner at 7:30. We had a special Burmese dinner with many dishes including tea-leaf salad, gourd soup, and a variety of hot dishes including glossy pork, a beef dish and a dish with prawns. Semolina cake was for dessert. At 9, we went to the Sun Deck where we were entertained by musicians and dancers from the Mandalay University of Culture. Hopefully my photos will turn out.
I went to bed at 10:15 after filling out my journal.
16 Sept 08, Tuesday
I woke up at 3:15 am when they started working on the generator near my cabin. They cut the electricity off to make repairs. There were noises all the rest of the morning as they worked on it. Engines were supposed to start at 5:30, but didn't start till 6. I believe some of the staff have families here and were anxious to see them after last Saturday night. The engines started at 6 am and I took my morning shower. I went to the Sun Deck for coffee and talked to the Scottish couple. She was born in Burma and had to fly out at the age of 4 when the Japanese came. Her father had to stay behind to blow up the oil fields and he had to walk out to India. As we sailed up the Irrawaddy, we saw a lot of salvaged and refitted boats from the old Irrawaddy flotilla. Most of these boats had been sunk so the Japanese couldn't get them. Many had been paddle-wheeled steamers, but after having been raised, they took out the paddle wheels and refitted them with diesel engines and propellers.
I went to breakfast a little after 7. I had fruit, cheese, glassy noodle soup and tea. I brought my last packet of Marmite (I had 2). I put a little on my toast and gave the rest to Ms. Penelope (from England). The Brits and Aussies like their Marmite (and/or Vegamite). I'm one of the few Americans who like it.
At 9, I went to my cabin and updated my journal. At 11 am, we went to the Saloon Bar where the Captain, Cruise Director, and Chief Guide gave us a briefing about the storm. They showed cartoon drawings of our position with estimated times and had a large model of the ship to demonstrate what happened. The official explanation was that we were hit by a tornado and blown across the channel. The captain ordered the canopy to be cut because it was acting as a sail. A small cut was made and the wind instantly ripped the rest of the canopy apart. The wind, as much as 90 mph (how could they tell?) changed directions as the storm progressed. The engines were at full throttle, but it was not enough against the wind. The wind caused the boat to pitch as much as 40 degrees to port (I don't think it was that much, but I didn't have a frame of reference). The power was cut to avoid electrical shock because of all the water. Emergency lighting came on a few seconds after power was cut. Gas lines in the galley were sheared and gas spewed out, but automatic valves shut off the gas at the tank. Dining room doors were opened so that the wind would blow through. The rest was pretty much as I described it. We thanked the captain and crew for their expertise and total concern for the passengers. The briefing was over about noon.
As we sail up the Irrawaddy, there have been mountains to our east. They appear to have at least a 2,000 foot relief, maybe 3,000 plus for some. There are only low hills to our west.
At 1 pm, we had lunch including soup, salad buffet and hot items such as duck curry. Steamed bananas and coconut was for dessert. After lunch, I took a nap because I didn't get much sleep from the night before.
At 3 pm, we arrived at Nwe Nyein village (Kyauk-Myoung, or Kyaukmyaung on my map). It was raining as we pulled in, but stopped when we got off. The road was pretty muddy, however. This is a village where very large pots are made. We went to see pots thrown, sub-glaze added, and saw the kilns in various stages of firing. We also saw the stamping machine which pulverized either the glaze or the clay. I took a number of photos. We got back on board and I took another shower. My feet and legs were a bit muddy.
We cast off and sailed on up the Irrawaddy and entered the Third Defile, a very low gorge where the river is constricted a bit. It's nothing particularly noticeable, however.
At 6:40, I put on my longyi and went to the Saloon Bar for our briefing. I am to present a lecture tomorrow night on travels in China in 2007. I hope my flash drive isn't ruined. We went to dinner at 7:30 and I had pork salad, creamy vegetable soup, spicy chicken with cashews and vanilla ice cream. I gave my ice cream to the person next to me. I was very tired and excused myself. I went to my cabin, got ready for bed and updated my journal. I went to bed at 9 pm, pretty early for this trip.
17 Sept 08, Wednesday
I woke up at 5:30, took a shower at 5:45 and went to the Sun Deck at 6 am for coffee. I took photos of the sunrise and mountains to our east.
At 7, I went to breakfast where I had cheese, fruit plate (watermelon, honeydew, bananas, pineapple, and papaya), sticky bun and fish soup with eggs, and tea for drink. We've been heading due north since leaving Mandalay. Most people are joking and making humorous comments, but there is a serious undertone with everyone. Many of the ladies have admitted to having crying spells. My work on the Gulf Coast after Katrina probably helped me to cope better with the storm event.
About 9 am, we moored next to Kyar Nyat village (not on my map). We went to a little archaeological museum that had Pyu culture and later artifacts. It is operated by the headmaster of the local orphanage and he has worked with international archaeologists from several western countries. Some of his items are at other museums. We visited Capt. Vaughn's grave. He was killed by locals in one of the Anglo-Burmese wars (ca 1885). We also visited an interesting local market.
I returned to the boat about 10, took off my sandals at the bow and had a glass of iced tea. I then went to my cabin for a quick shower and journal update. I think the temperature must be about 90 degrees. I went to lunch at 1 pm and had creamy potato soup, salad buffet, mixed pickle, several hot dishes and fruit cocktail with dragon fruit, etc. for dessert.
After lunch, I washed my longyi in the shower. A lot of muddy water came out. I put it on the railing behind my cabin at the stern and it dried within one hour. It did not wrinkle. I went to the Sun Deck and others told me that I missed seeing two dolphins (Irrawaddy dolphins). I looked for more, but didn't see any. We are at least an hour late for our next stop.
Sometime around 4 pm, we moored at the town of Hti Gyint. I checked the thermometer on the Sun Deck and it registered 101 degrees in the shade. This town appears to be a mercantile center with electronic shops, clothing shops, produce, etc. I went to a long series of covered steps leading to a pagoda at the top of a hill. Thant counted 302 steps. At the top I took photos of the Irrawaddy and nearby mountains in the hazy atmosphere and low afternoon sun. I took several photos of the street scenes and locals.
I re-boarded the boat about 5:30, and took a shower. At six, I loaded a power point presentation onto their computer and at 6:30, I gave a lecture on "Travels in Inner Mongolia and Yunnan Provinces, China," for about an hour. I answered questions at the end and then we all went to dinner. I had egg rolls, spinach cream soup, pumpkin curry and cheese cake. After dinner, I went to the Sun Deck and joined about eight others for an hour. Then I went to bed about 9:30 or 10.
18 Sept. 08, Thursday
I woke up about 5:30 and the engines started 10 minutes later. I took a shower at 6 am and then went to the Sun Deck for coffee about 6:10. The sky is overcast with low clouds with occasional light sprinkles. At 6:45, the Captain spotted dolphins and we went to the port bow railing. We could see the dolphins at a distance; there were two. Apparently they are dark and only about 4 feet long. I tried to take photos, but doubt if I got much.
I went to breakfast at 7 am and had cheese, fruit, oatmeal, toast and a steamed bun.
About 10 am, we moored at Katha (kat-ha), a British colonial logging town. George Orwell (a pen name for Eric Blair) was an administrator for the British here. His book, Burmese Days was written about this place. It's a big town, population about 200,000. We got on horse carts and were driven around the town. We went to Orwell's home, the train station, and to the market. I walked back to the boat from the market and came onboard about 12:00 pm. I had iced tea and then took a shower. I then went to the Sun Deck to talk with others as we pulled out of Katha.
The lunch gong was sounded at 1 pm. I had Sichuan soup, salad buffet, and mutton curry and vegetable curry. There is a passageway between my cabin and the rest of the cabins and in the passageway, I can smell the meals prepared from the galley below. On several occasions, there is an odor which smells like a blend of sewage and rotten fish. I believe it must be fermented fish paste, a traditional ingredient of some sauces in this region. My mutton curry at lunch today smelled like that and pork curry I had the other night also had that smell. Other than the smell, the dishes had an excellent flavor. I believe I'm starting to get used to it. After lunch, I went to my cabin for a quick nap.
At 4 pm, I went to the Saloon Bar where we had a discussion with our guide Thant about Myanmar and Buddhist culture. We continued cruising up the river. At 7:30, I put on my longyi and had dinner. I had pumpkin curry soup, smoked eggplant, Indian vegetable curry and a caramel-type of flan. After dinner, there about 30 locals at the bank where we had moored. Foreigners had never stopped here before. A teacher spoke English to us. I tossed him a couple of magazines in English. After that, I went to the Sun Deck for discussions with about eight others. I went to bed at 10:30.
19 Sept. 08, Friday
I woke up several times and had my shower by 6. I washed one of my shirts in the shower as well. I went to the Sun Deck for coffee and took some photos of homes along the bank as well as photos of a beautiful green beetle. I let the beetle crawl on my hand as I photographed it. It eventually flew away. It is very misty and the temperatures is 82 degrees F.
I went to breakfast at 7 and had cheese, fruit "vermicelli" soup with bamboo shoots, wooden ears and glass noodles. I also had a piece of toast with honey. I went back to my cabin by 7:45 and hung my shirt to dry along the stern railing. We anchored mid-channel around 7 and there are pagodas on both banks. Early morning, we had been going south, but still upstream, so we must be on a large meander loop.
At about 8:15, we dropped anchor mid-channel and a long-tailed boat came along side and took us to Kyun Daw (Big Island) village. We saw several hundred stupas in a compound and visited the associated monastery. Then we walked through town and visited an elementary school. Books and pencils were donated to the school. The school children sang to us and then we sang to them. Then my memory card became full and my camera wouldn't take any more pictures. Because my screen is blank, I can't tell anything about how full my memory card is. We walked back to the long-tail and coasted back to the Pandaw. I was back at my cabin by 10:30. I checked on my shirt and took a shower. Then I put a new memory card in the camera.
At 11, I went to the Sun Deck to view the Second Defile of the Irrawaddy. The Second Defile is an 8-mile long gorge with mountains on either side and an occasional cliff here and there. The hills are covered with trees including teak and have not been logged. Just before we got to the Second Defile, we saw several logging elephants, but no sign of logging in the steep mountains. I took a lot of photos. We passed the Defile and continued upstream.
The lunch gong was sounded at 1 pm and I went to lunch where I had cream of cauliflower soup, very good salad buffet, and hot dishes of pumpkin lasagna, vegetables, pork in sauce, etc. During lunch, the boat turned around and headed downstream. We must have been about 10-15 miles from Bhamo, further upstream. Our original itinerary was to go to Bhamo, take a small boat up to the First Defile and then fly to Yangon to end the trip. We would have made more stops and reached Bhamo later. However, we were not allowed to enter Bhamo or either not allowed to fly from Bhamo, so we are heading downstream, eventually ending in Mandalay for our flight to Yangon. At any rate, after lunch, I was very sleepy and went to my cabin for a short nap and to catch up in my journal. At 3 I went back to the Sun Deck to watch the scenery go by. The boat has to do a lot of zigzagging to avoid the submerged sand bars. The water has dropped 12 inches overnight, revealing new bars. We seem to be going about 20-25 mph. The afternoon is cooler than normal. The temperature was 95 degrees F in the shade and that seemed better.
At 6 pm, we had Sunset Cocktail to mark our upstream extent for the trip. I put on my longyi. They served champagne and kabobs. At 7:30 we had dinner and I opted for beef in red wine sauce. After dinner I went back to the Sun Deck. There must have been 100,000 tiny insects flying around each light. Bats loved it. They were flying back and forth along the boat. There were many cicadas landing on the deck as well. I went to my cabin at 9:30 and went to bed at 9:45.
20 Sept. 08, Saturday
I slept off and on throughout the night. The engines started at 6 and I took my morning shower. I went to the Sun Deck for morning coffee. The sky is clear with very few clouds. I went to breakfast at 7 and had cheese, fruit, oatmeal and toast with honey. After breakfast, I sat in the wicker chair outside my cabin and watched the river go by as we headed downstream.
At about 9 am, we moored at Thabye-Tha village, the first time Pandaw visited here. We walked along the street, meeting friendly people and taking pictures.
I came back on board at 10 and took a quick shower. I gave a lecture on "Travels in Tibet and Guangxi, China," in the Saloon Bar at 10:15. It was over at 11 and I answered several questions. Meanwhile, strong fair-weather winds picked up and the captain moored the boat along the bank.
At about 3 pm, we moored at Tagoung, founded from the 3rd to 5th centuries AD, making it one of the oldest cities in Myanmar. We walked along the streets and shops and saw part of the old city wall. We also saw a shrine to one of the animist deities. The attendant there would go into a trance and foretell your future for a small fee.
We re-boarded the Pandaw about 4:30 and cast off from Tagoung. I went to my cabin, took a shower and caught up on my journal.
At 6:30, they showed the DVD of The Life of Buddha, which was interesting. We moored before dark. At 7:30 everyone went to dinner except me. I stayed on the Sun Deck where most of the lights were extinguished and I watched the stars, a meteor, the Milky Way and the bats flying around. The lights around the boat provide a picnic for the bats. I could also see lightening from several distant thunderstorms. When the crew turned the lights back on at the Sun Deck, I went to my cabin and turned in for the night at 9:00 pm.
21 Sept. 08, Sunday
I woke up at 5:30, took a shower and washed out two shirts. I went to the Sun Deck about 6:05 for coffee. It is a cool, breezy morning, temperature is 80 degrees F. We are heading downstream and the river has dropped again. We are having to go carefully to avoid sand bars. We passed one teak barge (photo with orange hull) that was stuck on a sand bar. Two of the sailors on either side of our boat were using sounding rods and every 4-5 seconds, shouting "doy-yay" is the rod didn't touch bottom. Eventually we go to a deeper channel and proceeded down the river. Breakfast was ready at 7, but I stayed on the Sun Deck and had coffee. We entered the Third Defile again (we were last here, heading upstream). This defile is 29 miles long, so we'll be in it for several hours. The temperature is very pleasant. I haven't been taking as many photos because we have been this way before.
The next time I come to Myanmar, I want to bring with me the
book, Birds of Myanmar, by Kyaw Nyunt Lwin and Khin
Ma Ma Thwin and illustrated by Aung Thant. The boat has a copy in the
library, but it is not for sale. First edition is 2003. Publisher, Daw
Moe Kay Khaing, Chotaythan Sarpay (01692), Shwenatha, Pale Myo (3),
Mingaladon Tsp., Yangon, Myanmar.
Perhaps it is also available through: Swiftwinds Services Co., Ltd with
I did find it here (www.nhbs.com/birds_of_myanmar_tefno_139029.html).
I hope someone comes out with a book on butterflies of Myanmar. I have
seen a great variety of beautiful butterflies flying along the boat.
I took a photo of a "famous" pagoda on a tiny island in the defile. It had concrete embankments all around to handle the flood waters.
We passed the Defile in late morning and at 1 pm we were once again in very shallow waters. Sailors were again using the sounding rods. The lunch gong was sounded at 1 pm and everyone went down to lunch. Temperature was 93 degrees F.
had washed two shirts in the shower and hung them on hangers at the stern behind my cabin. They were dry by lunch time and I took them into my cabin. For most of the afternoon, I watched the river go by.
Around 4 pm, we moored at Mingun, where I climbed to the top of the largest solid brick structure in the world. It was an unfinished pagoda "Pa Hto Daw Gyi" which was heavily damaged by earthquakes in 1838-1839. Two large brick guardian lions (chintes) were also broken in half. I was the only passenger to climb the structure and I did it with bare feet. Then I saw the world's largest working bell and rung it. After that, I climbed 100 steps to the top of the White Pagoda (Hsinbyume Paya) and took more photos. I was also the only passenger to limb that one. On the way back to the boat, I bought some jade necklaces. By the time I got back to the boat, I was soaking wet. I took another shower.
I put on my longyi and went to the Saloon Bar for our evening briefing and then we all went to dinner at 7:30. I sat at a table with a very nice Swiss German couple. I had two giant river prawns fore appetizer, soup and aubergine curry for my entrée. Ice cream was for dessert. It was a very nice meal.
After dinner, I went to the Sun Deck to talk with a group of the other passengers, and then went to bed.
22 Sept. 08, Monday
I woke up at 5:30 and the engines started at 6. I took a shower and was on the Sun Deck for coffee by 6:10. It was very cloudy and chilly with the wind. Temperature was 80 degrees F. At 7:10, I went to breakfast. I had cheese, fruit, oatmeal and toast with honey. I also bought 2 lacquer boxes. We moored at Shwe Kyet Yet near Sagaing again.
At 8:30 we boarded an air conditioned bus and crossed the old Ava bridge (built in 1934 by the British, bombed during WWII and rebuilt in 1954) and proceeded to a network of pagodas at the top of Sagaing Hills in Sagain. I took several pictures. Then we visited the Sun-U-Ponnya-Shin pagoda built in the 14th century. And after that pagoda, we visited Kaunghmudaw Paya, one of the largest pagodas in Myanmar. The we visited a silver smith shop. Coming back to the boat, we went over the new bridge and back to the Pandaw IV.
There are big celebrations today, the Moon Festival. Many sampan boat races, singing, chanting, firecrackers, etc. It should really get going tonight. Anyway, I took a quick shower and went to the Saloon Bar for the 12:30 Disembarkation Briefing. The lunch gong tolled at 1 pm and I went to lunch. I had fish soup with Pernod, salad buffet (my favorite) and hot dishes of chicken, tempura vegetables, Indian beef curry and a seaweed dish. I had some fruit for dessert.
After lunch, I went to the Sun Deck to watch the sampan boat races. The teams are from competing villages. Many hundreds of fans are standing along a pagoda at the finish line. They race two boats at a time. Temperature on the Sun Deck is 94 degrees F in the shade. I spent about an hour packing in my cabin and finally got everything put away.
I put on my longyi for the Farewell Cocktail on the Sun Deck. The Captain came around to very group and gave them a toast. The entire crew in uniform came out and lined up. Each was individually introduced and we all applauded for each one.
At 7:30, the dinner gong was sounded and we all went to dinner. I had French onion soup, Indian-style mixed vegetable curry and chocolate mousse for dessert. After dinner, I went to the Sun Deck to talk and then went to bed by 9:30. I have an early morning tomorrow.
23 Sept. 08, Tuesday
I got up at 5 am, took a shower and got the last items put away. I put my red pack on the deck outside my cabin and then went up to the Sun Deck for coffee. At 5:45, I went to early breakfast. I had fruit and porridge, and was out by 6:15. We boarded an air conditioned bus for the hour-long drive to the Mandalay airport. We arrived at the airport to be greeted by about 10 high-ranking military officials including the District Commander of Mandalay District. In front of television cameras, he shook each of our hands and asked where we were from. He is one of the top generals in the country. I got a good, firm handshake and told him I was from America. He invited us to come to Myitkyina next time. We thanked him. After he shook our hands, he and his entourage left and we went through security twice to get to our gate area. This is a very modern airport. Most of the flights were to Yangon, but one was to Myitkyina.
We boarded the flight to Yangon about 9:30 am and made a stop at the city of Heho. After some passengers got off and others got on, w took off again and arrived at Yangon at 11. We arrived at the Chatrium Hotel about 11:50. I was given my card key and I took my pack to the room. I had to use filament tape (which I carry with me) to repair a strap on my pack. It had received rough treatment somewhere along the way. At one pm, we had a special group lunch at the Tiger Hill Restaurant (Chinese) in the hotel. We had a variety of Chinese dishes and Dim Sum (Dianxin). At three, we boarded a bus to the famous Scot's Market. There must be a thousand small shops selling gems, jade, wood carvings, baskets, fabrics, and antiques. I priced some jade, but it was much more expensive than in the villages along our cruise.
After the Scot's Market, we got back to the hotel around 5:30 pm. I put on my longyi and met our group in the lobby. At 7 pm we re-boarded the bus and went to the Green Elephant Restaurant (www.elephant-house.com/restaurant_ygn.htm). This restaurant serves traditional Burmese dishes. We had a lentil soup (a cross between French onion soup and lentil soup), a green vegetable salad, rice and a pork dish (with a sweet, lightly spicy sauce)(my favorite), prawns, vegetables and perhaps one other dish I can't remember. We were back at the hotel by 9 pm. I went to bed shortly after that. I saw on television (BBC) that the stock market has collapsed this week and there are arguments to bailout Wall Street.
24 Sept. 08, Wednesday
I woke up several times during the night. I got up at 6 am and took a shower. I went down to breakfast around 7 am and had cheese, fruit plate (the usual items) and croissant and coffee. This time of the year the variety of fruit is very low. Early summer is the best time for fruit, I think. I went back to my room and changed to jeans and shoes to free up some room in my pack. I then got my documents ready for my flights to Bangkok and then Chiang Mai, and caught up on my journal. I listened to a bit of Thai language (pasa Thai) on my MP3 player; it's a boring morning.
At 10:50 am, I checked out. Pandaw then sent me a guide and driver to take me to the airport. I got to the airport a little before noon. I went through security and got in line to pay the $10 departure tax. Then my Bangkok Air check-in counter opened and I got my boarding pass. They could not check me through my next flight, however. When I get to Bangkok, I will have to check in again even though it's the same airlines and I have a tight connection. This airport, Yangon International is very modern and air conditioned. I think it is new; they are building shops in the gate area. The only other westerner is a friendly Brazilian young man about mid-twenties. For three years, he has been studying Chinese in Beijing. I spoke to him a bit in Chinese and he asked where I had studied. His English was also very good; he had lived in England for a year or two as well. We boarded the plane a little late but took off about 2:00 pm.
It's a one hour fight to Bangkok and I'm on the front row (no 1st class), but my carry on bags are stowed several rows back because the others were filled. For lunch I had a good Thai fish curry. I sat next to a young lady (Myanmar), but didn't talk to her till near the end of the flight. It turned out that she spoke English very well. We were put on the front row because we were both going to Chiang Mai with tight connections. She speaks Burmese, Lisu, Thai and English. She is of the Shan minority and they speaks Lisu. She asked what religion I was and she said that she was Baptist. Missionaries were very active in that part of Myanmar in the 19th and 20th centuries. She and her husband hope to operate a stand at the Night Market in Chiang Mai. She has two toddlers, but I don't know where they are. I told her the ages of my children too. At any rate, when we landed, we had to scramble for our carry on luggage and run through the airport. I went to the head of a long line of disgruntled travelers and the check-in people seemed to know about our plight already and issued our boarding passes on the spot. We then ran to customs and immigration and luckily there was no line. We then went through security at our gate with a little time to spare. I thought I might have to spend the night in Bangkok.
The flight was about an hour. I walked to the exit area from baggage claim and there was a sign with my name on it. The lady, "Tip," was my guide and she walked me to the car. I had booked my stay in Chiang Mai through Brendan Vacations (www.brendanvacations.com//Front/Home.aspx) who contracted with either Indochina Services (www.indochina-services.com) or Asia World (asiaworld-travel.com) for guide, driver and hotel. We got to the Empress Hotel (www.empresshotels.com/empress_hotel.html) in about 10 minutes. I checked in and went to my room. There are three locks on the door and they advise me to use all of them. They also advise guests to use the lock boxes at the office. There are warnings for tourists not to use street-hawked tuk tuks (motorized trishaws). There must be a lot of crime here. I put on my shorts and walked to the Night Market, a collection of tented stands selling food, crafts, CD's, clothing, etc. I bought a big bag of rambutans and then walked back to the hotel. This is a big city with a carnival atmosphere. The shops along the street in this area alternate with internet shops, trekker and travel shops, thai massage salons, and noodle stands. This is not really my kind of place. The hotel is large and there are several large tour groups and travelers and tourists from all over the world.
I went back to my room. I wasn't hungry, so didn't eat. I watched CNN and heard that McCain is halting his campaign to work on the financial crisis. And there is a big flood in India. I went to bed around 9:30.
25 Sept. 08, Thursday
I woke up for good at 5:30, took a shower at 6 and went down to the "Coffee Shop" for the included breakfast. They have a large buffet and cook to order eggs. I had a fruit plate and croissant and coffee. The had the same suite of fruit as in Myanmar, but also had dragon fruit, but no rambuttans or longans or custard apples which I have seen in the markets.
At 8:30, my guide, Tip, and drive picked me up and we drove up a large mountain with many switch backs. At the top we transferred to a pickup truck driven by a Hmong man. We entered a Hmong crafts village where the women made batik, and made fancy hand-pleated dresses. I bought three skirts for the girls. They are called Hmong because they were originally from Mongolia, so I was told. I believe they are related to the Miao we saw in China too. We then went to one of the most famous Buddhist sites, Doi Suthep, which overlooks Chiang Mai. I had to put on my longyi for this site; one can't wear shorts, so I put my longyi on over my shorts. I got a lot of stares because they don't usually see American men wearing them and I wore it in the style of Myanmar. Oh well. After that we went to a very nice buffet at a hotel. I had a variety of thai dishes, purple rice, thai soup, sushi and a thai beer (Singha, pronounced "singh"). After that, we went to Wat Soan Dork, Wat Prasingha and Wat Chiang Man (last two in the former walled part of town). After that, we walked through one of the big market houses. I got back to the hotel a little after two.
At the hotel, I caught up on my journal and then bought some internet time. I spent the remaining part of the afternoon and evening sending and typing e-mail dailies to my family.
After several hours of typing, I logged off and went for a walk to the Night Market. After I got back to my room, I ate a pomelo (like a large grapefruit, but not so sour) that I had bought. I was given a packet of raw sugar, salt and chili powder mixed together. I sprinkled this on the pomelo sections. It was interesting. I then watched CNN and fell asleep.
26 Sept. 08, Friday
I slept till 6:40, late for me. I took a shower and went to breakfast by 7. I had the usual fruit plate and croissant and coffee. I'm a little worried about getting back to the U.S. A typhoon is predicted to hit Taiwan in several days. I have to change planes in Taiwan about that time, so I could have some flight cancellations.
I continued to type out my e-mail daily entries. Hotmail will only allow me to send 10 messages per day (for some reason), so I have to save drafts for sending later.
I had rambuttans and beer in my room for lunch. I still have a large bag of them. The pomelo is all gone. CNN is full of news of the Jet Man who flew from France to England, and the upcoming debate and the financial crisis.
After lunch, I typed some more, but have to take several breaks, so I watch CNN.
Dinner was the same as lunch. The restaurants here in the hotel don't hold any interest for me at all.
After dinner, I went down to the lobby for more typing. I'm doing all this now, because I don't want to loose all the information in my journals.
I went to bed about 10, an uneventful day except for the typing.
27 Sept. 08, Saturday
I slept as late as I could, 6:45 and got up to take my shower.
I went down to the Coffee Shop for the included breakfast. This time I
had cooked to order eggs (over easy), bacon, toast and a fruit plate,
as well as coffee.
After watching a bit of CNN, I went back to the lobby to do some more typing. I send out some of the drafts that I had typed yesterday, and then a number of new e-mails which Hotmail allowed me to send.
For lunch, I went to the Coffee Shop, where I paid 250 Baht for a buffet meal of Thai, Chinese, Japanese and western dishes. I started out with a nice sashemi platter and after finishing that, I selected random dishes from around the buffet including egg roll, thai red curry chicken, sushi, green-lipped mussels, and some other dishes I couldn't identify. For dessert, I had some sort of flan-like custard, a pineapple slice and some dried tamarind coated with sugar (not identified till after I ate it).
After lunch, I went back to typing. I have already sent out Hotmail's quota of e-mails this morning, so now I'm saving drafts to send out tomorrow. I don't know why Hotmail does this, I pay for their service. I got through all my typing by 4 pm. I went for a walk, but had no real place to go. I walked to the Night Market area and back. I then went back to my room, had a large beer and watched the debate (probably a rerun) on TV.
28 Sept. 08, Sunday
I woke up several times throughout the night, but I didn't take my shower till 7 am. I went down to breakfast at 8 and had a fruit plate, croissant and after that, a plate of Thai hot dishes. After breakfast, I went to the internet computers and sent the remaining drafts that I couldn't send yesterday. At 8:30, I went to my room to pack my bags and watch news coverage of the results of the presidential debate. I also found that Paul Newman died. I went top the lobby and outside the hotel to take some photos of the facilities. I requested late checkout for 6 pm. I will be picked up at 7.
I had rambuttans for lunch (still have a bunch). I watched a very interesting CNN interview of the previous Secretaries of State. They all appeared to have some very wise views.
I went down to the shop in the lobby and bought the paperback The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. I think we have a lot in common. I changed a little money and I will have to pay an extra 500 Baht for very late checkout (at 6 pm).
I little before 6 pm, I checked out and then went to the internet computers (I still had time remaining) to check on the weather near Taiwan. Typhoon Jangmi, the strongest typhoon of the season is predicted to hit Taipei directly. About 6:30, my guide, Tip, spotted me and said the driver was coming. We got in the car and got to the airport around 7. Tip helped me at the check-in counter and then left as I went to the gate. In the gate area, I looked at the shops. I bought some durian chips. I love durian, but I'm here too late in the season for fresh durian. The durian chips were like potato chips, slightly salty and I couldn't really detect any durian taste or odor. We boarded the plane a good half hour late. It is raining outside and dark. We were in the air by 9:45. On the plane, I was served a sweet cake roll-up and mixed fruit juice. We landed about 10:30 and I walked a long way to the baggage claim and exit area of the Bangkok airport. I spotted the AOT taxi service and got out a 500 Baht note. I said that I paid this amount the last time to Convenient Resort . They said OK and took my money. On the walk toward the car, I saw a man holding a sign "Shuttle for Convenient Resort." Oh, well, I'd already paid for the taxi. I got to the "Resort" (www.convenientresort.com) which I described earlier and went to my room. I guess it was 11 pm. I had a beer and went to bed.
29 Sept 08, Monday
I woke up first at 4:30, but went back to sleep. I finally got up and took a shower at 8 am. This is going to be another long day. I went to breakfast about 8:30 in a little out-door structure just outside the entrance to the hotel. I asked the man for breakfast and got 2 fried eggs, 2 little sausages (hot dogs), a slice of ham, some salad items and 2 pieces of white bread toast and coffee (instant). All for 150 Baht. I don't think they had much else.
After breakfast, I went to my room to watch TV and catch up in my journal. I checked out at 12 and took the airport shuttle to the departures area of the Bangkok International Airport. l I checked in at China Air and was able to get boarding passes for all four of my flights. There isn't any mention of delay or flight cancellations because of Jangmi Typhoon. I don't board till 4:30, so had plenty of time to kill by walking around all the shops. There must be a hundred. At one end of the terminal, I bought a mango and banana smoothie which hit the spot. And after finishing that, I walked to the other end and bought a half pint of really stinky homemade durian ice cream. It was great. Then I went to a Thai restaurant and had chicken with galanga root, coconut milk sauce and rice. I asked for it to be extra, extra spicy. It was barely medium spicy.
I boarded the China Air flight to Taipei. We had the little individual TV screens and could choose our movies. I watched Indian Jones IV, with an older Indiana, before I figured out how to change the movies. I had a pork and rice dinner with some sides to eat. It was not terribly appetizing. I then watched Zohan. I landed in Taipei around 9:45 and walked around and looked at the shops. I didn't have any Taiwan money (Taiwan de qian), so I didn't get a beer. I boarded the plane to Los Angeles and we took off at 11:45 pm. I watched the rest of the Zohan movie and then parts of several other movies, none of which appealed to me. Although the flight was overnight, we passed the International Dateline and we arrive ay Los Angeles about 8 pm on the same day. I exited the plane and went through customs (no checked-in luggage). They flagged me as being suspicious (I would have done the same, I guess) and had to go through extensive inspection. They even looked at the pictures on my camera, and, of course, they were even more suspicious when they couldn't see any pictures on my Canon. I had to explain why my camera screen didn't work. I looked even more suspicious after telling them about being hit by a tornado in Burma. They asked about my flash drives and what things were on them. Oddly, they were more interested in my time in Thailand than in Burma. I'm not sure they knew where Burma was. My personal inspection officer asked me if I was religious. He kept asking what I was doing in Thailand. I guess they try to put you on the spot. He asked why I didn't take my family with me and I said "they're all in school." This seemed to be the magic answer and he didn't ask me anymore questions or look at anything else in my bags. After I exited the inspection area and customs, I walked to terminal five. You have to go outside and walk to the terminal, which isn't a problem in L.A. The weather is usually good here. After I went through a thorough security inspection in Terminal 5, I proceeded to my gate area and went to the "El Cholo" restaurant. I had a pork chili verde which is one of my favorites. I asked for a lot of extra jalapenos to put on it. It was a good and satisfying meal. I believe this is a chain restaurant.
My flight to Atlanta was on Delta. I boarded the plane around 11 pm. I got a bag of peanuts and a ginger ale. Ear phones cost $2, so I used my own and looked at the little personal TV screen. All the movies including the HBO channel cost money. I had no American money on me and I'm a cheapskate to boot, so I watched the Comedy Channel and then went to sleep.
30 Sept. 08, Tuesday
I arrived in Atlanta about 6 am. I walked to the appropriate terminal and gate and got an iced coffee. At the gate area, I read more of my Bryson book and kept laughing to myself, I'm sure attracting some attention. I didn't care; I'd been through a tornado in Burma, I can handle anything.
I got on the plane to Lexington, KY and we took off around
7:40 am. We arrived in Lexington a little before 9. It was cloudy and
there had been some rain earlier. It was also pretty chilly compared to
what I was used to. It must have been in the low 60's F. I walked to
the baggage claim area to see if anybody had met me. I walked past a
couch and there was a blond-headed girl talking on a cell phone. Her
head was pointed downward and I couldn't see her face. I thought, this
could be one of my daughters, so I walked around to get a better look.
When I got within 6 feet, she looked up and said "Daddy." It was Mary.
We hugged a long time and then Anne walked in and we hugged. Anne went
to get her car and while Mary and I were waiting, Elizabeth called from
Wittenberg and talked to me awhile. We drove home. I saw where a huge
old pin oak tree next to our house had fallen. Hurricane Ike had passed
through the area with 60 mph winds, but no rain, oddly. Even my dog was
glad to see me. Nora sent me a text message from school, welcoming me
home. Anne took Mary to school and then went to work. I spent the rest
of the day unpacking. It was good to be home. Jet lag will hit me later.
Return to Parent Page