Friday, October 26, 2012

Entry Myanmar

A thought flutters at the edges of my attention : do I have any chance of finding the way back to my sanadals on my own ? Probably not. It´s five hours after arrriving in Yangon , two hours after being whisked away from the Shwedagon pagoda to another pagoda and the surrounding monastery. Outside searing heat and the sunlight cutting thru the eylids , inside shades of grey and brown . Smells of teak , wet bricka and faint whiffs of spices. Shwedagon ( spoiler warning ) came in two stages . The actual pagoda was someting that was almost imaginable coming from Thailand. The hiden gem was the slanting little city between gates and the top layer : a huge covered arcade leading upwards , offering shade and coolness. As an extra blessing I arrive just after a heavy rain , and the stone floors exposed to the sun are like wet caress against the feet.
The whisking away landed me in a another environment : no shops , a lot more darkness and a lived in atmosphere. Patches of moss , broken bricks and rough and broken teak planks in places. A single lamp burning over the Buddha statue. Talking of the monastery becomes inevitable a recap of Myanmars last decade of history : this is one of the remaining monks ( yes , as in Tibet the monks have been at the forefront of protests , and the government has responded by pushing them out of the monasteries. ). The floors are not in a general state of disrepair , they are still struggling with the aftermath of the 2008 floodings. Most of all we just sit and share the silence , and part ways when it´s time to start preparing tomorrows meals. Day ends with eating in one of the many street stalls , aggressive converted after the UN Child Convention : only kids sit really comfortably , the rest of us sit with the knees riding up near our ears.

Exit Bangkok

(That was totally unfair - I´ll backpost more from Chinatown later. )

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Backpacker Bingo

And the next number coming up is ... nobody knows. Despite the randomness everything is relatively fast : this is how to get a Myanmar visa in a day , and stop worrying : Check that the embassy is open : today as I write this it´s closed for Chulalongkorn´s birthday , with another holiday coming up soon. google the address of a hotel/guest house to enter as address in Myanmar on the visa form Bring two passport photos,airline tickets if you want same day service , a sense of humor and an umbrella
Walk past the queu to the the small copy shop . They will copy your passport , hand over the visa form , provide you with a desk to write out the form , and glue for the passport photo. There is even a pre-attached paper clip for the second photo. All this for the staggering amount of eight baht. First counter gives you a number for the second counter : I really have no idea of what is actually done here , beyond seeing that you have a passport and you are at the right embassy. When your number comes up you hand over our passport , visa form and money at the second counter. Same day visa cost 1260 baht , next day 1000 (-ish) , lowest tier is 800. Same day visa is given without questions , as soon as my airline tickets showed up I was asked for 1260. Return at 3:30 in the afternoon , and get your passport at the Express Visa counter. Timings : I arrived just after ten , one hour after opening, and was out of the embassy just after noon. Returned ten past three , lost a game of you first , no , you first with a Thai lady and came second at the counter : out by 3.35.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Coin rain ...

Coin rain in the begging bowls at the reclining Buddha , Wat Pho.

Grand Day Out With The Boat

Nice ride out in the morning with the boat to Wat Pho, a lot more people going back.
I spend a big part of the day in the alleys behind the fish market , in what feels like the setting of a Wong Kar Wai movie.
People are curiously absent : I get glimpses of humans, cats and dogs streched out on mats panting in the mid day heat. Finally I come up to two active elderly women , one with curlers fresh in place. I ask for a haircut. The project is met with frank disbelief at first : "Are you sure ??"
Lunch : papaya salad with lime , nuts and more. Pomegranate juice.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Noisy Neighbors

00.46 : jolted out of sleep again , as the Chinese opera below my window gets a new jolt of energy. At first I thought they were winding down after a mere four hours , meeting one of the actors going home. Not so. So : Bangkok, Chinatown . I know nothing, which also is fine. In by taxi ( big billboard near the airport : "Buddha is not furniture" ) and dumped at the beginning of a maze of narrow alleys , but some of the people sitting by the road recognised the name of the guesthouse : it will work out somehow. And it did. The guesthouse is jammed up against the temple on one side , and with the river on the other. The view from my room : corrugated steel roof with a crest of dragons immediately outside , the temple. From the roof the view expands to the hangar style roof of the temple courtyard ( with a tree breking thru ) , and nearby houses : concrete , but still with Chinese curved roofs and tiles. The river is not only lapping at the sides , bur breaking through at high tide.
The skyline is high rise country , skyscrapers reminescent of British sci fi covers from the seventies , and with a few touches of pagoda style : add a hint of Wiliam Gibson. The plan is a quick jaunt to the Myanmar embassy the next morning to arrange a visa : actually I won´t move beyond a one kilometer radius the next 24 hours.
Soundscape : the opera ranging from fulfilled expectations of classical Chinese style to slapstick , talk to the hand scenes to pure Asian Spike Jones stuff. The volume take some time ( read : a decade or so ) getting used to.
In between spaces with birds chirping in the trees , and thai pop.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Monday in Mandalay

..that was the plan anyway. This year I´ll start posting more soundclips , now that I´ve found an easier way (Soundcloud) to do it.