Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Myanmar - The big nugget

It's funny how some people tend to think it's ok to make fun of a tourist... Just because our skin is white while theirs is dark, seems to give them the right to treat us as pariahs... similar to how some whites tend to treat coloured people at home...! Walking through the town at night we were looked at by some, ridiculed by others but treated as friends by most. For a moment I thought we had entered lala land when we tried to get some food and were only met by people who looked as glazed as the soup they called food. One family though didn't, so that's where we ate. As we were to find out, their food was one of the best we had yet!

The next day there was some cultural sightseeing planned... in Myanmar that invariably means it's either pagoda or Buddha time :-) For me personally that means: problems! I've only got a pair of shorts you see, as my pair of trousers had worn out. I had assumed that as I was heading south east I wouldn't need a pair of trousers for a while anyway. Well, in Myanmar I've become to regret that choice as I now had to wear a skirt... Yeah, yeah, I know the locals have a fancy word for it but let's face it: it is just a skirt. A one-size-fits-all skirt too. The idea is to wrap it around you and tie a big knot at the front. Before I knew it, Nye, was tying up my skirt... from behind... getting very close to my private parts...! When he decided to tuck the thing under my belt I became really worried!

Having walked around with a skirt for an hour or so, I can say it sucks to be a woman! Skirts are useless horrible things which limit movement, feel awkward and lack any form of user-friendliness. Of course I ended up pulling the whole thing down as I stepped on it while going up the stairs... so the Buddhist still found me in their holy temple in shorts :-) Mike just about killed himself laughing, everyone looked at me, so I just pulled the whole thing over my head as a sack of potatoes and 'disappeared'. Karen was going to help me put it back on but suddenly Nye 'stepped in' from behind again...! Hmmm. 

Mandatory public transport to the Golden rock... the term cattle truck springs to mind
This all happened after what the locals call a bus ride... which is a cattle truck with something they call benches, welded up by a buffoon with very limited welding skills. The run up is in effect a hill climb, which the drivers see as a testing track to hone their world rally skills on. The trucks were continuously against the rev limiter and lifting wheels in corners! It was somewhat alarming to see a sign which not only stated the required fare but also said this was including life insurance...(!) 

While the Golden Rock itself was well... a rock covered in gold leaf, the locals were even more impressive. The best and well worth it part of the day was, once again what we saw along the way. The people we meet, the smiles were luckily back again and having lunch at a small family run restaurant... Unlike western restaurants, where the kitchen is a strictly no-go zone for customers, in Myanmar you are more than welcome to see it. They have nothing to hide I suppose and it's well worth having a look. The whole family was cooking like crazy to feed all these people and they did their utmost best on just two burners to make it all happen. Of course you have to give and take in these situations. Don't order something ridiculous without being prepared that the translation from English into Burmese is going to be a source of unexpected results. So help them in any way you can, by ordering from the menu for instance and pointing at what you want. If it still turns out slightly different from what you ordered then realise they did their best to give you what they thought you wanted and realise it's made with love.

A man putting me in a skirt
and then going for my
private parts... wrong!
Some of the 4WDs didn't feel the need to do that and ordered in English, received more than they asked for (fried rice with veggies and chicken instead of just rice and veggies) but flatly refused the food up to 3 times as they hadn't ordered the chicken... They could have just accepted it and taken the little bits of chicken out, as non of them were vegetarians, but they decided to kick up a lot of dust and noise and in the end left without eating or paying... Pathetic. We had eaten at the same restaurant the night before and they are lovely people, cooking very good food. I actually felt a bit shitty about the whole thing to be honest as we had ended up there because we had recommended them, thinking we did the right thing. Because of the 4WDs poor behaviour, the family had now ended up cooking 3 meals for nothing... Quite unfair.

Massive and beautiful moth... alive!
All sorts of fried up yucky animals
We later found out that wasn't the only thing which had gone by quite unfair. The night before we had stayed at a hotel where the tour guide had forgotten to get the right permits for the 4WDs to park in the hotel carpark and camp there overnight... Myanmar is quite strict on permits, the stack of paperwork for a tour like this is quite substantial. The hotel therefore could not allow them to stay, they could offer them a room as there was no permit needed for that. The 4WDs immediately made it clear they considered it a stuff up on the guides' part for which they would not pay... The reality of the situation was that this whole tour has been re-arranged while we were doing it, and on our request. The tour guides had done the impossible, as far as we're concerned and have been literally re-planning this trip as we went along. One of the things in which this manifested itself is virtually every day not knowing which hotel we would be in until leaving in the morning. These guys were on the phone all day! To their credit it all worked out. We had accommodation every night, were able to visit everything we wanted and had a great tour. The only thing which they had forgotten to do was one little permit... all the 4WDs had to say was 'ok, fair enough, you've changed this whole tour for us too, we have been able to stay everywhere for free, could still use all the facilities so we'll just pay for one night in the hotel and sort this problem... Instead they became angry, refused to pay anything and walked off... wonderful people aren't they?

The reason I'm writing this is to show what went on behind the scenes of this tour, of which one of the wankers found it necessary to publish on his Facebook page that it was poorly organised and he would not recommend them... The tour we were on is the first one they have ever done this way, we are the first motorcyclists to have been on a sight seeing tour with them through Myanmar as well. They have done other bike trips but they were all ride-through type, not sight-seeing. They had underestimated how slow the 4WDs are, how often they got lost(!) and how much babysitting they needed... I mean seriously, these guys can't even sort out where to park their vehicle without help from the guides... silly me for thinking that parking was part of the driving test...

No helicopters and no remote controlled cars in the
temples... has anyone done so?
That same night Karma struck... while they were out, finding somewhere cheaper to eat than the restaurant of the hotel which allowed them to stay for free... a massive thunderstorm exploded above our heads :-) The rooftop tents looked somewhat soaked in the morning...