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  • hardie karges 2:42 pm on February 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Mahasi Monastery, , Myanmar, Rangoon,   

    Ten Days in Mahasi Monastery, Yangon: None flew over the cuckoo’s nest… 

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    Mahasi Monastery in Yangon, Myanmar

    Somewhere nearby a gong sounds–loudly. Then someone beats a drum. Then again. And again. Then every dog in the surrounding neighborhood howls in anything but unison, as I smile thinking about Allen Ginsberg, howling, growling, smiling somewhere out there but not Heaven, crazy wisdom incarnate, poet’s blood unrepentant…

    The air is still fresh and cool at night at this time of year in Yangon (Rangoon) and the scene at 0600 at Mahasi Monastery is a bit surreal: monks and nuns float through the monastery grounds in the moonlight, marching weeping shadows creeping. Ruby-robed monks line up in the streets with beggars’ bowls in hand, primed for the pump, while nuns float through on gossamer wings, all dressed in pink, with nothing to think… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 9:15 pm on February 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Deep stuff – explained well.

  • hardie karges 1:43 pm on February 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Mawlamyine, Mon, Myanmar, , Thanlwin   

    Mawlamyine, Myanmar: Saving the Best for Last… 

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    The bus pulls into Mawlamyine after an all-day truck from the capital Yangon and I’m immediately flashing back to Saigon, Hanoi, Viangchan, or Phnom Penh, take your pick, c. 1995 or thereabouts, just coming out of the self-imposed shadows, them not me, but wait a minute, let me think, dirty broke-down funky and authentic, before all the development, all the tourists and the humans from the West, all wanting a piece of the action, all wanting a bit of loose change, hopefully for the better not worse…

    But there are no money changers here, not yet anyway, just banks and ATM’s, and ‘no beer no alcohol’, say all the signs, in the restaurants at least, unlike Inle Lake, there advertising ‘mojitos caiparinhas gin and tonic’ you name it, but here lotsa Chinese and Muslims, and most hotels close at 10 p.m. or 10:30, three red lights and a rush hour inversely proportional to Yangon’s. But the real action is down on the Thanlwin River, with markets both black and white, Mawlamyine’s lifeline and raison d’etre (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on January 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Inle Lake, Myanmar   

    Inle Lake, Myanmar: It’s a Wet Dream…. 

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    Inle Lake Fisherman

    For the first time, I’m annoyed at Burma, probably even pissed, at having to pay an entrance fee to the tourist complex at Inle Lake, based in Nyaungshwe. I mean: preservation of an archaeological zone is costly, and expensive, too, but Inle has none of that, and Nyaunshwe is a bit shabby, if you don’t mind me saying, a coat of dust covering the entire affair, tourists included. What are we paying for, anyway?

    But the main offense is the mere proliferation of tourist amenities, albeit without the aforementioned infrastructure. This is something that has been lacking—refreshingly—so far in Burma, and really the reason to justify the higher prices, like paying a premium bride price for a virgin. And the main marketing pitch seems to be toward millennial malingerers, looking for alcohol and a place to drink it… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 3:28 am on January 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ayeyharwaddy, , Irawaddy, Mandalay, Myanmar   

    Burma Up North: The Road to Mandalay… 

    img_1773…sounds romantic and all, but it isn’t so much, really, just asphalt and gravel, like anywhere else. Fortunately there are other options, like the train, plane, or boat. I’d like to say that the boat ride to get here from Bagan makes it all worthwhile—but it doesn’t, not really, though admittedly it is more comfortable than pot-holed roads and betel-chewing Burmese drivers…

    At any given moment the average Burmese working stiff is working a wad of chew that would make a Cincinnati Red pitcher green with envy. But don’t startle him or he may accidentally unload a dollop of spittle your direction that just might ruin your day. At least they don’t drive like the maniacs in Thailand. Burma is chilled by comparison—and the roads simply won’t allow it…

    img_1744But the river trip really has nothing much to see, not until you get to Sagaing, and that’s an easy day-trip from Mandalay, anyway. It’s not like there are loads of cool river villages and towns to view along the way. There just aren’t. So I’d say the river trip is optional—at best. Burma is not cheap, anyway, so save your money for something more worthwhile, like paying your entry fee to selected sites, like the archaeological zone at Bagan or the human zoo at Inle Lake—free sarcasm available upon request…

    But I don’t think Mandalay deserves the bum rap that it sometimes gets. Sure, it’s a big busy city, but I’ve seen worse. At least it’s walk-able, something you’d have difficulty saying about Bangkok, Jakarta, or many other places in SE Asia, or the world, either, for that matter. And what it lacks in charm, it makes up in open space, including a massive palace complex and a commanding hill-as-pilgrimage-site like only Burma really knows how to do it—okay, so maybe China, too…

    What I don’t like so much about Mandalay is that the quality of refreshing innocence available elsewhere seems to be singularly lacking here. And of course, that’s most easily measurable amongst the taxi drivers. Whereas in Yangon the first price quoted is pretty accurate and honest, God bless them, in Mandalay that doesn’t hold true, and in fact they can be as rape-atious as anywhere in the world. They beat me on the price from the boat landing to my hotel, so I was on guard after that…

    img_1777After the long walk to Mandalay Hill AND a long confusing walk up to the top, I somehow managed to come down a different path, despite my best efforts. So that kind of disorientation is always a good time to hail a taxi, so I proffered offers to the local moto-boys. The first one asked 30,000 kyat (about $25), at which I sggested he needed psychological help, and responded with an offer of 3000, which I figured to be about right, walking away to make my point…

    …which is what you have to be willing to do, of course, if you want the right price. Anyway, I walked over, so I figured I could walk back, so that helps. Another bike-boy came up and did the trip for 2500. It also helps if you know the name of landmarks in the local tongue, correctly pronounced and with the right tones. The main market is zeigyo, pronounced zay-joe not ziggy-o. Don’t f*ck with me, m*otherf*cker…

    So yes, Mandalay is guilty of the same crimes as Paris and the same samsara pitfalls as Kathmandu, but it ain’t all that bad, really. But no, Mandalay is not a place to fall in love with, more like a place to bide your time, a place for life to happen while you make other plans…

    img_1779Those plans could include excursions in any direction, though Shan state to the east is the big lure for me, with close relations to ethnic Tais in Thailand and Laos and China, too, the Far east of the state arguably more ‘Thai’ than Burmese, and an open question for me as to whether and how well I might be able to communicate, what with my knowledge of standard Thai, Laotian and northern Thai dialect…

    The Burmese and Thai language have little or nothing in common, unlike Khmer and Thai, unless you count the similarities between the Thai and Burmese words for two-wheeled conveyances, ‘mo-to-cy’ in Thai and ‘mo-to-by’ in Burmese, apparently deriving from a common Sanskrit root (cue laughter)…

    Oh well, I guess it’ll have to wait, unless my meditation retreat in Yangon falls through, something Burma has become known for, apparently, though not the inspiration for this trip. But that’s where I’ll go after a brief stop at Inle Lake, and that’s worth more to me than all the travel in the world. Mindlessness or mindfulness? Tough choice, yeah, right…

     

     

     

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 3:58 pm on January 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Amazing insight.

  • hardie karges 2:22 pm on January 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bagan, , , Mt. Popa, Myanmar, stupas,   

    Angkor What? Buddhist Field of Dreams in Bagan, Myanmar… 

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    One of many ruins around Bagan…

    The first thing you notice on the bus up from Yangon to Bagan is that the entire countryside seems empty. As Gertrude Stein put it so aptly when describing Oakland, CA: “There is no there there.” Now this may indeed be the new road, so avoiding the population centers directly, but still: in Thailand every available parcel of land would have a ‘For Sale’ sign before the road was even finished, and there would be new developments springing up as fast as the equipment could be trucked in from China…

    But when we finally do get off the main road and into some villages, then you see why. It’s poor, dirt poor. If Communism stopped a clock for those countries that only began ticking again in 1991, then ‘Burmese socialism’ stopped a clock which is only now beginning to tick some quarter century after its Commie neighbors in SE Asia. Better late than never, I suppose…
    (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 12:30 pm on January 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Myanmar, Pagoda, Shwedagon,   

    It’s Myanmar now, no more Bummer: Welcome to Yangon… 


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    The Golden Spires of Shwedagon Pagoda

    I’ve been to the Burmese/Thai border-town Tachilek many times on visa runs, and so have had my eye on the country for years, while never having a pressing need to collect the stamp, just to satisfy my personal mandate to visit every country in the world before I die—or it does…

    And I’ve been to the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot a few times, too, and even though it’s on the Thai side, while the other is officially Burmese, it always felt more truly Burmese to me, Muslim Burmese mostly, refugees I suppose, and complete with nearby violence and cross-border excursions from Karen (no, not her) tribal violence in the area… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 3:54 pm on January 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Beyond my imagination!

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