Moments | November 2

Sharing little moments, thoughts and stories with you.

After racing around for much of the first half of the year, we have taken to traveling more slowly for the second half. Our recent trip from Bagan to Mandalay however was the slowest travel yet. It was a 13 ½ hour boat ride along the muddy Irrawaddy River, which gave us plenty of time to watch the pastoral life along the banks flow past. This is much more interesting than walking through another generic airport, and we didn’t even have to go though security to get on board.

Life on the Irrawaddy River.

Arriving at the “pier” in the dark at 5 am, we were grateful for the help getting our bags on board the boat. Especially since the “pier” was two wooden planks that reached from the muddy river bank to the deck of the boat. We were also amused that even though there was seating for at least 80 people, there were only 7 travelers including us on the entire trip. Things started to drag a bit after 10 hours or so, but it was still much more comfortable and interesting to take the slow boat than another flight.

The boarding boards.

Speaking of comfort, of all the hostels we stayed in this year there have only been two we abandoned. The first was in Penang because of bed bugs. The second was recently in Bagan. We arrived and even though we had confirmed our reservation twice ahead of time they didn’t have a room for us. They had to ask someone to move. By the time our room was ready there had been a torrential rainstorm and the power had gone out. This meant the A/C in our room wasn’t working but at least they had a generator and a fan in the room to make it just barely tolerable. When the room started to fill up with bugs and mosquitos, we realized there were giant holes in the room’s small windows. At least the fan was keeping some of the mosquitos at bay, that is until the generator went out leaving us to swelter in our tiny little room with the mosquitoes. 

It was quite a different experience a week later arriving at the Bangkok Marriott. We managed to get five nights in luxury with electricity, air conditioning and a fantastic bath tub with hotel points and gift cards we’d received from our family for Christmas. When it came time to do laundry, we dropped it off at a local laundry service a block away where they washed everything for what the Marriott would have charged to wash a t-shirt and a half. For meals, we checked out the local street food.

Some of the money we saved we had to spend at the hospital because I took too many photos in Inle Lake. It’s an incredibly photogenic part of Myanmar and between the two of us we took more than 3 photos per minute over two days spent on the lake. Many of those are from putting the camera on the highest drive mode where it will take photos quickly when you press the shutter. This is great when you are zooming around in a boat trying to take a picture of someone in another boat that is also zooming around. A lot of the photos are basically duplicates, but there where enough to give myself eyestrain. Since my eyelid was pulsing, I touched my eye a lot, which caused me to get pink eye. 

So when we landed in Chiang Mai a few days ago, we went to an eye hospital to figure out what was happening. We found the hospital was dark, very dark. The nurse, who was decked out in the classic white nurses uniform complete with little hat informed us that the hospital was closed because the power was out. The same place that performed LASIK eye surgery with lasers was closed because they didn’t have electricity. It just reminded us how lucky, and how easy everything is in the US, what with the working power grid, and top-notch health care.

Till next time,
Jon