There were a couple of things that were not negotiable, for me, in Burma. One was the boat ride Mandalay to Bagan, the other the balloons over Bagan. My schedule then became dependent on that. The boat to
Bagan, which takes 9 hours, only departs from Mandalay on certain dates, the slow boat that takes 13 hours I was informed is a government owned. I booked my ticket to leave on Thursday the 19th 7 a.m. departure. Am not quite sure what it is about these boat rides but I love them, am not fond of cruises, but give me a boat going up or down a river and I am as happy as a lark. My taxi driver from the night before was
waiting at 6 a.m. for me as arranged. He drove a vehicles that is basically a small truck with 4 seats in the back, I seemed to ride quite a few of these during my 3 week trip.

Had been told to be at the dock by 6.30 a.m. The ride was quicker than I thought, the kind driver didn’t like the looks of the coffee seller by the docks, tok me to a place, where they were frying fresh dough, delicious and a perfect beginning to the day. Andrea in the meantime has reserved a place for me on the outside
deck, inside is AC and numbered comfortable seats. Unless you wanted to sleep I could not see a reason for those chairs. The crew lets me put our lunch in the refrigerator and we are all set, it turns out that coffee and sandwiches are served.

The ride down the Ayeyarwady was fairly eventless, we passed a lot of pagodas, some villages with huts built near the water, that were very flimsy, yet people lived in them. We saw water buffalos and many
sandbanks. The water was receding a bit earlier than usual because of lack of rain last monsoon season. The fun part about traveling is the people you meet, there were quite a few who had been part of the excursion to Mingun the previous day, on the boat . Instant friendships are made by the mere fact that you keep on bumping into each other. In my case it was very fortunate because I had managed to tear a meniscus in my knee, and one of my new-found friends was a French doctor who advised me how to medicate.

As the boat was approached Bagan the excitement was palpable, all of a sudden the deck was packed with people wanting a glimpse and we weren’t disappointed. There was Bupaya Pagoda with its white stucco
and golden roof and many smaller ones closer to the river. There were almost as many people on the riverbank as on the boat. Disembarkation took place walking on two planks with two crewmembers holding a bamboo stick as railing. A little dodgy, but nobody fell in. There were drivers from the various hotels with our names, curious onlookers, vendors and children begging, everybody clamoring for your attention. We had some oranges and chicken left over which I dutifully handed out. The sad part was that our oranges and chicken were as gratefully  accepted as the candies that somebody else had.
The manager from Kaday Aung where I was staying, $15 per night, took my passport and $10 entrance fee and I was processed in no time. Nothing had prepared me for the sight of Bagan pagodas, the fact that
most are earth colored instead of being white and gold, that the stupas are there in the 1000’s or so it seemed and the 100’s of pagodas had me enthralled. An explanation to the name Stupa that I like is, Spiritual Monument.

We arrive at the hotel which is located in New Bagan, it is beautiful with a swimming pool and a lovely outdoor dining area. Disaster hits when I get to my room, the bed is a foam rubber mattress on a low
platform. I try to get down and the pain is excruciating, see the manager who informs me that there are no other rooms, his suggestion to put two mattresses on top of each other. Try that for the night, not a good solution, too soft my back was killing me next morning. When I returned after the days outing they had gotten a spring mattress for me. The hotel had the most incredible service, and always with a smile. One of my favorite places to stay on this trip.

The next morning I was met by my horse and cart driver named Min Min, he is a young man, with a good knowledge of English and even better knowledge of the Pagodas. The hotel manager had written a list for me
of the major, and some minor sites, first we had to stop by the stable to exchange horses since this one was too young for an extended trip. The stable was at the home of the owner, which was in direct contrast to the home of Min Min which I saw the following day. Finally we set off, the clip clops of the hooves, and the breathtaking viewss I kept on choking up, seeing such beauty. One pagoda was more incredible than
the next, many of them have wall paintings that are from the 11th and 12th centuries. The periods that were the highlight of Bagan’s wealth and power, and also the time that Theravadan Buddhism became the faith
of Burma.

My camera was busy clicking away at the different Buddhas. What I subsequently learnt was that the early ones looked Indian with long faces, middle period had 3 creases on the neck and later periods were
Chinese with round/square faces and long ears. I can go on and on about the beauties of Bagan, what I learnt of the different pagodas but that is something you can read up on. Bagan is divided into new Bagan and old Bagan, the government in its infinite wisdom decided to move the residents in 1990 to a new location, hence the name New Bagan. Most of the pagodas but by no means all are located in old Bagan.

I spent two full days going around with the horse cart, at one point I was invited to visit the fishing village where the Min Min came from. The house which he shares with several family members has no walls. He
said to me “you think it is beautiful now, but not during monsoon season” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I thought it was pretty dismal now. Of course he has a brother and sister selling sand paintings, which I bought gladly, at a highly inflated price. However I had to insist to meet them, he never even suggested it. What really, truly bothered me about Bagan were the women vendors asking for presents. It didn’t matter which pagoda there were always a few women asking “present for me”? This is really the only place in Myanmar where I sensed this trend of entitlement. Another disturbing sight was a young child with her face completely covered with Tanaka, a root from which you make a paste and put on the face to cool the skin and prevent sunburn. A tourist was taking her picture and then handed the mother money. Am not sure if the mother had demanded money, or the tourist felt it was his obligation. This was at the Shwezigon pagoda
which is one of the most visited pagodas, by tourists.

The wonderful parts were the young children, women and men guiding me around the pagodas showing off the riches and special paintings, not asking for a hand out but really enjoying to show off. One vendor
invited me for dinner at her home, unfortunately I couldn’t accept, it was too difficult logistically. The temples or pagodas are overwhelming by the multitude of them, yet I never quite got enough. At most of them I was alone or perhaps a couple of other tourists hardly ever did I encounter a tour group. Many of the temples have interior stairs, quite a few are closed off to visitors, managed to  climb a few for the views being grateful for the pain killers and cortisone that kept the pain at a minimum.

The Balloon ride, which I unfortunately was not able to do the first morning I arrived, which would have been optimal, as it were, it happened on the last day. There were 4 balloons take took off 2 had 8 passengers and 2 had 6 each. I was in a smaller one. The bus that was ancient picked me up at 5.30 am and we were taken to a field where coffee and tea was served while the balloons were gotten ready. While we were watching the balloons being inflated, each pilot held a safety lecture for his passengers. The pilots are licensed airplane pilots and the safety drills quite comprehensive. We all felt very safe, before and during the 1 hour ride.
Am not sure whether it was that my expectations had been so high, or the fact that I had seen all the temples and knew the area quite well, but it was a letdown. It was wonderful being up there seeing the sunrise, and the light on the pagodas as it shifted, but it wasn’t the thrill I had expected. At least I got a cap and some great pictures out of the experience.

When we landed we were served Prosecco and delicious croissants. I returned to the hotel and met two wonderful local guides who were taking a group of Dutch tourists on a biking tour of Myanamar the
average age was 60. Sat by the pool for a few hours and decided to go to Nyaung U another town where the Schwezigon Paya is located. I had heard about an Indian restaurant called AromaII that was supposed to
be excellent. Thought it might be a good choice for lunch.

I walked out to the main road to catch a bus; somehow I got on one going in the wrong direction. Myinkaba, which lies between New and Old Bagan is the village that produces lacquer ware and was the endstation. Talk about serendipity, this way I got to see and meet someyoung girls that collected empty plastic and glass bottles. Thebottles were in enormous sacks, that they balanced on their heads, one of them was carrying a car battery. The bundles were piled into the bus, another open air truck. Finally we got going only to stop again to pick up very large bamboo crates holding lacquer ware. The local bus works as a transportation and trucking company. The girls had pomegranates that they shared with me. We tried to communicate the
best we could.

The ride was about 40 minutes and stopped at a real bus depot, in a town. It was a fairly short walk to the restaurant, but it was closed until the evening. Again this extreme kindness and willingness to please showed up, they offered to open up and cook for me. This was the best meal I had in all of Myanmar, when I return I will probably stay in Nyaung U for a few nights just to eat there. After lunch I went in search of the market which was very large. The open air part was dedicated to fruits and vegetables with the women sitting on the
ground, the wares spread in front of them. I saw the most beautiful miniature purple eggplants, baskets with leaves arranged in symmetrical patterns, to be used by the betel nut sellers.

I wandered for a couple of hours and realized it was getting close to 4 pm when the bus was returning to New Bagan. Also did not realize how far I had walked and there was no way that I could make it on foot and be on time. A horse cart driver stopped and we negotiated a price of  300 kyiat when I arrived he didn’t have change for my 1000 kyiat bill and told me to forget it, instead of asking if somebody who stood around had change. Now I could kick myself for not giving him the bill, instead I said thank you and ran for the bus.

That night I went out for dinner to a Myanamar restaurant near thehotel with a couple of men who were traveling the world and staying at the hotel. A typical meal consists of small dishes that you select from the daily offering and many, many different condiments and side dishes that are included in the price.

The next morning I got a ride to the airport, for my flight back to Yangon, by an Italian family who had hired a car and driver for their trip around the country. The flight was supposed to leave at 9 am but departed 8.40 because everybody was on board. I sat in the back and saw the flight attendants prepare trays of intriguing food for the pilots. When it came time for my meal I asked if it was possible to get the same food as the pilots, they obliged, with the caveat that I might not like it. I was served the most delicious kinds of tempura,
the best airplane meal in years. Not only that, they also wrote down all the names of the foods in Burmese so that I would know what to order. Unfortunately never had a chance to test it out, but will bring it with me to a Burmese restaurant here in NYC.

Was greeted at Beautyland as a long lost friend, with lots of welcome backs and expressions of how happy they were to see me. My old room wasn’t quite ready so I decided to walk in a direction that I hadn’t been to before. I came across a building that I knew had to be a hospital because it looked just like the hospital where I trained in England. Yes, it was a hospital built by the British, quite a beautiful building actually, but I wouldn’t want to be a patient there. I had called my friend Ann-Sylvie who lives in Yangon, she and her daughter were attending a European film festival that afternoon so I tagged along and saw a French movie with English subtitles “Jean de la Fontaine” afterwards I was invited back to their house for dinner. We had a lovely evening with as usual interesting conversations.

The next morning I explored the market further, It was much larger than I thought and full of tourists. The season had begun and it was time to leave Myanmar.

First two days in Mandalay

It was already evening when I arrived at the totally charmless Hotel Hongtha, my room was adequate and it was within walking distance of the market and internet. The AC worked and the shower had hot water. What else can a weary traveler ask for?

Mandalay is as different from Yangon as night and day. The streets have mainly paved sidewalks and are for the most part walkable. There are no or very few sidewalk vendors, the ones that are sell food. The city is very flat, except for Mandalay Hill, and very spread out. There a large avenues and in general it appears to be much better kept than Yangon.

Iwas met the first morning by my driver who was also supposed to be my guide. His English was not very good so I insisted that his boss, who came along, and who spoke very good English be the driver for the day. He took me back to his house, to get changed, and I met several of the extended family. His father-in-law who was 92 with a mind as clear as a whistle, expounded on the upcoming election, in his opinion nothing will change. We had a pleasant chat, since his English was excellent, having been in the British army. There were many family photos with him, in the army, and at his wedding, hanging on the walls.

James, my driver was ready and off we went, he asked if I wanted to see how the gold leaf was made, since I did, said yes. It was interesting to see how it was pounded into these super-thin leaves and then put between sheets of bamboo paper. Grueling work, the pounding that is, great disappointment for the owner that I made no donation nor did I buy anything. Did however see a small shop with lacquered umbrellas and stopped to pick one up. Am not sure why I wanted it, nor what I am going to do with it, but I like it.

We are finally on our way to Amarapura, home of the famous U Bein’s bridge and also many pagodas including, Maha Ganayon Kyaung home to hundreds of monks which take their meal at 10.30 in silence. Though I had read about it, hadn’t really given it much thought, except that it could be an interesting experience. What I wasn’t prepared for when we arrived were the many tourist buses and hordes of people there to watch. Though I was as much of a voyeur as the others, it left me with a bad taste, there was something unseemly watching people line up for food and then sit down to eat. Before we had gone to watch this ceremony, we had stopped at a temple that looked like an an amusement park, there was a reclining Buddha and many others. I was trying to find the name in L.P. and James offered to search for me, while I looked around. It wasn’t listed, and we left, when we had driven a few minutes I asked for the book and James realized he had left it on top of the car, we went back but nobody acknowledged seeing a Lonely Planet guide book. I wasn’t particularly upset since I thought it would be easy to replace it. This book is not sold in Mandalay used or otherwise, actually there are no guidebooks readily available. When we returned after the day’s outings I walked over to The Royal Guest House to see if they had an old copy. No such luck, but one guest had already been to Bagan so he cut out the relevant pages. Another lent me his copy so that we could Xerox the pages for Mandalay.

Anyway we continued on to Saigang which is home to 500 stupas and numerous monasteries. It has many very beautiful pagodas. I have to confess that, I have no idea how many I saw. Having lost my book, had problems locating where we were. It seemed we crossed bridges climbed to pagodas, crossed other bridges and climbed to more pagodas, yet when I asked is that the one we were just at the answer was almost always negative. I was very disoriented as to where we were, really missed reading or marking down what I had seen. We had lunch at the Chinese restaurant next to Happy Hotel, by the same name. It was expensive and not good at all, avoid it at all costs.

Next stop was the boat ferry to Inwa and a horse cart to see the sights. So far I had not had to pay any tourist fee, but when we got to Bagaya Kyaung the teak monastery, my $10, were duly handed over. The monastery was very nice, if a little spooky, I was alone and wasn’t sure if there were bats or birds flying above me, under the eaves so I made a rather hasty retreat. Next stop was the tower which I declined to climb and then onto a most magnificent pagoda, which I loved walking around. Inwa looked like a place that I would be most happy moseying around, apart from the 3 tourist sites it is very much a farming community, unfortunately, it was hard getting off the tourist paths.

Most of the day had gone and it was time for the sunset view at U Bein bridge, it didn’t look like there was going to be much of a show, the changing lights overlooking the opposite side of the river with the farmers tilling the earth was a very worthwhile sight. There were many beggars on the bridge and all they kept on saying was “money”, there were also many young courting couples, tourists and monks. One little girl totally stole my heart, all she wanted was her picture taken, she was so cute with pigtails and a smile that could melt icebergs. The young men loved my smiley stickers, wore them as earrings, and goofed off in general. Since the sunset was not going to be spectacular, James and I decided to leave. That night I had dinner at an Indian restaurant which was alright, and early to bed.

Woke up early and had my usual breakfast of fried rice with a fried egg. This must be one of the most delicious breakfasts invented, L.P.’s walking tour starts, decided to follow that for the morning. It was fun , especially the market which is situated in two buildings, it appeared that similar merchandise was grouped together. Have never seen so many flip flops ever, after awhile it becomes mind numbing seeing the same things over and over. I had lunch at one of the outside stalls, where I also fed some begging street urchins. Continued walking and came across the vegetable markets that went on for miles. Now I understand the Myanmar reputation of being the largest consumer in the world of onions. They were everywhere ,mountains and sacks of them, little ones resembling shallots seemed to be the norm. After having walked for hours, in the heat, found an internet cafĂ© that was air conditioned and popped in to cool down. It was on a street that only sold religious paraphernalia, including monks attire, was trying to find yet another Pagoda, but somehow missed it. The market went on for miles, finally I went down a small alley and hailed a trishaw to take me to the palace, since Iv had already paid my $10 might as well see some of the included sights. The Mandalay Palace and Fort and its grounds are surrounded by a square moat that is 230 ft wide and 2 miles long on each side. At this point I had no idea of distances, so I bargained the poor boy down to 2000 kyiats =$2 when I got to the East Gate of the palace I gave him his asking price, which was still a bargain.

The Palace grounds are also home to the military, many of the roads on the grounds are forbidden for visitors to enter. The road from the East Gate to actual Palace is quite long fortunately another trishaw driver was on hand. Did a quick tour of the palace, where I came across a group of nuns who insisted of having their pictures taken with me. They were having such a good time on their outing, running up the steps to the tower, giggling the whole time.

There was still time to see the Zoo, having gotten those Gibbons on my mind, and according to L.P. there were a lot of them at the new and quite nice Zoo, which were part of the palace grounds as I understood it. It was a fair distance and not part of the grounds. I arrived before they closed, but not before the train had stopped running. Paid my entrance fee and went in search of those apes. The grounds are very lovely but very poorly marked, I saw one lonely monkey and no other animals, rather a wasted visit. Time to head back to the hotel and dinner.



The plane is approaching the airport and as I am looking out over the Bay of Bengal and the beach of Ngapoli. I am once again so grateful for what I am experiencing, and also for the fact that my psyche permits me to travel like this. I am starting to recognize that perhaps my way of traveling at my age is a little different from most people’s comfort level. Be that as it may we are landing and no more time for philosophizing.

A tall man with a cane approaches me as I get out of arrivals, he is obviously German and informs me that he is the greeting committee for Lin Thar Oo hotel. He is also holding the hand of a young Burmese boy whom he claims saved his life at Inle lake. As it turns out he is staying at the other Lin That Oo hotel. The partners had a fall out so now there are 2 places with the same name. Everything gets sorted out and I am taken to the correct place.

This could be any Caribbean island, or tropical resort, long sandy beach, palm trees, hot sun and very crystal clear water. My cottage with a front porch, $20 per night, overlooks the beach, and it doesn’t take many minutes for me to change into my bathing suit, we are next door to an extremely posh resort, I see women in bikinis, my Longi wasn’t necessary after all. I make my way into the water, it is warm, bath tub warm, and very shallow, , It seems to take forever to get so that I can swim, when I do it is heaven. The water is surprisingly not very salty there are a total of 5 people in the water, and hardly anyone of the beach.

My next door neighbors are two young men from the Basque region of Spain, there is also a young Italian couple and a Polish physician and his wife staying at the hotel as well as a French man in his 60’s with his 21 year old Burmese wife and finally a German woman who comes for 3 months at a time for the last 10 years. Certainly an interesting group of people. The Spaniards and the Polish couple join me for dinner at the Friends restaurant up the road. The food is good and as usual the conversation flows. We decide to hire a boat for the next day to go snorkeling and fishing. We are indicating to the boat owner that we want to go snorkeling and fishing. These trips are arranged through the restaurants, not hotels. The Polish couple decline since they are leaving, but my two Spanish friends are very excited, as am I.

8.30 the next morning we set out and are in the middle of the bay when we drop anchor and start fishing. With my hook and calamari for bait manage to catch a few small ones. The big ones got away. When it was deemed that we had enough fish we go to a small island, where we go swimming while the captain and his mate start a grill and prepare the fish for lunch. This is where they suggest we should go snorkeling, around the cliffs, I feel the sea is too rough and decline as do the boys. The fish was delicious but we never got any snorkeling done. The cost for the day was $30.

The next day I went out with the Italian couple for half a day at $15 where we snorkeled and fished. The boat owner brought along his mate’s 10 year old son, because the father had been too drunk to make it. The two of them harpooned several Parrot fish, and we caught some more with our lines The snorkeling was very good, there wasn’t any coral but plenty of fish amongst the rocks, we even saw some barracudas. Then we went to another small island that was obviously set up for cooking the catch. While they grilled the fish we went to a fishing village nearby and bought lobsters off the boat, and a red Grouper all to be cooked for dinner at the local restaurant that evening.Unfortunately 2 of the lobsters were bad but we enjoyed the fish and the one survivor.

The next day left me without any playmates, I walked the entire beach, approx 3 miles, to the fishing village where the fish was laid out on netting to dry. Took some pictures of the women who sorted the fish and walked back, a pleasant way to spend a few hours. In my estimate there could not have been even 100 people spread out between the different hotels. After lunch, a swim, then spent the rest of the afternoon reading.

The following morning got picked up at 8.45 am for the flight to Mandalay, which was very delayed, we had a choice of returning to our hotels and I was invited to join some people at their,German owned, de luxe resort next to my hotel. We still used the same beach, they had a pool and AC and I am sure paid much more per night. My connecting flight to Mandalay from Yangon was at 3 pm we landed at 3 pm. Was whisked through the arrivals building through security and to the departure lounge where the flight was just boarding. Arrived in Mandalay as it was getting dark, and ready for more adventures.

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

What a bizarre thing it was to check into Air Bagan 6.30 am. Show my ticket, no ID, no passport absolutely nothing except a ticket was required. My luggage was under the limit, I was tagged with an Air Bagan label and waited with yet another Italian tour group, as well as one from Hungary. There were very few independent travelers, it seemed those that were had a guide with them. The flight was to make one stop, in Mandalay before proceeding to Heho, which is the airport closest to Inle Lake.

It was very fortunate that my seat companion was a very pleasant American, since the seats are very narrow, who was here on a return visit. He had somehow gotten hooked up with a guide and a school in the Delta, this time he was here with money to have desks and chairs built. Last visit he had brought school materials. We had a very nice conversation, especially about the merits of single travel, and N.J. politics. After a quick continental breakfast we landed in Mandalay, and were son airborne for the 30 minute flight to Heho. I had been advised by my travel agent to see if I could hook up with other travelers for the taxi to Nyangshwe, since it is $30. The first travelers I approached were a Dutchman and a Frenchman who already had a guide and driver with them. The next were two good New York boys, 26 years old living in Bangkok here for a short visit. We shared a cab and commiserated or gloated over the Yankees win depending on whom you spoke to of the two.

Checked into Paradise Hotel which is very pleasant, the staff is beyond pleasant and helpful. After settling into my room I walked down to the market which is very close and had some corn and onion fritters, followed by a delicious Shan Soup, unfortunately this is food that will not travel well. Then I walked to the Boat Landing, to book a boat, or so I thought, of course I read the map wrong, but had the good sense to ask for directions. I was escorted by several nuns and possibly grandfather and granddaughter who both spoke very good English. Travel karma prevails, or maybe it was the nun promising to pray to Buddha for me, I meet the perfect boatman for me. His English is quite good, he seems to totally understand my requests so off we go onto Inle Lake.

Nothing has prepared me for this lake, it is immense or so it seems flanked by mountains on the East and West sides, Nyangshwe to the North at the end of a long channel. There are many natural floating islands separated by water hyacinths. It is not until we finally reach what I think is the lake proper that there are clear waters. Ko Oo that is the boatman’s name takes me to several villages, I see boats loaded with tomatoes, from the floating gardens. The famous Inle fishermen, with their bamboo cages, he stops very frequently so that I can observe how they fish. There are 4 different types of fishing taking place on the lake. The bamboo cages that are lowered into the water, then a triton is lowered into the center and pushed up and down in a churning motion to attract the fish. The next method are nets, the fishermen go out in teams lay the nets and then hit the water with bamboo sticks to scare the fish into the nets. The third method is line fishing with bait attached at regular intervals and last there was something I am not sure how to describe. There is a small handheld square piece of cloth attached to a frame that is lowered into the seaweed, dragged up and the fish picked out of the seaweed.

There are many different kinds of houses on the lake, some are ramshackle bamboo, others solid wood, there is an obvious have and have nots. Many of the villages consist of bamboo houses, some have aluminum roofs, which make them very hot, but require less upkeep. Some villages in particular the south part appear quite prosperous with, generators and TV antennas or satellite disks. I was told that they were mainly rice growers who lived there.

The first afternoon We went to Mang Thauk on the Eastern side and Kyay Sat Kona and it seemed other places in between. There were a lot of fishermen about which and I photographed a lot. Ko Oo was great as I raised my camera he slowed the boat so I could take pictures. A little about my mode of transportation while in Nyaung Shwe. The hotel was a fair distance from the boat landing so each day I had Polo, the trishaw driver pick me up in the morning and drop me off at night. The boats used on the lake are narrow wooden boats, the tourist boats have folding seats in a row with a cushion and a life vest. The Boatman stands in the back, steering, while you face the front. It is a very comfortable ride, and most of all so peaceful and beautiful.

We make arrangements to meet the next morning at 6 am, I want to see the sunrise on the lake and also get a head start on the floating market, to get to the lake from Nyaung Shwe you go through a channel the ride is about 15 minutes. The mist is lifting and we pass fishermen who have slept on their tiny boats. About 7 o’clock we stop for a picnic on the lake. Ko Oo brought tea and hot water for instant coffee, as well as deep fried dough. Polo had gotten me sticky rice, the hotel provided bread and butter sandwiches and then we had bananas. The night before I had wanted to buy bananas for breakfast and I was asked how many, 3 or 4 should do it I answered. The next thing I know he is handing me bunches, 1 bunch was 50 cents and was more than I could handle in 3 days. It was so nice. We then proceeded to the floating market in Ywama. We got there before Nay of the tourists but not before the souvenir boats. We never even went ashore, though the market had quite a few tribal women shopping. I did buy some flowers to put into my traveling vase. Asters and yellow mums were basically the only flowers for sale though I did see flowering roses but in private gardens.

We then went into a narrow channel leading to Indein, which was one of the places I had really wanted to see. We dock and make our way through bamboo groves along a small creek. It is early morning and mothers are bathing their children, we pass the empty market place that looks quite large. There are many novice monks playing around, like little boys do. Today is a big holiday and they are free, some have money in their pockets and buy chewing gum, or other treats. They are laughing and giggling and absolutely adorable.

We continue our walk and come to the Stupas, There are hundreds of them in various states of ruin.Though these are much younger and it is completely different from Angor Wat there are similarities, as I see it. The jungle has taken over tree are growing in the middle of some of them roots are holding the structures together. A striking difference is that here we walk on barely discernible paths, narrow footways and we are the only ones around, except for a young man with a little girl. Some of the stupas are beautiful, all of them have a Buddha inside. Not for the first time, do I wish I understood more of the religion. We continue walking around and come to a roofed colonnaded uphill walk to the Pagoda. The Colonnade is lined on both sideas by shop keepers selling some really lovely things. I dare not stop and look, because as soon as I do I am surrounded by shop keepers anxious to show their wares. After our visit to the main Pagoda and more Stupas, I stop at stall and buy a small hand painted box from an artist who has no arms and only one leg. He is extremely talented and has a smile that could melt anyone’s heart.

As we make our way back to the boat we encounter more children swimming in the creek, when they see us scramble up the bank to say hello. We come to a small souvenir stall and Ko Oo points out pictures of President Obama. The shopkeeper is so excited she has to show us her 2 ½ months old infant, called Obama, he is also dressed for November weather in the States, not Myanmar. It is really felt in this part of the country that the election next year will make a difference, and somehow Obama is a symbol for change.

We leave Indein, pass many boats with children going to school and more boats with novice monks, we make our way to Phaung Daw Oct Pagoda where it is almost impossible to move. The line to get into the Pagoda is three or four deep, families are having pinics on the grounds and the loudspeaker is blaring. After awhile it all starts to make sense. This is the ultimate making merit. There are tables lined up with bowls of raw rice, big bags on the ground to refill the bowls, and the process ion starts. It is heade by what appears to be a golden sedan, followed by two white lotus parasols and then the monks file by, monastery after monastery, as they are called by the loudspeaker, with their alms bowls held in front of them. I am very glad we came I was also able to see the golden ship that is launched on the lake in October.

Time for lunch we end up at a lake restaurant and share pork fried rice and mixed vegetables, it was quite tasty, even if I think that Myanmar food is a little bland. The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting a family that make Cheerots, a process most different from any cigar making I have observed. They also had fish breeding pens, we amused ourselves by feeding the fish bananas . A total first, who have ever seen fish eating bananas, but these did. We also went to a silk weaving factory, it was interesting seeing how they made thread from the lotus plants. Since I was not in a shopping mode have no idea if prices were good or not, they did have beautiful things, though. Time to head back since tomorrow was going to be a very long day visiting the south lake.

In order to visit the southern lake which is called Sankar, you need permission, and a Pa O guide. You pay $5 admission fee and $10 guide fee at Golden Cottages, which are Pa O owned. Sankar is quite different looking from its cousin Inle, it appears much more prosperous with many, many wooden houses with their own generators and satellite disks. The lake is surrounded by rice fields and mountains and doesn’t appear to have as many floating gardens as Inle. We stop at a market which is very small. And since it is 10 am, is already winding down. It is not a very large market, there are some interesting things for sale, e.g. hand tooled knives and scissors, soy pellets used in curries, some textiles and since I didn’t know what to find in Ngpali I bought Longi. May be I need to be covered upin Ngpali?

Myanmar, Yangon

Yangon Tuesday November 3rd

The flight from Chiang Mai via Bangkok was incredibly smooth. The luggage is checked through and I am labeled, in such a way that I can sit in Bangkok Airlines transit lounge, with complimentary snacks, internet etc. My cough is bad and I am in a panic about not being able to enter Myanmar. Fortunately all the medication is holding up and I sail quietly through immigration and the health screening.
Sleep most of the time in the back of the taxi until we arrive at Beautyland II $15 per night. It is more than adequate. The bed is comfortable, I have a window. The shower is hot and the refrigerator works, haven't tried the TV nor the phone yet. I am so tired, this chest cold is taking its toll, but I venture out first to change money at Scott’s market which is 5 minutes from the hotel, and then to walk down to the Sule Pagoda and the tourist office for maps.

Yangon how to describe this extremely vibrant city? Where every sidewalk is a market place the buildings more rundown, than anywhere else I have seen, the sidewalks in total disrepair and I am in heaven. It is so alive, with activity everywhere and some order to it if hard to discern.

Take my life in my hands a few times crossing streets, but it is not as bad as Hanoi, while continuing down to Monsoon a restaurant that had been recommended. It is situated in an old colonial building with a very eclectic menu. I start with a tea leaf salad that I didn’t like it was much too oily, later I learn it should be eaten with rice. Am not sure what possessed me to order Spaghetti Carbonara, perhaps the memory of it at the Butterfly Farm in Siem Reap. This version was not particularly memorable but with a carafe of wine I managed to finish my meal. Taxi back to the hotel and a very bad night, the cough never let up and I am exhausted the next morning. After breakfast I go visit Santa Maria travel agency, they are on the next block. Get my schedule set, not exactly as I had envisioned but have no energy to not be generic.
Air Bagan W9 011 Nov 8 Yangon- Heho 7.30 am arr 9.20 am Paradise Hotel in Nyaungshewe
Nov 09
Nov 10am
Nov 11 Air Bagan #W9 141 9.00 for Ngpali beach Lin Thar Oo Hotel
Nov 12 Ngpali
Nov 13 Ngpali
Nov 14 Ngpali
Nov 15 Air Bagan #W9 141 10.15 to Yangon arr 11.05 Yangon Airways YH731 to Mandalay 15.00
Nov 16 Mandalay Hotel Honghta
Nov 17 Mandalay Hotel Honghta
Nov 18 Mandalay Hotel Honghta
Nov 19 Boat to Bagan
Nov 20 Bagan Kaday Aung Hotel
Nov 21 Balloon over Bagan
Nov 22 Bagan Kaday Aung Hotel
Nov 23 back to Yangon
Nov 24 Yangon – Bangkok

Today Saturday is the first day that I am feeling half way decent, not so tired, am looking at the schedule and wondering where was I when it was made. Am sure it will fine, if not the worst that could happen I change things around.

So far I have been for sunset at the Shwendangon Pagoda, it is as magical as everyone says. It wasn't until last night that I realized that it is actually illuminated. Been to the night market in Chinatown, loaded up on more medications in a very modern supermarket. Had dinner at a sidewalk restaurant, sour hot chicken quite good, took the circular train around Yangon.

The train is a trip in more ways than one. I paid my $1 and was given a very official receipt and am then escorted to the train where I am seated behind a rope together with a gentleman who is the money collector. In the middle of the car is an ancient looking metal box, next to him piles of leather pouches, at each stop he receives a pouch and gives out an empty one. The full one goes into the metal box, this goes on for 3 hours at each and every stop, when he is finished with the transaction he waves the green flag for the train to continue. Somewhere in the middle of the journey, bales of green leaves are thrown in through the windows and doors. Don’t know how many but the entire car as well as the next one were filled with these bales.

Women throw on bags of rice, this is as much a freight train as a commuter train. Markets are going on on the tracks, kites are flown, little boys play ball as we go past rice fields and farmland. This was a trip I am so happy I made even if it was uncomfortable. Since I only have energy for one item a day this was enough, get back to the GH and sleep for 10 hours
One morning I met Sylvie, friend of the Swiss people I met in Lao, spent a lovely time with her and had lunch with her husband and daughter. They have been here for 7 years and are presently under contract with WHO. It was interesting to hear how life as an ex-pat is here.

Take myself to the National Museum which was actually quite interesting, had no idea that there were several languages and alphabets here, nor that the king had a chief wife as well as lesser ones. After the museum I decide to hire a taxi to go Kyauktan where there is a pagoda in the water.

As usual Lonely Planet is wrong, the taxi doesn’t want to be hired for the afternoon, the fair is also double quoted. We compromise and he drives me to the bus station. Again I am given privileged seating on the minibus next to the bus driver. This is a dubious distinction, apart from the comfortable seat and not being cramped, my heart is in my mouth., he drives like a car thief, with the hand on the horn, no seat belts, no speedometer, constantly spitting out his betelnut juice. The drive is very lovely we pass many, many Payas. 1 ¼ hour later we have arrived, because of a misunderstanding I think I only have 45 minutes for lunch, and don’t get to go the pagoda. It was lovely sitting on the deck of an outdoor restaurant amongst the fishermen looking at the boats on the lake and the very lovely pagoda. There were market stalls and a lot of mangy dogs around, certainly a slice of Burmese life. The driver’s wife shows up an elegant woman, and seems very lovely. Back to the city at the same breakneck speed.

Yangon continued,
Last night I went on the recommendation of the Englishman and his guide to Kandawghyyi Palace for dinner. It was the same place my friend Sue had recommended, and she had lived here for months.In a few words stay home, I had been told they had a puppet show and anyone who has read “The Piano Tuner” knows that a puppet show is a must. Note there is no puppet show at Kandawghyyi Palace, there is a very kitschy, rather sweet, actually set up with costumed people greeting you. There is an awful buffet and a 2 hour show with traditional dances. I have no problems eating by myself, but to be seated way up front at a table set for a single person on a raided level, made for many a curious glance.

As an aside, if anyone ever mentions the ugly Americans while traveling they have not met an Italian tour group. I had the great fortune of being seated next to one. They should have been filmed, and shown the reel.
Today I went to see a temple where Buddah’s hair was enclosed in an ivory pendant, paid my foreigners fee, gave a donation to a begging monk, who I think sneered at what I gave him. Am not sure, though and will give it the benefit of a doubt. Took one of the small local buses to the Strand, it was too hot to walk, for lunch and had a lovely Lamb Burger, sometimes one has to have something different. People are extremely puzzled b y the fact I am alone it is invariably the first question asked, except by the touts.
My impressions are that though this is a very poor country, not as many beggars as in India, but with a far worse infra structure there is a growing middle class. TV and Refrigerator shops are in abundance, as are electronic stores. Internet cafes have great connections, they are plentiful, and the cost is 40 cents an hour. They are jam packed at night. Telephones may not be easily available, though cell phones are commonly used. The telephone booths are young women sitting at tables with a few really old telephones in front of them. At first I thought they were for sale, then I realized what they were for.

The supermarkets seem to be stocked with almost everything you can imagine and prices are not high by our standards. That said, the public buses, trains and taxis are in deplorable conditions, the taxi I came home with last night had no interior on the door, so the metal and everything was painted white to give the illusion.

Last dinner was at the Sarakan Tower purely for the view, a beer and a prawn dinner $7.50. The trio played lovely music, Gershwin and and all very easy to listen and dance too. Can absolutely recommend when you have a date.


Was dutifully picked up 6 am and got on a flight to Bangkok. It was like coming home, because everything was familiar. Agneta was there to greet me, caught up on internet and e-mail, then I went for a treat. anicure, a badly needed pedicure and finally eyelashes. There is a salon across the street from her house that does all of the above. Had decided last year to get the lashes, after seeing all the Korean flight attendants lashes, but didn't. This year the Singapore hostesses also had impossible lashes, so I knew it would be a reasonable desire. Fir those of you not in the know, there is a technique where false lashes are applied one by one on top of your own, the look is very realistic. The cost in NYC $200 in Bangkok $29 and they last for a
month. Not quite movie star but a definitive improvement.

Next morning I took a commuter boat on the Klonk to a market which was enormous, actually am not even sure that I was in the market I meant to be going to. There was very little that appealed to me and when XL
barely made it over my head, the rats were running around and motorcycles drove amongst the very narrow lanes I decided it was time to leave. Grabbed a taxi and showed him where I was going on a map. I
wanted to try Chote Chitr and it was clearly marked on a hand drawn map, together with a lot of other good eating places. The driver was a true Thai, he smiled and said I know, I know, that should have alerted
me that he didn't. We circled a few times and finally I got out and  found my location. The owner was there and pleasant enough, she served me a banana flower salad and river prawns, that with rice and a bottle of water was 490 baht or $14. The food was good especially the mixture served with the prawns was delicious. The owner was very funny, I thought, as she told me that Thais eat the head of the prawn but Americans not, so I was served beheaded prawns

The next day I met some internet friends, we ended up having lunch together and spending the afternoon just hanging out got to meet Maeng, the owner of Pickled Liver, an expat bar, which was also a treat, until it was time for me to go home and change for the dinner at the Swedish Ambassadors apartment, preceded by drinks around the pool at Rembrand Hotel, where all the meetings were held. The Ambassadors wife met us in jeans, am not sure if that was a statement on her part, the reaction from the guests was less than positive. The Thai buffet dinner was delicious and everyone left happy.

Thursday Madeleine, who lives in Luxembourg, had arrived as the other house guest and she and I went to MBK a shopaholics paradise and my nightmare. MBK is indescribable, it is a huge vertical mall, with
anything your heart desires at great prices. I found a pair of dressy shoes, Madeleine her bag, DVD's and underwear for her son. We had a really fun lunch there in a Japanese Shabu, conveyor belt, restaurant,
we had an electrically heated soup bowl in front of us and then everything we wanted to cook in it came off the belt. The concept was pure genius, all you could eat in 1 hr 15 minutes for a set price if you stayed longer there was an additional fee.

After lunch it was time for serious shopping, we were going for jewelry, well I wasn't. I had the name and phone numbers of a place that had been recommended by a friend, the taxi driver had no idea, so in the end we walked in to a hotel and asked for help. The jeweler came to pick us up in one of their minivans, and took us to this emporium. I had always imagined this place to be small and intimate, no such thing. They had beautiful jewelry, and I bought some things, also gave them some repairs, the cost of which was much less than in New York. I am happy with what I bought and so was my friend, whether we got great bargains or not, who knows.

Since this was a regional meeting for Swedish women from all over Asia but with attendees from other parts of the world, sight seeing tours had been set up. I had signed up for the Grand Palace which was combined with a tour of the flower market,, a Klong tour, and lunch. The Grand Palace was spectacular, it was fun to see the Emerald Buddah after having visited the original temple in Vientiane. The temples were exquisite, and everything very well maintained, the rest of the tour I could have done without.

Getting back to Sikhanout took forever and a bit, finally I asked to let off by the nearest Sky Train station since I had to get back home to change for the Gala Dinner. I made it to the dinner, with a few minutes to spare but only after having hailed a motorcycle taxi. If you have never ridden on the back of a motorcycle taxi in Bangkok you have not lived, or maybe it is almost died. These young men ride between the cars, take every opening, however slim, sometimes ride on the sidewalks and get you to your destination very fast.They are more expensive than the regular taxis, but very efficient. The drawback is that you are exposed to all the exhaust fumes, am not sure if my subsequent bad health was due to that or something else.

The next day we left early for Chiang Mai where we stayed at a beautful new hotel called RatiLanna.
The guides that we had with us for the three days were very efficient and entertaining, a great contrast to our Bangkok guide. The entire package had been arranged by Nordic Tours on behalf of Swea, am not
sure how much thought had gone into it. There were 32 of us, which meant a large bus for transportation, which we all piled into after checking in. We were taken to a lovely spot for lunch  I unfortunately don't know the name. It was located on a small pond, and the food was very good. When we returned into town we all were taken by rickshaws to see a temple with a wax statue of a monk who had died at the age of 96, and
is to be cremated next month. There was a very lively debate going on between us whether he had blinked or not. It certainly was a very lifelike figure, sitting there.

After the Wat visit, it was time for a Thai massage. It was a very painful experience and though I indicated that she should leave my poor knees alone, they were contorted into various positions. Since it was my first experience with a Thai massage I don't know if torture is part of it. All I know is that I have been in pain ever since.

Back to the hotel and a cocktail party on the lawn. There was a wedding going on at the same time so we had some really good dance music to get up and gyrate to. The unfortunate part for me, was that my throat at this point was very painful as were my legs and it was impossible to sleep because of the music. Eventually it stopped and after a few hours sleep it was time to get up and do merit with the monks. A very different experience than in Luang Prabang, here we had packages of cooked food to distribute, plus a beautful Lotus flower to each monk. They did not come in an orderly procession rather 6 or 8 at the time. When we had given them the food we were blessed by beautiful chanting, this continued a few more times until there were no more packages. Am not sure that I feel this to be a very meaningful experience, though the food I am sure is put to good use. We had coffee and croissant, my case rice porridge, for breakfast before we continued up the mountain to yet another temple.

The road was long and winding, there was a bike race going on at the same time. Why, anyone would put hemselves through such agony, is beyond me but then again if perhaps I pursued some form of physical
exercise those knees might be better? We returned to the hotel and had a lovely large breakfast, then it was
shopping time, we were taken to a silk factory and then a silver factory and lastly leather factory. After a few minutes at the silk place I asked if there was any way to get back to the hotel, since this was not how I wanted to spend my time. A car was procured and 4 of us returned to spend a few hours by the pool, for a much needed breather.

That evening we were taken to a very lovely part for dinner. It belonged to the University of Chiang Mai and there was a collection of traditional buildings, the tables had been set up on the lawn where we were treated to a dance show and procession. Our last day was quite spectacular. First we went for an Elephant ride
through the jungle, which was exhilarating, followed by a slow ride on a bamboo raft down the river. The evening started out by watching the Ley Krathong parade, with spectacular floats and lovely young people
marching in various costumes. This was supposedly the commercial interest, the private sector would be represented the following evening. We then went to a restaurant in some god forsaken place, though very lovely, where we floated our own lit Kretongs and also sent lit lanterns up to the heavens for our wishes to be fulfilled. It was very moving and beautiful to see all the lit lanterns like orange dots against the dark sky.

Do not ask me what Chiang Mai is like, I have no idea, our visit there could have been anywhere as far as I could tell. I did get to visit a few pharmacies, situated in malls, am sure that is not unique to C.M.



The Boat Landing was probably a novelty when it first opened up, and am sure that it still is in many ways. It is a lovely remote place, don't know how it was when the original owners and builders ran it.
Now it is as I wrote a place to chill out, or be picked up by a car for a trek.

Our flight was over an hour delayed getting into Vientiane, couldn't really see much as it was getting dark. Took a taxi to Mali Namphu guesthouse, on the recommendation of my friend Sue. The taxis are a fixed price from the airport $6 or $8 for a van.
The GH could offer me a single room for 1 night $22 which was fine, the next night I moved to a twin bedded room off the garden for $30.

The GH is very near to the main tourist drag and as I walked to an Internet Cafe, I see these buffet tables in the middle of the sidewalk. A new Cafe opened that day and anyone who walked by was invited to partake of the food and soft drinks being offered. There were quite an array of different hors d'oeuvres, some better than others. Quite the opening feast, which meant that I didn't need to have dinner that night. Internet here is very slow, but you can prepay 2 hours for a little less than $1 or pay 100 kip a minute which comes to about 75 cents an hour.

The front desk man, Phan, who checked me in wears many hats, he offered to take me on a guided tour the next day together with 2 Japanese gentlemen for $30. Since as a rule I avoid guides, from my less than wonderful experiences last year I was very hesitant to accept the offer. Now I am so glad that I relented, in the end, there is no way that I would have covered as much ground and seen as much on my own.

Phan's English is excellent and he is a very good guide, when he offered to take me to different markets the following day, his day off I didn't hesitate for a second.

We started out by going to Buddah Park, built by a religious fanatic in the late 50's. He apparently studied under a Hindu rishi in Vietnam, as well as being a priest and a monk. The place is absolutely fantastic and in many ways quite beautiful. There is a huge reclining Buddah and many, many other statues. The builder of the park was forced to leave Laos, and settled in the Thai town of Nong Khai where he built another park. We then went to see the Friendship bridge that connect Thailand to Lao. Stopped at the convention center, where a trade show was being set up, bought some drinks at the super market inside the center. Then came time for the real meaty stuff, I think we covered every temple in town. Phan really wanted us to see the Lao Nationa Museum but we were all sight-seeinged out.

Phan as out guide was called took us to a Lao restaurant where we had a delcious lunch of fresh and fried springrolls, as well as rice paper rolls filled with lettuce, mint, noodles and grilled pork, all of this was washed down with Beer Lao. Lunch for the 4 of us came to $18 including many beers and a large bottle of water.

When we returned to the Guesthouse a large stage was being erected on the street with a sign “Luxe Grand Opening” there was this tiny little shop that was opening with such an extravaganza. After having rested for awhile, before joining the festivities, which I had been invited to partake in. I stood on the street and marveled at how the whole thing had been put together. The guests arrived carrying very elaborate flower baskets, hostess dutifully was photographed with each guest. The women for the most part were very dressed up. The show started with two women singing and dancing to a record, then a mistress of ceremonies and someone else came onstage and never stopped talking. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place while they were still gabbing on. Then came the highlight THE FASHION SHOW. Most of the things seemed to be made for Lolitas, thigh high stockings with shorts and ridiculously high heels, or long flowing night gowns with huge floppy strawhats. I am sure that it is very fashionable in Tokyo or Vientiane.

After a a couple of tea sandwiches decided it was time for dinner, this time I thought I wanted something Western to eat, and walked into a very busy outdoor restaurant, unfortunately didn't take the name down, it is past the Scandinavian Bakery close to Green Discovery. There didn't seem to be any tables available so I sat at the bar. Within two minutes a young German girl asked if I wanted to join her. Had one of the best Chicken Laab ever, nothing else appealed to me. Dagmar and I ended up having a delightful evening and she happily joined me in the following days schedule.

I had spent most of Saturday trying to get through to Lao airlines to change my ticket to return to Bangkok Sunday afternoon, was never able to get through. Sunday morning Phan drove me to the airport, where I was reassured that they “always” had no shows. After having spent most of the day visiting various markets including the Morning Market, which is a shopping mall, as well as the National Museum, and killing a few hours sitting by the Mekong drinking beer went out to the airport, and of course everybody had shown up for the flight.

Checked into the Lao Paris hotel which is quite lovely with a nice room for $25 and being picked up at 6 am for a confirmed flight.

Luang Namtha and Muang Sin

It is so interesting how things happen in an instant. I was supposed to meet up with this couple to go for dinner at the Boat Landing. They were nowhere to be found, decided to go by myself and was unable to get a Tuk Tuk. It is too far out of town. Finally returned to Zuela , and asked for a good Lao restaurant. They sent me to Panda, where I ended up having a fantastic evening.

It was completely deserted when I arrived, looked at the menu and could not see anything that was not Western, finally I asked, and the owner/chef pointed to 3 dishes with coconut. I ordered the coconut fish and was already regretting my decision to stay, so sure that whatever I would get would be a watered down version, since the entire menu was totally non-Lao. Instead I was served one of the most delicious versions ever. While I am eating my fish, a group of five arrive and sit at the table behind me. After a while I hear guitar playing, I half turn and the two older men are playing guitars and I presume singing folk songs. The older of the two speaks very good English and points out this young, quite made up woman as his wife. The young man across the table is his son from his old wife, whom he divorced to marry this young girl, they now have 3 children.

Trophy wives are obviously not alien in this part of the world either. She is younger than the son, who is there with his fiancee. After awhile and many Lao Beers later a Country Western CD is produced and everybody gets up to dance, what started out one way ended totally unexpected. It was a fun evening, and everyone who knows me know how I love to dance.

Check out of Zuela and catch the mini bus to Muang Sing the journey is mountainous through dense forests. Unfortunately large tracts have been denuded by loggers, though there are signs of reforestation taking place. I arrive in Muang Sin after 1 ½ hours, and am very disappointed by what I see. In my guide book it is described as a supremely picturesque village, I suppose guide book writers can take poetic license. There is nothing particularly attractive about this village. The guest house I check into is lovely and the room as luxurious and as attractive as the Apsara $12 a night. Now I enquire about treks, I know that there are some one day easy walking and also a one day with Tuk Tuk. However since I am alone the price is double, I decide that I'm here so might as well go for it. I don't have enough cash and there is NO ATM, what to do? When in doubt go and eat, which is exactly what I do at Taileu Guesthous which is the only place in town, and one of the few in the country that serve indigenous northern cuisine. This according to my not very reliable guide book. Finally I got to taste fresh spring rolls that were delicious. After lunch I walk around trying to see if I have some options here, since I am not in love with the place, and don't have enough cash for a trek, decide to go back to Luang Nam Tha in the morning. Will check out the Boat Landing and stay there if they have rooms.

Apart from Luang Prabang and Luang Nam Tha I have probably stayed in the most upscale places available. My mode of travel, apart from hiring private transportation, is what has been available. Perhaps not what I would have selected if given a choice beforehand, but I am very glad to have experienced it. So how do I like it so far? It is a beautiful country, but I don't think it is a place to travel on your own unless you are a trekker and /or a backpacker. As much as I love nature I much prefer places where I can see things and interact with people. To me Laos is much more about discovering nature, and less about the places. The people are very nice, and pleasant if a little reserved. Except of course in the markets, where I find the women very outgoing and anxious to share, this is very much the case in most markets though. Maybe it takes a certain personality to be a market vendor, and it meshes with my own?

After another sleepless night I leave for the bus stop, get a lift with a local bus and arrive at 7 am for a 8 am bus. There are already bags claiming most of the seats, I put my bag on one of the unclaimed ones and head for the market and breakfast. The market is hopping and true to my information there are several women from the mountain tribes both selling and purchasing, the head gears are amazing on some of them, and the embroideries most intricate.This is the closes I will get and it is OK, had fantasies of exploring the villages but had selective inattention in my prior resarch. Breakfast is Pho and back to the bus and Luang Nam Tha.

First order of business, LaoAirlines, there is a flight the next day which I book, since my tickets are Discover Pass I can change flights without penalties. I check into the Boat Landing which is very lovely with beautifully landscaped gardens full of butterflies. The rooms are indivual cottages with porches overlooking the Nam Tha river. Since this is an ecological place the water is solar heated, which means cold showers. My room rate is $35 including a scrumptious breakfast The people are very nice, the young man who shows me my room asks “Do you have my husband?” I can honestly say “No”.

It is very far from town just by the airport, a lovely place to chill out if you need that, or as a base for treks. The food is good, the Chicken Laab excellent, Morning Glory Salad has a sweet mustard mayonnaise dressing,not great, Stir Fried Pork is good, not outstanding. Am fortunate in that I share my meal with two young men from California and end up having a very nice evening. Have a great nights rest and wake up to a pleasantly cool morning.

Am looking forward to my reactions to Vientiane. Arrived tonight and what little I have seen I like.

Going up the Nam Ou

October 19
Am writing this while cruising up the Nam Ou river towards Muang Khua. The magic just seems to continue. After having decided to take a mini van to Nong Khiaw instead of the boat from L.P., a decision I was grateful for having made.

On the trip up I met 3 French-Swiss people who were a complete delight. We all ended up staying at the Riverside, which was just across the bridge after the van dropped us off. My bungalow overlooked Nam Ou and cost 150.00 kip or $36 for the night breakfast included. We all had dinner there since it is considered the best in Nong Khiaw, and I think we could have stayed up all night talking. The subjects we covered were, operas and singers, that one was natural since one of the men is an opera journalist, philosphy took up a large part of the evening. Since all 3 had been to Myanmar several times, oppression and how people survive, were another of the subjects covered . It was one of those meetings you know was not a total coincidence.

As usual I had gone to the market which really only consisted of a few vendors, a few of them sold something very interesting, it was a black octagon shaped hard fruit that when smacked together yielded very delicious nut kernels. The village appears poor but had a lot of TV disks. After another delightful breakfast we parted ways and I continued upriver to Muang Ngoi for 1 hour boat ride.

On this journey I was accomapnied by 3 French-Canadian girls and an Italian-Swiss man. We all stayed at the same guesthouse just up from the boatlanding. Am a little confused of the name, my spacious room with bathroom and cold water shower was 50.000 kip or $6.

After lunch the girls asked if I wanted to join them on a trip to the waterfall. Like a fool I said, yes of course. The tour operator told me that it was 1 hour walk over flat ground but the actual falls were going to be hard climbing. As I rationalized it, was that I didn't have to climb the falls but could stay at the bottom. First of all there is a saying thar only mad fools and Englishmen venture out in midday heat. Since I am not English you all know what that makes me. We go down river by boat for about ½ hour and the the fun begins. Climbing up from the river is very difficult since there are no steps, just a slippery steep river bank. We arrive in a village where we pay the customary fee of 5.000 kip or 60 cents. Ton our guid carves me a bamboo walking stick and off we go. Through rice fields up and down bamboo stiles, which are built to keep the buffalo away, through densely wooded areas, on extremely narrow footpaths, across streams and muddy areas. Ton keeps on picking leeches off me, and it never ends. Fortunately he has a very strong arm for me to lean on. Finally I have had enough and say stop, my knee is throbbing and I end up sitting in a brook on a stone with water trickling down. It is totally delightful, butterflies and dragon flies surround me and I am enchanted. Thyis is a country full of beautiful butterflies.

By the time we get back to the boat I am so upset with myself, how clumsy I have become, and the way my body fails me, how my sense of balance is off , try to comfort myself that at least I am walking and still able to do a lot. My travel companions and I end up having dinner at Ning Ning during the 3 hours of electricity the village receives every night. My Tom Yau soup with chicken and 2 Beer Lao came to $3.60.

One would think that a river journey could be quite monotonous. Going up the Nam Ou is any thing but. We stop on a sandy stretch where little boys have been fishing and they sell their catch to our captain. Two very large catfish and a few smaller ones for 10.000kip or $1.20. Two teen age monks are sitting there watching the transactions. Where do they come from and where are they going? There is nobody to ask, enough to enjoy the scene. A little later on a what appears to be a very desolate stretch, a man hails the boat, a conversation ensues, I hear the word kip several times and equally suddenly we leave him and continue up river. We pass the occasional village a few fishermen, and all the time this glorious lush landscape with the mountains in the background and the hills on either side of the river. The vegetation seems to change as we get further north but am unable to define what seems different.

At a later point we stop again this time to pick up lumber. There are about 8 small children romping about completely naked in the water, until they see us and rush to put on clothing. They were completely enchanting and loved the pictures I took of them.

We are finally on our way and after about 5 hours on the river we arrive in Muang Khua where I will only spend the night before I go on to Luang Namtha. Where I am now, the last two villages only had electricity 3 hours each night and no internet of course. Was most grateful for my head lantern.

Luang Prabang

Having spent a very wet night in Bangkok, wet in the sense that the skies opened up, I never expected the Bangkok Air flight to depart on time for Luang Prabang, L.P. from now on. Well it did, 1 hour 40 minutes later, including lunch and 2 glasses of wine we landed.

Coming in the country is so green and verdant, am itching to explore further. After having obtained my visa, Sweden is $4 cheaper than the USA,.my driver met me. Having decided to splurge I am staying at the Apsara a boutique hotel $70 US/night. The hotel is lovely, location perfect, room is gorgeous with a king size bed, huge bathroom and very thick and soft towels. I feel it may have been a mistake, the other guests are couples, politely say good morning at breakfast, but there is no interaction at all. However I may live to eat those words as my trip through Laos progresses with slow boats and guest houses.

L.P. is a complete shock, I have read numerous descriptions, and nothing prepares me for this small town feeling and look… not quite sure if there is anything else like this anywhere else. There are tourists, but not an overwhelming amount, the buildings are low, none above 3 stories, painted mainly white. Most of the signs for restaurants and guest houses are on wooden highly varnished plaques.

The police station is a tiny building in the middle of Sinavangvon Road a.k.a. Main Street. This I walk up and down a few times trying to locate an ATM, the maximum you can withdraw is 70.000 kip (approx $80US) with a service charge of 20.000kip $2.40. Since I left all those crisp dollar bills in Bangkok, to use in Myanmar will have to deal with this in some fashion. Walk the down to the night market, there is not much of interest, I buy a couple of shirts, which I had planned to, and go for dinner.

Dinner was at Tamnak Lao, ordered a pork Laab, sticky rice and a Lao Lao which I thought was the local beer. It is not, it is the local moonshine, it reminds me of cheap tequila. Dinner was fair, I felt that there was too much fish sauce in the Laab, but that may be the way the dish should be. Start a conversation with Mike from England via Hawaii, for the last 40 years, he took early retirement, before the company went belly up and is fulfilling his dream of traveling SEA while the wife stays at home teaching. He was a really interesting character, and I enjoyed our conversation. By now it is 10 pm and bedtime, early rising to partake in the alms procession tomorrow.

Wake up 5 am and get up, don’t want to miss a thing here. Am out on the still fairly dark street by 5.30 and it is an amazing sight. There are mats on the sidewalk with baskets full of sticky rice, on top of each basket is a sash. All of a sudden van loads of people arrive they know exactly where to go. I happen to be standing near a spot where Thai tourists have staked their claim, they invite me to join them and before I know it I have a sash too, expertly put on by someone, who equally expertly reclaims it at the end. I have bought some banana leaves filled with sticky rice. Around 6,20 or so hundreds of monks pass by, the first four get my rice, my neighbor kindly offers to share her basket and we take little pinches of sticky rice to put into their alms bowls. The Thais also put in money and flowers, as do others. There are people were eating it.little children walking on the side with baskets, where the flowers are put. Others have large plastic bags or baskets where the excess rice goes. The amount of rice given is staggering, there are obviously organized tours that partake in this ritual. The tour guides have 4-5 cameras hanging around their necks while the participants of the group give merit, and they take pictures of the process.

I am very puzzled by the amount of rice not kept by the monks, and ask when I get back for breakfast at the hotel. The answer which makes perfect sense is that the rice collected goes to feed many hungry families, only wish I could believe it. One woman whom I asked, said it went to feed animals. All I know is that there was so much sticky rice collected and this is a daily ritual. I was also told that by the fact I had a sash put on I had given merit. Did I feel it was a solemn procession, yes the monks were solemn, but the circus before with all the women vendors and the tour guides taking pictures it seemed more of a commercial enterprise than anything else. The thought that crossed my mind, while this was going on was that the rice had passed through my hands, the monks hands and possibly other hands as well and yet people were eating it in the end, I was glad that there were no plastic gloves in sight.

Return to the hotel for breakfast. The coffee is strong and delicious, I don't even drink coffee, but here I do. Toasted baguettes, served with assorted marmalades and eggs any style you want. I order poached the yolks are deep orange and the flavour like eggs did taste once upon a time.

When we went to the market with the cooking instructor he told us that eggs with a number written on them contained embryos, the higher the number the more developed they were. A very popular item to eat apparently, well the eggs at the Apsara were not numbered. Now I am ready for the market hail a tuk-tuk and go to Phousi market. It is large, the guidebook claims that it is a fantastic place to pick up silk garments. Am not sure which part the writer went to I saw quite a few of the silk blouses that are worn with Longi, but nothing else. I do end up with a purchase a card reader for $3, had left mine in Bangkok.. Not even the food part of the market was that appealing, except I ran into a group that was there on a tour from a cooking school, the guide was impressive.

Grab another Tuk-tuk back to town and walk through the Royal Palace museum, see the Pra Bang Buddah for which the city is named. The Royal quarters, and contemplate the sad fate that befell them when the communists took over. There is a very interesting photo exhibit in another building, taken of monks during two different time periods, learning how to meditate. Apparently the monks here have never learnt this. I find it intriguing and puzzling since I thought that meditation was one of the fundamentals of Buddhism.

As I leave the grounds walking down towards the Mekong I pass a shop that specializes in local handicrafts, while browsing I run into a fellow passenger from the plane. Jean an elderly Australian painter and sculptor. We end up going to The Tamarind for a laotian lunch. We both order the 5 bite plate and I have a lime-lemongrass lemonade. The plate consists of a green vegetable, fermented bamboo shoots, Luang Prabang suasage, Buffalo jerky and 3 different kinds of lettuce leaf wraps. It is a perfect lunch for $5. I also while there sign up for the cooking class next day.

It is hot, very hot and I am looking forward to the afternoons trip to the water fall. The cost is $5 and if I understood it correctly the hotel wanted $25. We arrive and I walk in past the gate where the tickets are sold, marveling at how cheap this trip was. The ticket to see the falls is 20.000 kip and the entire trip cost 45.000 kip. 25.000 for the transpoirt a real bargain. Walk up past the rescued bears, past several swimming holes, but since my sense of balance is a little off am not able to go swimming, the stones are too slippery, I tried to go in but couldn't. Instead walk up to the top. It is a nice waterfall, run into my Thai friends who insist of more pictures with me. When I finally get back to where we are to meet the car, I mention to one of the fellow passengers what a bargain this was and am informed that I was supposed to have paid the entrance fee. I didn't know that. and had not been informed and since I wasn't stopped I didn't do it. It was a real bargain after all.

Take a walk down the street and see a most elaborate set-up, with a lot of money trees and what looks like a huge celebration of sorts about to happen. It turns out that the 84 yrear old grandmoither who livews in Las Vegas has returned for a few months aqnd these are all offerings to various temples. This explains the duplication of bedding, coffeemakers etc. Very beautiful setup, and the food looks yummy. Who weould have thought that Chanterelles were available here.

Catch up on the internet, talk to some of the fellow hotel guests and realise how much I like this place. Go to the restaurant around the corner on Hanuman's suggestion and have "barbecue" the Lao term for hot pot. It was good not great. Return to the hotel for breakfast. The coffee is strong and delicious, I don't even drink coffee, but here I do. Toasted baguettes, served with assorted marmalades and eggs any style you want. I order poached the yolks are deep orange and the flavour like eggs did taste once upon a time.

When we went to the market with the cooking instructor he told us that eggs with a number written on them contained embryos, the higher the number the more developed they were. A very popular item to eat apparently, well the eggs at the Apsara were not numbered. Now I am ready for the market hail a tuk-tuk and go to Phousi market. It is large, the guidebook claims that it is a fantastic place to pick up silk garments. Am not sure which part the writer went to I saw quite a few of the silk blouses that are worn with Longi, but nothing else. I do end up with a purchase a card reader for $3, had left mine in Bangkok.. Not even the food part of the market was that appealing, except I ran into a group that was there on a tour from a cooking school, the guide was impressive.

Grab another Tuk-tuk back to town and walk through the Royal Palace museum, see the Pra Bang Buddah for which the city is named. The Royal quarters, and contemplate the sad fate that befell them when the communists took over. There is a very interesting photo exhibit in another building, taken of monks during two different time periods, learning how to meditate. Apparently the monks here have never learnt this. I find it intriguing and puzzling since I thought that meditation was one of the fundamentals of Buddhism.

As I leave the grounds walking down towards the Mekong I pass a shop that specializes in local handicrafts, while browsing I run into a fellow passenger from the plane. Jean an elderly Australian painter and sculptor. We end up going to The Tamarind for a laotian lunch. We both order the 5 bite plate and I have a lime-lemongrass lemonade. The plate consists of a green vegetable, fermented bamboo shoots, Luang Prabang suasage, Buffalo jerky and 3 different kinds of lettuce leaf wraps. It is a perfect lunch for $5. I also while there sign up for the cooking class next day.

It is hot, very hot and I am looking forward to the afternoons trip to the water fall. The cost is $5 and if I understood it correctly the hotel wanted $25. We arrive and I walk in past the gate where the tickets are sold, marveling at how cheap this trip was. The ticket to see the falls is 20.000 kip and the entire trip cost 45.000 kip. 25.000 for the transpoirt a real bargain. Walk up past the rescued bears, past several swimming holes, but since my sense of balance is a little off am not able to go swimming, the stones are too slippery, I tried to go in but couldn't. Instead walk up to the top. It is a nice waterfall, run into my Thai friends who insist of more pictures with me. When I finally get back to where we are to meet the car, I mention to one of the fellow passengers what a bargain this was and am informed that I was supposed to have paid the entrance fee. I didn't know that. and had not been informed and since I wasn't stopped I didn't do it. It was a real bargain after all.

Take a walk down the street and see a most elaborate set-up, with a lot of money trees and what looks like a huge celebration of sorts about to happen. It turns out that the 84 year old grandmoither who lives in Las Vegas has returned for a few months and these are all offerings to various temples. This explains the duplication of bedding, coffeemakers etc. Very beautiful setup, and the food looks yummy. Who would have thought that Chanterelles were available here.

Catch up on the internet, talk to some of the fellow hotel guests and realise how much I like this place. Go to the restaurant around the corner on Hanuman's suggestion and have "barbecue" the Lao term for hot pot. It was good not great.

The first afternoon after I had arrived in L.P. I checked out a few cooking schools. None which sounded too appealing. I had run into Joy at the market as he was taking students around, had also read about the Tamarind classes. It really was a no brainer, we met at the Tamarind restaurant all in all there were 9 of us. First we went to the Phoisy market where Joy, that was his name, explained different ingredients as well as showing us deifferent meats including dried rodent.

After the market we were taken to the place where the classes were held. It was in a very lovely open space, surrounded by fishponds and vegetable garden. We were given, aprons and assigned out own work stations. Joy, was not only the guide but also the instructor. First we made sticky rice and steamed it in bamboo baskets, then a dip, we had a choice of tomato or eggplant. Then we marinated fish, and steamed it in banana leaves, stuffed lemongrass and made a stew, The finale was sticky rice with coconut milk and fruits. The class cost $28 and was worth every penny and more. The instruction was very professional, the setting equally so, there were assistants, picking up dirty utensils and replacing them constantly. One could see that a lot of thought and effort had gone into this endeavor. The class ended around 3 pm. We were then handed recipes and ingredient lists.

On the way back to The Aspara I stopped by my trusted travel agency to enquire about transportation to Nong Khiaw.. Had decided earlier that rather than taking the slow boat, past apparently not very interesting sights, I would take a bus or a van, then continue up river. Booked a mini van for 8.30 the following morning cost $12. Mission accomplished I proceeded to see the Wat Xieng Thong a very impressive series of chapels. The main temple is dominated by a huge golden Buddah and beautifully decorated golden figures painted on the black walls. The Wat overlooks the Mekong and as I am admiring the view a young couple ask me for the time. We strike up a conversation, am completely unable to fugure out their accents, finally I ask, the reply “Swedish” well you could have knocked me over with a feather. It turns out they are both Croatian, he came to Sweden as a very young child she only arrived 9 years ago. As we were having a conversation a monk comes by and offers us to come and pray with the monks. We accept the offer, but remain in the rear of the temple. The chanting is lovely, it reminds me of an experience I had in Paris many years ago, attending matins, at a monastery with really beautiful singing. We leave in the middle and start walking back to my hotel, as we pass the various wats, singing or is it chanting is heard in the dusk. Totally magical.

As I walked around L.P. I realise how many shades of white the buildings are as well as pale ochre and deeper shades as well. Some buildings are dark wood with painted doors and window covers. It is so hard to think of this a city when it is more of a place totally unique unto itself.


The center of Singapore is very pleasant to walk around, lots of street sculptures and open spaces, if only it wasn’t so hot. The average temperature that I have experienced so far is 90-95F except after yesterday’s thunderstorm. Singapore has always been a place I wanted to visit, it reads so excitingly and exotic, I am not disappointed. Except have not been able to do more than a very few things of what I wanted because of the heat.

After lunch I return to the hotel for a rest and manage to sleep for a few hours.My plan is to go and do the Night Safari at the Zoo, which has been highly advertised as the thing to do. I take the MRT, which is the name of the subway, from Dhoby Ghaut to Ang Mo Kio where I am supposed to walk underground to the bus depot, to catch the #138 bus to the Zoo . Since I don’t know this, wander around for a bit in the neighborhood, until somebody explains where I need to go. The whole trip takes about an hour.

Next to me on the bus, is a little slip of a girl, who turns out to be here on business from Hong Kong and across from us a young couple from Malaysia. The combined entrance to the 2 Zoos and the tram ride is about $35US. I may have been too tired, but I was very under impressed by the whole experience. Admittedly I did not do any of the walks, just the animal show and the ride around the Zoo.
The young girl from Hong Kong and I make a date for the following day to meet for lunch at Palm Beach, One Fullerton to have Chili Crab. There was an express bus leaving the Zoo back to the hotel for an extra $3 which I took.

Next morning I repeat the journey to go to the Zoo, I want to see and hear the Gibbon apes. The Gibbons have a very distinctive sound almost like singing when they communicate. Since I have no intention of doing the Gibbon Experience in Laos the Zoo will do.The sky is very dark when I leave the hotel, and I pack my raincoat, which was very fortunate, the sky opens up as I arrive at the Zoo. There is thunder and lighting and a true tropical storm. The Zoo is very nice but it is raining. I don’t spend much time there, I get to see one white handed Gibbon and listen to a Howler Monkey that is so loud as it swings around the tree top. I also recognize that I am very spoilt by the Bronx Zoo and having done a Safari in South Africa where we went on a night drive and saw a lot of activity. It still is a very nice Zoo and worth a visit. Time to return to the center, make a stop on the way to see an orchid garden, not impressed.

It has stopped raining by the time I reach City Hall, walk down along the water past the Esplanade Theater that looks like a Durian. Finally I reach Fullerton Hotel where I am to meet my friend Nicole from the previous night, we walk underground to the water front and Palm Beach. It seems that as much of Singapore that is above ground as much is below. Nicole tells me that it is the same in Hong Kong, it helps people escape the heat. We arrive at The Palm which is very lovely, one wall is covered in greenery, it is obviously a place for large groups all but 3 tables can accommodate 6-10 people.

Nicole to my great pleasure is very much into food. We order a part from the Chili Crab, baby squid that are fried and resemble in flavor caramelized almonds, we also have spicy Morning Glory as well as 2 complimentary dishes of a cucumber, pineapple and peanut salad and deep fried tiny silver fish filets. The crab weighs 1 kilo and is from Sri Lanka, it sits in a pool of thickened tomato chili sauce, and is utterly delicious. The meat is sweet, the sauce is not too spicy and I am hooked. The cost of the lunch for 2 was $50US.Unfortunately I never did get to try it again in Singapore.

After lunch we part ways and I walk over to China Town, was going to buy some Jerky but it doesn’t appeal instead get a cold Jasmine Ice Tea and dive into the mall to avoid the heat. It is pre Davahali and two young women are performing on a stage, they are working hard at coordinating with each other and finally they get it. The dancing is lovely but I need to get back to get ready for my evenings activities.

A Swedish friend of mine lives in Singapore with her family and has kindly invited me for dinner. They live in a large condominium complex of great looking buildings. Their apartment has 3 bedrooms, each with its own terrace, as well as one in the living room. This is where we are sitting partaking of Champagne Cocktails and the fantastic view over Singapore as well as a spectacular sunset. We have a very nice dinner with her sister, brother-in-law and niece who are visiting from Sweden as well as her really charming children and husband. The wine and conversation flows freely it is a most comfortable evening. So ends my second day in Singapore.

Singapore Day 3

Set the alarm for 8 am to make sure that I get up. It is a sunny, sunny day which means it is going to be hot. Breakfast at the hotel is most pedestrian, so decide to eat in little India. I arrive at the Little India Station and am totally transported into another world,far from the high rise, shopping mall techno city center, which is one stop away.

Preparations are already underway for Davahali which is next Saturday, necklaces of Marygolds real and artificial are for sale as well as loose flowers and flower petals. The scents coming from all the restaurants are mouthwatering, but I am on a mission. Tekka the refurbished hawker center is calling and I head straight there. I enter what is called a wet market, where fresh fruits, meats, vegetables and fish are sold. The vendors are very pleasant and patiently answer my questions. The meat looks very good but I don’t really get a sense of prices. The only ones listed are the lamb prices and they sound most reasonable.

By now I am so hungry and enter the food court on the ground floor. It all sounds so appetizing, Biriyani, Mutton Curry, and other dishes, what to choose? One stall has a long line, it is the only one with a line so I join it. They are making and serving something called Prata and Murtabak. There is Prata and tissue Prata. In the rear of the stall is a man making the dough, some is made thinner and others left to the its own devices. I finally place my order by pointing to something someone else had ordered. It was egg, onions and ground cooked lamb put inside an incredibly thinly pulled piece of dough, which the cook accomplishes in a nano second and then cooked on a griddle. The finished item is then served with a mild curry sauce. It is very good but more than I can eat. To drink I order Chendol which is some kind of a coconut milk drink with a palm sugar syrup and green starch noodle like a tendril. Have to investigate what it was. The entire meal comes to $4.50 US.

I continue walking along the main street towards the Hindu temple that was built in the 1800’s Just as I have removed my sandals to enter. the door is shut in my face. Continue on to Mustafa Market which is a multistoried building housing thousands of merchants. It is all very civilized, nobody is harassling you to buy anything, all the merchandise is separated into sections. It is cool inside but I am not here to shop I just wander a little trying to cool down. Finally I feel that I can face the outside again, go to find a taxi to take me back to the hotel. The driver tells me that it is 40 degrees Centigrade, 104 F outside. I believe him, this heat is brutal.

After a couple of hours rest it is time for the Botanical Gardens and the Orchid Garden, which is how I didn’t get to try Chili Crab again. The Botanical garden was founded in 1849 by an Englishman, it is obviously a place for people, there are picnics on the lawns, a dance rehearsal takes place in a secluded area. It is a very appealing park intelligently laid out with some fascinating exhibits. The orchid garden ,in particular is spectacular, there are so many varieties, heirloom, hybrids, wild ones, orchids named after political rulers, rock stars and more. I keep on wandering around taking photos as I had promised my son, the orchid grower, to take pictures.

It is getting late and I have more promises to fulfill. Singapore Sling at Raffles, the hotel is beautiful and I sit at the bar in a garden. Order my drink and cannot believe that this is what all the ado is about. I ask the bartender what the alcohol base is and he tells me Gin so I ask for some of that to be added to this sweet concoction. He happily obliges and it is a fraction more tolerable. The cost of this promise was $22 US, tax and tips included. This is not going to become a house drink, not even as a memento.

One thing I knew I had to try before I left was Hainanese Chicken and Rice. Take the train to a station nearby, and promptly get lost, grab a cab and I am at one of the most famous Hawker Centers Maxwell’s Market. The book says it’s open24hours, but in reality only a handful stay open all the time. The famous stall was closed but another was open, It is a very delicious dish of what appeared to be gently poached sliced chicken breast, with a sauce and rice. I can certainly understand the fame of it.

Time to get back and into bed as I am leaving the hotel at 8am for Bangkok, call for shuttle bus $9S to the airport. The driver is very knowledgeable about Singapore and these are a few of the nuggets I could understand. There are 26,000 taxis. Cameras are everywhere on the island in treetops and on lamp posts I think he said it cost $50 million to install. Big brother watches everything, which makes Singapore safe.
It is a most enjoyable place to visit. I wish I had,had more than 3 days. Never got to go to any of the museums, nor a chance to try some of the food. Many of the places on my list were far away and there was not enough time. Rode the bus on Orchard Road, but never got off to explore. The city a has a gzillion shopping malls, people seem to be window shopping more than buying, very few shopping bags in site. It is very green with many wonderful street sculptures, the city seems to be having a building boom including an extension on the subway. I for one will very happily return