Sunday, December 31, 2017

psychedelic New Year's

Happy 2018! And not a moment too soon.
Today was a comparatively lazy day, doing a little last-minute shopping, eating soft-shell crab, and stopping by a local Buddhist festival, along with everyone one else in Myeik.
Which sounds tame, except for the elephant at the monastery, and the animated dragons and ogres, and everyone staring at us and taking selfies.

And me nearly fainting from overstimulation and a couple of glasses of wine.
 Just imagine these animating, and you'll see why I got dizzy.

After a much needed nap, we welcomed 2018 on the rooftop of the Grand Jade, crashing a hotel staff party. Enthusiastic partygoers brought us bar stools and beer and dragged us onto the dance floor.
It was pretty fun, even if they did the countdown a few minutes early. And one guy handed me a stick with live firecrackers in it.
 Welcome to a fresh start. Just for a moment, anything is possible.

Next week we'll get to work.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

snorkel selfie

Today's boat excursion departed from the jetty early.
We raced through the mangroves and tiny islands, many uninhabited, of Mergui Archipelago.
 Weather was perfect, warm and clear, with mostly mild seas.
First stop: the waterfall. Instead of a hike, the guides helped passengers up a rickety ladder on a slippery rock face. I stayed on the boat and watched people risk their lives for selfies.
These ladies were very stylishly dressed. One of the long-haired women carried yellow emojis on sticks, to insert in their instagram pictures.
After the waterfall, we stopped at a Moken villages. The Moken are known as sea gypsies. The able-bodied adults head out to sea for weeks at a time. Only young children and older women are left behind.
Their land village is lit with solar panels. They don't have much running water. And Sonny, our guide explained the challenges of trying to integrate groups so that they speak Burmese.

Along with older women receiving food aid (rice and oil), we saw monkeys, dogs, and kittens.

After we stopped for lunch at the Moken restaurant. The crab and jellyfish were very good.
Then it was time to swim. I was first in the water. I saw a pretty blue fish and some yellow fish, but mostly the reef was bleached. Swimming was amazing though.

 And just like that after 9 hours, it was time for the day to draw to a close. Only one more day left till the end of the yearl

There's no place like home.
Another perfect Andaman sunset:

Friday, December 29, 2017

scooter city…

Pam: "My jaw was hurting from smiling so much."
Myeik is a bit of a shock after weeks in the countryside. I'm not used to young boys chasing after me just to say "hello" and then running away giggling. Pam's theory is they've never seen a white person in real life before. Little kids in pajamas wave enthusiastically.

Myeik is a busy fishing port, and everybody is just constantly moving and honking.

Except maybe this goat, who was just napping on the sidewalk in the heat of the afternoon.
We finally found sparkle sandals in the central market. But alas, they were too small. (Sorry, Mom.)
The clock tower is Myeik's most famous landmark, aside from the rooftop bar at the Grand Jade hotel.

I was a little alarmed by these creepy white kid mannequins. Though I think only the clothing was for sale.
Fruit-shaped soap on a rope were cool, though.
We were saddened to see deliveries of cases of tiny plastic water bottles, thinking about how many we've consumed. Southeast Asia could save a lot of money and improve public health by investing in clean drinking water. Many Myanmar establishments rely on cisterns or wells or rooftop rainwater. (See Chile, which used a major investment in agriculture to upgrade its water nationally.)

This is where you sit if you stop by to see Andre and Nini at Life Seeing Tours. For once, natural chairs that are more comfortable then they look. I wish I could bring them home.
I'm not sure why this piece of barbed wire from the DMZ is at a hotel in Southern Myanmar though. I talked Keith out of buying a similar "piece of history" when we were in Korea 10 years ago.

Have I mentioned how much we love our hotel, and how well run it is? From adorable Aung Aung to the fearless bartender and the manager who rode over to the clinic with Pam on a scooter.
This morning, while we were dawdling after breakfast, the manager came and turned on "the Lady." (We had been watching a show that looked like Big Brother but all the contestants were in a boy band.)
He did his best to translate. The peace talks are not primarily about the refugee crisis in Rakhine state, which many Burmese view as an insurgency. (I will write more about the Rohingya when I get home.)

This morning Aung San Suu Kyi met with young people from (I think) Kachin and Kayah states. Her democratic party represents a unified nation with a strong federal government, carrying on the tradition of her father, 70 years ago. 

Not all states have signed on, whether their issue is the military, political autonomy, or a predominantly ethnic Burmese leadership. History here is complicated, with a mix of diverse ethnic groups and centuries of colonial influence and armed conflict.
 This poster took on a new resonance.

It is quite peaceful in Myeik.
The pool doesn't appear quite so demonic in the daylight.

We wound up the day with dinner at a Chinese restaurant two doors down. Everyone was there! Girls in tiaras at the next table. Families eating enormous plates of shrimp chips and cauldrons of soup.

We couldn't sit upstairs because of a wedding. We had two plates of perfectly stir-fried vegetables, and I splurged on the best soft-shell crabs I've ever had (10,000 kyat or around $6.50).

Not to be outdone, C Thu is still sending us Dawei sunsets, as is Alan from Ngapali. We travelers are a competitive bunch.