26 January, 2012

The Surprise that Sparked it All

I awoke early and it became obvious what that the cause was. The time change did not register in my cell phone, because I had no SIM card in Myanmar. We took off at 8:30, and went to a gold leaf pounders shop first, and then it began to seem like a typical tourist trip. Everything from there on, took on an even greater feeling that this whole leg of the journey …that something was not right. Next stop, we went to see monastery morning alms round, and as soon as I saw tour buses, I walked in the opposite direction into a village and bought 40 drinking yoghurts to give them. I walked back and the taxi drivers near by helped me quickly unpack them. Instead of lining with other tourists to photograph them, I passed them out to the monks as they came from various buildings and lined up, avoiding all the shutterbugs at the opposite end. You can either live the life or photograph it but you can’t do both.

Moving on in the program, I felt like we had bought a tour so it all seemed lackluster. A hill of temples, boats ride, and horse cart but all at a local taxi’s price divided by 3. For a little excitement, I saw a government spy on the boat ride, dictating quietly in a hidden phone. Sure we saw bus tours and their guides paying 4 times what we did, but being lopped into the same tour it was getting old. At one site in Inwa, in an Asian leaning tower, Nanmyin I was asked by a vendor to change her dollars for Kyat and I quickly said yes, among three or four people. She pulled out the dollars out of her bag, and what was in it... but a new $2 bill. I just laughed, I get one now, after I leave Bagan. The mind just flew to Bagan. A few minutes later, in the horse cart, I was talking to the women about my experience in Bagan, since it was next on their route.

I told them about my friend there and asked them if would they take this $2 dollar bill to him saying he easy to find. I never got a real answer, but later went to ask again, at the end of our journey that day, and they just ignored me. On to Amarapura to see the U Bein's bridge, and they avoided me the entire time, which was just as well. I used this as yet another sign to get out of Mandalay, and I waited until they were done talking to the owner of the guest house, and told her of my plans to see if I can leave two days early, go to the airline office and change tickets to go back to Bagan. I thought I might as well make it a real surprise; I’ll give him the $2 bill in person since he thinks he won’t see me for another year. I managed to get the ticket changed free and buy one more leg, so damn easy that I had time to run around with a motorcycle taxi to see the temples I missed recommended by the Israeli earlier. While waiting early morning for the airline office to open we sat in a tea shop. It always amazed me how people would just crack a huge smile inviting them into their heart that I would see in the tea shop, and others coming by the pick-up some sweets to take. Continued...

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