Wolf-e-boy's Global Travel bites page-(29-09-'02 to 19-02-'04)
Travel bites from wolf-e-boy's 17 month trek around the globe, full edited version available in hardback from Amazon.com.
 
 
2019
What's going on in my life this year.
 
 
2017/18 Random Stuff
What's going on in my life during 2017
 
 
Blogging On 2016
Whatever moves me to scribe this year.
 
 
Blogging on- 2015
What ever moves me to hit the keyboard this year, here it is
 
 
Blog on 2013/14
What's going on in my life, Shoreham, and the outside world in 2013. My thoughts, my words.
 
 
Myanmar Times 2013
My trip to Myanmar with Tim Wall, an ancestral Royal, we think!
 
 
Blog on- 2011/ 2012
What's occurring in my life in or around Shoreham by sea, this year. For 2013, please check the page above, 'Blog on 2013'
 
 
A brief maritime history of Shoreham and its Fort
A history to explain the defensive importance of Shoreham, and its need for the Shoreham Redoubt, finished in 1857
 
 
Watercraft, my part in its downfall
Continuing from 'When I left school 1979'. I spent 6 great years learning my trade at Watercraft LTD, and this is the beginning of the story of my time there
 
 
When I left school, 1979
Leaving Cardinal Newman school, 1979, 16 years old, my first job, first proper wages, wide eyed and care free, look out world, here I come.
 
 
A bygone Shoreham Beach
Short stories from a childhood spent discovering Shoreham, plus links to some of our incredible local music talent
 
 
John Jabez Edwin Mayall
This page is a brief summary of one of the early leading lights of photography, J.J.E. Mayall
 
 
Wolf E Boy's Barn and Granary conversion blog
For 7 months, back in 2007, I worked on a barn conversion as site carpenter, at the same time as my book, Bangkok to BC', was being published, this blog tells the story of both
 
 
2009/10 blog n stuff
whatever moves me to scribble this year
 
 
Don't get me started- blogging
This is about just some of the things that daily piss so many of us off
 
 
Wolf rants- Wolf E. Boy's rhyming rhetoric
some of my 'Outspoken rhyming rants'
 
 
Silly, witty one liners page
Here are some of my fave collected one liners I've been posting on Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to return any time, as I regularly update with new one liners. Enjoy the jokes folks!
 
 
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Gone Fishing
Some things in life are meant to be, or not, Dan finds out the hard way when a simple trip gets complicated
 
 
The Scam page
This page is devoted to stories of scams, and how they happened
 
 
2008/9, bloggin' on
What's up this year ?
 
 
The Polish 'stag' experience
The Stag tradition goes to Krakow
 
 
Lamp Bassett, the evolution of 'weedspeak'
Evolution of 'weed speak'
 
 
Random Page
Random old scribes of mine
 
 
Steve's tree
 
 
My Ramus Family tree
This page is for the continued updating of my Sephardic family tree information.
 
 
The Ring Master & John William Godward
This is the story of the late Victorian, early Edwardian world of art dealing, and the link between William Walker Sampson, leader of the biggest art cartel of the time, and a painter whose style was being eclipsed by the emergence of the likes of Picasso
 
 
William Walker Sampson's Art Auction Ring
This is just a rough out for an art ring project already going on another page of this site, working, hopefully, to a final edit.
 
 
Victorian/Edwardian art dealers directory
One at a time, I will be writing up short bio's of art dealers from the late 19th, and early 20th century, a follow up to the Art Ring story also on this site.
 
 
A Brief History of Shoreham Aviation
This is a brief history of the aviators that helped establish Shoreham Aerodrome as a part of the evolution of flight.
 
 

Myanmar Times 2013

"For optimum view by mobile phone or other hand-held device, please click on the 'Text-Only' version at the bottom of this page"

Yangon airport, welcome to Myanmar!

Myanmar Times 2013
Part One
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Earlier this year, a mate of mine, Tim Wall, asked me if I'd be up for a trip to Burma, he was looking for a travel bud. He has always wanted to go because he has family roots going back a few generations across Rangoon, Mandalay, and a few other places. I've been helping him with research into his family tree, so coupled with the fact I've always fancied seeing Burma, or 'Myanmar' as it's known now, it was a no brainer. Add into that, that Tims sister, Joanne Parsons, runs her own travel agency business, and organised our flights and a top notch hotel at bargain rates for the first two nights of the trip, then just in case you haven't been lucky enough, Joannes son, Josh, just happened to be working for the company that own the Hotel Chatrium that we're booked into, and gets us a room upgrade, and VIP status so we're overlooking the Royal Lake opposite, all of this before we've even gone anywhere, know what I'm saying??!!
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I never get excited about going away, and this was no different, I like to take one day at a time, but I knew this was going to be a bit special, just not what the detail of it would be. Tim talked of planning it, but I said why bother, the family tree research will guide us, and we can wing it once we're there, much more fun that way, like a mini back packing trip. He agreed and that was how we left it, a mystery tour lay in waiting.
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28/29-09-2013
Oh my Buddha!
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Where to start, well first off, if you're going to Myanmar, make sure you get pristine 100 dollar bills to go with, and I mean perfect, you'll find out why later.
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We tried it on at the check out desk at Gatwick for an upgrade, much to their amusement, she said she'd tried, but as we ended up with seats next to the bogs I can't help feeling that her comments were laced with irony, especially when I discovered that none of my media stuff on the seat in front operated. At Ho Chi Min airport after a long uncomfortable flight, we decided to go for an airport massage for 20 bucks to relieve some of the aches from our journey, didn't quite work out that way. So after a brutalising session of being pawed, prodded, and generally beaten up, we staggered out of their feeling somewhat worse than we'd walked in, then we witness some nutter lob himself off the railings in the airport, or Tim did, I just got woken up by the saga, then looked over to see the geezer laying prone on the deck below, surrounded by airport security and a Doctor.
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At every opportunity, Tim takes advantage of the smokers cabins to swaff down a couple of death sticks in those natural born smokers machines, bemoaning the fact he can't infect the rest of us with his exhaled breath of ash tray, much to my amusement. Ho Chi Min to Yangon was uneventful, and there we were picked up straight away by Tims cousin, Julia, and her husband, Shree, pronounced 'Shwee', which means gold in Burmese, so he is, quite literally, Mr Gold, which he laughs as he tells us with a mischievous grin, I could see we were going to get on.
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They drove us to our hotel, the Chatrium, in their mighty fine car, a bit like a Mercedes, but made by Toyota, as are 98 percent of cars in Burma, Shwee tells us. Waiting in the hotel lobby while me and Tim get checked in, we met up and nattered, getting to know each other, and discussing what our aims for the trip were, mainly being the search for anything we could find regarding Tims family story in the country, after which they took us out to a restaurant by the lake opposite the hotel, the 'White Rice', an old colonial restaurant, and treated us to lunch of their choosing, which was bloody gorgeous. While eating Tim and Julia talked of the Burmese family connections, I listened in, and Shwee had a decent knowledge of quite a bit of it too, so it was a good learning curve for the weeks ahead. They dropped us back at the Chatrium later, and arranged to come back for us next day to take us around Yangon, what a great start, and what a lovely couple of people they are.
We have also learned our first couple of words, Mingalabar- Hello, and Chesu bar- thanks, or chesu dem bar day- thank you very much. The hotel staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, laughing and smiling at our efforts with their language. The hotel itself is amazing, set among this area of seemingly abject poverty, and half built construction everywhere, we've had a result for our beginning of this trip.
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Day 2
30-09-2013
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After a damn fine hotel breakfast, we got scrubbed up and ready to meet Julia and Shwee and our tour of Yangon. First impression of Yangon is much like a lot of South East Asian capitals, full of traffic, with very little in the way of rules being followed on the road, dirty and poor, mixed with opulent and new buildings either already there, or springing up behind a curtain of hilariously wonky bamboo scaffolding. The buses are a sight to behold, belching fumes, and looking like they're about to fall to pieces, but still they chug along, filled to the rafters and still keen to squeeze more in.
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Julia and Shwee had gifted us both a traditional Longhi and shirt, Burmese style, so we were wearing them for the day, which gave all the locals a giggle, and double so when we hit them with our nascent efforts of Mingalabar, and Chesu Bar, though rarely correctly. They took us to see what they knew would be points of interest to Tim, places his Father, Grand Father, Aunts, and Uncles, would have been to, schools, hospitals, churches, all colonial built buildings still there, if a little blackened by mildew, time, and neglect. Shwee suggested a place to eat, (just down the road from the disused, but impressive, colonial Telegraph Office building), which didn't impress Julia, she had wanted to take us somewhere a bit nicer, but it turned out well, even if it did look a little dodge on first viewing, Shwee said Judges and lawyers eat there, so it should be good enough for us, couldn't argue with that logic, although I can't imagine any lawyers from back home turning up any time soon, they'd faint at the prospect. Different worlds.
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They had wanted to show us Yangons famous 'Scotts market', (now known as Bogyoke Market), on the Bogyoke Aung San Road, but as it was Monday it was closed, and we went to a supermarket clothes store instead, where me and Tim bought a few items of traditional clothing to add to the Longhi and shirt we'd been given. That day we visited the Shwedagon Temple also, where Shwee made an offering as it would soon be his birthday, you buy flowers and put them in one of the vases dotted about, make some wish for yourself or someone else, and later chime on a bell with a large wooden club three times. Me and Tim had bought some flowers to offer too, and gonged the bell after Shwee. Just prior to that, as we were walking around this huge temple, a massive collection of statues and shrines, a Buddhist monk stops and smiles at me and Tim in our longhis, and asks, "where you from", and when I told him, "England", he said to me, "you lool like Wayne Rooneys dad", at which Tim burst out laughing, the monk smiled and walked off, and I cursed my luck. Tim heckled like a hyena for ages over it, and has been ever since, such is my lot.
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Back at the hotel, we all sat in the lobby and talked over what would be the best way to go for the coming weeks, and planned out the days ahead, quite well I thought, the only fly in the ointment was that we couldn't extend our stay at the Chatrium, as they were fully booked for twin rooms, and the single rooms were now four times the price, so Tim used his iPad to get on Booking.com, and we were soon booked into the Panda hotel in the centre of Yangon, very close to half the places Tim needed to investigate, so we got in there for the next two nights for 90 bucks each, said our goodbyes to Julia and Shwee, thanked them so much for all their help and hospitality, and retired to prepare for moving on already.
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Day 3
01-10-2013
Panda Hotel
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We were given a lovely send off by the Chatrium staff, and sorry to leave, but it had to be. The Panda is set in a not exactly upmarket part of Yangon, but it is well situated for getting around, and right in the center of the city. Once again the staff were  friendly and welcoming, introducing us to new words in their language as soon as we arrived,  'Nay Kawn Lar'- How are you?, and 'Nay Kawn Dey', Fine. It's only fair we make every effort to try and learn as much of their  language as we can, and worth that effort when you are rewarded with their faces lighting up in smiles.
As soon as we'd checked our stuff in and settled, we headed in to the city to look for Tims Grandads work place, at 379 Dalhousie street, (now called 'Mah Bandoola Road'), where he had  worked as a tax inspector, we had looked for it the day before with Shwee, but after asking at the Internal Revenue Office at 404, had no luck in finding it. This time we tried to be a bit more methodical, finding which places had numbers, there aren't many that have, and working out at least which way to head. We walked up and down, crossed the Sule Pagoda roundabout bridge, heading further until we found a number, an odd number in the high 400's, then on a bit, a higher number, fine, so now we knew to turn back, something I had already suggested to Tim we ought to be doing anyway, which I reminded him of with a hefty grin on my boat race. As we were going along though, as a side bonus, we noticed the street vendors had some pretty good deals going on, which we took advantage of, bagging some vests to soak up the sweat under our shirts, wallets of the fake variety, but long and unbending for our dollars, and a pair of snide Ray Bans for me to keep the sun out me mincers, and all cheap as chips, in fact given the price of chips here, cheaper than chips.
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Now we had our eyes peeled, crossed back over the Sule Pagoda roundabout, and back the way we came, until at last, Tim spotted the number, we hadn't seen it mainly because the whole area surrounding it was filled by street vendors stalls, behind which were the doors to the building that his Grand Father had worked all those years ago. As I looked across the road, I couldn't help but smile at the fact that this was directly opposite the Internal Revenue building which Shwee had inquired at on our behalf just the day before, all we had to do was cross the road and we would have found it.
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Tim asked the Burmese lady that had set up stall right in front of the doors, with concertina gates, the sort you see in old elevators, if he could get through to touch the door, so she made a way through for him, and I took photos for him on his iPad while he did. He got a bit emotional, but no tears, and I rattled off a load of shots from both his iPad, and my camera.
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This is a very poor country, and when driving around, amid the seemingly ceaseless toot tooting of car, bus, or bike horns, the dilapidated roadsides are peppered with street vendors, and at the less busy parts, groups of shirtless men in longhis, sat, laying, or on their haunches, some cooling themselves with a spread fan, or just swinging a cloth around to create air. Most of the older buildings are stained black with mildew, the less old ones in the pre state of green mould running down the render like still waterfalls.
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Both of us were a bit knackered by now, the heat here really takes it out of you, so we went to find a place to eat. I wasn't sure about the place we'd chosen, and suggested a cleaner looking Internet Cafe over the road, but Tim said he didn't fancy crossing that busy road with these crazy locals and their difficult to judge driving, so I said, "fuck it, let's eat here then". The traffic in Yangon does appear to be mayhem, but we hadn't seen an accident yet, and it does seem to be part of its charm the way it all works.
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In the taxi back, at dusk, he took us into the maelstrom of rush hour traffic, which is amazing, with its crazy yet working system of toot, brake, manoeuvre, toot, toot, toot again. The driver all the time talking to us, "ah English, London?", speaking our language but with his own Burmese twist, telling us of his medicine powder, in a plastic tube which he keeps dipping into, pronouncing medicine as medichin, "good for the stomach" the ch being said as it would be in 'chair', and talking of the British Empire, "very big" he says, "not any more" we tell him, but he isn't convinced.
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After an enlightening drive back of his weaving in and out of the other road users, pedestrians, and pointing out any "priddy laydees" as he narrowly avoids hitting them, we eventually arrive back at the Panda Hotel, and stop at the bar area for a beer. Somehow we ended up sitting down for more to eat in there, chicken rice for me, chook n chips for Tim. By the time we got back to the room I felt a bit odd, but ignored it. At about midnight the trauma began, 16 unpleasant hours of crapping liquid and puking my guts up, almost every twenty minutes.
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Day4
01-10-2013
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When Tim awoke in the morning I was completely washed out, and wondering when it all might stop. Presumably it showed, as Tim asked if I was alright, "nah mate, I'm a pretty long way from alright", and went on to explain the night I'd had so far, and that I was going to need a bit of help, "yeah, sure man, I'll shoot out and get advice and some medicine", five minutes later he was asleep again. He woke back up about three or four hours later, by which time I was down to just yellow bile coming out either end. Apologising he got up and shot out, it's funny to read back now, but it didn't feel funny right then.
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On return Tim tells me what a mission it all was, and how helpful everyone was to him, gives me the rehydration salts and Immodium that the hospital had given him, with the advice they had told him to give me, and my recovery could begin. I wasn't going anywhere that day.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar. It was raining

Mandalay Palace entrance

Myanmar Times,
Part Two
Day 4 continued
02-10-2013
Having been laid up with a dose of Delhi Belly, I had neglected my note pad, so the info regarding the booking of our trip to Mandalay got missed out. Shortly after booking in to the Panda Hotel, we headed off out into Yangon to see what we could find out, which I described for the most part in the last blog, what I missed out was how we booked up the next stage, to Mandalay. Me and Tim were walking down the Bogyoke Aung San Road, which was Montgomery Street in colonial Rangoon, looking for the church his dad may have been christened in, or his Grand parents married in, but before we found it, an Indian looking local in a longhi approached us, asking first, "where are you from?", you become used to this happening quickly as it happens quite a bit, as Europeans we stick out like a sore thumb here. Having told him we're English, and the usual next word being, "London?", followed by asking which Premiership football team you follow, I generally leave this bit to Tim, as he is keen to advertise his Chelsea affiliation. He was a friendly looking enough guy, and as as it turned out, perfectly trustworthy.
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Our new friend got chatting to us, he spoke very good English, and having found out we would be moving on to Mandalay next, told us to follow him and he could help us. I have to confess, I've experienced a lot of this when travelling Thailand, so wasn't prepared to just jump in, but as Tim rightly pointed out, what harm can it do to check out. We had both booked trips in similar circumstances when travelling alone, and as it turned out, we ended up booking our hotel and trip up to Mandalay all through the travel agent that this guy took us to, down a narrow side street off of the Bogyoke Aung San Road, annoyingly I've lost the receipt, so can't give you that info here, but there are plenty of places to book any trips, and these people just want your business, they're not out to rob you.
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One of the things that our travel info for Myanmar had warned us about, (other than to take Immodium and rehydration salts!!), was to bring only U.S dollars in pristine condition, and it wasn't long before we found out why. I had changed up my money at Gatwick, presuming, wrongly, that I would be getting notes in perfect nick, well I was in for a double surprise. Firstly, it isn't just notes with creases, crumples, or tears in them that they won't take, they also don't trust when they see these little stamps, which for whatever reason, certain institutions seem to feel the note needs, and have unwittingly ruined that note for the duration of your stay in Myanmar. Now, whereas the notes I had been given, were at first at least crease free, they weren't after a short amount of time in my wallet. Then to add insult to injury, I re-read my travel info, and it does indeed recommend that you buy a long flat wallet for just this reason. The upshot of all this was that half my money appears to be of no use to me while here, and only myself to blame, ollocks bay. Having remembered seeing the street vendors selling the kind of wallet we needed, and at just a buck apiece, we knew where we needed to be headed next after having yet another note rejected. You should also be aware that they prefer bigger notes, you get a better exchange rate for a Franklin, or a Grant, as in Benjamin Franklin on the 100 dollar bill, and Ulysses S. Grant on the 50, the rate goes down with the value of the note being exchanged. On average, you can base the rate on 1000 Kyats, (pronounced 'Chats'), as being equal to one dollar, but the rates vary on a daily basis.
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Day 5
03-10-2013
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Thankfully fully recovered from my food poisoning bout, we got up early to get a taxi to the madness that is the Yangon bus depot and awaited our air-con coach to depart for Mandalay. I should mention by now, that we've been wearing longhis every day, drawing comments, smiles, and laughs everywhere we go, the locals love it, and it was no different at the bus station, on the coach, or at the food station outlets the coach stopped at on the way to Mandalay. It had been Tims intention even before we arrived that he wanted to dress in the traditional style while here, and I have to say, it's the perfect way to dress in this climate, along with the vest under your shirt, to stop it sticking to you with sweat, the fact that it made everyone smile was an added bonus.
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Arriving at the Mandaly bus station as evening was approaching, we were shepherded to a taxi quite quickly, told a price after we gave our destination, Mandalay City Hotel, 3000 Kyats, and off we went again. One of the main differences between Mandalay and Yangon that hits you, other than that it appears a bit cleaner and less congested, is that there are heaps of mopeds here, whereas you hardly saw any in Yangon, they literally swarm up at traffic lights, making quite a sight and sound as they rev up and move in unison when the lights go green. It wasn't far to the hotel, but just as we were coming up to the entrance of it, my face gave away my thoughts to Tim, as I looked at this beaten up frontage, with bamboo scaffold across, and he laughed out loud, "it's only the entrance fella", and sure enough, the driver took us in under this cloister of bamboo and into a very swish looking forecourt, and an even more impressive interior, to the Mandalay City Hotel, we'd had a result.
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There was a downside for Tim though, when he was informed it was a no smoking hotel, he'd have to go outside to puff. He had already had a bit of a moan about not being able to smoke at the Panda, especially as the more exclusive Chatrium allowed smoking in its rooms. I pointed out to him that he hadn't even considered how I might have felt about having to put up with him smoking in the room, and he says, "fuck you man, I need my fags or I get angry". Laughing, I point at my smiling face, saying, "does this look like the face of concern?, you didn't give a shit what I thought about you smoking in the room, ha!". The funny thing was, he saw a few things that he wouldn't have otherwise seen, purely because he had to leave the room and go outside to smoke, such as amazing sunset views of the Shwedagon Pagoda, or lads playing Tar Gor outside the Panda Hotel. Tar Gor is the Thai name for the game they play with a small basket weave ball, using their feet to keep the ball up, and back and forth across a net and court about the same as a volleyball court, a very acrobatic game with some eye stopping scissor kicks involved. 
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Day 6
04-10-2013
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On our way out to investigate Mandalay in the morning, we met Tay Zar Lin, another very friendly individual who just happened to own a yellow three wheel taxi. After the by now normal introduction which culminates in which Premiership football team you follow, he told us he could show us all the sights for 15,000 Kyats. He'd already won us over with the Del-mobile, but at 15 bucks, it was a bargain, once again we had struck lucky. Tay Zar took us to the Royal palace, which had been theRoyal residence to King Thebaw up until the British came in and turfed him out in 1885, exiling him and his family to India immediately after. On arrival at the palace, we are guided to a booth to buy our ticket, Tay Zar had already told us the ticket would be good for five days, and a number of sites, so we coughed up 10,000 Kyats and went in.
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The palace is about 1.5 square miles, with a moat about 200 foot wide all the way around, and fortress walls. Once inside, we're checking out the palace, a vast acreage of ornate deserted looking buildings, with just cattle and tourists roaming the grounds, mainly Asian tourists, we remain a curiosity wherever we go, especially in our longhis, which continue to bring many smiles and remarks. Inside the Palace we commit sacrilege and I filmed Tim doing 'The Bird' dance on his iPad, but he bottled it after 20 seconds, I said he'll have to do it better elsewhere.
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It was very cool in temperature in the centre of these big wooden buildings, and eery to think of Tims Great Grandma, Daw Pwa Sei, maybe having walked in these grounds all those years ago. It's really hard to do justice to the Palace within the walls, such is the quality of the craftsmenship and design, very similar to the style used in the temples and pagodas. I managed to get a little footage at the top of the Watch Tower, from where you can look over the whole complex, what amazes me most is how few people there are visiting the place, but I'm more than happy about that. As we left, Tim struck up a conversation with yet another group of locals admiring our traditional longhis, and gets his iPad out to show them his Great Grandma, explaining how he has Burmese blood, quickly he has a gathering around him as they call each other across to see this 'Princess' as they refer to the portrait photo of Daw Pwa Sei in her finery. They basically told him that whoever she was, she had to be important to have even had her photo taken at such times, let alone being dressed in such a stately fashion. I had already sussed by now that we were going to get some mileage out of his Great Grandma, hopefully it might unlock some doors further on.
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From the Palace, Tay Zar took us to the Shwe Nan Daw monastery, a wooden monastery further along the road, which was big, but again curiously empty. Outside we're greeted by young monks, and Tim gets Granny iPad out for them while I snap away at him showing them the pictures, they're just ordinary kids that happen to be dressed up as monks really, giggling and prodding each other like any group of youngsters do. Inside the temple is huge, with marble floors, golden pillars, and ornate wooden ceilings. The effort they put into these buildings is incredible, with the tiniest detail everywhere you look in the place, and again, an appreciable breeze running through it. I needed a sit down by then, the heat and humidity had taken it out of me, so we chilled by the alter of offerings for a bit.
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Next up was the Kuthadaw Pagoda, another temple full of Shrines,  where two local girls took us around and explained the significance of the day, there were a lot of locals there to pray, as it happened to be a special day of prayer for them. One of the girls spoke almost perfect English, and had ambitions to be a tour guide, but was barred because she lacked a University education, a shame as she was clearly very smart. Tim had the iPad out again, and once again there is cooing and laughing as they crowd around him for a glimpse of his possible Royal ancestor. Having guided us around, and been so instructive and friendly, it seemed only fair to buy some of our unofficial guides stuff on display, that was after all, the reason she does what she does, so I negotiated with her and walked away with a hand carved set of scales, which I felt sure my sister would love. "Lucky money, lucky money", she said as she brushed the notes I'd given her over the rest of her products. Tim bought something from the other girl, and she did the same with her newly acquired notes, everyone was happy.
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Next up on the Tay Zar Tour was the Mandalay Hill Pagoda, or more correctly, the Sutaungpyei (literally wish-fulfilling) Pagoda is atop of Mandalay Hill, a hill full of pagodas, north of Mandalay City. Tims cousin Julia had said we should go and see it, so with our Del Boy tour guide saying it too, who were we to argue. After a long snaking ride up the hill, during which I wondered whether Tay Zars little yellow Delmobile would make it, such was the steepness in places, we arrived at the bottom of a lift, it was that or the stairs, we chose the lift of course. When you get up to the top, you have a view that stretches for miles all around, a panorama of the plains circled by mountains to the east, and the Ayeryarwaddy river to the west. Inside this hilltop pagoda is another example of incredible craftsmenship throughout, full of marble, gold, shrines, temples within a temple, monks, tourists (Asian mainly), and the tingling sound of chimes, each of which signifies a prayer being answered I believe.
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We got Tay Zar to take us back after that, satisfied that we'd had a good day, and looking forward to a well earned dip in the hotel pool. We had already decided this place needed an extra day, so we got that booked up to allow us time to enjoy and relax a bit, and we had Tay Zar booked in for the following day to take us on what he called, the 'Three Cities Tour'. Today had cost us just 15,000 Kyats, or 15 bucks, between us, tomorrow is going to be 30,000, can't wait.

Young monks at the Mandalay temple
Inwa horse cart and our driver, Nay mey

Myanmar Times, 
Part Three
Day 7
05-10-2013
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Day two of the three wheel adventure with Tay Zar Lin, and he picked us up at about ten, to drive us out of the city and out towards another ancient ex capital of Burma. Inwa, or Inn Wa, was the capital from the 1300's through to the mid to late 1800's, eventually turned to ruins by earthquakes, but leaving some pretty cool relics for the tourists. The site is about 20 kilometres outside Mandalay city, and on arrival we find we have to make a water crossing to get to it, and we are quickly surrounded by young children trying to sell us their souvenirs, "what's your name?", "I'm Andy", "hello Andy, you buy these, give me lucky money". You can't get angry with these kids, they all smile so genuinely you just don't want to be nasty, so we agree we'll take a look after we get back from our sightseeing over the Ayeryarwaddy river, (otherwise known as the, 'Irrawaddy river'). Asking Tay Zar what was meant to be happening the other side, he said, "oscar, oscar take you", which wasn't really helping me understand, but we would find out.
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Once again we're the only Westerners around, and the longtail boat motors us across to the ruins of Inwa, while Tay Zar waits for us. As soon as we board the gang planks Inwa side, we're once again surrounded and hearing the by now familiar chant of, "lucky money", which they all say when imploring you to buy from them, this time from slightly older kids, but every bit as happy and charming. Our driver, Nay Mey, met us and introduced himself as our 'oscar' driver, turns out they're saying, 'horse cart', but it sounds more like oscar when they say it. Having negotiated out fee, and telling the kids we weren't buying, or "makarmu chesy bey", 'no thanks', Nay Mey set off on our buggy ride, and three of these kids promptly hopped on their bikes and came cycling after us, with their bags of goodies hung on the handlebars, you can't fault their determination. I was snapping away at our 'Three Amigos' following, when one of them calls out, "photo one dollar", with a big cheeky smile on her face, which had me and Tim laughing.
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Our first stop was to look at some old fortress walls with a moat around, but we were the wrong side of the water to get close, so soon moved on a bit until stopping at a ruined temple, the first of many. The kids hopped off their bikes and joined us to look around, explaining where they could what was what, giggling as they went. These places have clearly been around a hell of a long time, and now are being gently subsumed by the flora and fauna around them. Outside is an old lady hoping to sell us more of the same type of trinkets, and within this temple is a painter, with his finished works in front of him, and one on the go in his lap. He starts showing me how he does it, using a shaving blade and black ink, with amazing results I must say, to this untrained eye at least. 
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Next up was a short ride along a narrow red dusty road with water either side, to an old wooden monastery, made almost, if not entirely, from Teak. As always with these temples and monastery's, you are struck once inside by how cool the temperature is compared to the stiflingly humid outside, but also by the incredible attention to detail with which it is all built, hand carved figures seem to pop out from every point of the place, with solid teak pillars rising high to the ceiling, which is also rich in carvings. Pious lot these Buddhists. The monastery also doubled up as a monastic school, with the junior monks having a bit of a shout up in front of a blackboard, only to be admonished by an elder monk that had his head in a book.
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Outside we were now given a lesson in the language by the kids, we'd been saying, 'makarmu chesu bey' to let them know we weren't buying, but they inform us it's a bit rude, and that we should be saying, 'moway bu', which means, 'no buy', who were we to dispute them. Next up was meant to be a look at a leaning tower which is part of the tour, but I wasn't particularly bothered as time was running along, and I preferred to be getting pictures of the farmers, either in the fields, on or in front of the bullock carts. As it happened, you're not allowed to climb the tower anyway, but we saw it, it's an ornate looking square tower, with a spiked spire at the top, and a wooden staircase going up the outside of it, not particulary spectacular, but it was probably meant more to serve a purpose that look beautiful.
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Nay Mey rode us back to the boat, where we now had to disappoint the Three Amigos, I genuinely had no interest in what they were selling, Tim had been looking at a pipe that the lad was trying to sell him, but negotiations broke down after Tim informed him he'd seen one cheaper on the trail. This greatly aggrieved our young friend, who proceeded to try and convince me that Tim must have been misled, and that his pipe price could not be bettered. It's never pleasant to have to let someone down, but we had told them from the word go we weren't buying, and perhaps their persistence may have paid off another time, but not today. In fairness, you could have bottomless pockets of money and still blow it all if you responded to every plea to buy, or donate.
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When back across the river, a string of marble elephants necklaces each set me and Tim back 3000 Kyats for the pair, making two young sellers very happy, "give good luck, first buy, lucky money, lucky money". Off to Sagaing City now, just before the mighty Sagaing Bridge, or, 'Irrawaddy bridge', and a load of pagodas on a hill, it was roasting hot by now too, so to find that this pagoda required a hike up a hill to get to it, I was less than keen, but we strove on regardless. As it turned out, it was a classy example of a pagoda, with all the attendant carvings, gold paint, gold leaf, prayer offering wind chimes, and not forgetting the ever present sellers, but in this heat they don't bother you unless you approach. This pagoda is called the Sagaing Hill- U Min Thonze, apparently also called the 'Pagoda of the 30 caves', each 'cave' being one of the niches within the arched structure near the top of the hill, with a Buddha statue in each. Despite the impressiveness of this pagoda, me and Tim had already talked of discouraging Tay Zar from taking us to anymore, we were suffering from 'Pagoda Overload'.
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At the bottom of the steps from this latest pagoda, Tay Zar invites us to eat at one of the makeshift cafes there, but with feral looking cats weaving in and out of the tables, and the general appearance of the place, neither of us fancied it much. The whole area at the bottom of the pagoda steps looked like it was just waiting for the doors to open and customers to pour in, but virtually everywhere we go, we are the only visitors. Having told Tay Zar we'd had enough of pagodas, he drove us out of Sagaing, and back over the bridge. This time he was taking us to a place where they make traditional Longhi's on antique looking wooden looms, Tim had expressed an interest in buying one, so Tay Zar had decided to go one better and show us where they are actually made, and the chance of buying one at the same time. This place was in the middle of a network of dusty dirty side streets in outlying Mandalay, not exactly a tourist attraction, but worth a visit just to see those prehistoric looms in action. When Tim found out the price for a hand loomed Longhi he soon lost his appetite for one, they were asking 65,000 Kyats, whereas you can pick up a longhi from street vendors for just 2,000 if you shop around, but the cheap longhi's were probably spat out in some Chinese production line for peanuts.
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Perhaps sensing that our interest may be waning, Tay Zar pulls out a trump card and takes us to the U Bein Bridge, driving us right to the waters edge, among a swathe of long wooden canoes tied up at the shore. He tells us we can be rowed across the lake for 5,000 Kyats, then walk the 1.2km back over the long wooden bridge. Coughing up the dough for the trip, we are joined by a young lad bearing souvenirs, me and Tim swap glances, ""moway bu", we tell him, and he smiles back at us, a cheeky, friendly, but also, 'message understood' smile, and he proceeds to tell us about the bridge while our oarsman gets us underway. Tay Maung is our unofficial guide for the trip across the lake, informing us that it was built about 170 years previous, all of teak, and how high the lake rises during the rainy season, sometimes submerging the bridge completely, other times so low that they plant rice in it, he also impressed us with a bit of French speaking, this boy should go far.
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 Market stall roofs jut out of the water, indicating that the level is still higher than the usual amount, and there are fishermen stood out in the lake, giving an idea of how shallow it is overall, plenty of others fish from the bridge itself. Our oarsman steers us by two oars from the rear of the wide canoe, which he has crossed in front of him as he pushes forward, then draws back, a gentle and calming movement through the water, slowing or stopping when he spots me taking aim with the camera, this is my highlight of the day. At the other side we walk onto the jetty and start the walk back to Tay Zar, and all along the bridge is a hive of activity, this time with other western tourists about. The main activity is fishing, with low tech rods of bamboo, and there are a couple of covered shelters on the bridge, where the fish are cooked for sale or consumption, and souvenirs on display, business as usual. Tay  Maung walked quietly with us, answering any questions we put to him, until we arrive back at Tay Zars yellow taxi, where Tim and me feel his effort deserve some reward, but we didn't want his souvenirs, so we bunged him a couple of thousand kyats, and thanked him for his company. 
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If anything, the day had taught us just how naturally being friendly comes to the people of Myanmar, and any scepticism regarding their motives had long since been dismissed. They want our money alright, but they want to earn it somehow, and are a hard working people. We were hungry by now, and asked Tay Zar to take us somewhere that had European food on the menu, now I'm sure there'll be a lot of purists decrying our choice, but in fairness, I'd already had one very unpleasant dose of the squits and hurling together, and Tim readily admits to an overtly Anglo Saxon appetite which recoils at the sight of most foreign palates, let alone the conditions in which most of the food is prepared. I think it's safe to say, however much I love the place, the one thing which won't be drawing in the tourists is the food, for now at least. Pulling up at a fairly colonial looking establishment called, 'Renaissance', I hoped we might be in for a decent meal, and the staff were super friendly from the off. I was going to go for a Thai dish, but when I saw cheese burgers on the menu, Tim had already ordered his with French fries, I followed his lead and asked for the same. We had to laugh when it turned up, there was a bun, a bit of salad, and a layer of cheese, with a squirt of tomato sauce, but no burger, so we then had to explain to them that without the meat in, it aint a burger. 
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You simply can't get annoyed with these people, they try so hard to please, so although I ended up going hungry, Tim waded into the same bun which came back having had an egg and a bit of meat added to it, and declared it to be lovely. They even brought us out a questionnaire to ask how they had done, I filled it in without mentioning anything about the actual food, giving them maximum for their hospitality, and they rewarded us with a packet of Tamarind sweets to go with, very nice they were too. I'd already made up my mind to eat back at the Mandalay City Hotel later, after a dip in the pool. Early night tonight, we're off to the Seven Diamond Travel Agency in the morning to book up the next stage, heading off to Pyin Oo Lwin, or Maymo as it was known in colonial times, a former Hill Station of the British Empire, but more importantly, where Tims Grandad, Dad and Aunt had lived and been to school when they were kids. And it won't be as hot there, looking forward to it.
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Sagaing Pagoda
U Bein Bridge, Mandalay

Myanmar Times
Part Four
Day 8
06-10-2013
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Having prepped the rucksack the night before, it was just a case of getting scrubbed up, having a last brekka in the hotel before shooting round to Seven Diamond Travel to book up our travels for when we return from Maymo, where we're headed today. We had already booked the trip to Maymo with Seven Diamond a couple of days back, but realised things were going to get hectic if we wanted to fit everything in that we wanted to do, so decided to book up the rest of the trip with this mob as they had been so helpful. It was touch and go as we were being picked up from the hotel at noon, but we got out of there at 11.45 having arranged a trip up to Shwebo, another former capital of Burma, 133km north west of Mandalay, a driver for the trip and return, who would also show us around and take us to sites of interest. For our return from Shwebo, we also booked a coach down to Inle Lake, and a hotel, plus a sight seeing boat ride for when we got there, all in, 384 dollars between us, bargain. That was our next five days sorted.
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On the mini bus taking us up to Maymo, or Pyin Oo Lwin as it is known now in post colonial Myanmar, one of the other passengers happened to be an employee of the Hotel Pyin Oo Lwin, that we're booked in to, Azani was his name, he was returning from a wedding ceremony with his mum. 153 km's of mainly mountain roads, passing work groups of men and women repairing the washed away bits of road surface, dogs, as everywhere, roaming free, and looking down at the disappearing flatlands and Ayeyarwaddy river as we climbed ever higher towards the former Hill Station of colonial Maymo, where the British would retire to when the weather got too hot down in Mandalay and Rangoon. When we arrived at Pyin Oo Lwin, Azani and his mum were dropped off at their place, a blue wooden home no bigger than the beach huts over the locks on Southwick beach, in a terrace of these small homes. He opened up the shutter doors, and inside was a moped, and some wooden ramps, which he put out straight away, one for the front door, the next for the landing to the dirt track road. Having seen plenty of people living under nothing more than a tarpaulin, and some just under trees out here, I guess this is a step up from those situations, but you're never far from a wake up call if you forget how poor these people are, which makes their smiling faces, and generally happy demeanour all the more impressive.
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At the hotel, we're blown away by the opulence of it, maybe more so after what we'd just witnessed. It's only a few years old, and built very much along colonial lines, it appears they are embracing the British past in order to encourage tourists, even down to an old British style phone box in the foyer, but made out of teak instead of our red metal efforts. The place is beautiful, and once again, so are the people in it, just incredibly friendly, and giggling from the off at us in our Longhi's and shirt, "ahh, traditional, very beautiful", then they burst into fits of giggles with each other. After booking in and dropping our stuff in the room, we wasted no time in asking how we could get about here, we had a few places to check up on in the area, where Tims dad may have been to school, and church, and possibly lived if the buildings survived. The guy at the desk that seemed to be in charge, 'Go Knee' his name sounded like, said he could take us around for 5000 Kyats in the hotel minibus. First up though, we were hungry, so Go Knee suggested the 'Feel' restaurant, an eatery sat next to a small lake, looking out to forested hills, and a large lookout tower in the distance. It was the perfect place to sit down and take in the surroundings after our journey, and the food was pretty damn good too. Rain began not long after we had sat down, but the cool temperatures after the sticky heat of the lowlands is most pleasant, it's easy to see why the colonial Brits repaired up to places like this to escape the heat of Rangoon and Mandalay, as Tims Dad, Grandad, and family used to all those years ago.
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There are apparently nearly 200 old colonial buildings still existing here, and while I'm happy for the Burmese that they have their independence, I would love to have a glimpse of how things looked a hundred years back. And then the clouds let loose and we got a taste of the rainy season first hand, waiters running to relocate us away from the lakeside seats, and back to drier seating and tables. The combined noise of the rain hitting the roof and the lake drowns all surrounding conversation out, love it. The only westerners in the joint. Go Knee took us from the restaurant up to the old colonial Governors House, telling us on the way that the rain we had seen was nothing compared to when it 'really rains'.
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What a place the Governors house is, in the most amazing setting, just how you might picture it in some novel, or an old World War Two movie. This distinctly British architecture, complete with mock Tudor boarding, set amid deeply forested hills behind, with perfect lawns surrounding it, like a little piece of English Home Counties in this humid hothouse of Burma. It even had what we were told was the original Governors car, an old Triumph Mayflower, as well as an old Humber, and it's all owned by a hotel chain, they hire the place out for events, at about two thousand dollars or so a night. We were given a tour of the outside of the place, Go Knee had tried to get the keys for us, but said we had to come back next day to get in, meanwhile a couple of caretakers were happy to show us around the outside. It gave you a real sense of the power of the empire that had this place built, it even had an inside swimming pool.
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After an amusing photo session in these antique British made cars on the front drive through, we shot off. Stopping at the junction where the Governor House drive meets the road, we spotted an old church, the All Saints Anglican Church, at the foot of what is apparently called, 'Governors Hill', I have since found out that the Governors house was in fact the seat of the Colonial Government up until the Japanese bombed it in 1942, the church was known as the  'Church of the Government'. We figured there might be some useful info in there, possibly stuff about Tims family, had to be worth a look at least. The vicar thought he recognised the name of Tims Great Grandma, Daw Pwa Sei, and said she may have been involved in some way with the Anglican church, and as with all the Burmese people we'd met, he wanted to help us in any way he could. It was dark by then, so we said we would come back the next day to see in daylight.

Maymo Governor House

Schoolboy football at St Josephs, Pyni Oo Lwin, Myanmar

Myanmar Times,
Part Five
Day 9
07-10-2013
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There were four power outages last night, the first time we've experienced a power cut and we get four of them in one evening, a trifle unfortunate that it should happen twice at the first occasion where I've had access to a computer and internet. Plunged into darkness and losing all you've just written in an e mail may be irritating, but I'm fairly sure the repercussions of no power will have been more of a nuisance elsewhere., the staff gave me a torch and brolly, as it also happened to be hammering down outside, and our chalet is a short walk from the main reception and dining area. The way they take the power outage in their stride suggests this is not a one off situation, and it doesn't affect their smiles.
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While the power was actually on last night, Tim had been chatting to the staff at reception, and bounded up to me as I was attempting to write up some of the trip ready for blogging. I could see he was keen to impart some pearl of wisdom, so detached my fingers from the keyboard in anticipation, "man, that was spooky, you'll never guess what happened", "oh yeah, what's that then", probably not with the amount of keenness he'd been hoping for, but it didn't diminish his appetite for telling the story, "a massive blue butterfly just landed on my head while I was talking to the guys at reception, and I was about to swat it away, cos I don't like that sort of shit, and the guys shouted, 'no no, don't touch, good luck', and they told me it's a sign that someone in my family is watching over me, it's fucking crazy man". We already knew that the Burmese are a superstitious lot, why else would you let dogs and cows roam the roads with impunity, not to mention believing in reincarnation, but this was a nice way to be introduced to one of their beliefs, rather than reading it, or hearing second hand, it certainly put a huge smile on Tims face, and I think it may be safe to say, made his day, convinced by now that Granny iPad, aka Daw Pwa Sei, must indeed be watching over us, well him actually, but who am I to judge, it's a good story either way.
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Go Knee, or Gaungyi, (pronouced Gawn Yee), as I was corrected earlier, much to their amusement, told us he couldn't take us out today as he had business elsewhere to attend to, instead Azani, who had driven up with us from Mandalay, would be our driver for the day. First up on the sight seeing was the Governor House, hoping to get a look inside this time, although we had been told no photo's. The drive through Pyin Oo Lwin, or Maymo as it was previously known, is worth the trip on its own, rich in flower growers, very little traffic to speak of, and gloriously colourful miniature horse drawn carriages all over the place. As usual there were cows and dogs running, or ambling more like, all over, one dark brown cow had just settled and flumped himself down on the centre lines of the road, leaving the traffic to swerve around him, didn't even flap an ear as mopeds and cars rattled past him, they in turn treated it as a perfectly normal occurrence. Another thing you notice here, is the ceaseless metallic drone of cicada beetles which echoes all around, you never see them, but can't escape their sound.
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On arrival at the Governor House, it seemed as if we were going to be out of luck, but Azani made a phone call and a couple of lads from the hotel that own the place turned up within minutes and we were inside. Having believed at first that this was the original building, we were informed by the two lads that came up to let us in, that it had been all but destroyed by Japanese bombing in WW2, but had been rebuilt in 2005 as close to the original as possible. Judging by the original old photographs on display on the walls, they had done a pretty damn fine job, and then went the extra yard by having mannequins of colonial British household members dotted about, as well as photos of the last Governor and his, (mainly Indian), entourage hanging on the walls, 'Watts and Skeen, Mandalay' signed in the bottom corner of the photo's. All through this mansion house were photo's by Watts and Skeen, showing how each part had looked all those years ago, and if we hadn't been told the story of the place having been obliterated by bombing, I would never have doubted this was the original.
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Driving away from the Governor House, I was hoping we'd stop in at the All Saints Church again, I felt there was more to be found out there,  but Tim wasn't keen so I didn't push it. Azani took us to the bank in the town centre so we could change up some money, where two more of my Benjamin Franklins were turned back at me, "please, you have better?", pointing to the slight creases in the middle, so I handed over my last two undamaged notes, (they did have those little stamps on one side though, but the teller didn't look both sides thankfully, I felt guilty, as if I were peddling counterfeit notes), and figured I'd work something out along the way, hoping that 180,000 Kyats ought at least to last me until Rangoon in five days time. A stones throw from the bank was the Purcell Tower, a not particularly spectacular tower, with a clock at the top, apparently the clock tower was a gift from Queen Victoria, and it chimes 16 notes before the hour, the same as London’s Big Ben, although the date stamped on it is 1936, so I'm not sure what that signifies.
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Heading for what had been the tax office in Tims Grandad, Herbert Edward Wall's, day, you can't help but notice how many colonial style buildings there are here still, especially given that this town has been made the home of the military, and how they apparently blame just about everything bad that ever happened in the last 60 years of their control on the British Empire. I wonder why they stopped short of levelling the lot and removing any possible memory of its colonial past. The tax office as it was, is now a hospital, so I opted to hang about outside while Tim went in for a look around with Azani, this was another important part of the pilgrimage for Tim, seeing where his Grandad would probably have worked, much like when he touched the door of 379 Dalhousie street in Rangoon.  Next up was St Josephs school and church, both in the same complex, we're greeted by nuns at the entrance, and they take us on a guided tour, Tim gets Granny iPad out again and tells them his Dad and Auntie would have gone to school here, and quite probably church too. As with a lot of places we've passed in Myanmar, the kids here seem to love playing football, which looks like it should be pretty awkward in their longhi's, but they manage quite well, and bare foot, it's a cool sight to see. The church and school are both catholic, but the vast majority of the pupils are Buddhists, the Mother Superior told us that the army have put walls around them without asking, claiming some of their land, and planted a tree next to one of their buildings, knowing full well it would grow fast and tall, with the roots damaging all around them. You soon become aware that no one has a good word to say about their army, they just express dismay that from where they stand, it appears the only way to get rich in Myanmar is to become a part of it.
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I felt bad for the nuns, as if there was unsaid stuff that they worry about, the army appear to be an unspoken enemy, in public at least, a story we have heard all across the country. We drove to the neat little colonial built Pyin Oo Lwin railway station after St Josephs, a quiet place with grass growing between the tracks, and workers pushing a cart along the track with all their hand tools on it, as usual we are the only westerners around. Like so many of these old places, I would love to just glimpse how things were a hundred years back, not through any sentiment, but for historical perspective, I'm quite aware of the brutality the British are recorded as having handed out across their dominions, but often no more than the brutal leaders they displaced, and the British Government were no better to their own working classes in those days. 
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As if it may have been planned from above, when Azani took us to the Feel restaurant, we were held up for a while because the military had been holding some kind of beano for a VIP there, and multiple expensive four wheel drive motors were queueing up to transport them out, all in aviator sunglasses and crisp uniforms, I raised my camera to try and sneak a few shots, but a couple of them stared right into our minibus as I was doing it and I'm ashamed to say I lost my bottle and lowered the camera, it's funny how these things can affect you, but given what I've been told out here, had I been dragged out of the car and camera confiscated, I would only have had myself to blame.
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We finished this eventful sightseeing day with a trip to the National Kandawgi Botanical Gardens, which look as if they have come straight out of a Miss Marples novel, a sort of mini Kew Gardens around a lake, immaculately manicured, with every plant and tree named in Latin and English, as well as Burmese script, which looks at a glance like a load of slightly different circles. We walked up to the tower we had first seen from the Feel restaurant, but unfortunately it was a cloud filled day with intermittent rain, so the view wasnt great. There's a lift to the top, which goes up ten storeys, which doubtless gives great vistas on a clear day, I could at least see our chalet at Hotel Pyin Oo Lwin through the mist. On the way back we got a tuk tuk, driving past an ancient looking wall very similar in design to the fort walls we had seen in Mandalay and Inwa, dusk was coming on, and soon we were contemplating our return to Mandalay the following day.

Pyin Oo Lwin Railway Station workers
Rural family outside Shwebo
Pupils at the Shwebo school for orphans

Myanmar Times,
Part Six
Day 10
08-10-2013
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Last day at this little Eden, and I shall be sorry to leave. Even when they get things wrong, like the food or coffee, they make such an effort to get it right after, and are so wonderfully polite and friendly, you just have to smile. Other than the Chatrium in Yangon, and the Mandalay City Hotel, the food and coffee has quite a way to go if they want to encourage the Western market, and I'm by no means talking just western food. And it isn't cheap either, I could get the same food for less back home, and this is a poor country, so who pockets all the profit?, the staff certainly aren't well paid, Azani was a perfect example, having seen his home when we drove up. These things wouldn't stop me coming back though, far from it. The journey back to Mandalay, we shared the minibus with an old Burmese lady with her middle aged son, and a young monk who we picked up from inside the military base sleeping quarters, or so it seemed. A few monks gathered to see him off, and an older monk came and gave the driver 5000 kyats.
The trip back down the mountains went fairly uneventfully, bar one roadside stop where Tim decided to get out for a coffee, but was put off when he saw them scoop water out of an open water butt with mosi's hovering all round it. I'm afraid my confidence in their al fresco diners remains lacking, which is a shame, you feel as if you're missing out, but I've already lost a day and a half to food poisoning, and we're not here long. Arriving back at Seven Diamond about 4 ish, the girl who had dealt with all our trips was waiting outside for us, concerned as we were a little late, but happy to see us, and introduce us to Ko Ye, who would be our driver for the next two days. Tim went next door to a money exchange, and advised me on return to try it myself as he had managed to get rid of one of his creased hundred dollar notes, it would appear that they don't all hold such exacting standards.
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It was a two and a half hour drive up to Shwebo, through flat countryside of lush green, with occasional fording from the rains, kids playing football outside temples, or any available space as we drive past. Plenty of old world agricultural activity on the journey, and a slower pace of life altogether, Ko Ye telling us a bit about himself on the way. He's been learning English for three years now, and doing ok by the sound of it, likes his football, but don't they all, or so it seems. Checked in to the Pyi Shwe Theinga Hotel about 6.30, nice enough looking place, 35,000 Kyats for the night, with wi fi in the room, so Tim could get busy on his iPad, updating the family back home on the trip
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Day 11
09-10-2013
Woken rudely early by broadcast chanting at fuck knows what time, blaring out through speakers right next to the hotel.  The reason for the trip up here was that Tim had believed Daw Pwa Sei, his Great Grandma, had died here, but he found out last night on the phone to his cousin Julia, that this was in fact not the case, but that his Grandad, Herbert Edward wall, had at least lived here at some point, so we'll try and find some stuff out about him while here. After a breakfast of fried egg on noodles, Ko Ye tells us the owner of the hotel would like to show us an orphanage school which he is involved in. They treated us like visiting royalty when we got there, I felt embarrassed really, I mean, who are we?. They had all the kids line up in their uniforms of green longis, crisp white shirts, and blue flip flops, like we were about to inspect them, the old Headmaster introduced himself, told us about the school, how many of the teachers were themselves once orphan pupils here, and came back after completing their university education to teach the latest orphans. The school survives off donations, and just as we had arrived, the police had turned up with donated food, already cooked, and ready to serve up, so they guided us to the head bloody table. I felt so awkward it was unreal, telling them not to waste the food on us, let others have it, but they insisted, so we sat down and had a few nibbles. Then the Headmaster takes us through the rest of the school, explaining how each bit was built, with what donation, and took us to their library, a wooden hut with books and comics stacked on a few shelves, and it hits you what they can achieve with so little. At the end of our tour, me and Tim gave 5000 kyats each to the cause, not much, but I'm sure they'll make the most of it. 
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The hotel owner then says we need to see the monastic school just along the road, having told us he had been a pupil at the school we had just seen, and this next one was just as impressive, heaving with kids in classroom blocks, all keen to get a look at us funny looking westerners in longhi's. They learn Buddhism here, as well as their usual lessons, and part of that is to practice meditation, what a sight to see, a classroom full of kids meditating without a peep, and all of them sat cross legged in Buddha pose, with hands in their laps palms up, eyes shut, with the customary Thanaka face paint that you see on so many Burmese, a kind of gold paint, made from wood bark. Before we left, Ko Ye and the hotel owner spoke with what I presumed must be the head monk at the school, then they get down on their knees and bow their heads to the dirt in front of him, asking for his blessing I imagine, I looked at Tim, and wondered whether we ought to join in, but I'm a filthy sinning non believer, so that wasn't going to happen, Tim didn't either. We did however cough up 5000 each between us for this great cause though, both of us touched by these lovely people.
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After that, Ko Ye tells us he's taking us to see where they make pottery, and we were expecting a short ride to somewhere local. By the time we'd been on the road an hour, and asked a couple of times, 'are we there yet?', albeit through very pleasant countryside, we were beginning to think the visit would struggle to match up to the journey, wondering how much further it could be, and how many more cattle carts, cattle herds, temples, and locals would we pass before finding this place?!. As it turned out the rains had made our destination a no go, but no matter, we had stopped by an out of town pottery to ask what the score was, which was how we found out the road ahead had been washed away with the latest bout of rain, but our luck was in, this was not a tourist stop and they were delighted to see us and show us around.
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It was an amazing off the beaten track pottery, all ahnd made, beginning with the women quarrying their own clay to make the pots, hewing the earth with an adze like tool, filling their shallow buckets and emptying the contents on to a long mat. Further on were large thatched huts where the newly formed clay was being shaped in to bowls, vases, and nuts, (the Buddhist version of elves, imps, or fairies), by the men, rotating on round wooden bases which they turn deftly with their feet as they shape with their hands. Then we were shown the hut which housed the kiln oven, like half a giant Easter egg laid on its side, filled with the next batch to be fired, big enough to walk in, you could feel the heat envelop you, residual warmth from the last fire up. Tim bought a little bowl with a nut in for just 500 Kyats, about 40 pence sterling, ridiculous bargain.
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Going back to the taxi to get the money, Tim decided his rucksack needs lightening, so began doling out some of his clothes to the more than willing recipients stood around the roadside stall opposite the pottery, while I wandered about snapping pics of the surrounding landscape. The roadside stall was a timber framework with a tarpaulin thrown over it, tables with bananas on, and various containers of sauces for their cooking, blokes smoking their cheroots, and half of them now proudly draped in the contents of Tims ex wardrobe. KoYe then drove us back to the Shwebo Palace, burnt down apparently in the 1700's, and rebuilt in 1999. We didn't bother paying the five bucks to go inside, opting to wander up and down the street market outside, drawing yet more laughs, smiles, and comments for our Burmese traditional attire. Once again, the only Westerners around, this place was alive with activity, selling everything that your rural local might require, pigs, chickens, rice, fruit, and plenty else besides.
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Soon it was time for the long haul back to Mandalay bus station, having politely told Ko Ye we didn't fancy any more temples, markets, palaces, or pagodas. When we got to Sagaing bridge, Ko Ye went to pull up at another roadside eatery, but we weren't up for any of that, preferring to find some western style food ahead of our long trip to Inle. Off we went again over the bridge, for the last time?, I don't get tired of it, or the view across to the old Inwa bridge parallel, in search of a western style restaurant, following a route that looked all too familiar to the two of us. Sure enough, Ko Ye stopped outside the Rennaisance restaurant, we laughed, apologised to Ko Ye, and explained that we'd been here already, and that was enough. Off to Mandalay City it was then, to a nice air con cafe that serves a most passable version of western grub, but also in faitness covers Indian, Chinese, Thai, and I imagine Burmese style food, though I'm not really sure what Burmese food would be, 'Cafe JJ26', on the corner of 26th and 66th streets. While Tim was out for his fag break, he rummaged through his rucksack to give Ko Ye his Chelsea shirt, apparently Ko Ye's daughter is a huge Chelsea fan, so she'll be made up later.
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Mandalay and Yangon (Rangoon) bus stations are like wild west frontiers, fuckin' crazy! Coach horns relentlessy honk at each other, no surprise there really amid this organised bedlam. It's about 6pm, the place is literally swarming with people, and as usual we're the only Westerners around. Everything is in Burmese script, so Ko Ye was a lifesaver to check us in, the only English writing is a sign saying, 'WiFi free', and 'Password Number', except there is no WiFi, free or otherwise. Produce of all types is wheeled in and out of the waiting area, the buses double up to transport goods as well as passengers, and all the staff seem non stop busy. I've scored a seat under a fan, which is a result in this heat. Then a group of four western girls rock up, not sure of their nationality yet.

Pupils meditating at the Shwebo monastic school
Potters a way out of Shwebo
Sunrise at Inle Lake as we arrive
Inle Lake leg rower fisherman
Inle leg rower fisherman close up

Myanmar Times,
Part 7
Day 12
10-10-2013
Oh my Buddha!
Bit of a nightmare bus ride last night, a proper old jalopy but I didn't mind. Tim on the other hand, eventually developed a healthy sense of humour failure, having found the rough roads and dodgy bus quite amusing at first, "this is what travelling's about", he had said, laughing about it, funny what a bit of cigarette depravation can do to a soul. It became clear early on that the coach had issues, chugging along while other, newer coaches steamed past us. It's a lifetime away now we're sitting outside the Paramount Bungalows on Inle Lake, having had the hour long boat ride to get here as the sun came up.
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We'd been given conflicting estimates as to how long it would take from Mandalay to Inle, in the end it was just over nine hours, which began uneventfully, gradually building until, as the coach struggled up the mountains on the approach to Inle, bits started failing on our dated transport, forcing stops for impromptu repairs, such as windscreen wipers, screen heater, and air con among other stuff. And then we had two of the Burmese heaving into bags and out the door, one of whom was the drivers sidekick, the guy that shouts the stops and rallies the passengers in and out at all the halts. Tim was smoking 2, 3, and sometimes four fags each time we pulled in, at one point managing to chug down three fags in ten minutes at a short pit stop to check some fuses by torchlight.
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Of the entire coach, there were only six Westerners on board, with no English being spoken when the destinations were called out, so confusion added to the frayed tempers. I had to remind Tim that the poor lad had a dose of food poisoning to deal with, as well as carrying out his duties of getting people off the bus, and the poor old Burmese fella alongside us was hurling for Myanmar while his wife tried to comfort him. I knew just what he was going through, my own experience still raw in the memory. When we finally reached Inle it was still dark, and the bus was surrounded bylocals touting for boat taxi business. We told them we'd paid already, and they nodded as if they had understood, then another bod informs us we have to pay a local tax of ten bucks. We thought we were being conned, Tim insisting we'd already paid it, I knew we hadn't, but thought I'd leave well alone in case he could blag it. He didn't, so there went another twenty spot.
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The taxi boat boys get us down to their jetty by tuk tuk, and try to hit us with further charges, we told them 'no chance, we've already paid', and show them our hand written letter from Seven Diamond Travel. They sportingly admit their mistake and drive us to the address written down, it was only about 5a.m. The place was closed, but they phoned the number on the letter and it was soon opened up for us, we paid the lads a nominal taxi fare and thanked them. Having explained our situ with the tour agent, he arranged our boat transfer out to our accomodation on the lake, but not before selling us on the Buddha procession for the next day, doubled up with the sightseeing we'd already paid for, and we also booked our trip back to Yangon at the same time.
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The Boat Ride.
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Wow, what a wicked way to introduce yourself to Inle, going by longtail boat to your floating bungalow as the sun rises from behind the mountains, just fantastic. All the tiredness evaporated once I set foot in the boat, a thirty foot long, three foot wide, canoe like effort with heavy duty outboard engine to push it along. When it gets going the front end lifts out of the water, and at a distance it sounds like an old WW1 airplane. As our helmsman steered us along this impressive lake, he was anticipating my every move with the camera, slowing at just the right moments, and taking me closer to my subject matter, I soon learned to hold my thumb up to signify I'd got the shots I wanted, and he would rev up and motor on again. Even though it was not yet 6a.m there were plenty of fisherman and women out on the water, either sculling or rowing. When sculling they stand, using one foot wrapped around the oar to push it back. One of them looked like a mime artist, with traditional trousers, straw hat, and face painted with the gold wood mixture we've been seeing on so many faces since arriving in Myanmar.
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The lake is huge, , with islands of lily pads growing all over, bamboo and thatch huts on stilts, rickety looking wooden pylons carrying electric cables out to the stilted accomodation on the lake, reed bed plantations a bit like water borne allotments which are tended by men and women in small canoes, wearing their conical wide brim straw hats for protection from the sun. In front of our bungalows verandah an almost non stop procession of the type of boat we arrived in pass back and forth, carrying either people, goods, or both. If you're coming to Myanmar, I'd say this place should be somewhere near the top of your 'places to see' list. We were lucky enough to see a boat preparing for one of the Buddha processions, apparently October is filled with such processions. About 80 feet long, and with maybe 30 to 40 leg rowers either side, all dressed up in pink shirts and traditional dress, the paddle blades a light blue, it was quite a sight to see them all leg rowing in unison on their elaborately decorated barge. I look forward to seeing them again tomorrow as part of our sightseeing trip out on one of the boats. We'd struck lucky with the timing of our arrival once again.

The verandah at Paramount bungalows, Inle Lake
Arriving at the Buddha procession at sunrise
Inle leg rowers in full swing

Myanmar Times,
Part 8
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Day 13
11-10-2013
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Checking for our bus ticket back to Yangon, a certain situation occurs that has been a bit of a theme on this trip, forgetting where we've put stuff, mainly me in fairness. The moment you realise you can't remember where you've put something, the doubts creep in, is it lost?, did I leave it somewhere, and eventually, did I ever have it in the first place?!*&?. And this is without the assistance of alcohol. Then bizarrely, while I'm going through this, 'have I gone mad?', process, we get a knock on the door and one of the staff hands me a phone, "you have phone call", and it was the travel firm we'd booked the trip back with, calling to confirm our place on the VIP bus, yay, we're going back to Yangon on a swish, super comfy, leg room city, mobile mattress with air con, coach.
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It was a shame to be leaving the Paramount bungalows after just one night, but time was running out, and with our sight seeing and Buddha procession today, there would be no point coming back later just to pick up our bags, so we were packed and ready to have a last breakfast by 6a.m. As we were going to leave, the lovely lady that runs the bungalows insisted on giving us a present of Tamarind sweets, and a bottle of wine for Tim, she had been very impressed by Tims ancestry, loving the photo of Granny iPad, and she wanted us to have our photo taken with her to stick up on the wall behind reception. As we went to grab our bags away from the girls that were about to pick them up, our host tells us not to worry, explaining that these girls were used to carrying heavy baggage up the mountains from the days when they would leave the lake in the hotter months, pre air con I guessed.
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It was a nice surprise to see we had the same boatman for the journey that had brought us here the day before, he told us his name was Mo Fo, which had me and Tim raising our eyebrows in questioning schoolboy mirth. Half the bungalow staff came out to see us off, and then we were on our way to the Buddha procession, what an epic, worth the visit on its own. It was early enough to catch another sunrise over the lake, and loads of other boats making their way to the procession. We passed the back of the procession and Mo Fo took us along the sunny side for a bit, passing boat after boat of brightly dressed leg rowers, often wearing equally bright garlands, ornate sun brollies along the middle, and a little stage at mid point for dancers. They were all so full of the joys of the world, huge beaming grins, waving happily back at us. And the other sight seeing boats were worth a look, some carrying monks in their fresh brown, or light pink robes, and plenty of boats with just women, wearing bright orange scarves wrapped around their heads, and black jackets, you can't help but notice them, then there were the other tourists, the lake was a seething mass of diesel fed madness threshing up the water, all surrounding these elegant looking long boats linked together by rope in a line of thirty, forty, or more, as far as the eye could see. Mo Fo dodged across the rope, carefully raising his prop as he did, and took us along the dark side, while I snapped away at the silhouettes, commenting to Tim at the time, "oh mate, how far does that go into the distance?", meaning the line of procession boats, it was incredible. 
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Eventually we made it to the front of the procession, and Mo Fo put the engine on idle, explaining that the whole procession would now come past us, and he was true to his word, we had front row seats to this wonderful spectacle, which I took full advantage of, snapping away like a Jap on acid, and shooting video as much as I dare, not wanting to kill the battery.  The leg rowers are amazing to watch on their own, but when you have boats with forty or fifty blokes each side leg rowing, well I was in awe, as you looked down the never ending line of these boats, they looked like giant centipedes on the water as the leg rowers actions ripple down like a wave. And the various styles of music they have blaring out, with cymbols over the top, and the ever present chanting, like the stuff they play out over speakers at their temples, all goes to create a cacophony alongside the put-put of hosts of boat engines, and not forgetting the dancers that most of them had mid way along these giant canoes. The culmination of the procession was the Buddha shrine boat at the end of the line, a gold encrusted floating temple with a gold bird as its figurehead, and then we were off on our sight seeing, motoring back along the lake with the countless other boats that came out to see.
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Inle Lake we soon found out, is a hive of activity, with whole communities living on the lake itself, and producing all kinds of stuff, there were silversmiths, blacksmiths, lotus plant silk weavers, cheroot and cigar makers, and no short supply of gardeners, it's a busy place. I bought a couple of little items, a hand carved wooden frog that croaks, some hand made cheroots and cigars, but was really more interested in seeing them at work, especially the blacksmiths, with three lads wielding small sledge hammers to beat a piece of metal flat on the anvil while the old boy moved it back and forth, the noise was like music. Motoring around this ramshackle teak built mini Venice really gives you a proper feel for the place, it is home to a huge amount of people, has been for generations, not for the benefit of tourists, although I imagine that's in the process of changing. There were little children playing kite fighting, or just playing on the water, women paddling round with their wares for sale, basically they traverse the water the way landlubbers use roads and paths, but it looks much cooler. At the lotus plant silk weavers, as wll as the business of extracting the twine from the plant, spinning it into a yarn, and then weaving it on an antique looking loom, I was shown the dye process. They burn different woods for the colours, Mango tree for red, Jackfruit for brown, and Inle tree makes a grey dye, but it didn't look or smell particularly healthy in there I have to say, thick with smoke.  At the cheroot makers, Tim got his face made up with the Thanaka wood bark dye by the English speaking girl who talked us through the cigar and cheroot making process, she also happened to be very attractive, though I couldn't say whether that had any bearing on why Tim asked for his face decoration, it amused them though, and me when they told him it was considered a gay thing for a man to do. We went on to yet another temple, this one was the busiest we'd seen outside Yangon, with boats queueing up to offload or pick up passengers, and once again, we seemed to be the only Westerners around. 
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After a long day on the lake, Mo Fo took us back, another hour long boat ride, which was a bonus as far as I was concerned, I loved buzzing around the lake, I just wished we had more time to stick around and enjoy it. After he dropped us back at the travel center, we bunged him 5,000 Kyats each as thanks for his sterling efforts on our behalf, especially for the Buddha procession, when he got us in to the best positions for filming and taking photos. It was just a bit embarrassing to find out later that Mo Fo, was in fact, Maung Po, and we'd heard it wrong from the off, but bless the lad, he never mentioned it, mind you, with a 10,000 Kyat tip, I doubt he cared too much. Top lad.
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We're now in a tent bar at their festival market, watching the Nyaungshwe world go by. Chill mode for me, Tim not too keen on the comfort of the plastic seats. Couple of Chang beers later and the world seems a different place, I hadn't been that bothered about walking through a market, but I'm glad we did. All of a sudden we're in shop mode, bartering with the stall holders for things we decide we actually like, and for decent prices too. The place was heaving, full of the boat crews from the procession, still in their traditional dress, as well as mobs of young monks, and loads of young kids wearing heavy leather jackets of the sort rockers wear, they must be cooking in them. Having spent more than we had expected, we headed back to the travel center to ask where we could find somewhere decent to eat. Now at 'Inle Pancake Kingdom', wicked!, cheap and bloody nice, recommend the Banana coffee milkshake!!
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Because of the Buddha festival, we had to get picked up on the outskirts of the festival set up, transport, they told us, not being able to guarantee getting in or out, so we were dropped at the pick up right next to a elaborate kind of gate through which all traffic had to enter, once again attracting attention because of our longhis, a family behind us made friends from the off, despite neither knowing what the other was saying, except for the few words we knew by now, which just made them all laugh when we said them. While we were stood there, I curse myself for not getting my camera out, as up walked a couple of monks, one adult, and one child. The child monk was carrying a toy machine gun, it would have made a priceless picture, I should have dived on my rucksack and ripped the contents out to get that bloody camera out, but the mental image will have to do. All the traffic leaving was filled to the rafters, how these vehicles manage is a mystery to me, but they do, and no one seems to get hurt, what a joy to be free from the Health and Safety Executives claws out here, where common sense hasn't yet been outlawed as it has in the UK.
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Aced it with the VIP bus, 23 bucks well spent, although shame about the Buddha chanting on the TV! Next stop, Yangon.

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Inle children rowing on the lake
Inle leg rowing gardener

Myanmar Times,
Part 9
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Day 14 
12-10-2013
It may have been a super swish coach, but I could have murdered the git in control of the TV, we had to endure bloody Buddha chanting at first, followed by the most unbelievably shyte, supposed comedy, I'll have nightmares I swear, and then at 5a.m, having at last managed to get some shut eye, they start blasting the fekkin Buddha chants through the bus again. This time my sense of humour took a vacation and I stomped up to the front without any pretence of a cheerful demeanour, and demanded as politely as I could without blowing my stack, that they turn that fekkin racket off, I think he understood the look on my face better than he understood what I had said. It was bad enough that the air conditioning bloody near froze me to death, suffice to say I wasn't a particularly happy bunny by the end, purely because of sleep deprivation. I preferred the old jalopy that took us to Nyaungshwe.
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When we got out at Yangon, it was about 6a.m, some taxi drivers had already picked up our bags, I was still half asleep, and followed them in a daze, but Tim was on the ball and shouted, "oy, where the fuck are you going with our bags?, put 'em down", but they were already in the back of their taxi. "You want taxi?" they said, "no, it's too early", he barked at them, still a couple of gaspers short of equillibrium. As it turned out, his day pack rucksack had been left behind, so we went back to the coach, having already retrieved our bags from their boot, and the coach guide was holding Tims bag up ready for him. We impressed on the taxi boys we weren't going anywhere yet, and went for a coffee. We were going to be staying with Tims cousin and her husband, so Tim didn't want to be getting themup at such an ungodly hour, as it turned out, they were up and waiting already, about to send their son to pick us up from the bus station, if they had known when we were arriving. After a while of drinking coffee, watching a tethered cockerel peck seeds and crow for his life on the table next to us, and observing this Burmese guy knocking up some pancake type fried efforts on a round metal plate over a converted can on a tripod fire/oven/stove kinda thing, Tim eventually decided it was late enough to get his cousin up. I should say here, that they have been in contact with us throughout the trip, from the day they met us they have insisted we call them everywhere we go to let them know we arrived ok, Shwee and Julia are an amazing couple, and yet another highlight of this fantastic trip.
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After a bit of a misunderstanding with our taxi driver, we had agreed a fee of 10,000 Kyats for the fare, but it transpired that where we were going was further than he had expected, so after a call to Julia to translate and then pacify our disgruntled driver, we carried on. Something happened on the way that we've seen a lot of, blokes at the side of the road collecting cash from drivers, not toll boths like on the motorways, but random points with mobs of lads flagging the cars down and drivers outstretched hands giving over what is clearly a known amount, as they barely stop, completing the transaction on the move. We saw with Tay Zar Lin and Ko Ye in Mandalay, and never really questioned why, but it seems to go on everywhere. We eventually arrived at Shwee and Julia's place in the Thanlyin township, which used to be known as Syrium  before the military started renaming everywhere. It is a port city, and also the oil refinery center of Burma, which may well be why Shwee and Julia live there, Shwee was after all the effective CEO of Burma Oil up until his retirement, and Julia had worked there too. On arrival they were waiting at the gates with their son, Maung, and ushered us in. The road was more of an upmarket dirt track really, with a few modern looking places set against some pretty downbeat residences, you couldn't help but notice all the modern places had gated security, which seemed odd compared to the overall feeling of security we had encountered in this country, but clearly it had not always been this way. It was a similar feeling in Cambodia when I travelled there, lovely people, but a worrying past, everyone old enough had a horror story to tell. We had heard hints of disaffection towards the military on our journey, but no actual recount of events.
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We chatted a good while, had a bit of breakfast, told them all about our trip, then got on with the business of the family tree, and Tim and Julia's shared Burmese ancestry, the driving force behind the visit to this beautiful country. In British colonial times, the Wall family appear to have been well represented in Burma, holding positions in the Tax Office, schools, hospitals, and we found out, a string of pilots in Bengal, across the bay, to be confirmed. Not airline pilots of course, way too early for planes to be around, so I guessed they were harbour pilots, guiding ships in and out of a Bengal harbour, William McKenny Wall (1839-87), having been listed as both a, 'Master Mariner', as well as a, 'Pilot' according to the family tree copy Julia showed us, the work of John Wall, the son of Tims Grand Uncle, William Richard Wall, who had been Commissioner of Income Tax for Burma. When the Japs came during WW2, Tims Dad had recalled to him how he was on the last plane out as the Japs were chasing them up the runway, he would have been eight years old at the time, and Tims Grandad had apparently stayed behind to guide British soldiers out through the jungle. Julia had some stories to tell too, not least of which being the sad business of having been interned by their own people after the military coup in 1962, she told us that the British had installed many Karen people in positions of authority throughout Burma, and when the coup began, a lot of these were rounded up and held in the grounds of what had been the Mandalay Palace, she told us this after we had mentioned the Palace as part of our trip.
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That evening, Shwee had planned a drinking session with us, having stocked up with beer and whiskey ready for this night, he had been looking forward to it from the moment he knew when we would arrive, telling us he doesn't often come across the opportunity to get drunk and have such fun with company. Despite my desperately poor record in this department, how could I possibly let this wonderful man down, I ate as much as possible in the dinner beforehand in the hope I might stave off the inevitable. Mo Mo, (Maung), their son, joined us and we had a great laugh together, I think. I don't remember a huge amount, because as usual was the first to fail. 
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Day 15
Sun 13th Oct
At breakfast next morning, the mickey taking began, telling me they'd had to carry me to my pit, nonsense of course, but it amused them, (and me in fairness), to persist.  I have to say, I was in awe of Shwee, in a country where it would be nigh on impossible to get rich without being corrupt, (in the army basically), he managed to do a few deals here and there, and take advantage of situations, to make enough to have a nice home, not extravagant by any means, but hugely impressive given the environment they existed in. He told us how he was a Shan, and they were known as being successful traders, and he must have inherited those traits, his family all being merchants around Taunggyi, not far at all from where we had been at Inle lake. Shwee designed the house himself, oversaw the construction, and ran the electrics in too, including generator, a pumped well, and a garage with live in accomodation for driver, and all this while running the Burma Oil Company, the man is a genius, and a bloody good laugh to be around.
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Later they dropped us into Yangon for the last time, stopping at Scotts market, (now called Bogyoke Market), to pick up Tim's hand made shirt, grab a milkshake, then allow us to buy them dinner back at the White Rice restaurant, the very least we could do after all they had done for us. I asked Shwee why it was that there were so many cars with right hand drive when the drove on the right, and he tells us that it's because so many of their cars are bought as second hand from Japan, where they drive on the left, same as the UK, but it seems to work regardless. Having said our goodbyes at the entrance of the Hotel Chatrium, we are greeted like old friends on our return, they remembered us. We got checked in and headed for the pool in this opulent hotel, chill out time.
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Day 16
Mon 14th Oct
Up early for breakfast, and out for a last chance to investigate, starting with the lake outside the hotel, snapping a few pics of the Floating Pagoda Hotel, having declined to pay to get in after they said, "extra 500 for camera". I only wanted a shot of the thing floating, on to downtown Yangon next, and more searching for Tims relatives places, as well as picking up a few bargains from the street vendors. We had started walking, but it soon became apparent we'd be knackered quickly, and waste most of the day, so we grabbed a taxi and negotiated a fare, 4000 Kyats to get us downtown. Tim wanted to go back to 379 Dalhousie Street to see if he could get in there, he had no more luck this time unfortunately, so we opted to bag a few bargains from the street vendors while we were there. It's not far from the Sule Pagoda, which is the heart of downtown Yangon, a bustling throng of people and traffic, the only noise that competes with the traffic, is the sound of the bus boys rattling out what I can only presume, are the destinations of their particular bus, they hop off and walk along singing out the names, assisting passengers on board, looking for more potential passengers, then hopping back on board as the bus moves on. The buses are a marvel, back home you would only see such spectacles in a scrap yard, but here they rattle and chug along en masse, competing with the rest of the assorted traffic of cars, bikes, and rickshaws. The pavements are no less busy, every square inch taken up by either vendors, makeshift eateries, or pedestrians, and they all smile at us in our longhis, which in turn keeps a fixed grin on our boats. I love this city.
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Having bartered our way around, and bought wallets, sun glasses, and a vest to wipe away the ever dripping sweat, we made our way across town to find St Marys Cathedral, in Bogyoke Road, as Tim hoped we might find out whether his dad had been christened there. When we got there, it appeared to be locked up, so we shouted over to some men inside to ask assistance, they shouted something back and made a gesture, none of which we understood, eventually electing to move on and find another way in. We wandered along until we came across a school entrance, St Pauls school, and some helpful locals pointed us towards this young guy called Victor, who told us we couldn't go into the school as they were in the middle of exams. Tim explained what his mission was about, and out came Granny iPad again, next thing Victor volunteered to take us along and get us into the Cathedral, what a star, and yet one more example of how amazingly friendly these people are, Tim determined that this was another case of Great Grandma Daw Pwa Sei watching over us.  At the gates of the Cathedral, Victor begins a dialogue with the men inside, only to have it pointed out that there was a gate within the gate, which we could have walked in at any time, doh! Tim rightly mentioned that without the misunderstanding we wouldn't have met Victor, another sign of us being watched over apparently. St Marys Cathedral sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb in this city, it's a magnificent looking building, and remarkably well kept, but despite the huge colonial influence, the churches somehow just don't look right here, especially with all the desperate poverty just outside the place, at least the other colonial architecture serves a purpose for the inhabitants of Yangon, even if it is only to squat in them.
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Day 17
Tues 15th Oct
At the end of our trip, I think we have a load more questions to ask, and plenty of damn good reasons to return, the best reason of all being the Burmese people. They come in many different faces, a melting pot of all the regions that surround their country, India, China, and Thailand, plus their own many sub cultures in this largely unspoilt rural landscape, (plenty has been spoiled, but it's a big country). At the airport on the way back, we were stopped by security for a quick frisk, and we hit them with "Mingalabar", (hello), and "chesu dem bar dey", (thank you very much), to which they laughed, saying, "you only know two things in Myanmar?", I leapt at the opportunity to chuck in, "Kay sar mashibu" (no problem), and they roared with laughter, smiling wider than ever as we carried on in. Later, after checking in, Tim was already coming down with smokers deprivation fever, getting tetchy about when he might get his next gasper, and wanders off. When he came back he tells me the security guys let him our for a smoke, that just doesn't happen at an airport once you've gone through security, then he says they were giving some Japanese guys a real hard time, but smiled at him and waved him through. Now it could be that our minor grasp of their language eased his path, or could it have been old Granny iPad watching over him for one last time?? Burma is after all, a nation of very superstitious people, I know which option they'd be going for.

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