Exit Myanmar

Sat 21 Feb 2015

When we arrived back in Dawei we discovered that the internet had been down for the entire time that we were away. And it was still down! A whole town without internet for seven days. Productivity levels must have sky-rocketed, while YouTube views of skateboarding bulldogs plummeted.

Those precious, little signal bars reappeared sometime yesterday. Maja was happier than a Swede eating rotten fish at an ABBA concert.

Breakfast at the Muslim tea house. Our favourite hangout.
Breakfast at the Muslim tea house. Our favourite hangout.

The U.N. refugee something-something department, in Pretoria, wants to interview her. That’s a great opportunity to kick-start her career. However, I would rather sleep under a bridge in Despatch than live in Pretoria.

We did some gift shopping at the local market. A financially strategic decision, as Dawei is disgustingly cheap. Things are so cheap I feel guilty, for a very short period of time, but guilty none the less. We found a liquor store and dug out the sketchiest, dustiest bottles of booze we could find; for our loved ones.

Local produce
Local produce

This morning we shared a minibus to the Thai border with two guys from USA, a Canadian girl and a Frenchman. Ben (USA) had served in Iraq. Talking to him about his experience in “The War on Terror” was interesting. He is, in no way, proud of what is happening to innocent people in a country housing a handful of “terrorists”.

The ride to the border was only about 160km, but it took over five hours. The roads are all gravel and wind through the mountains, without safety barriers on the corners. Rain, creating a muddy driving surface, did not increase my sense of safety. Misjudge one corner and we would end up like the balrog that Gandalf bitch-slapped off the mountain.

Of course, no journey is complete without a flat tyre. The driver pulled out a spare, which looked like it had done a few laps around Asia. We may have been better off limping along with the flat.

Tyre changing is a spectator sport
Tyre changing is a spectator sport

At one of the military check points we all handed over our passports for inspection. One minute later a uniformed man came marching over to our van with only one passport in his hand. I took a deep breath and did not even try to convince myself that he might be holding some else’s passport. He slid open the door and with a straight arm, thrust the boerewors book into the bus while scanning our faces to match the mug shot on the back page. I raised my hand, in admission of guilt, and he firmly asked me, “What countly ooh flom?” I responded with the obvious answer and he walked away. I can only guess that it was the white face with African nationality that threw him off. The concept seems to confuse most people outside of the Commonwealth.

Stamping out of Myanmar
Stamping out of Myanmar

Our driver got us to the border and threw us out. We organised a ride to Kanchanaburi in a double cab. An American and Canadian on the back and the rest in the front.

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