Category: Myanmar, 2013

All’s Well, Even if it Ends Lousy; Reflections on Myanmar

January 29-30

We get a 3:45 AM FaceTime call from Phoebe. As reception is spotty, the call is short, but welcome. Hillary and driver drop us at the airport for our 1 1/4 hour flight to Bangkok.
Okay, so here’s a short summary of what the final entry was supposed to be. Met at the Hong Kong airport by our private car and whisked to the fabulous Four Seasons Hotel, one of the best in the world. A few hours to soak up a bit of Hong Kong’s atmosphere before going to the China Club, a private club that the concierge at the Four Seasons has arranged for us to have dinner at on the recommendation of a “foodie” relative of our travel agent in Chicago. Amazing meal and an opportunity to see a tea ceremony and pancake making. Back to our spacious, elegantly appointed room for a good night’s sleep prior to our car to the airport the next morning. It was to be a big splurge at the end of the trip, the details of which had been arranged for months.

And here’s what actually happened. About half way to Bangkok, Carol and I both begin not to feel well, and, by the time we hit Bangkok, we (especially me) feel really, really lousy. I’ll spare you the details of multiple vomiting and diarrhea, but let’s just say that it was neither fun nor pretty. We go via wheel chair, because I’m feeling weak, to see a doctor at the airport, who recommends that I go to a hospital in Bangkok. We decline, but permit him to give me a shot for nausea and other medication for dehydration and diarrhea.

There is no possible way I can get on a plane at this point, so we wind up spending about seven hours in the Cathay Pacific lounge in Bangkok, where we are extremely well looked after. A return visit to the doctor, and he signs a letter saying I’m okay to fly. Feeling better, but still happy to have a wheel chair to be transported around in, we take an evening flight to Hong Kong. The classy folks at Four Seasons cancel our dinner, car and room reservations, arrange for a hotel room at an airport Marriott and say that they hope that I feel better. In Hong Kong, we are met and I’m transported by a wheel chair to collect our luggage and take a shuttle bus (not a private car) to the Marriott, which is new, and more than adequate for our needs (it has a bed; two, actually, and free wifi, because I’m a Marriott Rewards member). Good night’s sleep and feel much better, but there’s no way I’m giving up my wheel chair at the Hong Kong airport.

Now aloft and about ten hours from home, a few reflections on our trip. We were so lucky and privileged to experience Myanmar in the way we did, because of Dotty. We definitely skipped some things that tourists would normally do and see, and I’m sure we would have enjoyed some, perhaps most, of that. But there’s no question in my mind that the trade off was more than worth it. We met people and did things that we’ll remember for as long as we’re still in the remembering business.

We saw a country at a unique time in it’s history. (In the International Tribune on the plane, I read an article saying that Myanmar had just revoked the law that prevented Damon from doing a meditation class for more than five people). There’s a sense of some hope, but there’s still a tenuousness to it all. The country seems subdued. Aside from the Indian wedding we crashed, we saw no overt joy. But we were treated with great warmth wherever we went. My sense of uneasiness is the degree to which the country’s hope depends on one person, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. If she prevails in the 2015 elections, it may be possible to create an infrastructure that survives her. Perhaps the barn door is already unlocked. But nobody appears to be giddy at this point. And there’s a strong historical basis for that lack of giddiness.

Carol and I will undoubtedly remain in touch with Myanmar. There’s Dotty and Jim, for starters. And we hope to correspond with others we met, as well. Most hopefully, we expect to host our two wonderful young guides and travel companions, Hillary and Aung Lin Htet, when they come to the US for studies, which we hope will happen later this year. And we now have an even stronger foundation for our relationship with Arkar Hein at Nothwestern, having seen some of his country and met his family.

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