Category: Myanmar, 2013

International Date (lines)

January 14-16

It’s in packing that you start to wonder. First, there’s the malaria medicine. Next the pills for nausea that the malaria medicine may cause. Then, there’s the sun block, because the malaria medicine makes you prone to sunburn. Throw in a vial of pills for diarrhea, just in case you pick up some bug. The insect repellant to, well, repel insects. And, this trip, a heating pad, because my damn lower back has been hurting.

You cram in more clothes than you’re going to need, despite your vow not to do that, not this time. Time to head out to the airport, arriving two and a half hours before your flight to Hong Kong, a mere 15 1/2 hours, before your layover of about two hours there and then continuing on for your three hour flight to Bangkok, where you plan to grab some rest before your 9 AM flight to Yangon, a brief hour and twenty minutes. Altogether, you leave on Monday afternoon and arrive on Wednesday morning, having crossed the international date line, and flown some 9200 miles.

So, is it all really worth it? Oh, yes.

En route to Hong Kong, I read two books, Michael Chabon’s latest, Telegraph Avenue, which I do not love, for our book group and a quite delightful book called Travels with Epicurus, given to us by our friend, Mike Lewis, which consists of philosophical musings on old age. Having both turned 70 recently, this is something on which Carol and I might well muse. I’ve been searching for the right term to describe where I’m at. “Adult” is too general and vague (and, in my case, probably not accurate), “middle age” is clearly a lie (how many 140-year olds do you know?) and “old” seems somehow too stark. I think I’ve finally got it, though. I am in my business class years.

Business class makes all of this travel a good deal more tolerable: special, short lines checking in and through security, club lounges with food and drink, early boarding, comfortable, reclining seats and better food. Maybe even a chance to sleep (I’ll get back to you on that one). For the most part, we’ve been able to do that on frequent flier miles, but I’ve about decided that, even without that, I’m now in my business class years. You might not have realized that I was such a philosopher.

Everything went smoothly, as scheduled (sleep on the plane, not so much). Arrived at the airport hotel, a Novotel in Bangkok, which boasts that it was rated the fifth best airport hotel in the world. All we want is a bed.

Truth is, Carol and I are very excited about this trip. We’ll be in a very different, interesting land that is undergoing a huge transition and, because of our friend Dotty (if you didn’t read the first post, please do to get the background), we will be experiencing it in a way that other visitors cannot. It’s been two years in coming, with one cancellation along the way, but we’re ready to go.

A day or two ago, we received an email from Hilary Myint, a graduate of Dotty’s school, who Dotty has enlisted to show us around Yangon. Hilary (also known as Yu Zind Htoon) wanted to know what we’d like to do in Yangon, and my reply to her, which I’ve copied below, is a pretty good summary of what we’re hoping for, and may be a good way to set the stage for our arrival in Myanmar:

Let me try to describe what interests us most, so that you can think about what would make sense for our stay in Yangon (actually two stays).

Carol and I are passionate travelers. What interests us most, wherever we go, is the people and the culture (religion, politics, the arts, etc). We are privileged to be traveling to Myanmar at a most interesting time of transition. We are would love to see how that transition is affecting people’s lives. I am sure that in ten years, Myanmar will be a dramatically different place. We are interested in seeing things now that visitors in ten years may not be fortunate enough to see or experience. While we are tourists, and so are interested in seeing things that we really should see as tourists, we have consciously decided not to do a typical tour of Myanmar and, because of Dorothy, have the opportunity to see the country in a unique way. So, we are interested in the central areas of Yangon, but we would also love to walk through neighborhoods where people live.

I am an avid photographer and will want to take many photos, particularly of people doing what they do. What seems to you ordinary day-to-day stuff may be very new and different to us. You can be a great help to me by explaining to people who may be a bit shy about being photographed that I am genuinely interested in them and what they do and am not photographing them because I regard them as “curiosities.” Carol’s background is as a psychologist and a poet, so if there are things that fit those interests, that would be great.

Finally, I hope that this will be a two-way street. You will be coming to the US for school soon and probably have many questions about that. To the extent you think it would be helpful, we are happy to talk about any aspect of what you may find when you get here.

Carol and I look forward to meeting and being with you, and appreciate greatly your taking the time to show us around.

And, in the next post, the adventure begins.

2 comments to International Date (lines)

  • leslie

    loved this… right there with you in both the packing and the business class!!!sounds amazing. love reading about it. travel safe and I’ll be right there with you. LOVE,Les

  • Eve Lecvine

    Am looking forward to joining you via your blog.
    Safe and wonderful trip.
    Love, Eve

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