Delivered the “Kids” to Posh Pets (wonderful new kennels) at 11.00 and then headed back home for last minute packing, shutting up the house, and the drive to Malaga, for the flight to London. Discovered just in time that the original BA flight time had been moved forward by 2 ½ hours and they had “forgotten” to tell me. A bit of a rush but made it on board in plenty of time. Landed at T5 Heathrow and checked into Sofitel which means not having to leave the terminal and experience the wonders of English weather etc (F^%ing Freezing !!). Burger, Bed and Breakfast then off to catch the train to T2. After 20 minutes of standing on a freezing platform staring at a very nice empty train, we were informed that “they” couldn’t find the driver, so duly shuffled across to another platform where “they” had found a driver, and did. Comfortable 12 hr Thai Airlines flight to Bangkok and speedy transfer to the connection to Yangon (Rangoon in old money). Only marred by a stroppy female security person (give them a uniform and they turn into monsters !), who decided that some of my “potions and lotions” could not travel on the plane and so were consigned to the trash despite my protestations and prescriptions!! When she mentioned getting the Police involved, prudence took over and I backed down – fuming!! – and boarded the plane for Yangon.
Arrived in Yangon, as surprisingly did my luggage, and was met by my charming Tour Guide and Driver who were to be my companions for the next 4 days. I seem to be the only participant of this first stage of the adventure as tourism is a very recent concept around here. So will be solo until hooking up with the Pandaw ship in a few days’ time.
In at the Deep End
After a 3 hr drive south, we visited a Commonwealth War Cemetery where 27,000 Allied soldiers “lay at rest” – victims of the Japanese invasion of Burma in WW2. Immaculately laid out and maintained and an early reminder of how much shit went down here before the Brits, Indians and Aussies got the upper hand and sent the Yellow Peril back to Japan to face the consequences (Hiroshima etc).
The bridge that the Brits blew up in WW2 to stop the advancing Japs. Unfortunately, the British general who ordered its destruction failed to consider the 2 infantry regiments who were stranded on the wrong side and were duly slaughtered or captured and put to work on the “death railway”. Hence the scale of the cemeteries etc !!
I have missed a major Festival Day by 24 hours, But still managed to stumble across the aftermath……
Another hour drive and then Lunch with some very colourful Mon (Ethnic bunch) people then transfer to a bone rattling truck full of tourists and pilgrims heading up into the mountains to see the Golden Rock Pagoda which is one of the holiest sites in Myanmar. A hairy drive, though “fortunately” the length of my legs got me to sit up front with the driver, which made it even scarier due to a multitude of hairpin bends and his insistence on driving flat out all of the way!!! How we survived, (especially) the journey back down, was a miracle. As was the survival of numerous dogs and cats who (protected by Buddhism) insist on sleeping in the middle of the road!!
A 20 minute hike up the hill until I arrived at the Golden Rock – HUGE and precariously balanced on the edge of a major precipice. Access to approach, or touch, the rock is a strictly male affair. Pilgrims have been visiting for centuries and covering it with multi layered gold leaf to the point where some of the lower sections are now solid gold. The Stupa (get used to that word !) on top, apparently contains a couple of strands on the Buddha’s hair. Mind you as do many of the other Stupas around the country. No wonder he is always depicted as bald!!
A stunning site however and well worth the detour !! Then more bone rattling and into Moulmein (aka Mawlamyaing) and apparently the only decent hotel in town. Not great but served its purpose apart from its Wi-Fi which was virtually non-existent ! Buddha overkill tomorrow so will post this now while internet access continues !