Myanmar Day 11: Return

Today our cruise ends, and our trip is now a long road home with a few stops along the way. We don’t have any big items on the list we’ll be hitting, mostly just filling days with miscellaneous activities, and lots of flights broken up taking us home. These journals are going to get necessarily shorter not because I’m rushing through the writing of them, but simply because less is going to happen.

I’m sad not just because the trip is winding down, but the sailing has been great and scratched a bit of an itch. The cruise itself had two things I hope it’d accomplish: see how Jenn likes the sailing part, and to try to show her a part of my childhood when we’d sailed from Los Angeles in the US to Brisbane Australia over 2 years. I think the first part was accomplished, but only partially the second. The Moken village was supposed to be like the villages we’d visited in places like Fiji and Vanuatu, but it wasn’t. But the feeling of traveling from place to place with the wind, enjoying isolation and a bit of socializing was there. Though the socializing hasn’t been the greatest, and I’m not sure how much more of this group I could take.

Today we motored the last miles back to Kawthaung having breakfast on the move, and then packing as we approached the harbor. To make room in our cabin we’d had to unpack anything we’d need from our bags into a single drawer and then allowed them to stow our bags. It’d worked well, but now it was time to make it all go back. By now most of our bags are dirty clothes in trash bags.

As we got closer to shore, we came into range of phone service, and everyone seemed to fall into themselves with their devices, checking emails and the like. We were anxious to hear how Pam and Chuck did in Bali, I had another novella I wanted to download, and college football scores to check up on. Turns out USC beat Penn St. at the Rosebowl with a last second field goal, and I had a number of messages telling me I had to watch the game when I got home.

We dropped anchor around 9am, and took photos with the crew, and other guests. We exchanged emails, and photos.

Rob and Jane had to be taken first, their flight was all the way south in Phuket at 4pm, and they had to immigrate back to Thailand before taking a hired car the hours there. In the end they made their flight by 10 minutes only to have it delayed an hour.

We had all worked out how much to tip after I’d made a comment over dinner about how unhappy I was when we went on a Tiger Safari in India, our driver had found us a tiger in a zone we were never expected to find on in, and then the Brits in the group didn’t tip even though it was customary to. We figured about $100 per couple. Only I had maybe $80 left split between USD and Kyat, so I resolved to find an ATM when we got to the dock.

As we landed on shore it was sprinkling and I took off toward the bank. The sprinkles turned to rain, and then a deluge. At the ATM there was a guard standing watch who waved me off saying it was out of order. Well shit. So after my belly aching about tip, I’m going to tip nearly all the cash I have and still be $20 under.

Because our flight isn’t until 2pm, and it’s about 11 now, we’re dropped at Victoria Cliff before on to the airport. Jenn and I grab some food, making sure it’s not spicy. The rain continues to chuck down. I’m able to finally check in on the Vendee Globe race who’s solo around the world sailors are stretched out across the southern ocean currently. After 45 minutes we’re being rounded up. There is a problem though, James’ lunch hasn’t arrived yet, and they haven’t paid. But I guess that’s why they started rounding people up at 45 minutes and not 1 hour.

At the airport our bugs are unloaded at the curb. I grab ours, Jenn is still feeling really horrible today, stomach still bothering her, still experiencing pain. So I’m carrying as much as I can, and getting quite worried about her. If it gets any worse I think we should find a doctor in Yangon.

I go to check in and the Brits are standing there at the head of the queue waiting for I guess a porter to bring their bags, and I’m standing there with about 40 kg of bags on my shoulders between our 2 big bags and my camera bag. They send James to go hurry and get their 6 bags while I’m just standing there, not offering to let me go first while they get their stuff in order. I can’t help but crack up at this.

Immigration is our next stop, which again is weird to me being a domestic flight, but we got checked on the way in, so I guess on the way out makes sense too. I think it’s to do with how close we are with the Thai border or something.

This time Myanmar National Airways flies us on a pop plane. Jenn sleeps the whole way but I grab her snack boxes for her. They each contain a delicious little croissant thing with some kind of light filling, maybe almond? I’m realizing these are all put together by the same company for each of these airlines.

At Yangon International, we say goodbye to Jonathan, Sara, James and Emily. The kids have been great fun, and I’m sad to see them go.

At the taxi stand I realize I only have 7000 kyat left. The plan had been to use an ATM, only there isn’t one in the domestic terminal. I try to negotiate with the drives, but the hard bottom seems to be 8k kyat. Still that’s better than the 10k we payed previously. We ask around and are told Terminal 1 and 2 have ATMs. We find a free shuttle going between terminals and get over to Terminal 1. The first ATM is out of cash, the second ATM wouldn’t respond to my touch input, but the third ATM was just right, and let me pull out about $125 worth of kyat. A tourist girl was there having trouble with her card, and she wants my help. I’m a little wearing of scams, but I agree and stand to the side while she puts her card in and her pin before I go through the steps I went through before it gives an error with the card, I’m no help.

We get a taxi driver after a few tries, and he speaks English well, offering to drive us on a tour tomorrow. We’re not sure what we’re doing, it’s going to depend on how we feel so I make up a story about how we’re meeting a friend tomorrow who lives here. Truth is, that had been the original plan, Jenn got in contact with two Wellesley alumna, but both were out of town and or busy.

Today is Independence day in Myanmar, and people are out and about, enjoying the nice day at the park. Apparently they don’t shoot off firework except for Military Day.

Our hotel is a new one called Hotel Esperado, it was a little more expensive than the Merchant Art Boutique, so I didn’t make reservations here when Pam and Chuck were with us, plus it’s not walking distance to Swedagon. We check in and sit down while they process our paperwork and make copies of our passports. Then a lady walks up and informs me that our reservation had been cancelled, and shows me an email. I’m perplexed, and argue a bit that I didn’t cancel it. She tells me they still have a room and will honor the internet rate. I’m still upset, and not entirely sure it’s the same rate I had gotten. Jenn is just happy we have a room. I get online and sure enough, Agoda tried to charge my card on January 1st and failed to because the CapitalOne card I used had been deactivated. Of course I then didn’t get the email being on a boat away from everything, and then on the 2nd they cancelled our room. I’ll try with the new card, but I haven’t had luck with it yet. The next day when we walk into the hotel they have a sign up saying they’re full, so I really should just be happy we got a room. I’ll have to pay with my Visa and incur the foreign transaction and exchange fees.

After cleaning ourselves up, we’re headed back to Le Petite Comptoire, Jenn is craving one of their juices and I would love just about anything on their menu. The owner doesn’t recognize us, but why should she? While we eat our amazing meal, there is a business negotiation going on behind us, and she joins in. We think they’re exporting tee shirts? It’s fun to listen to.

At the hotel its maybe 8:30, so we turn on the tv and find the Nat Geo Wild channel and they have a surprisingly interesting show playing on novel predation techniques which was fun to watch. I had been told a some point in my life that the White Banded Coral Sea Snake was more poisonous than any land snake, but that their mouths are too small to bite you with, only here on Nat Geo I’m watching it kill a moray twice its size, unhinge its jaw, and then eat it. So that’s good to know. And on that note, it’s time for bed!

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