Iâ€™ve been lazy lazy lazyâ€¦. But Iâ€™m sleepless at 3:30am, jet lag is terrible. Time for stories!
When we left off, I was heading across the Burmese border into Tachilek. Burma, for me, was a fantastic experience based completely on fortune. It took 1 hour in the immigration to fill out the paperwork, acquire travelling papers, and recieve a temporary Burmese passporr. It was mandatory for my passport to be left at the immigration office in Tachilek, to insure that I left by the same way I entered. At the bus station I observed a Burmese fellow I thought to be some kind of drug dealer. His rings, necklace, bracelets, tatoos, and sunglasses all contrasted with the burmese around him and lent to his affluency. Since one of the few ways to gain such affluency was the afformentioned trade, I wondered! The bussride was quite eventful. We stop at no less than 10 military checkpoints in the course of our 6 hour busride to Kentung, all of which required copies of my travelling papers. We stopped at a travel stop type of restaurant on the side of the road where nobody seemed to speak English and I was terribly confused as to what to do. Then a voice yells out â€œDo you want something to eat? Come join me!â€ It was the affluent looking Burmese boy! I sat down, he ordered food, and we started talking.
Wow. Meet David, heâ€™s 21, and Burmese of Akha tribe descent (identical tribe to one of the ones I visited in Thailand). It turns out heâ€™s not a drug dealer, but something quite similar. Heâ€™s a hip-hop musician. He left Yangong, the biggest city in Burma, to visit his father who happens to be a political prisoner in Kentung. He spoke excellent English, and I spent the remainder of my time in Kentung with him. David taught me everything about Burma. He explained the politics to me, and taught me that most people will say Myanmar in public and Burma in private (they donâ€™t like the evil government renaming the country). He taught me all about the music scene of Burma, which is rather amazing. He took me out to eat at several â€˜unlabeledâ€™ resteraunts that were so feared by my Burmese guidebook, and the food was phenomenal! We went on a craftsman tour, which was incredible because the craftsman had litterally never been visited by an American and they were very excited to see me. I saw laquerware, pottery and knives all being made in very old fashioned low-tech ways. As a side note, I was the only traveller I saw the whole time I was there. He introduced me to his Ahka tribe friends, and we drank Burmese tea at a tea bar and he did all the translating. Its hard for me to describe how impressed I was by David, with his English, his political views, his passion for his music, and his complete willingness to help me and teach me. It was amazing. I promised him we would meet up again someday, and he agreed.
After a few days, David helped arrange with the immigration office for me to move on to MongLa as I had originally planned. I was sad to go, and I wish I had just stayed a few more days in Kentung. Mong La turned out to be complete hell. It was abandoned, impossible to get by on English, overrun by joyriding Chinese, and just had the appearance of being completely run down. Everything was shabby, and faded, like the hayday had been 20 years ago. The animal market had seen better days too, iÂ was now 4 guys with cages of snakes and weird muskrat like animals. There were a few shops with tiger skins on the walls, but they refused to let me inside. I guess the failure of the animal business is a good thing however. I tried to eat at 2 different restaurants and failed. The language barrier proved impossible for these people to work past. I ended up eating wannabe oreos and watching subtitled Hong Kong action movies in my hotel room. I looked around the next day for a bit, was completely crushed by the depression of the city, and left immediately.
Over the next 24 hours I did nothing but retreat to the city of Chiang Mai againâ€¦ The immigration officer in Kentung was quite friendly to me on my departure, but he said he knew Â would hate Kentung. I didnâ€™t see David again, but I have his Myspace! Thereâ€™s no internet in that region of Burma however, so I wonâ€™t have a chance to express my appreciation to him for another few weeks, he was planning to stay in Kentung for 6.
Chiang Mai! My favorite Thai city! The layout is so pleasant, and there is a plethora of travellers and friendly Thai people. I spent the next week hanging out with Am, the nanny for the little boy from Florida that I had met at the Elephant camp. She took me to all the real Thai resteraunts, and the markets, and we did lots of normal things too like bowling and watching movies. Sheâ€™s a huge English soccer fan, so I ended up staying longer than expected so we could watch the opening games of the season together. I spent alot of time reading and relaxing here. I really did absolutely nothing but relax and burn through Tolstoyâ€™s major works: War and Peace, and Anna Karenina. Good job me! Eventually I decided Iâ€™d leave for an island in the south, and relax in the sun a bit. I was sad to go, Iâ€™d spent in total almost 2 weeks in Chang Mai, and I really liked the city. I new it well, I could navigate on a motorbike without problems, and the food was excellent! I said goodbye to Am, but she may come to America and visit sometime, I promised her a wonderfully friendly reception in San Francisco.
24 hours of busrides and I arrived in Koh Pahgnan as a zombie. I found a bungalo guesthouse by the sea and took up residence for a week. I had a porch with a hammock facing the sunset. What more could I ask for! The sea breeze was strong enough to keep all the insects away from my bungalo, and on several occassions I took advantage of this by sleeping in my hammock, the swaying caused by the warm ocean breaze was delicious! I met a Finnish fellow named Sauli, and we explored the island together on motorbikes and had a pretty fantastic time. We didnâ€™t do much of anything however. We snorkeled a fair deal, but I spent a good majority of my day drinking fruitshakes and reading (I moved on to Dickens). It was exactly what I needed to end my trip.
After 7 days of island sun, I returned to Bangkok for 3 days of shopping and movies. On the bus I met two excellent British girls who were eager to employ my mastery of Thailands shopping district. This makes more sense if I explain: The big place for backpackers to stay in Bangkok is the region of Khoa San road. But its a bit of a blackhole, you stay there and you donâ€™t leave much. I prefered staying in the shadow of the 8 story malls and skytrain tracks, because it was more conducive to my interests: The movie theatres were 5 minutes away, and the skytrain helped me avoid overcharging cabbies! So they listened to my advice, we stayed downtown, and went shopping for a whole day together. Such fun! Bangkok is very good for shopping. In the evening, I convinced them that the Kathooey Cabaret was the best way to end our trips in Thailand (they were leaving too), and so we went. It was a song and dance show acted out by some of the most convincing transvestites (or lady-boys as they are generally called there) I had ever seen. Thanks to the magics of surgery, its impossible to tell the difference between a good lady boy and a real lady. I will have pictures to prove it in the future! My final two days were spent at Chatuchak market, the massive weekend market full of amazing deals. I bought everyone presents, bought myself a fiew goodies, and had a good time with my bargaining skills!
Alas, on August 27th at 6:50am, my stay in Thailand ceased. I met Erin at the airport in Oakland yesterday, and Iâ€™m now faced with Jetlag for the first time in my life. My body wants to sleep and eat at all the exactly opposite times it should (damn you 14 hour difference). If the quality of this letter differs from the previous ones, it can be blamed on my lack of sleep!
So Iâ€™m home, sort of. I donâ€™t have a home. I donâ€™t have a job. I donâ€™t have any money, and I donâ€™t quite have the planned out future I had before. Iâ€™m a bit frightened by the overwhelming amount of things I have to deal with immediately. I donâ€™t really want to go back to being a waiter, but I might have tooâ€¦. Ugg! Thereâ€™s just not much for a zoologist to do in San Francisco that covers the rentâ€¦ Iâ€™m working on it though. If anyone has any ideas, or information on server vacancies, let me know. In better news, my best friend Cassidy has waited patiently for me to return, so that we might find our housing together. If thereâ€™s anything to be positive about, its knowing for sure I have a good roomate
All in all, my trip was an excellent one. It changed quite alot from what I thought it was going to be, but I learned alot. Now I just have to sort out my future, but I think it will work out! Thank you to everyone for your responses to my letters, Iâ€™m sorry if I didnâ€™t respond often enough, but I appreciated being able to read your letters! Thank you!