Days 0 & 1 – Travelling, Sleeping & Rugby

11 Mar

Must start with a special thanks to my brother-in-law (and sister) who are currently car sitting for me.  In return for a couple of weeks of Prius showroom display quality in their drive, they also got the pleasure of dropping me off at the airport.

Glasgow airport seems to go on forever!  Managed a lunch at elevenses time.  My stomach isn’t going to like me today.  A mostly uneventful Emirates flight to Dubai (DXB) happened smoothly.  Very nice plane.  Plenty space, lots of films on offer, and an individual socket to charge my phone.  Not only that but they give you free WiFi – well 10Mb or 2 hours, whichever comes first.  I can tell you that a smartphone gets through 10Mb in far less than 2 hours – about 10 minutes actually.  Despite being Scottish, I paid the $1.00 fee to get a further 500Mb for the rest of the flight.  At least I hope that was the cost.

The air stewardess did manage to drop water and ice (not destined for me) all over me.  After many cloths and an apology, the next one asked me if I wanted a drink.  “Water, with ice please.  In a glass”. Was met with a large smile.

A fantastic chicken curry kept me going through three films – Fences, A Street Cat Named Bob and 95% of Jackie (JFK’s wife, not the the DC’s magazine). Despite not landing for another 30 minutes, and with only 7 minutes of Jackie left, they whipped the headphones away. (It’s OK, don’t panic, I finished it on the tarmac whilst waiting for the second flight to Yangon to take off!)

Arrived in Dubai to a “remote landing strip”.  The bus to take us to the terminal should have been another plane!  As a DXB first timer, it was a pleasantly sized terminal.  Gate B22 was very close to a McD’s, and I sampled my second of the year.  A very nice employee took time to describe the differences from the UK menu to me.

Confusingly the next flight was going to both Yangon, Myanmar and Hanoi, Vietnam.  I wondered if, like trains, you had to sit in a certain section to get to the correct destination, but it thankfully turned out that everyone was going to Yangon first.  The couple next to me were French with early signs of Alzheimers disease.  No seriously, they were.  Filling in the landing forms (in English) turned into a real problem for them, but they were travelling in a large group, and several passes of the bits of paper, up and down the plane, got the whole group through the process.

Managed to watch the Pierce Brosnan film “I.T.” – from another script writer who obviously only uses a manual typewriter. Also stuck on “The Producers (1967)” and missed the middle section due to visiting sandman issues.  I did wake up to the sight (near the end of the film) of a large number of folks singing “Springtime for Hitler”, whilst dancing about in Nazi uniforms.  I could literally feel the tension from the French folks sitting next to me.  Someone will have to tell me how it ends.

Before we landed (only a few minutes late), breakfast of noodles, chilli sauce and chicken was served (in those relatively decreasing quantities).  The chicken was not immediately visible.  Should have gone for the scrambled egg – at least that’s guaranteed chicken content.

Very modern airport in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, but there were some further building works taking place.

At passport control, with only two queues out of 20 for “Foreigners” – defined as not Myanmar citizens (8 desks) and not ASEAN (South East Asia) citizens (another 8 desks) – we were a very long queue.  Thankfully someone had employed someone with a brain, and we were quickly shuttled into other queues.  No problems, and no speaking required, during the process of being admitted to the country.  They took my picture.  That’ll be another one for the CIA to track me.

Walking straight past the “customs” desk, where a dis-interested man collected our forms, we met our transfer driver.  Ethna (pronounced Etna) was the first of the Explore group I met – she was travelling with Gail and John who were strangely whisked away in a different transfer.  We waited for Cassandra, the third person on his list.  And waited.  And waited.  After many phone calls, we gave up.  Did manage to change some money – the first place would only change if I wanted US$5 worth.  Very strange for a currency exchange company – they had no money.  Even in this country, I don’t think that’ll get me far.  The booth next door was much more helpful and gave me enough notes to start a small campfire.  1000 = 60p.  Must remember.

Stepping outside the airport terminal and the heat hit instantly.  Only 34°C, or so.  Our driver tried to introduce some phrases to us, but when asked any other question, the answer was always “10 miles” – apparently the distance from the airport to the hotel.  A short (30 mins?) ride in a minibus , with a free bottle of boiling water, took us to the Panda Hotel where we were met which a much more refreshing welcome drink (and a WiFI password!).

Checked in, tipped the bell boy, washed the travel off and collapsed on the bed (having made sure the air con was on and working).  6 hours later and I awoke to remember that it was time for the England v Scotland 6 Nations rugby game, and that my stomach was now wanting food.  Devices charged, using one of the available wide assortment of electrical sockets, I ventured out to the Fat Ox in a taxi.

The Fat Ox was the only “British / Scottish” bar according to Google /Facebook.  As it turns out, it had recently been taken over by English owners.  Getting there was easy – the hotel offered to get me a taxi, and a woman for my room.  I only took them up on the former.  Ah, the dangers/pleasures of travelling solo.  For £1.80, I got a 15 minute taxi ride through the streets of Yangon.  Floodlit billboards, but not a lot of neon.  Overall, very dark and quiet.  The driver had to ask for directions to the place, but I used Google Maps to assure him that he was at the correct location.  Only a discrete LED sign advertising the 6 Nations showed the location, and on entering, it did indeed remind me of ever other pub that I’ve ever been in, pre smoking ban.  France were busy humping Italy quietly in the corner.  So I ordered a mutton curry and pulled up a stool.

A local Myanmar lager was pleasantly chilled and, unusually, I could indeed have drunk many of those.  An older couple from London – Gerry and his Malaysian wife – pulled up a chair beside me, and she was obviously rugby mad.  “Come on Scotland”, was all I could muster, as she started briefing me on the English team selection.

The mutton curry was delicious – just pleasantly spiced and not too hot.  I checked that it was sheep and not goat, as it is common to be described as mutton here.

After a short while, Chris, Briggsy, staggered in – he’d been in the 50th street pub to watch the previous game.  He was obviously a regular, and throughout the match we chatted about all things British, Scottish, Army and Brexit.  He was originally an army officer – the Ghurkas! – but had spent many an hour defending his squaddies in a Paisley court after they had been accused of slashing folks.  He was currently working as the country manager for a Dubai company, doing – as the other locals said – not very much.  He reckons that without heavy industry, the only sales opportunity here is for consumer white goods!  As a regular, he had his own bottle of Bombay Sapphire behind the bar (with his name on it) – cheaper than individual drinks!  Every so often, the loud cry went up, “more tonic please!”

John, the bar manager in an English Rugby shirt, interrupted the gentle click of pool table balls to introduce himself.  Dave, one of the 4 owners also waltzed in occassionally.  Everyone was very friendly – even the drunk English guy who had just moved there last week.  John and Dave had words with him regarding his apparently obnoxious shouting and pointing.  Nothing that everyone in The Glens wouldn’t expect as a regular occurrence. Not here though.  Quiet and civilised was all that was tolerated.  Very English.

Didn’t actually see too much of the game, as the Briggsy conversation was very interesting.  The 4 rum sours – apparently very traditional – also helped to transfer my attention.  However, I believe we got humped 61-21.  Enough about that.

I escaped at the final whistle to find that at 12:45am, the only things on the streets were dogs and taxi drivers.  The second taxi driver got the idea that I was setting the price, not him, when I walked away.  We agreed on the same price as the outward journey, and I was quickly whisked through the deserted streets to the hotel, avoiding as many dogs as possible.  Am now doubting the definition of “mutton” again.


Almost as bad as smoking in the hotel lift – No Durian fruit!

A free day tomorrow, until I meet the Explore group at 5pm, so with a few Briggsy suggestions under my belt, I think I’ll manage a visit to the House of Memories.

However, tomorrow is another rum sour …


One Response to “Days 0 & 1 – Travelling, Sleeping & Rugby”

  1. Ruth Fry March 12, 2017 at 12:38 am #

    Hi Tony
    We did a 3 hour local train trip in Yangon that does a loop and stops at local villages. Interesting way to observe the local way of life if ordinary people- if you have time.
    Cheers Ruth

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