Tag Archives: ice cream

Day 5 – Polonnaruwa and Elephant Safari

22 Mar

Pancakes and syrup started off a day exploring the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, which reached its height of glory in the 12th century, when it was a thriving commercial and religious centre. The city still maintains many of its spectacular buildings and monuments, with arguably the most impressive being the Quadrangle. This sacred precinct originally housed the tooth relic. It contains a superbly decorated circular shrine which is one of the most ornate buildings in the country.

We start off looking at some bricks that rose to three stories.  The other 4 storeys that were part of this building were made of wood. Together, this was the King’s Palace – Parakramabahu the Great (1153 -1186) to be exact.  We witnessed workers carefully removing the concrete that had been applied in the 1980’s to help preserve it and to help obtain UNESCO recognition.  Thankfully there were also some small remaining pieces of decoration.  And a toilet.


We avoided joining a saffron clothed monk lecturing white clad school children, but did wonder how 100+ pairs of similarly sized black shoes were going to be identifiable after entering the shrines.  Female teachers or chaperones are obviously a must as well.  Not quite sure who invited Beyonce.

The prince’s pond, outwith the walls, also proved some photogenic shots of the aforementioned.


Doing our best to avoid the tat sellers, we visited the quadrangle – with all sorts of buildings.  Mostly temples though, so it was hardly worth dressing this morning.

“The Temple of the Tooth”, previously contained this ancient relic, which was the symbol of power for the Sri Lankan kings.  The ”Circular Relic House” contained another good moonstone example, and also provided some shade.  We also saw a 7 tier pagoda, of Thai design, and a large stone “book”.  Too many others to mention!

Tried to get a selfie with a monkey, but it wasn’t playing ball!  Another monkey stole a pen from a school child, but our guide Sunil came to the rescue.


With some chilled refreshments inside, I managed one more dagoba, this one containing several “image houses” around the main stupa.  One of these contained a collection of very young pups.  Cute overload.


We drove on briefly, past the ancient commercial hub and walked to the Galvihara – four colossal figures hewn out of solid granite.  The reclining buddha is 14 meters long.  A standing buddha had its arms crossed in a “sympathy” pose.  The other two were sitting meditating buddhas, one surrounded by paintings, or what’s left of them.


When stopping for lunch, a large group of monks passed by, each carrying a shelter and walking on the side of the road on conveniently placed banana leaves.  The locals had arranged this, when they realised that the Thai monks were undertaking a long route march.  I’m sure a bus would have been quicker.

Managed to skip the rice and curry buffet lunch in favour of a chicken sandwich.

Kaudulla National Park was next on the itinerary – in search of elephants.  Several national parks were potential sightings, but as we loaded up 4 to each jeep and drove off, it became clear that this was the one.  We start off tamely with a grey heron, a sea eagle and an abandoned wasp byke.

Arriving into an open plain by a lake, 4 elephants were immediately in front of us, totally unphased by our presence.  Suddenly, our jeep sped off with the rest, and in front of us was an amazing spectacle of 40-50 elephants heading our way.  Young and old, male and female – all searching for the best grass to eat, and water to drink.  They played in the water, looked after their young – some barely a week old – and shook the dirt off the grass they uprooted before using their trunks to stuff it in their mouth.


In the distance a huge, lone male with the biggest tusks appeared and headed towards the group.  Egrets scattered everywhere.  Our own jeep herd constantly repositioned itself to keep ahead of the main elephant herd, providing the best photo opportunities.  Elephants were meters from the jeeps, and some had to reverse quickly if they came too close.  The photographers who had loaded up with telephoto lenses, quickly tried to change to wide angle lenses!

As the huge male, crossed some water, it shot a huge plume into the air.  Reaching the main herd, it tickled a female’s back leg with its trunk, resulting in a bigger piddle than expected.


We repositioned again, to witness three elephants swimming and also some painted storks and lapwings.  Eventually it got to the stage where there were no more pictures possible, and we simply managed to enjoy being so close to such large creatures.

Driving back to the bus, we avoided many bridge building projects on narrow roads.  An ice cream van was a welcome sight as we dejeeped, and it got a brisk business.  King coconut juice was the other option.

Our overnight stay was in Dambulla, that we had passed through the previous day.  Basic hotel, but fully functional.  It boasted several restaurants nearby and we choose a pizza place with fantastic lime juice.  Too much pizza though!  There was still time to relax with a cocktail – Arrack, passion fruit juice, lime juice and soda.  So good you had to try it twice!

Not a bad night.  Bit warm though.


Day 7 – Chisinau, Moldova

21 Sep

The breakfast buffet – apparently a “Swedish buffet” consisted of … nothing much. No porridge or orange juice, so had to settle for toast only.  And some dry biscuits.  The only saving grace was that the morning walking tour didn’t start until 9am.

So Chisinau is actually pronounced “Kish-i-now”.  And I managed to get it wrong every time!  Our local guide, Veronica, managed to whisk us past the UN delegation, the parliament building (with a very fetching hedge in the shape of the word “Moldova”).  She related that the building and the president’s high-rise office building and living area had been set on fire in the 1990s – no one quite knew who did it – the protestors, or the government – but each blame the other.  As a result the president now works in the agriculture office, presumably sleeping with the potatoes.

We walked down the main street, named after Stefan the Great, a local hero that features on everything.  The opera house was advertising tickets at €7-€10 (one month only) as the (rather good) opera company spends most of it’s time touring the world to make up the difference.

After several before and after pictures (not quite sure what happened in between) – we arrived at the best park in Chisinau.  After tripping over the broken stone steps, staring at the concrete flowers and wondering where all the grass had gone, it did improve slightly at the announcement of free wifi and charging points behind the park benches.

Numerous busts lined the park, with the most noteworthy being to Mihai Eminescu (1850 – 1889).  The artist had managed to include himself in profile from the back, and was therefore taken out and shot because of it.  I jest.  They probably just fed him breakfast from the Hotel Dacia instead.

The Russian poet Pushkin was exiled here, and his bust was also prominent in the park.  However, the biggest statue was to Stefan the Great (1457 – 1504).  It took pride of place at the main entrance and anyone getting married leaves flowers at his feet.  In Soviet times, they moved the statue back a few feet and put a fence around it, to try to persuade the population to take their photos at the statue of Lenin, a short distance away (no longer there). It didn’t work.

Next stop was the cathedral park, featuring the cathedral, a separate bell tower and the Triumphal Arch aka the Holy Gates.  We visited inside the cathedral on the International Day of Peace, where a service was in progress.  Young children were downing shot glasses, presumably of vodka, which the adults were feeding them together with sweets at the back of the church.  The headscarved wearing worshippers were joined by the mostly silent tourist snappers.  Heading out, we passed some local girls in national costume escorting some generals and other security folk into the service.   The Triumphal Arch sported a large flag in the place of the original bell donated by Tsar Nicholas.  They only built this as the bell tower wasn’t big enough for his donation.  The plaques on the wall were written in two languages – Russian and “Moldovan” – an invented language consisting of the actual Romanian language that they use, but written in Cyrillic script.  31st August 1989 was the date they changed back to the Latin alphabet, and it’s celebrated with a whole street named after it.  Must be confusing for the postal service.

After some more then and now photos, we arrived at the main post office, with the zero-marker emblazoned on the pavement outside.  This was the point that all distances are measured from – which in turn was originally the means of working out the postal costs.  We walked swiftly past the pensioner on the pavement – not sure if it was a mafia or a block paving issue.  The souvenir shop was pointed out, but the street sellers had everything we needed – flags and fridge magnets!

We walked for what seemed like miles until we reached the Military Museum.  The first hall was filled with flags, murals, the family tree of Stefan the Great and a couple of old swords which filled me with dread.  However, it was worth persevering as the history of Moldovan conflicts was laid out in several more.  Including some distressing scenes and videos of genocide and individual hangings during the Soviet era. Moldovan borders as they currently stand, are not the same as the Principality of Moldova, which is currently mostly in Romania.  The current Moldova contains a lot of the former Basarabian territory.  It seems to be an artificially created country that should really be part of Romania and has been tossed around in every century from one empire to the other.  The Ottomans (Turks), the Russians and the Germans have all played their part here most recently.  The Soviets are particularly to blame for the mass deportations by train to Siberia of those that they didn’t like, and their families.  11,000 children were sent to Siberia (as part of families).

One part of the museum had a glass floor panel which showed the exciting view of a horse hoof on the floor below.  It was also a reproduction of a Soviet interrogation cell.  Bypassing a collection of Lenin’s 56 volumes of teachings (almost as big as this blog), we reached the fresh air and a collection of recent military equipment i.e. tanks, rocket launchers and  machine guns.

Moving on as a group, we were abandoned by our tour guide at the entrance to the (mostly) covered market.  It felt like an episode of Father Ted, as we navigated the lingerie section, and then moved on to the potatoes.  The rest of the group had to help me out with identifying the vegetables.  Apparently, they were the greens things.  One seller was keen to let me taste one that confused the rest of them.  Horseradish.  Shouldn’t have.  Ruth however, managed to be given the largest carrot in the world.  She put it gratefully in her handbag and moved on.

Safely finding the other side of the market, we then accidentally passed the chocolate and sweet shop.  Two benefits here – the other being that it was nicely air conditioned.  The only venue in this entire country where the air con actually works.

After some flag and fridge magnet buying, we ended up, purely accidentally, at the bakery extension of the art museum.  The choice of seating was either “sanity” or “insanity”.  We chose the former, which was well positioned to order both savoury and sweet.  In quantity.

Staggering out, we perused the entrance to the National Museum of History, before interrupting the cash desk wifie from her break, trying to take a photo of the “no guns” sign and being shouted at “No Photo, NO PHOTO!”  We retreated to the safety of the railing – as she stood guard on the steps – and took a photo of her!

The fab 3, plus Dave and Seamus, took in the sights of the slightly busier central park that was now filled with loud children, beggars and the unemployed.  Also a man charging his powerchair with the free electricity.  We made use of the free WiFi to find photos of the place Seamus volunteers with in Argentina.  The fountain was now flowing and as the wind picked up, it caused small rainbows.  We settled on a park bench to avoid the Segway riders zooming around.  But the call of the ice cream was too strong, and we tried to satisfy our need at the recommended booth – only to be met with the shutters coming down.  Having to settle for the pre-packaged version instead, we headed back to the hotel, only to find another franchisee of the ice cream chain that was indeed open.  Two ice creams in 10 minutes set me up nicely for the evening activities.

Following a quick shower in the hotel, 16 of us met for a trip to Orheiul Vechi.  One didn’t like cheese.  We were driven north in our new, huge orange/yellow bus to the impressive Orheiul Valley, unlike any other scenery I’ve seen before.  A large horseshoe shaped limestone ridge hosted golden domed churches with caves below.  We stopped at a viewpoint over the village of Trebujeni where we would be eating later.  Driving on, we arrived at the car park to the tourist section, and walked 900m, slightly uphill, to a small, but impressive monastery cut into the rock.  11 individual sleeping cells had been hand carved by the monks – and the one remaining monk still uses these occasionally today, when he is in need of being particularly apologetic to God. It’s a pity that the monks all appear to have been 4 foot tall.  Shells were everywhere in the rock, showing that he water level used to be far higher than present.  Whilst Seamus crashed into the exit door, the roof being too low even for him, the rest of us managed to find a small ledge of rock with spectacular panoramic views and no safety rail.  Retreating to the rock cut church, the monk interrupted his meditation long enough to appear at the cash desk for souvenirs.  These Orthodox folk must have been taking lessons from us Catholics.

Leaving the icons, gold and smell of incense behind, we climbed to the top to find a celtic style stone cross and another panorama.  Ignoring the tour guide, we headed along the ridge to a church on top of the rock.  I think they have 24 hour services in all Orthodox churches, as there has not been one yet that is not in full flow.  Unfortunately, he’d forgotten to invite anyone else in.

Descending through the nearby blue painted village, the locals were welcoming and I enjoyed a little jig with a fellow fat man.  Some wonderful gates and piles of wood ready for burning added to the dust laden, Lada driving, cow whipping, water welling, sidecar riding experience.

The bus drove us to Casa Verde in nearby Trebujeni, where we received a traditional Moldovan welcome by a group of young girls with bread, salt, wine and a TV camera crew. The family meal consisted of plates of vegetables, stuffed with sheep cheese – including one that was nicknamed the “Mother-In-Law” because of its bite.  This was followed by chicken, noodle and vegetable soup.  The chicken being served separately for the benefit of the vegetarian amongst us.  Actually, this was (genuinely) to make it look like there were more courses than there actually were.  Still plenty, thanks.  Following this, the polenta was cut with a thread and served with beef and scrambled egg.  By this point the homemade Moldovan wine had been flowing for a while and by the time the young girls returned with a dancing demonstration started, the foot tapping was going apace.  After the fourth song with the same dance moves, we’d just about got it – left foot tap, right foot tap, repeat.  Don’t forget to fold your arms.  As we thought of escaping, the girls asked us up to dance, and a Gay Gordon type arms-length dance ensued.  Unfortunately, this then developed into a circle dance where you had to choose the person least likely to take offence, as you took them into the middle of the circle, knelt and pecked them on both cheeks.  Richard was the last to have this pleasure and managed to escape the same fate as Gary Glitter only because the music stopped.

Retaking our seats, some Northern Irish jocularity resulted in a slight red wine spillage on my most precious F&F top.  Suggestions of how to deal with this included rubbing bread, parsley or horse manure onto the affected area.  The latter was not tried, and the bread resulted in more of a grating motion. Luckily the groinal drip was not tackled in public. Returning to the hotel, some proper soap and hot water was applied.

Back at the hotel, the cheese hater was not in sight and a slightly worried group slipped a note under the tour leader’s door (she was out partying with the local guide).

So tomorrow morning will provide answers to the burning questions of the day …

  1. Will the stain be gone AND the t-shirt dry?
  2. Will we ever find Mike?
  3. Will we manage to fill our water bottles in the hotel reception without being shouted at?
  4. Will we manage to spend our remaining thousands of Moldovan Leu
  5. Will the bus have an appropriate air filter, and decent ambient temperature?

Tune in tomorrow for the answers …

Day 12 – Mons, Monks & Monkeys

23 Mar

For some reason, my mind thought that 5:30am was a good time to wake up … two days in a row, does not make a pattern.  As the real start was due at 8:00am, this meant plenty of time for breakfast!  The made to order waffles and honey were fantastic, and went nicely with the bacon and toast.  I couldn’t get more un-Burmese than that!


The view from OK Kyaung

We headed first to the temple of Ok Kyaung, which afforded spectacular views of a large number of other stupas and temples, after climbing only a short flight of stairs.  George’s “cousin” from yesterday was nowhere to be seen, but plenty of others had filled her spot.  I started a photo taking competition (starring me and some bricks) in which Karen, Albery and Ethna all took part.  Results will be announced later.

A short hop to the Dhamma Ya Zi Ka Pagoda, which stood in front, saw us do the now traditional clockwise tour of the outside.  This one had a large golden dome, shrouded in bamboo scaffolding, and lots of smaller golden stupas sitting on strikingly red bricks.  Instead of having the traditional 4 Buddhas, this one had space for 5 – in preparation for the coming of the next Buddha – due in about 2,600 years time. (Every 5000 years – the last Buddha was born in 600BC).  Now that’s future planning!  Also around here were a camera crew and a French presenter practicing her English speech.  That doesn’t sound like a great combination.  And it wasn’t.  Inside, next to yet another Buddha shrine, was a glass object bejewelled with rubies and sapphires, which would normally shine at the very top of a pagoda.

We moved on to the local village of West Pwazaw and met with the former village chief who was obviously a wealthy farmer.  He employed 8 people and seemed to enjoy not having to do much himself!  They farmed sour plums and we witnessed how they crushed and separated the kernels which are then sold to the Chinese for £6/kilo for unknown reasons – they really don’t know what they do with them!  They also grow peanuts, sesame, beans, pumpkin, corn and cotton.  There was a demonstration of how to spin the cotton into yarn, and of course an opportunity to purchase the final product.  Despite the rest of the village owning enough cows to keep Tesco in beef burgers for months, this family only owned two cows – because they also owned a tractor!  With 5 children, 2 sons were still at home, two daughters are nurses (one still in the village) and the fifth was obviously not important (or I didn’t listen).   Lacquerware production was also on show.  It’s made from bamboo, horsehair and the sap of the lacquer tree.  I wondered why all the horses had short hair.  Funnily enough, it’s “lucky” to buy two, rather than one.

After being offered some rather tasteless tea (or maybe it was just my cold), we walked around the village – highlights included a man painting a wall without moving the bricks in his way, or indeed, finishing building the wall; a pen full of goats who wanted to like my hand – little do they know what I have in store for their friends on Saturday; a woman with the largest cigar on the planet; and a man who made bamboo cages that confuddle George – apparently they were rubbish bins.  We saw bamboo being split, some friendly cows and a cactus hedge.

Leaving the village behind, we attempted to document any remaining stupas that we’d not yet seen.  This started with the tallest (Thatbyinnyu Temple) and then Nanpaya Temple – with a very hot tiled floor outside, I was back to doing the Burmese Waltz across the ground in bare feet.  They should at least have a bucket of water on standby, if not a full first aid team. Inside were four columns with intricate Hindu inspired carvings and a missing Buddha on the raised middle platform.  This is different from most temples, in that they normally have four Buddhas facing every direction.

Outside the temple were some ogres and haspa (sp?) “curvings” (sic), as well as a good assortment of children trying to flog some postcards.  “Very nice, but I don’t need any” was a standard John2 response.  They’ve got to try refining their technique, as the bargaining reached $1million at one point.

In the next door temple, we had four large Buddhas, who looked like they had forgotten the dimensions of the building they were in.  As a result of their size, they look down on the visitors, apparently in reference to the sorrow of the king and queen that had them built.  Saving on the traders here, they had a large gold pot where you could just throw your money away.  Unfortunately, I was suckered in on the way out – another sand painting bought!

Back at the hotel, I had a chance to freshen up and eat (chicken and cheeseburger and fries) before heading off to Mount Popa with Tom and John.  We ducked the Explore version for a local taxi (saving $17 each!).  The journey took an hour, but it completed all possible methods of transport during this trip.  And it had working air con!


Not the real Mount Popa

On arrival at Mount Popa we faced a 777 step covered climb – 1/3 in shoes, and 2/3 in bare feet.  The steps were full of local tourists and macaques (monkeys).  Fortunately the tourists had been toilet trained.  The macaques had not.  The monkeys were scavengers and would happily grab any food from your hand.   They also didn’t respect the Buddhas.  A team of cleaners managed to mostly keep the tiled steps clean and a group were feeding the monkeys at the bottom to try and encourage them to stay there, rather than pester tourists all the way up.  This didn’t work.  There were two sections of steep metal steps which had obviously been frequented by the monkeys more than the cleaners.  Razor wire was used to try to keep the monkeys away from key areas, but they didn’t seem bothered with it at all, using it to climb up and through.

At the top, it was a bit confusing, as there was a collection of shrines, no open space, lots of plaques and lots of people.  We worked our way around, admiring the views from all sides and were asked to star in a few photos by a monk.  We then persuaded a monk to take part in the photos as well.  Fair’s fair.  Anyone can sponsor anything for any reason – a few restaurants had plaques – from Beijing and San Francisco!

As a side note, we didn’t actually climb Mount Popa, but the rocky outcrop, half its height, officially called Popa Taung Kalat.  But known to the casual tourist as Mount Popa.


Monks slapping monkeys

Descending and using all the available wet wipes to clean the monkey pee and monkey poo off our feet, we rejoined the taxi driver for the trip back to the hotel in Bagan.  My Pringles and Haribo were cracked open and eagerly finished off by traveller Tom.  I may have helped a bit.  The road back had some roadworks, the men making the tar and the women carrying it to the road for it to be applied by hand by more men.  Time consuming work!  In the middle of nowhere, we also ran the gauntlet of some people, mostly young, begging along the road.  They did this by trying to run in front of the cars to get them to slow down.  We sped up.

After dressing for dinner (well everyone else did – I put clean socks on), we met in the hotel foyer and the group flag photo was done.  Hotel staff are better photo takers than I am!  Disappointed to find that I’d been sold a dirty flag though!  George seemed to have a problem knowing which way up it went!

For our final group meal, we headed to the Star Beam restaurant, and after the meal Graham led the group thanks with a speech he’d spent all afternoon preparing for.  George replied.  “Yes. Yes.”  I hadn’t appreciated this was his catchphrase until this moment.

DSCN2678 (2)

Cassandra then led us on an ice cream hunt ending, very easily, with a peach and guava variety.  Delice. An early night as we all have planes to catch tomorrow – some of the group are heading to the beach extension option, and the rest of us have a couple of days in Yangon before our flight home.

Still plenty to come from me …

Day 6 – In Kalaw : Walking, Animals, and 20 Ways to Die

17 Mar

Breakfast started the day as normal, but without a buffet selection.  We had waiter service for a change!  Papaya and watermelon to start, followed by pancake and honey, toast and jam and a choice of eggs.  As usual, I avoided the eggs.  And the watermelon.  And the coffee.

We set off on the bus for a planned 4 hour trek in the hills.  We passed many army trucks.  Perhaps they were keeping an eye on us?


We started the walk with an assistant guide who led us along a dirt track, constantly filled with motorbikes – most with at least 2 people on – and only one of them wearing a helmet (mostly the man!)  The fields were neatly laid out and farmers were tending their crops together with the help of some oxen (or horned cattle).

George explained that over 70 different types of bamboo are available – it’s strong and fast growing, making it ideal for all sorts of things e.g. houses, mats, fences etc…

Even out here, the golden stupas and monasteries were still evident. George introduced us to many of the plants and trees growing along the way, including teak – a much used hardwood that takes 50 years to grow, and a tree from which castor oil can be made.  A government project to plant lots of these and use them to produce electricity failed miserably.  Also worth noting was a blue plant locally called the “dog pee” plant.  No further explanation necessary.


We next came across a lady planting ginger into furrows.  The ginger was the size that we would generally buy it, but we were assured that it should grow up to 10 times larger in roughly 7-8 months.  The fields next door were overflowing with cabbages, as far as the eye could see.  An amazing sight!  We were led through narrow raised paths through the fields and up past more ginger planters.  The youngest kids sit in the shade whilst the parents work.


Roadside petrol station

Walking on, we stopped occasionally at shady spots.  Passing jackfruit, orange and pear trees, as well as a rudimentary petrol station selling whisky bottles full of petrol, we arrived at a hill top village  called Lu Pyi after 2 hours of walking.

The locals were very friendly, with lots of shouts of “Hello” or “Mingalaba” from the kids.  The local monastery was preparing for the initiation ceremony for novice monks.  These were 8 or 9 year old children from the village who would spend 7-10 days being initiated into the Buddhist faith, and then return to their homes.  It’s only a short novitiate, but all (male) children take part at some point.  Decorations were being hung and ceremonial plastic seat carriages were prepared for carrying them to the monastery.  The children dress up as princes, and the ceremony lasts two days.  On the second day, their hair is shaved.  The parents are involved, and their pride is immense, apparently.

We were shown into a local house, where young women were making Shan tea (of various strengths), and we were invited to drink, together with some home cooked crisps.  Excellent!  George had also brought some biscuits for us, as well as medicines (such as paracetamol) for the village which he gave to the monks.  Ethna and I had the opportunity to try on the local traditional Palaung costumes.  Not sure they had any in my size though.

Leaving the house, we found a bike mounted ice cream seller, and challenged my stomach with a green thing on a stick.  Much coolness!

Continuing the walk, downhill, we passed piles of rubbish – they don’t really have a solution to this anywhere in the country.  More cheerily, we saw a huge stupa being built. It was still at the bare brick stage, with a bit of scaffolding around.  A pack of dogs stood guard and the growls made us quickly move on.

Passing further crops of bananas, onions and watercress, we arrived at the main road, and our lunch venue.  As it was included in the tour, we didn’t get a choice – but what arrived was avocado, watercress, chicken soup, rice, fried tofu and various other unidentified vegetables.  It was actually very nice, but my meat senses were somewhat underwhelmed.  The watercress in particular was excellent.

A short drive back to the hotel and we had free time to explore Kalaw further.  Whilst some who had explored the previous day visited further out to a bamboo buddha, I stayed with a visit to the market, climbed the hill to the monastery for a view over the town and walked out to see the tudor style train station.

The small market was quite quiet, but after several attempts at asking, I managed to purchase a Myanmar flag, and to the surprise of the seller, got her picture as well.  Ethna had broken her sunglasses, so I also helped her find a shop that sold RayBans for 3000 kyats (£1.80) or Lacoste for 18,000 kyats (£10.70).  She went for the more expensive option!

The monastery had a shaded walkway up the hill, and a view over Kalaw.  On the way back down, I encountered some red ants eating their way through a larger beastie.  Also on show was a teenager with a flying drone, rather randomly he appear to be sleeping with it on his face.

Wandering to the far end of town to the train station, a train had just arrived, and I enjoy the atmosphere of the various passengers asking the stations seller for food, sending her rushing up and down the platform dishing out polystyrene containers.  The passengers ate as much as they wanted, and then dropped the containers so that the dogs could finish off the rest.  Meanwhile the diesel engine appeared to have been turned off, and despite the attention of 3 policemen, a railway engineer, a man with a flag, 3 others and a monk, the engine had not been restarted after 40 minutes.  The tudor aspect of the building was underwhelming, although there were separate toilets for tourists and a very nice poster about how to behave in Myanmar – including not sitting on pillows!

Walking back to the hotel, I spied several groups of boys / young men playing keepie uppie with a rattan ball.  One was playing a guitar (not at the same time!)  Generally there was a café culture apparent, and not just the tourists.  Luckily I found the Poe Poe bakery was right next to our hotel, and did a mean line in doughnuts and cakes.


That night, 10 of us headed back to the Everest Nepali restaurant, and I ordered exactly the same mutton curry (goat) but it somehow tasted different.  I think there was less garlic in the chapatti. Still one of the best restaurants on the trip so far though.  Finished it off with a banana and chocolate chapatti and a hot ginger, lime & honey drink.

Not satisfied, we headed to the smallest bar in the world – the “Hi Bar”.  Nelson, another patron, introduced himself in pretty good English, and commented that even though I was Scottish, my English wisnae bad either.  He worked at an elephant sanctuary to the south of Kalaw ($100 for a half day visit).  It was not the kind of place to ride elephants, or see them kicking footballs or drawing, but you were able to feed and wash them and see them in a more natural environment.  We were heading in the opposite direction, unfortunately.

The bar didn’t do beer, so rum sour was the order of the day.  The place could probably hold 20 people max, and by the time we left, there were 8 of us, 2 locals and the barman.  I think we might have caught something from the glasses!

Chamabasse (Your Good Health) …

Day 9 – Sucre

2 Apr

At one point (4:30am) I had the UK emergency number on my phone and ready to dial as the hotel didn’t have a night service and I didn’t know where Jo was. Pain in chest was terrible and constrictive. Padded down to the foyer, but no one was there.

Eventually full sleep due to exhaustion. Jo promised to leave her room and number in future.

Not really recovered, we headed off on a city tour – appoint off at the Judiciary – the only capital element not lost in the battle with La Paz. Climbed a rather smaller version of the Eiffel Tower.

We headed to the top of the hill overlooking Sucre for a great view and a convent museum, where Franciscan monks were still in residence. Hugged a giant tree in the orangery (oranges are only orange in Europe/Tesco).

Negotiated a small artisan market before finding the artisan museum which had doubled the prices. Some very nice stuff but £40 was the cheapest, so no. Lots of red and black designs.

We then had some free time, which we made use of by buying ice creams – which Paul then promptly dropped on the floor. Ten minute rule applied. A tour of the square to find a place to eat lunch, via the chocolate shop, resulted in a very nice burger and chips.

Yvonne, Maxine, Penny and I  then headed to MUSEF – a folklore museum. It had some interesting masks on the ground floor and some other rooms upstairs with details of language development and other stuff in Spanish!

Moving on, we charged into a supermarket for water, missing the large red arrows on the floor and trying to go the wrong way around a one way system. I never knew supermarkets could be so complicated!

The cathedral was next on the list – housing the Virgin of Guadaloupe (the Spanish one, NOT the Mexican one – oh no) no photos were allowed.

Got back to the hotel about 4pm to discover that Judy had left a note to say that she was going to the dinosaur tracks exhibition on the bus at 2pm – did I want to go. Oops.

Started taking Diamox pills that Yvonne’s GP had given her. At least that what she says they are – if they are something else, this may be my last blog post.

Taking Jo’s advice and using extra pillows to prop me up at night. Hopefully, this should allow a better sleep tonight, if that brass band ever shuts up.

Day 2 – Valparaiso

26 Mar

After a long lie, and a good breakfast, 8 of us left at 9am for our day trip to the seaside. No buckets and spades were provided.

We stopped at a vineyard on the way. The harvest was about to start. No time for a drink and everyone was complaining that it was too early anyway. Don’t understand that concept as the pubs were open at home!

First bus accident – Michael opened a bottle of water “con gas” – and promptly decorated both me and the seat with it. Hugo, the driver, passed the paper towels!

We drove on and ended up with a morning walking tour of Valparaiso – dog mines, ascensores (not funicular), Yugoslavian promenade, naval hq, dogs, new buildings inside old buildings, graffiti and more dogs.

The dogs are apparently territorial and will escort you as you walk around until they reach the boundaries of their territory.

The ascensores date from the mid 1800’s and are lifts that take people up the hills in minutes, saving on the equivalent 20 minute car journey. They are a form of public transport!

Saw the Lord Cochrane – statue and house. The first admiral of the Chilean Navy!

Valparaiso is built on 43 hills – it was 45, but they blew up two to let you get there on a motorway!

Chileans like shortening everything -“Valpo” it is. Santiago likes building new, whereas Valpo likes to keep things as they were!

Fernando also put me right on some Chilean misconceptions that I had – I thought they didn’t like the Argentinians, but they do – they even have a common army and air force. He wasn’t going to be drawn on the Falkland Islands situation though.

Back in the minibus and we drove on to have lunch in Viña de Mar – tried to go for a local speciality –  Pacific tuna & “smashed” potatoes, with Yvonne, Maxine, Penny & Paul. Michael tried to have a Chinese lunch, but it was closed and so had to suffer pizza instead. Roger and Jennifer tried to find a vegetarian restaurant.

Persuaded Fernando to take us to the ocean – I was quite Pacific about that.

Michael snored on the way back.

Shakespeare stop. (To go or not to go!) Met a dog. It wanted to stay. Jo invited it on the minibus and it wouldn’t leave. So sad that it literally had to be dragged off.

Finally found time to write a little bit of this blog!

Jo had warned us that it might be cold today as we were on the coast. I have now redefined cold for her as less than 10°C, not the 24°C, she was obviously thinking! Forecast was for 31°C today!

Stuffed and not really needing any more food, but I will fit some in before our early morning plane journey to Calama in the Atacama desert.

When we got off the bus, Paul, Yvonne, Maxine and I, hit the local ice cream shop and managed to order by number. Paying for it was another challenge entirely.

After that, we were too full to need a meal and so we wandered back to the hotel, passing done others who had refound the bar.

I packed my bag ready for leaving in the morning, but the hunger pangs hit, so I caved in and headed out. Found the river, not that it was very big at all, and took some photos of the night scene.

Early start tomorrow – only 4 hours sleep likely, as the alarm is set and it is now 10:30pm.