home of the madduck/ blog/
Offline in Burma

Our last night in Chiang Mai saw us eat at the market and take our rented motorcycle for a spin around the town, before falling into bed in order to get up early the next day. In the morning, we ran our last errands, including the buying of a lovely 14 litre Deuter backpack as my hang luggage -- Aline took the backpack I originally brought along with her as a shopping bag -- at a 30% discount, as well as breakfast, before we were off to the airport to part ways. Even though at first I really did not want to take Aline along (because I had planned this vacation as my first ever vacation alone in an unknown area), we had a great time, and I am glad I did. This way, she got a first glimpse of Southeast Asia, which may well be my future home, and if it turns out that way, hers too.

In the checkin queue for Mandalay Air, I brushed up a conversation with the gentleman in front of me who turned out to be a regular visitor of Burma. He -- Adam -- supplied me with plenty of advice, and as we ended up sitting next to each other on the plane, he told me a lot about his business and the friends he was going to meet, eventually inviting me to come along to a lodge in Pyin Oo Lwin, east of Mandalay, for the weekend. Adam apparently knows the drills and by his side, I passed immigration and customs in a jiffy, without having my bags searched and no questions asked (not that I had anything to hide, but it saved us some time). His friends were waiting at the airport and gave me a ride into town (about one hour), dropping me off at a nice hotel right by the railway station. I am not yet decided whether and how long I will come along, but it's certainly a great offer, especially to get in touch with some of the people who could pull the right strings to help me in case of problems, or in the future facilitate further "clothing expeditions" into the country.

I am to meet them again for dinner in about an hour but decided to check out the town a bit on feet, as well as investigate the Internet situation. As it turns out, it's pretty much all locked, so if you end up reading this entry, it means I either found a backdoor, or managed to sign up a freemail account somewhere, and mailed it off to a friend with write access to my blog. In Pyin U Lwin, I am supposed to meet James, a British expat who runs the only computer in the town, so maybe I'll be more lucky there. He'll surely be an interesting person to talk to with respect to the Linux CDs I brought along, and the Internet in Burma in general. It's a shame I did not set up a DNS tunnel before the trip, but the connection seems too slow anyway. Oh well, good thing I bought that USB stick!

Mandalay so far strikes me very similar to the outskirts of Bangkok or Hanoi, I have not encountered too much poverty yet, but it's generally dirty and loud. I will probably not spend too many days here, but am always flexible to go along with what comes around.

I do find myself stared at a lot more than I am used to from other countries on this side of the globe. Usually it takes them a while longer to respond to my smile, but if they do it is generally followed by an invitation to come sit with them. "Generally"... ha! I've only just come here, we'll see what time brings.

Stay tuned.