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Back to Bangkok

I spent my last evening in Yangon at "Sandy's Myanmar Cuisine", a wonderful restaurant (albeit a little pricey, I paid $10 for appetiser, main dish, and two beers) overlooking the Kandawgyi lake, attached to the Yangon Kandawgyi Palace hotel; dinner was duck eggs filled with minced prawns, followed by boiled snake-head fish, wrapped in moringa leaves. Quite delicious, although I would have really liked to try their pig ear salad, but they rightfully alerted me that their pig ears weren't fresh. Afterwards, I treated myself to perhaps the second-best back massage I've ever received (the first one was delivered by a massage therapist from Berkeley, whom I had met on the boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang last year.

Before the airport the next morning, I made a stop at the Yangon MICT, specifically the Myanmar Info-Tech company, to meet William, the Myanmar Linux Guru #1. Unfortunately, he was busy at the 5th Myanmar ICT week, so I sat in one of the talks instead and was very pleased to learn that there is an active (but small) group of people working hard on localisation of Pango to the Burmese and Pali languages (the latter being the ancient Buddhist language, and the acceptance of the Burmese character set into Unicode 4.0. I exchanged email addresses with a few of the folks involved, who were well familiar with Debian and Ubuntu, and rather interested in teaming up. I'll forward their addresses to the localisation people as soon as I get back.

With still some time left before check-in, I enjoyed my last Myanmar-style breakfast -- Mohinga -- which is a spicey fish soup with noodles, and definitely the best way to start the day; I'll miss it. At the airport, I was getting mildly annoyed once again at their security procedures, which in part required everyone to surrender their gas lighters. Of course, I had four of those on me and in my hand luggage, but when I refused to give them all of them, pointing to the smoker's lounge on the far side of the security check, they held their heads low and gave in. I bet they do this primarily to sell the lighters for some cash on the side, given that nowhere else in Myanmar, or flying to Myanmar, I was asked to do the same.

My chaotic self managed to also leave the info brochure from the Info-Tech company, as well as the slides from the talks at the immigration counter, which promptly got me into a questioning by the military as to what kind of documents these were (they cannot speak English in general). With the help of a local, I told them all about localisation and they seemed impressed, but when I finally got on the plane, I guess I felt somewhat of a relief to be outside this tightly-controlled country again.

I landed in Bangkok and took a taxi to the hotel, only to discover that thanks to a power outage and the crappy Internet connection back in Mandalay, I had managed to book the wrong one. Instead of central Sukhumvit, I am now staying at Soi 57, which is 4 km further outside of the city. That wouldn't be a problem, for the sky train station is right in front of the hotel, but the staff have not had a lesson in friendliness and generally barked back rather than answering my requests. Plus, since my flight tomorrow is only at 23:30 and I requested to take a shower at 20:00 before taking off (having otherwise checked out and cleared my room), they simply shoved a sign into my face which stated that check-out after 16:00 hours would cost a full day's room rate, and that they did not have any showers available otherwise. Screw that. I'll make sure to let asiarooms.com know in the form of a review.

Having settled, and with a bunch of Thai Baht left to spend, I headed for the center, bought myself another Murakami book ("Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World"; I seriously love this author), and then proceeded to spend money as fast as I could -- and I am not good at that. I got another massage, bought some bamboo plates and one of those gravity-defying wine bottle holders, a bunch of DVDs, had dinner, and then didn't feel like anything more, so I went back home.

As usual, coming back to Bangkok is quite a disappointment (while arriving at Bangkok at the beginning of a trip is a thrill). The city is busy, dirty, and noisy, it's all comparatively expensive (even if you bargain hard), and people are so much more into making money that it's not really possible to get in touch with locals. Then again, I cannot figure out whether my disappointment stems from the shopping mode (into which I was put by several requests to bring back stuff), this being the end of my vacation, or just being back in a metropole after so many rural days.

Almost no plans for tomorrow. I might have to make my way to the dreadful Khaosan Road to pick up some student IDs for friends, I would like to (finally) see the snake farm, and I have a lunch appointment with the retail manager of Jim Thompson (the famous silk exporter), who happens to be a friend of Adam, the guy I met in Mandalay, and who introduced me to her -- no worries, I am not getting into the silk business, nor will I spend money there, but the lady is supposed to be quite a character and fun to talk to. Why not? If I wake up, it'll be Tai Chi in Lumpini Park at around 5:30, and if there's time in the afternoon, I'll make my way up north to the biggest market of Bangkok (don't have the name handy). In general, not such an exciting day, waiting to return to Europe.

Sigh.