Myanmar

So it’s the eve of the big Myanmar adventure. No one can say it better that Lonely Planet, so I just want to throw a few of my favorite extracts out there, all from the Myanmar chapter of ‘the bible’ (South East Asia On A Shoestring 2010) 

  • “In 2008  the all powerful military censorship bureau told Burmese media that ‘the publication of any photo, article, novel or poem without being sent (in advance of the censor) will be punished.’ And they often are, with many journalists, BLOGGERS, and writers currently being bars.” (You’ll understand therefore if the next week is post-dated from the safely of Thailand!)
  • “Internet access in Myanmar depends on how the government is feeling. If there’s nothing bugging them you’ll find plenty of well equipped internet cafes, although the government tries to restrict hotmail and yahoo mail. Lots of places advertise Skype but don’t get your hopes up. All local email ending in mm is subject to government censorship in both directions, which can result in delays or when a backlog develops, being summarily deleted!”
  • “Forget ATM’s, Visa, Mastercard. All foreign banks decamped in 2003. Come with crisp, clean, uncreased USD bills. Even the most microscopic tear won’t be accepted. The currency (Kyat) has been, and is frequently demonized, with people’s savings wiped out at the whims of rulers.”

Fortune favours the brave however. Here’s one last famous one from Rudyward Kipling:

‘This is Burma and it is quite unlike any place you know about.”

 

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Grand Prix, Singapore

Or should that be Singapore; Revisited. According to my passport stamps and a facebook album I was here in 2008. Although all I remember is a) An ingenious MRT underground with funny plastic tokens that give you a $1 back every time you use it. I think it’s a green thing. B) A great night out with the fab Ms Thorpe Willet at Cafe Del Mar on Sentosa Island, and Ministry of Sound, sadly closed down now.

This time I’ve spent a whole 10 days here (give or take the KL debacle).

People hate on Singa for being Asia’s cleanest/safest city. Indeed as my friend/fellow blogger Josh nicely put it “you could drop your wallet here, come back in a year, and it would still be there.” People seem to get angsty with the chewing gum thing too. It might be illegal, but I brought some back from KL accidently, and I’m still at large.

In fact, if I had to choose with my head, Singapore would be one of my favourite cities. A bit geeky I know, but I do like an organised MTR (unlike Bangkok, its trains actually run to places you want to go.) Its city skyline views at Marina Bay are prettier than Hong Kong’s. Singaporeans are an interesting mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and a fair helping of ex pats too. It’s a mash up that works.

I spend the best part of my week living in Boat Quay, in the Financial District. Fancy. I think I’m so happy there as it reminds me a little of Calls Landing, if Leeds had 1000ft tall skyscrapers like One Raffles Place, but you get the gist. Altitude Bar at the very top is the ultimate beer garden, and prime spot to sip the obligatory Singapore Sling. Next door to Boat Quay is the technicoloured  Clarke Quay, with its Delux paint pallet of bars/clubs/trendy apartments.

The main reason everyone’s here this weekend is of course that the Formula 1 circus is in town. And doesn’t Singapore just know it. The city is buzzing. It’s bigger than Christmas and is a slick, shiny, sexy, well oiled machine full of fat cats & super models. It’s a different world. You can hear the roar of the engines for miles around. Unfortunately not enough to drown out the sound of Linkin Park, who were headlining the main stage. It’s like a mini music festival too, in baking 35 degree heat, even at night. Shakira apparently brought the house down on the Saturday. Never has the word extravaganza more aptly applied.

A downside of the F1 parade taking over the city is the three -fold hike in prices for race weekend. Most of us were forced to check out of the lovely Boat Quay Prince of Wales hostel, and slum it out of town where the prices matched our tatty clothes and growling stomachs. Still for around $20(£10) oh how the mighty did fall.

Boon Keng, to be exact, on the outskirts of Little India (yes that’s right, I couldn’t even afford to stay in the hole that is Little India. Poor times indeed.) Normally I like a bit of chaos, filth, chintz but this place was definitely not doing it for me. I got in, I saw, I got out. I did however spend an amusing half hour snacking on pineapple at the hawker stall market, only to be hit on by the charming, well travelled, and delightful Tan (China). He was 80 years old! And offered me a whisky with him and his friends.  I politely declined but enjoyed our conversation immensely. You can tell he used to be a fox.

Finally, there was the situation that was Bugis Street Market. I went a bit Trinny and Suzanna on Red Bull. Like completely totally shopaholic mad, and that was all before even discovering that there was a second and third floor. Luscious clothes for nought pence. God bless SE Asia. I held a little something back for the re-visits. The words: ‘oversized baggage free’ are right here, ready to copy and paste into what I know will be a February future post.

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

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