Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Mingalabar Myanmar

The guide books tell you to expect a culture shock but the arrivals hall at Yangon airport felt very familiar. The men were wearing jandals and long wraparound skirts,  the air was muggy and the wood panelling dingy. I thought for a second I was in the Pacific until I adjusted my watch. Myanmar exists in its own mystical time zone half an hour behind Bangkok and half a century behind the rest of the world.

Many years of brutal military rule and isolation from the rest of the world have left an indelible mark on all aspects of life in Myanmar that are obvious as soon as you leave the airport.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12990563

The roads are terrible, even in the middle of Yangon. There are almost no street lights and many people live without power or running water.  Wandering around Yangon in the dark I kept bumping into hanging bull-dog clips which I later learnt were makeshift door bells for the aging apartments above.  People live in a real paper world rather than in electronic cyberspace. Train tickets are purchased in person and written in triplicate using blotting paper.  I paid cash for everything.  Mobiles are rare. There are landlines plugged into every street corner and throughout the country children were playing games. Their repertoire included knucklebones, wheel rolling,  puddle skipping and oxen riding rather than angry birds and facebook chat.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thai transition

 Seven years at the BBC and It seems  I have not developed any journalistic instincts.  The riots were in full swing this week in Bangkok. Instead of grabbing a camera and chasing the action, I pottered around suburban neighbourhoods, watching cats yawn and banana leaves sway.  I will leave the reporting to @pakhead (BBC correspondent in Bangkok) and @richardbarrow ( independent local journalist) My timeline is full of tears for Mandela and rioting worldwide. Apathy is not the eighth sin anymore but I am following the path to slothful enlightenment by the pool at the fantastic Refill Now (refillnow.co.th) In keeping with the theme I did venture out to visit Wat Po, the reclining Budda. The 15m high 43 m long statue is a thing of bling. The feet are inlaid with intricate mother of pearl carvings and the whole statue is coated in gold.