Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Crazy Lek and the last of the madcap elephant lovers

Our mission was to invade Burma, destabilise the Government, establish a democratic regime and publicly hang the Top Generals. Unfortunately we were not as successful as we would have liked. But we did get to see some elephants ... Our slightly eccentric platoon was led by Lek, a pint sized Thai lady armed with more plastic toys and medicines than you can load in 6 backpacks. In fact we did more looking after little kids than looking for elephants.Her foot soldiers were Chas, a man who can order a gin and tonic at 50 yards. Laura, the token American who proved she can projectile vomit better than any Burmese General. Chom, an ex Thai kickboxer with a slightly worrying attraction to men. Geoff, a man unashamed to don the local garb even if it is stripes and stripes, Kate undercover team journalist and myself who had been talked into filming some elephants doing things they probabaly really shouldn't be doing in this day and age. With this crew the whole mission was doomed from the beginning... but hey it turned out to be a lot of fun. We even got to see some tourist sites. Of course the entire time we were under a complete media blackout unable to mutter the words down with all stupid generals for fear of being politely asked to leave the country. Crazy isn't it, you can walk around in skirts but glance at a soldier too long and it's all over red rover.
It all started when we flew into Mandalay International airport, one of the worlds largest with perhaps the fewest number of passengers. In fact it was so large the driveway to the airport was probably about 25 kms all of it done with a few thousand Burmese labourers against their will of course. Before we knew it we had visited the longest teak bridge in the world, had a laugh with the Moustache brothers and hopped on another flight to Bagan for some serious Temple viewing. Now when it comes to pagodas the Burmese dont mess around. In Bagan alone there about 4000 littered aroud the joint. It's one giant pagoda convention. After bagan it was down to Taungoo, a town famous for bombs going off in it's general vicinity. The three days we were there 2 went off and 2 fires as well. Of course you wouldn't have heard about this such is the tight control of media reportage in the country. (Lucky Foreign Correspondent Kate was on the spot)... Too bad she spent most of her time drinking teaohh yeah there was also loads of monks... They were everywhere and all very keen to talk to you. in fact the quality of English in the country was amazing. One of the fun games we all played was spot the informer. It's quite tough actually. Apperently theres all sorts of ways to spot them like their watches are on their right wrist, smoking with the left hand, assuming corner positions in the teashops... Everyones got their opinions and rules.
One revelation was the food. it's not unusual to have more than 30 plates on your table for lunch. It's also a bottomless pit and just when you think you're getting thru one of them, some waiter pounces on your plate with a brisk " You need more beans" we were never sure if it was a question or statement. Sometimes we were even lucky to have 4 or 5 women fanning us while we ate. No wonder the English loved it here.
After the delights of Taungoo we headed deep into the jungle. We found ourselves pushing the car rather than driving it. Finally we made our Jungle hideout where we proceeded to destroy the shelter the locals lived in....fat westerners that we are. One very big rainstorm later and we were really starting to enjoy ourselves ,Kate has even mastered Burmese Bush cooking
We got to see lots of elephants pulling logs, and lots of very poor Burmese people whom Lek was trying to recruit for work in her Elephant Nature park. We even got to see some cool trucks.

After the jungle it was off to Yangon, but not before we survived the main north south highway. In Burma they drive on the right hand side of the road, but most of the cars here have been illegally brought from Thailand where they drive on the left. So you have the absurd situation of the driver being on the side of the road unable to see whats coming on the other side should he wish to overtake. This is all well and good if youre in a bullock cart but we werent. Lets just say it was an interesting trip
So there you have Burma in one blog. A more intersting country you will be very hard pressed to find


Rod Adler said...

Dear Edward,

Rumour has it that you are returning to Sydney in April. This is certainly the best message since sliced bread. On contrary my travel is not over yet - another two years to come.

Well I hope it will be a no brainer that you guys will visit me here in Silverwater. I do get a lot of visitors from time to time. A lot of our old friends and the press. But still.... Also, my Spanish is not bad after all those lessons and I am keen on conversing with you.

Moreover - how about a game of chess. As I remember from the old days, you we always quite eager to lose!!!

So what are the stories that you do not tell us in your autobussi diaries? I can't wait to hear them!

Faithfully yours,

shari&eamon said...

Great post on Burma...how come guys are always funnier?!

Will keep reading.