Monday, December 10, 2018

2018 Year in Review

It's not over yet, but here it is, a video review compilation of 2018 as seen through the eyes of Joko's videos. Part one.

Mid-year, I met someone. I've now got a girlfriend. Part Two. 2019 will start with my parents visiting Asia. That's going to be fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Myawaddy Final - New Built Old

So on my last full day of my week off, up in the town of Taungoo, I wasn't quite sure what to do. 

I had seen on the Google Earth images of stuff that Google Maps didn't show. Namely, the amazing lake at Pakaung. I saw that. Similarly, there was a golf course in the military extension of Taungoo, a few miles north. 

Knowing how protective the military is here of their facilities, I didn't even attempt to go there. Instead, it was off into the countryside east of Taungoo to  visit a couple of remarkable pagodas.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Myawaddy 6: Kabaung Lake

The mystery behind the secret lake has been solved. It exists. It is not in some secret military zone. It is a jewel of blue in the otherwise brown and arid Bago Hills. It has a name - Lake Kabaung. How did this place come to my interest? Jimmy Grant noticed it first.

Here's what the start of the road from Taungoo to Pyay (a road I've traversed before) looks like on Google maps. Not much detail, befitting the rural, featureless road that it is.

Look now at the same are on Google Earth


Wow. What is up with this extensive lake that otherwise isn't recognized? This isn't the first lake I've encountered heree in Myanmar that doesn't exist in  Google Maps.  There be a communication breakdown somewhere along the line. See, it's not that Kabaung Lake is secret or restricted or anything.
Sure, there was a gate, but I could have gone through the village and avoided it.  Kabaung is completely unspoiled. It's a nugget of Yoma Hills that is beautiful, but entirely unvisited. 

This beautiful mountain lake is but a mere 100 miles from Yangon - a few hours by car. Might this be the undeveloped place I build my retirement job of expat guesthouse owner? I may be the first to have made a video of the place. Music by Matisyahu.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Myawaddy 5 - Taungoo the Fifth!

I said goodbye to my girlfriend, got on a late night train and ended up in Taungoo. What is it about Taungoo? This was my fifth time visiting this small city, by far the most frequent visitation spot outside Yangon.

Well, on this instance, my purpose was clear: I wanted to visit my motorbike. As much as I enjoyed Myawaddy, I was frustrated by having to rely on taxis and such. I wanted to go where MY Kenbo 125 was located. I say my, but I’ve somewhat sold it to Barbara, a fellow teacher in Yangon who makes a couple visits a month to Taungoo, 175 km north of Yangon, as a volunteer English teacher to students at the Taungoo Education College. I’ve agreed to sell it to her, but we’ve never agreed on a price or anything, so it’s still mine. 

Again, this was my FIFTH time in Taungoo, but the first time I’d be spending more than one night there. This meant I could dig into themes I hadn’t before. Namely, I wanted to see the walls of ancient Taungoo. See, for a while, from about 1700 to 1780, Taungoo was the Rome of Southeast Asia. The  biggest of many Burmese empires over the centuries was the Taungoo Empire, reigning over all of Thailand and parts of India, Malaysia and Laos, and Taungoo was the capital. This little getaway from Yangon had an old history… 

Along with the old city walls, I also wanted to look for a new lake up in the Bago Hills. This lake is not on Google Maps, but it is on Google Earth… I wanted to go find it. Gosh… I found it. But the lake deserves its own blog and video…   

Monday, November 5, 2018

"I'm giving you head," she said whilst repeatedly headbutting me in the forehead. This was her idea of a response to my infrequent requests for head. Oh.


I mentioned a few blogs ago about how Nicki makes me feel young again. It's not just in who she is or her age or anything, it's about the playfulness. Even though I'm occasionally annoyed by it, on the whole, I really enjoy our play...

Enjoy Part 4 of the Myawaddy trip. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Joko and Nicki go to Myawaddy - Part 3

You know there’s one thing about walking down a city street with Nicki Rangoon, my 6’0” TG gf, is that if she’s walking in front of me, nobody is looking at me. And that’s just fine. You see, pale-skinned foreigners are a rare sight outside of the tourist areas of Myanmar, and so the people here naturally watch me wherever I go. Stare at me, even. This somewhat provincial behavior doesn’t really bother me. You wouldn’t last long being a foreigner anywhere in SE Asia if it did.
Having Venus-like, full-hipped, wavy-haired goddess sauntering through the crowded street market in front of me – every head turns. Even though I was in a dusty little border town, somehow, nobody was interested in the white guy following behind.  

Other than the casino (returning there while the day was still young seemed inappropriate), there wasn’t much left to see or do there in Myawaddy by day 3. That said, one place you can always turn to for a full sensory experience anywhere in SE Asia is the open-air market. Turned out, Nicki had some business to conduct there as well – imported things are remarkable less expensive there on the border than they are back in Yangon. 

Eventually, we headed out for a final evening at the casinos. Mind you, I had done some of research on the town beforehand, and whereas Myawaddy Complex was by far the most mentioned and visited gaming establishment there on the river, there were others. A place called the Sun City Casino looked interesting. I’d seen it on Google maps. There were pictures of it, although I couldn’t identify how to get there from the Myanmar side of the river. Like Myawaddy Complex, this place specifically targeted Thai customers via a short boat-ride across the border. No passport stamps or visas or anything like that. After going entirely the wrong way, we eventually ended up in the area of Sun City; I even saw it at one point down the river a ways. It was a weird district filled with junk shops.
Used Thai merchandise, broken and ready for recycling, makes its way across the border to be sold on the cheap in Myanmar. Although the journey was interesting, we never did find a land route to Sun City. I concluded it was only accessible by boat from the river. 

Enjoy the video. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Joko and Nicki go to Myawaddy 2: Pagodas and Golf

Over the years I've been here in SE Asia, I've heard many comments from other expats along the lines of: "if you've seen one pagoda, you've seen them all." In other words, they've been less than thrilled by visiting places of worship for a religion they don't hold. Whereas I can understand how others might feel that way, I've always enjoyed visiting the spectacular pagodas here in Myanmar, even if I've not understood the functional religious aspects of the temple parts. And they're all different in one way or another.

I know to bang the bell three times. I know to find the Buddha statue corresponding to your weekday of birth and pour water on it. I'm not Buddhist. I don't know all the details.

This is why it was so cool to visit the big pagoda there in Myawaddy with Nicki.  She'd never seen the place before, so it was interesting for her too, and she was able to provide lots of comments about her religion and its meaning. Even when I disagreed. It's a pika, not a mouse. I think. 

After the big pagoda, we went to the crocodile monastery, another of the few attractions in Myawaddy.
Disappointing. Every part of it outside the common walkway was closed. Do not climb women OR men!

After our early morning visit to the religious sites, Nicki left to cross the bridge into Mae Sot, Thailand. Again, the only reason the casinos existed there, and the only reason I was visiting, was because of it being a border town with "neutral zones" when it comes to gambling. 

While Nicki explored the malls of Mae Sot, I got to play a game I've enjoyed since I was a kid, but haven't played in a while. The perfect game to play on holiday: GOLF! 

I'm not very good at the game. One of these days, I'll score a bogey. Maybe. I'm getting older. At least I broke 100, for nine holes. Anyways, I highly recommend the Myasandy Golf Club.  
Waiting for the taxi to the casino

That evening, it was time to return to the casino that had so thoroughly defeated me the night before. I wasn't confident I'd be able to get back to where I started, so I needed a good luck charm. I told Nicki I would stake her 2000 Baht, and if she lost it, so be it. If she won, she needed to pay me back the 2000 and whatever she won, she could keep. 

The joy in her face for winning 1000 Baht (after paying me back) is palpable in the video. 

As for me, I lost another 2500, but it didn't matter seeing the excitement in my GF's face. 

Enjoy the video. 

2018 Year in Review

It's not over yet, but here it is, a video review compilation of 2018 as seen through the eyes of Joko's videos. Part one. M...