Monday, February 15, 2016

Kuala Lumpur

Every 10 weeks, I have to renew my business visa here in Myanmar. This means I gotta go on a 'visa run'. My company pays my expenses for these brief overseas jaunts, and so although I agree with those who say the immigration department's policies are unnecessarily polemic and protectionist, from my point of view, I get to go some place cool every couple of months!

A couple weeks ago, instead of my usual Bangkok visa run, I went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It only cost about $40 more, round trip, to go to "KL" versus "BKK". It was worth it. KL is a great city. The food was wonderful, the transportation system was awesome and the architecture was intriguing.

My only complaint was that the ukulele shop I wanted to visit was inexplicably closed on a Wednesday afternoon.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Moving Back to Naypyitaw

I may be a bit premature in this announcement, as the details are yet to be finalized, but a general agreement is in place. My company is picking up a couple contracts with various agencies up in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw, one of the strangest cities in the world.

If you're new to the blog, I lived and worked in Naypyitaw from July to October of 2015, but my stay was cut short due to a more-invasive-than-expected back surgery in October. Although I was initially reluctant about moving to the infamously sparse and reportedly boring created capital, I found "NPT" to be a whole lot cleaner (streets and air) than Yangon. The food was better. Living in a hotel had tremendous perks (someone cleaning your room every day, daily  laundry service, fresh towels, hot water, fast and free internet). Best of all, I could be mobile and ride my motorcycle around.

As I said, the details are yet to be settled, but it looks like I'll be moving up there at the end of February. It could also be a long term assignment as the contracts we're working on are multi-year deals.

I've still got a lot of things to figure out about transitioning. First and foremost is what to do with my place here in Yangon. My lease is coming up in mid-March, and I don't really want to pay for a place where I'm not living. On the other hand, I've accumulated a lot of stuff after living here for two years, and disposing of it isn't something I'm looking forward to either. I'd like to visit Yangon on occasion as well, and I'd like a place to stay while here... Decisions, decisions.

Friday, February 5, 2016


It's Progressive Rock Week (part 2) on the Seasons of the Ukulele contest at The band Rush was given as an example of a 'Prog Rock' band, and as I've always liked Rush, this seemed like a great opportunity for me to butcher one of their songs. Mind you, even on my best day, I can't sing like Getty Lee, and today I have a sore throat. My vocals are as understated as I get, and I turned up the reverb to compensate.

The backdrop is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This week, I was there on a visa run from Myanmar, so before I'd even learned the song, I was out on the streets getting snippets with which to make a video.

Some of the song's themes came out in the footage. For example, at 1:30 in the video, a couple female Japanese tourists wandered by while I was recording. They stopped, intrigued, and turned around wanting to take my picture. Suddenly I got self-conscious, unusual for me. I couldn't put aside the alienation and I said no. Besides, my uke was horribly out of tune after being de-strung for the flight and I couldn't really play it, I could pretend to play it for the camera, but I couldn't play it for these girls.  I failed in the momentary limelight.

Anyways, I don't post many uke videos here on the blog, but this one is half-travel.  I dunno what's up with this new formatting on Blogger. I couldn't post it via embed code as I usually do.

I had a weird dream two nights ago that kinda fits the overall "Leaving Amerika" l theme of this blog. In the dream, I was offered a job paying $60K/year, all I had to do was come back to the USA. Oh, what a conundrum roiling through by semi-conscious dream mind. I left the USA after my $60K/yr job turned into a $40K/yr job due to new corporate salary policies. If that hadn't happened, I might not even be here right now. If I could go back to making that... would I go home? I couldn't even think it through thoroughly as I was in a dream, but one which went on seemingly all night as my subconscious couldn't resolve an answer...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Myanmar Motorcycle Journey 15 - The Final Episode!

My bag, boy.
It's taken three weeks, but I am finally finishing up the chronicle of a two week vacation I took over the holidays. 2050 kilometers ( 1250 miles), About 70 hours of driving and 20 fuel stops. It was time to bring the motorbike to near Yangon. I was off to Dala, a town across the Yangon River from Yangon itself. One of my co-workers had family there, and they'd agreed to allow me park my bike there, and I agreed to pay them a nominal rent for the space.

The problem was that I was running out of money. I still had plenty of US dollars in my bag, but on the morning of the last day, I had 7000 Kyats in my wallet ($5). Enough for food and gas, but what about the rent I'd promised?

Surely, somewhere along the 121 kilometers of Pantanaw to Dala, there would be a bank or money changer where I could pick up some Kyats. Barring, that, I could use my ATM card to draw from my Thai bank account.

My first hope was the Pantanaw itself. Nope. Although there was a bank in town, they weren't licensed to exchange currency. Next was the larger town of Nyaungdon. I found a bank there, but no one spoke English in it, so I had to rely on my carefully memorized Myanmar phrase “do you exchange money?”. I was told by the receptionist to have a seat and so I felt I had found the place. I sat there for 45 minutes until they found the one guy who knew a few sentences of my language to explain that no, they do not exchange currency. I'd have to go to Yangon for that.

The Irrawaddy River after it's broken off into multiple streams in one of the largest deltas in the world.

I need to give Nyaungdon another chance. It looks like an interesting town and it's an easy motorbike ride away from Yangon. Maybe next weekend.

See, it's convenient that I've finished up the Myanmar Motorcycle Journey series tonight as it is also my first day of my next vacation! As I've said before, that's one of the things I like most about working here: copious amounts of time off. I don't have to work for another 8 days.

Tomorrow, I've got an early flight for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It's time for another border crossing so as to renew my work visa here. I'll only be in KL for 3 days; as I'd spent a lot on the motorcycle journey, and so I don't need another expensive vacation this close to the last one. Now, in April, I get a month off, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do for that. 

Enjoy the video. The last of the ukulele themed vids.


I thought I was going to retire there. I was the senior staff member. I'd been there longer than anyone. It. Is. Not. Fair.  But on the ...