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. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Myawaddy: An Unlikely Destination

I'm happy right now, albeit mutedly. Today is the last day of the first week of my holiday season. For six months of the year, I am not allowed to take any time off. It's our high season in the education business. Then, I get 8 weeks off of 26. The long slough of teaching is over; I'm already looking forward to the next holiday at Xmas time when my parents are coming to visit. 

I read an article in one of the local English language magazines about the newly emergent casinos complexes on the Thai border at Myawaddy, and I knew I had to go. I'm a gambler. I admit it. But even when I lived in a state where a casino was only a 45 minute drive away, I knew how to limit my gaming. I never lost too much that I was at a hardship. I won a lot too. Anyways, my girlfriend and I got on a bus and headed up to the Thai border to the town of Myawaddy. 

The casino is literally ON the border. 99% of visitors arrive by boat from the Thailand side of the river. Thai is the language being spoken in the casino and the Thai Baht is the currency being gambled. Gambling is strictly prohibited in both Thailand and Myanmar. The casino is located on land owned by the Border Defense Force and the investor is Thai. Lots of money is being made, and the local political leaders are upset because it's all entirely un-taxed. 

First night results: 6000 Baht ($180) loss. Amount of fun: Much


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Eating Crickets

In my 5+ years living in SE Asia, I've seen all kinds of critters and parts of critters being sold as food that would take the average Westerner by surprise or even disgust. Asian cockroaches, for example (not their disgusting American cousins mind you), grasshoppers, scorpions and tarantulas. I've never had sufficient reason to overcome the cultural aversions I've had for these bugs to go ahead and eat them (scorpion, one time, being an exception)

Well, I'm in the midst of a road trip with my girlfriend, and she was very excited to tell me at the outset that she'd ordered the perfect road food: crickets! 100 of them, in fact.  

One of the first ones I ate taught me an important lesson: don't talk with your mouth full of invertebrates. They've got nasty spines on their exoskeleton that can end up in sensitive parts of the mouth. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Blessing in Disguise? Discovering Northwest Myanmar Finale

The Botanical Gardens at Pyin Oo Lwin

As you might have noticed by the output rate on this blog, I’ve been rather unmotivated lately in regards to my productive leisure pursuits. This summer, I’ve made an occasional ukulele vid, a single beach excursion video and written practically nothing. It seems like every time I sit down to make a video, I quickly lose focus and the mouse wanders over to click on my favorite video game instead. 

I dunno exactly what’s caused this unmotivated malaise in my video-making hobby as of late, but I suspect I’m getting tired of making the same style of video over and over with just different footage and music in the background. Yeah, that’s it. 

Last April/May, I went on a long motorcycle journey through the northwest part of Myanmar. That was five months ago, and only today have I finished making the final video of the series, Part 21.  And even then, I didn’t capture the best part of the last day: my argument with the golf course people who at first would not allow me to play because I was wearing a button-down shirt, and after I had gone and bought a sport shirt, then objected to my track pants. I was angered, and left, but I still want to play the links at Pyin Oo Lwin, purportedly the best golf course in all of Burma. 
We’re nearing the end of the long slough of English teaching here at my school. From May to October, we get lots of students. Big classes are normal, and every teacher is needed, so there’s no vacation time available for any of us. As that’s coming to an end, I get 8 weeks off out of the next 2. The first week of which is next week.  I can’t wait, but unless I can think of a new way of making the videos, I may not share anything but pictures. 

I dunno. I dunno.
We’ll see, but I think the funk I’ve been in is best characterized in the last clip of the video below in which I say “So finishing up three weeks of vacation and I feel… I dunno. I dunno”


I wrote that a week ago and it’s taken me that long to work through the computer problems I’ve been having to fix it. In the end, it came down to removing almost all the time manipulation I used on the motorbike footage. Nearly none of the fast-mo and slow-mo which have sort of defined my travel videos over the last couple years. 

Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.  

Enjoy what might be the last of this style video from me...


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 ...