Time Slows Down in Kalaw

Trip Start Dec 28, 2011
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Tailor Swift
Today was a write-off. My bus to Mandalay leaves at 8pm so I had the entire day to linger around Kalaw. After breakfast and an extended snooze, I had to check out of my room and move my backpack to Winner Hotel where my overnight bus will be picking me up. Over at lunch, I discovered a gapping hole in my pants where my manhood is. Swiftly found a tailor across the street and had it patched up for 100 kyats (approx. US$0.15).

The real benefit of having too much time with nowhere else to go was that I was chatting longer with the locals and learning more about their lifestyles. There was an Indian barber whose services cost 1000 kyats for a haircut and facial shave. An unemployed local said he earned approximately US$6 a month for labour work as a concreter.

The burmese-chinese owner of Winner Hotel revealed that before the US & UK sanctions on Myanmar, there were even more foreign visitors than today. In his lifetime, he shared that he had experienced three demonetization of the myanmar currencies. The last time it happened was in 1987, rendering some 75% of the country's currency worthless but also resulted in the 1988 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests during which Aung Sung Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon.

The rest of the afternoon was spent loitering around a hilltop Thein Taung Paya overlooking to Kalaw basking in the setting sunshine. At a distance I could see the slow train from Shwenynaung pulling into the station, as the novice monks began their evening meditation.

Blackouts & Drunk Men
Did I mention that at any one time in the day, there will be an electrical blackout for about 1-2 hours? Today it lasted from 12-2 pm. There was another one at 6pm when I was waiting for my dinner and they had to cook my dish under a candle light. This place doubled up as a drinking hole. The table next to mine (there was only 2 tables) sat 6 blokes drinking themselves silly on cheap whiskey.

One of them (really drunk) kept talking to me in burmese with a splattering of english words thrown in. The other kept apologising while I kept my smiles on and nodded my head to every english words that I could pick up. The ones that I could grasp were brother, politics, region, journalist, good, singapore, sorry...etc.

My sour and spicy chicken dish was extremely spicy (perhaps extra chillis thrown in during the blackout), just perfect as the night cooled down considerably that I had to put on my jacket. A nearby ice-cream and drinks stall had this wonderful banana, papaya and apple shake that I savoured while putting my diary entry for today.
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