Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 24 - Golden Rock

I woke up and went to start my morning meditation but I was too excited for some reason. I could feel my whole body shaking and I think it was from a plethora of reasons. Mainly, that each day draws nearer to me being home. But I was also ready to see this Golden Rock (Mt Kyaiktiyo).  At breakfast I met Curtis, a nice young American college student spending his summer break traveling SE Asia.  He visited the rock yesterday and gave me his pass for the rock.  When you visit, it costs foreigners $6 to go up to the rock, but it's valid for 30days.  I in turn will give the pass to someone else, providing karma to travelers and not to the military government (where the money goes to).  Having walked most of the way, today was taking the giant truck with benches in the back that fits around 45 people.  It was crowded and not so comfortable and it lasted for longer than I wished. It also started to rain while we were driving up, but rain is just what happens this time of year. I thought of the expression, "Into each life some rain must fall" and they should amend it with "unless you live in Burma in the rainy season and then some thought shitload of rain will pour on you."  The truck drops you off at the base and it's a 45 minute walk up. I was the only foreigner in my truck and no one got off at the base stop and then the truck went higher up. The guide books don't mention it, but the truck will take you nearly all the way to the top. Score!! I didn't have to walk up the steep, wet, slippery path.  At the foreigner booth I was asked to pay and when I showed my ticket he asked my name and country. I said USA and Claude (as I forgot curtis's name).  There was a list and luckily for me the guy couldn't really read and so he saw the C in curtis's name and said, "this you?"  I replied with a yes and then he said "Oh yeah, I remember you. ok you can go."  I thought that I bet he remembered me and left to walk up.  The boulder itself is sort of impressive. I thought it would be bigger (don't you always think this."  But I'm glad to have gone.  I couldn't get a truck down so had to walk and my flip-flops became to wet and slippery so I went barefoot the whole way down.  Burmese people would look at my feet and say "real bamar, real bamar" in reference to burmese people would do a lot of things bare feet (Bamar (sounding like bah-mah, being the name of the main group of people in this country and a derivation of why the English named it Burma.")  At the base, the trucks wouldn't leave till they were full, so I was stuck there for an hour and a half.  

Once back, I packed up, hopped a motorbike and was off to the train station. I have yet to take a train and thought it would be nice to try once in the country. Also, the train station is a 5 minute walk from my guesthouse which is better than the bus which is an hours+ drive. I got to the station at 10minutes to 1 to catch the 1pm train, and was told that it left at 11:20.  I had been told previously that the trains in Burma are unreliable, but this was a bit much. So I headed over to the bus station, which isn't a station but a few vendors selling tickets on the side of the street and they just hail buses driving by down.  The bus was supposed to cost 7000kyat, but as expressed yesterday, it cost less to go from Yangon to the stop after and I didn't understand why. Also, I saw a local man pay and it was only 2500 kyat.  I think I know what the story was. First, the government gets a lot of the money from foreign tickets. Secondly, the vendors are scraping money for themselves because when I said it was too high and said "5000?" they said ok.  I had to catch the second AC bus as the first was full.  I had travel friends hop on the first and it looked so uncomfortable.  Mine was roomy (for me in the back at least) and most importantly for my first time here, they weren't blaring bad soap operas or karaoke videos. They had them on, of course, but at a reasonable volume.  This was amazing, my luck was with me.  When we arrived at the bus station, we pulled into a spot in the front. Usually my buses always go deep into the back so that you're about 10minutes from the road. We were 1 minute. Why does this matter? Most tourist take taxi's to town, costing up to 800kyat (depending how many other ppl you get) I walk to the road and take the 43bus, costing 200-500kyat (depending on if they charge me for my bag to take up space).  The extra 9 minutes of walking can be stressful on my body as my backpack is heavy, so to be close was wonderful.  And when I got to the road, the bus just arrived and had no people on it.  Best of all, they only charged me the actual 200kyat price (first time for this too).  Clearly my luck was with me.  By the way, to give these kyat numbers some meaning.  The whole trip went from costing around 13,000kyat (about 16usd) to 5,200kyat (about 6usd) which is a big difference. and while $10 isn't a super amount of money, it can go far here (it's a nights sleep).

I checked into the hotel, got a little dinner, came back to meditate and then passed out easily.  Tomorrow starts my last few days in Burma and I have some tasks I need to do before leaving.  I may try to also visit some cultural places, though most in Yangon don't interest me too much.

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