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Old Dec 26, 12, 11:04 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: either on a trans-Pac, or on an Amtrak
Programs: Amtrak (AGR) Select, HA Pualani Gold, DL Silver, HHonors Silver
Posts: 65
Miracle. Mystery. Myanmar! (DTW-RGN/NYU, an RTW: DL F, PR J, 8M Y, 6T Y, TG F, UA F)

Why, out of the proverbial blue, this 10-months-late TR, about a trip that took place in Feb. 2012? There are a few reasons:

- Better late than never.

- To paraphrase glu800, an FT TR author par excellence, (begin quote) “I've been feeling a little reticent since coming back from”
Myanmar. “… Perhaps it's the post-vacation blues... most likely it's just laziness.” (I can certainly sign under that latter sentence.
– SEA_lurker) “…Regardless, I'm finally ready to begin writing my full trip report." (wisely said by glu800; thanks; end quote)
A combination of being overcommitted at work and overly exhausted to write outside of work during these past 10 months is
one reason for the delay.

- Few countries in the world parallel the unprecedented rapid pace of social, political, and economic change that Myanmar has
been experiencing this year. Accordingly, as I write this in Dec. 2012, those “Myanmar moments” of less than a year ago might
already be of historical interest – even though their utility to those of you who are heading to Myanmar soon may be quite minimal,
because of the rapidly changing conditions there.

- I happened to be flying UA Int’l F shortly before the UACO merger. The FRA-IAD-ORD part of the trip might be of potential interest
to FTers who love the history of, or simply have a soft spot for, pre-merger UA.

- I also flew LAS-YVR-MNL on PR, a route that has been canceled as of early 2013. A possible nostalgic interlude for any PR aficionados
out there who miss the thrill of catching the four-times-weekly A340 out of Sin City.

- Despite the explosive popularity of travel to Myanmar (aided, quite possibly, by all those $400 ex-RGN one-way F fares purchased recently by
numerous savvy FTers), the country’s international (8M) and domestic (e.g. 6T) airlines are not featured too often in FT TRs yet.

- Last but emphatically not least, my five days in Myanmar were a transformative personal experience, delivering far more than mere
sightseeing. I used to live in SIN, visited numerous SEAsian destinations, and hence I naively thought that I “knew” the region and
couldn’t be surprised by anything that’s on offer there; on this trip, I was pleasantly proven wrong.

I hope that the TR will inspire you, too, to discover (or re-visit) this inimitable Golden Land. And if you are waiting to use your $400
ex-RGN F-fare, please consider adjusting your travel plans to make it into RGN a few days earlier, so that you can experience the city
and, hopefully, the country.

Now, I offer my apologies in advance to the FT Mods for anything in this TR that might be (unintentionally) non-compliant with FT
forum policies. If that is the case, then please accept my apologies: my lack of familiarity with the forum rules is due exclusively
to the fact that I am merely an occasional lurker and I hardly ever post. I would be happy to hear your specific critiques,
and then to edit the TR for full compliance.

I post this TR with heartfelt thanks to the FT community for the innumerable insights that have been such a huge help
in my travels - over the past decade and going. Kudos to all of you.


Warning 1: I am an amateur when it comes to FT and I hardly ever write anything resembling a TR.
Please don't expect anything exemplary.
For example, I couldn't possibly match Seat 2A's TR quality, in a lifetime.

Warning 2: The photos were taken with an Olympus Camedia 5-megapixel camera that I bought in SIN in 2003,
and compressed by Photobucket.
Please forgive the graininess.

This TR is divided into two parts: 1) the Journey, and 2) the Destination.
Since the flight details and airline ops are of great interest to many FTers, the air-only section (the Journey) comes first.
If you are primarily interested in the Destination (Myanmar), please scroll down directly to the second section of this TR.

(continued...)

Last edited by SEA_lurker; Dec 27, 12 at 12:27 am.. Reason: formatting line breaks
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Old Dec 26, 12, 11:15 pm   #2
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: either on a trans-Pac, or on an Amtrak
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Posts: 65
Part 1. The Journey. (DTW-LAS-YVR-MNL-BKK...)

DTW-LAS (DL F): “Why am I boarding this aircraft?”

A dreary winter evening @ DTW. As the F line began forming in front of the gate at DTW’s largely deserted McNamara Terminal
for DL’s 8.45pm 757 service to LAS, I was having second thoughts. An all-too-brief trip into Myanmar, by way of LAS, MNL, and BKK?
At a time when neither my work, nor the rest of my life, felt amenable to taking a vacation, or as the rest of the world would say,
a “holiday?” As I walked down the jetway, I had a mounting feeling of unease, one that some of you might be able to relate to for
some of your trips, and this feeling congealed into a question that I posed to myself: “Why am I even going on this trip now?”

The roughly 4-hour DTW-LAS nonstop in F was uneventful, save for the usual light chop over the Rockies. It was nice to have
the moving map on the tiny IFE screen. DL markets itself as an airline that strives to make F glamorous again, but I was not at
all impressed by this segment. The FA ran out of the meat dinner choice by the time she got to my row, leaving me with a
dreadful vegetable lasagna as the sole option. Unkempt, nondescript, and near-nonexistent are adjectives apt for the appearance
of the FAs and the level of service that I had experienced on that flight. The one-way was purchased as a $400 “Q-up” fare,
and by the time we landed, I felt that I had overpaid.

Upon landing at LAS, I took the airside tram to the main terminal, retrieved my bags, proudly bypassed the tyranny of overpriced
taxis and slow-as-a-snail shared-ride services dominating LAS, and walked down to level zero, straight out to the city bus stop.
The WAX (Westcliff Airport Express) took me to the NE corner of Tropicana and The Strip, so I only had to cross the road and
walk for a couple of minutes to the place that I would be staying at. For fear of offending any FTers, I won’t even name the
hotel, but I’ll reveal a hint: this property, located on the south side of Tropicana, less than a block east of The Strip, used to
be known (in its better days) as the San Remo. The grungy, no-frills room, with its burned-out lightbulbs, barely-functional
internet, dusty light fixtures, and questionably-clean bedsheets (also, soap and shampoo are brought upon request by a
sleepy room attendant) provided overnight “training” for the expected rigors of the SEAsian trip to come…

LAS-YVR-MNL-BKK (PR 117 and PR 734; J)

For the price-conscious US-to-Asia J-class traveler, PR has been an attractive value proposition for many years: I remember
SFO-MNL-SIN one-ways pricing at $1k in J approximately 10 years ago. This particular itinerary, an approximately $1,400
for a one-way J-fare, represented respectable value as well (when coupled with my 70,000-mile one-way UA Star Alliance
BKK-FRA-IAD-ORD redemption on the return), so, it was time to board one of PR’s elusive, aging A340s, and see what the
fun was all about!

“Not Tacloban. Tagbilaran!”

Checking out at 2pm in the bright sunshine of a typical, just a tad chilly, winter day at LAS, I caught the WAX bus back,
and transferred to the internal LAS shuttle that took me away from the overcrowded horrors of the domestic terminals
and into the spacious and deserted international terminal (the place looked so good to me that I still don’t understand
why LAS has, more recently, opened a new int’l facility). The PR check-in line was staffed by chatty contract agents
(mostly female) of assorted ages who were all smiling and most cordial, a nice start to the trip. As a younger agent joked
with her customer about the customer’s domestic destination in the Philippines (and tagged the said customer’s bag to… TAG!),
a more seasoned agent assisted me with my sole piece of checked luggage. Heading to SEAsia with just a laptop case, a
tiny carry-on, and a (checked) rollaboard felt fantastic. Even better was the no-eyebrows-raised “Yes, of course!” response
to my question about switching out of my prebooked seat in the old J section into a window seat in the old F section, which
has far more legroom (PR no longer has F, and markets both front cabins on the A340 as Mabuhay Class, i.e. as J). Hence,
despite some indications that the old F seats may be reserved for PR’s frequent flyers and/or full-fare pax, discounted J
worked just fine, although the fact that the flight was less than 50% full in J may have helped. My “traveling light, citizen
of the world” vibe was undisturbed by the (very low-key) TSA agents who raised no fuss about my usual “opt out,” and I
headed straight for the J-class lounge, which is shared by all int’l carriers at LAS, and at this early evening hour was
being used primarily by BA’s LHR-bound pax as well as a few of us PR riders.

LAS – the “old” Int’l J lounge (Feb. 2012):



A view of The Strip from the lounge (double-pane tinted windows are in the way):



Legroom, seat 2A, PR 117 (A340), old F-cabin, sold as J:



The seat:



The LAS-YVR routing, per the moving map on the IFE, seemed odd. We took off from LAS toward the east, made a U-turn, and
flew directly west (270 degree heading) over the mountains; for a while, I was under the impression that we were aiming for
someplace between SFO and LAX, rather than for YVR. There were no announcements from the cockpit at all about this
seemingly unusual route of flight. We eventually made our turn toward the N-NW, after almost reaching the coast.
The remaining route of flight passed over SEA (Tacoma and Seattle were clearly visible from my port side window) and
Bellingham, before descending into YVR. A small and spicy plate of “glass noodles” with shrimp was served on the LAS-YVR sector.

“Out on Runway Number Nine… The A340 is Set to Go.”
(with apologies to Gordon Lightfoot)

The YVR transit facility for PR’s LAS-MNL pax was fairly dreadful. It’s a glassed-in room with vending machines (accepting only
Canadian coins), a few power outlets, and free internet that hardly works at all. There is no separate J-class area. It boggles
my mind how often int’l carriers choose to deny proper lounge privileges to transit pax (I remember a similar situation on MH’s
LAX-TPE-KUL run a few years back, where J-pax had to wait in the gate hold area at TPE with nothing to eat or drink, while
those boarding at TPE could use CI’s lounge). I was grateful and much relieved when PR announced the re-boarding of transit
passengers to MNL. YVR-MNL turned out to be an average, occasionally bumpy transPac ride. I managed to sleep through
approximately half of the 14-hour flight, in spurts of an hour or two at a time. The old PR F seat reclined to a nearly-flat
position and was quite comfortable; I didn’t feel like sliding. I woke up for good as we were cruising in a SW direction along
the E coastline of Japan. Before long, it was time for breakfast, and then, we commenced our descent into MNL, its tropical
skies cleared by morning showers:





Touchdown: MNL!



Asia’s First. Shining Through?



MNL’s PR J Int’l lounge was seriously underwhelming. I’d go as far as to call it shabby. There was no view. The internet was
not working (I tried both of the available wi-fi networks and could only get a weak, oft-reset connection on the airport's, not
the lounge's, network). The food was visibly not fresh. The drinks, other than the coffee, were not self-service, and tips were
expected by the staff (PR might have gotten this idea from the UA clubs, ha). The bathrooms weren’t much cleaner than those
in the Y-section of the terminal. An eclectic assortment of expat and backpacker types, some of whom seemed to have walked
straight off the pages of a Christopher G. Moore novel, filled the lounge. The quiet of the lounge was finally shattered by the
long-awaited announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen! Philippine Airlines flight seven three four, with service to Bangkok, is now
ready for boarding at gate N One!” [the announcer’s emphasis, oddly, was on the last syllable of “Bangkok”]

Waiting under the pouring tropical rain, and occasionally illuminated by lightning, parked in the darkness at gate N-1 was my
next ride, a haggard-looking PR A320. By this time I was sufficiently tired to not remember much about the flight, except that
I didn’t eat at all and – despite the departure weather – it was a decently smooth three and a half hour crossing. I slept most
of the way in the reasonably comfortable seat (think a cut above US domestic F, but nothing comparable to widebody J) and
landed a few minutes shy of midnight, essentially on-schedule (23.45), into a very busy BKK. Immigration queues were long,
with many pax obviously coming off UA’s and DL’s ex-NRT flights which arrive at this time as well.

The Myanmar tourist visa: a Bangkok perspective, Feb. 2012

The following day, bright and early and having intentionally skipped breakfast, I rushed to the Skytrain, having read many
horror stories about queues-around-the-block and other vagaries of applying for the Myanmar tourist visa at BKK rather
than doing it the proper way at one’s country of residence. The location of the embassy is clearly described by so many
online sources that I will spare the details. In brief, I took the BTS to Surasak, exited onto the north side of Thanon Sathon,
walked east on Thanon Sathon past the school, and turned left onto Soi Pan. Most of my concerns about not getting the
visa disappeared as soon as I showed up: a couple of dozen people were lined up outside the embassy entrance, and
another few milled around inside the small copy / office shop / internet café (located on the east side of Soi Pan, just
north of the embassy compound) where the visa applications are obtained and copied, and visa photographs taken.
The shop, with its pleasant and patient staff, was my first stop. The subsequent wait outside the embassy was quite
brief. Explaining my short-notice travel plans to the friendly and patient visa officer, however, resulted in a firm “no”
to the possibility of a same-day visa issuance. However, next business day afternoon was available, at a fee of 1,060
baht if I remember correctly. I received a yellow ticket and indeed collected my passport with the visa at 3pm the
next day, without hindrance. Now, it was time for the highlight of the trip...

Last edited by SEA_lurker; Dec 27, 12 at 12:31 am.. Reason: formatting line breaks
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Old Dec 26, 12, 11:23 pm   #3
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: either on a trans-Pac, or on an Amtrak
Programs: Amtrak (AGR) Select, HA Pualani Gold, DL Silver, HHonors Silver
Posts: 65
Part 1. The Journey. (continued: BKK-RGN-NYU-RGN-BKK...)

Myanmar: a mysterious country and its mysterious airline.

BKK-RGN (8M 336; Y)

Myanmar, Day 1. Checking out of the trusty Town Lodge BKK – where the 900-baht-a-night rooms were surprisingly functional,
a terrific value in this day and age of BKK hotel price inflation – in the predawn hour, I thought again of the life-in-flux that I had
temporarily left behind at DTW, seriously wondering: “Why am I doing this?” The soi dogs of Sukhumwit 18 were still sleeping on
the sidewalks, and the shops were still closed, as one of Bangkok’s garish red-and-fluorescent-blue taxicabs picked me up for
the short ride to “Swampy” (as the new BKK airport, Suvarnabhumi, is sometimes facetiously referred to).
Traffic on the eastbound tollway was sparse at this early hour.

8M’s Y check-in was staffed by TG contract agents. My request for an exit row seat was honored with a huge smile by the
young lady at the counter, at no additional cost (take that, UA E+ and DL EC… no charge for “premium” exit seats here on 8M).
After a check of the visa in my passport, my boarding pass was printed, and my bag was checked to RGN with a “fallback
sortation tag” (I have no idea what this means):



At the gate, this morning’s ride, an 8M A320:



Myanmar, Madagascar, Taiwan, and Japan – where else, other than BKK the planespotters’ paradise, could these nations’
flag carriers be casually parked at nearby gates?

It is hard to imagine, for the contemporary reader who might be braving full flights and hotels booked-out a year in advance
in Myanmar, but flights to RGN in Feb. 2012 were not completely sold out. The load was around 65-75% on 8M-336 this fine
February morning. Among the pax, there were: (remarkably few) Westerners; several Buddhist monks as well; and, apparently,
a couple of well-to-do Myanmar families returning home. The cabin was staffed by youngish female FAs, looking sharp in uniforms
that perhaps were inspired by, if not fully representative of, Myanmar traditional attire. They were presided over by a jolly young
expatriate fellow, “your purser, François from France.” Perhaps, 8M invested in hiring foreign cabin crew to train the local FAs?

Phenomenal legroom in Y, at an exit row seat that I obtained at no extra charge on a less-than-full flight – or, what UA and
DL could learn from 8M:



8M flies several A320s; this was a Y-only config. Mingalabar (“Welcome”), 8M’s magazine, with images of things distant
and exotic:



We pushed back… taxied to the active runway (approximately 20 minutes late)… I heard the engines of the A320 being spooled
up to not-quite-full power… and then we gently braked (there were no alarming sights or sounds) and very quickly taxied off
the runway and onto a parallel taxiway. There were no announcements at all. We sat on the taxiway for approximately
another 20 minutes, and I began to seriously suspect that our A320 had quietly gone mechanical and that my Myanmar
misadventure was over before it could even commence. In fact, when we lurched forward, I anticipated a return to
the gate. Quite the opposite: we quickly turned around, and almost before I knew it, we were on the active runway and
taking off, in no time at all. Myanmar, here I come!

The flight route was toward the W-SW out of BKK, and out of my port side window through the clear morning air, I could see
the majestic stupa of Nakhon Phanom. A sickly-looking sweet cake, a similarly-forlorn fruit cup, and hot drinks as well as
juices were offered. The densely populated green plains of Thailand then gave way to a dramatically different, drier and
more desolate, landscape beneath. As we began a slow descent into RGN, my initial glimpses of Myanmar on this trip
looked like this:



Touchdown: RGN!



We parked next to another 8M A320, XY-AGM:



For the rest of the day’s happenings, along with the other details of what I experienced in Myanmar, please see the Destination
section (after the air portion of this TR), below. One amusing tidbit: The sole official money changer at the airport exit was
“closed for break” at this mid-morning hour.

RGN-NYU (6T 405, Y)

Myanmar, Day 3.

I love the security check at Myanmar’s domestic airports.
There is no TSA. Nobody checks the liquids in their little “freedom baggies.” Heck, there is no nudeoscope. Foreign tourists
are casually waved through with hardly an inspection. After a strong, hearty cup of espresso from the domestic terminal’s
coffee stand, it was time to board 6T 405. (If NYU doesn’t stand for “New York University,” then you’re very far from home…)

Good morning, Six Tango!

Air Mandalay, affectionately referred to as “AirMan” by some in Myanmar, int’l airline two-letter code 6T, is one of several
quasiprivate, quasigovernment domestic airlines that have sprung up in Myanmar as the tourism restrictions have relaxed.
6T and its competitors operate small fleets of (mainly) ATR turboprops out of RGN to the key tourist destinations (Bagan,
Mandalay, Inle Lake) as well as to lesser-visited places further afield. Bagan is served by the airport at Nyaung Oo
( “Nyaung U”), the town that gave rise to the abbreviation. The approximately one-hour flight was as overpriced
($100 for a domestic turboprop hop? Back in the USA, WN could fly you almost cross-country for not much more) as it was
smooth and pleasant. A filling breakfast (a fish sandwich and a cold boiled egg) was offered, along with coffee / tea /
water; the full meal service on short-haul sectors is something that I never fail to admire in domestic Y on little-known
Asian carriers (now that domestic food service im both Y and F in the US has all but disappeared on short to mid hauls).

Touchdown: NYU!



A beautiful cloudless early morning at NYU, a fitting prelude to a fantastic day in Bagan, the spirit of discovering a new
destination, dramatically different from anything I’ve known… that’s what comes to mind whenever I reflect upon this
“just deplaned” view, looking back at XY-AIJ, the bird that brought me here:



Welcome to Bagan: arriving pax are greeted by traditional dancers, whose performance was charming, even though it was
at the same time a bit distracted and visibly desynchronized.



An entertaining detail: the restroom at NYU arrivals area (its entrance door is seen in the photo above), apparently had no
working lights (or a light switch hidden at some unusual location), leaving bemused travelers to do their necessary business
in the dark.

NYU-RGN (6T Y)

Myanmar, Day 4. XY-AEY was our ride this evening. Boarding was from the rear door, where a 6T agent stands by:



Climbing out of NYU, looking out at The Golden Land below:



Two details stand out about this evening return flight. First, in contrast to assigned seats ex-RGN, there was WN-style open
seating on a first-come first-served basis (but sans the A B C groups of WN, of course). Second, having not flown on ATRs
for many years prior to this trip, I was quite concerned about the overheating of the plastic panels (the inside wall) next to
my seat, 8A. The wall was too hot to touch, which made me uncomfortable and my puny individual air duct / fan above the
seat ineffectual, so I reluctantly called an FA, who opined, in very passable English, that it was not overheating, but rather,
“a normal situation from engine exhaust.” (I trust that ATR experts on FT will be in a better position to comment as to
whether my overheated panel was abnormal.)

RGN-BKK (8M 331; Y)

All good things (a sample of which is described under “Part. 2. The Destination” below…) come to an end, and all too soon
it was time to leave Myanmar, the enchanting and beguiling place that by the end of those five days began to feel just the
slightest bit like home (as odd as that sounds), and just the slightest bit less mysterious. Here, in the filtered late-afternoon
RGN sunshine, was my ride back to BKK, back to the Western/ized world of unbridled consumerism, Coca-Cola, and
brand-name goods that are largely absent in Myanmar (and Cuba and North Korea). I was sad to leave…



At the time of this trip, RGN was served mostly by narrowbody shorthauls to regional SEAsian destinations, as seen on this departure board:



More recently, Germany’s Condor, along with NH, KE, BR, and QR, have begun serving RGN.

This A320 had a two-class config, unlike the one that took me to RGN on Day 1, and after an hour-and-a-half long, uneventful and
smooth flight, we landed in a busy BKK.

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Old Dec 26, 12, 11:30 pm   #4
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: either on a trans-Pac, or on an Amtrak
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Posts: 65
Part 1. The Journey. (continued: BKK-FRA...)

“Excuse me please, where is F check-in?” BKK-FRA: TG 920 in F on a 744

I just knew it: I made the classic TG F newbie mistake when I showed up at BKK for the starting leg of my 70,000-mile UA
StarAlliance F one-way ticket, BKK-FRA-IAD-ORD. (I had bought the miles with UA’s 30%-off targeted offer.) Since there
was no TG F counter in sight, I walked up to the TG J counter, and was sweetly told that the TG F “check-in lounge”
(not a counter) would be right behind me. Once I found this “lounge,” I was duly impressed by the efficiency of its
enthusiastic (mostly young and male) staff. In no time at all, I was seated in a comfortable armchair, in front of a
coffee table on which a bottle of water and a wet towel (on a little tray with an orchid, of course) appeared
seemingly out of nowhere, while my boarding pass was being printed and my bags were tagged all the way to ORD.
I was then whisked to the elite security line, with the convenience of a TG F check-in staff member as my personal
“caddy,” helping me with my few belongings on and off the security belt until after I cleared security. Once airside,
I was driven directly to the TG F lounge in a golf cart. So far, so good. The lounge, however, was a disappointment.
My request for a cabana was curtly countered since “they were all occupied,” so I had nothing to do other than hang out
in the seating area at the center of the TG F lounge, which had a very, umm, un-F feel to it:



TG lounge staff, chatting between themselves, oblivious to any possibility of walking around the lounge taking drink orders
from the uncomfortably-seated pax… is this what an F lounge is supposed to be about?



Finally, my glass of Moët et Chandon (served in the lounge; the Dom is served in-flight) arrived. As you can see, finding space
for champagne and a laptop on the cramped TG F lounge tables was quite a challenge:



With much time to kill, and no chance of a cabana, I at least decided to check out the shower. To my surprise, it had a
grungy, gym locker room smell to it, and the towels as well as the amenities were quite minimalistic. The water pressure
was low and the water wasn’t hot enough. The lounge front desk staff did not even say bye or smile as I left the lounge
to walk over to the gate. TG’s F lounge at its home airport certainly left much room for improvement (while having little
“room” for the pax).

Onboard, TG F, BKK-FRA:

Myanmar on the front page of the news weekly – how appropriate, after my epic-albeit-brief foray into the country.
Alain Delon PJs, an orchid, a glass of Dom, and the AsiaNews magazine with Myanmar on the front page, at my seat:



“Oooh, I love those Rimowa amenity kits in F!” – quote by a certain famous FTer

Legroom in seat 1K, the personal ottoman, the amenity kit, and the black box containing the noise-canceling headphones:





Menu:



Wines:





First serving, choices:



Second serving, choices:



I didn’t eat dinner, fell asleep after a couple of glasses of Dom Perignon (no problem with “refills” on this flight), and woke up
to a light breakfast (including an egg fried to order, another lovely perk of TG F food) that was augmented by three cups of
cappuccino (those onboard espresso machines in the TG F galley must be a great thing).

I belatedly realized that TG had an outstanding AVOD selection, well-stocked with a type of music I love to listen to,
contemporary pop hits by Indonesian and Filipina singers virtually unknown outside of their countries (sorry, blurry photo):



The stationery kit, a charming touch that I hope TG keeps for the future:


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Old Dec 26, 12, 11:37 pm   #5
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: either on a trans-Pac, or on an Amtrak
Programs: Amtrak (AGR) Select, HA Pualani Gold, DL Silver, HHonors Silver
Posts: 65
Part 1. The Journey. (end: FRA-IAD-ORD / Amtrak / DTW)

Sickened in F on UA 917: a FRA-IAD cautionary tale

UA’s lack of an IFC lounge at FRA is, as has been commented in numerous FT threads, perhaps the biggest shortcoming of
the UA lounge system, worldwide. I’ll keep this short and sweet: despite FRA’s status as a key UA destination, both F and J
pax on UA flights departing FRA are relegated to LH’s dismal “Business,” “Tower” and “Senator” lounges, since the LH F lounge
can only be used by LH’s own F-pax. I was met at my arrival gate by a very pleasant gentleman from Tunis who was the agent
handling connections of TG F pax. He walked with me by the LH F area first, and although he tried to get me in (“it’s StarAlliance
First Class…”), his request was denied. The LH J-class lounges are so overcrowded that I was eventually directed that gray and
rainy morning to pass EU passport control and use a landside lounge, where I still had to wait 45 minutes for a shower and just
about as long to even find a place to sit down. (If it weren’t for the fairly appealing breakfast spread and drinks, I would have
rather rested in the gate area, and having to go through security, and immigration both ways, just in order to visit the
underwhelming lounge, was quite a hassle.) I understand that the small LH F lounge might be overwhelmed by the sheer
numbers of UA F pax if access were allowed, but if that is the case, then an airline with a “Global First” product should
open its own F-class lounge (as is the case at NRT, HKG etc.) at such a key airport, before any claims of being truly
“Global.” This was a fitting “back to reality” experience after the high points of Myanmar.

The FRA lounge disaster was then eclipsed by a decidedly non-premium boarding experience. The UA 772 to IAD was boarding
at a bus gate (big surprise). So, instead of walking down the jetway and turning left, F-pax took a bus to the a/c, and this is
what boarding UA F in FRA looked like (I would have never expected):



This was an old-config UA 772:



LH uses this area of FRA as a remote parking stand, while UA actually boards pax here. You can see the remaining pax,
boarding out of the bus! Our neighbor was an LH 744:



Channel 9 stayed on from departure all the way until we were past Ireland. I asked an FA who informed me that it would be off
for the remaining duration of the flight – which it was. I had a prosciutto and cheese appetizer followed by baked fish, and one
of these items had somehow managed to bring me into a severe state of stomach upset (nauseated, in pain, and uncomfortable)
that progressively worsened until it was mercifully time to make our approach into IAD. The irony of having survived five days of
eating at a few dodgy places in Myanmar – only to be brought down by UA’s F chow on FRA-IAD – shall not escape the reader!
After a very polite, no-questions-asked IAD immigration and customs experience – not quite what I expected, given that Myanmar
remains the target of a US trade embargo that prohibits tourists from bringing almost anything from Myanmar to the US –
I re-checked my bag and headed straight for something that did not exist in FRA, the UA Int’l F lounge. IAD’s UA IFL is a step down
compared to ORD’s palatial opulence, and one of the differences is that there is no shower at IAD.

Here are the self-service refreshments of the UA IFL at IAD:



A gray and rainy IAD, view from the UA IFL:



The UA IAD F lounge attendant did an outstanding job hearing me out about the food poisoning that I had apparently experienced
on IAD-FRA. She was patient and empathetic – truly a model UA employee – and offered me all kinds of help, from rebooking on a
later flight to ORD just so that I could sit down in the lounge and relax to feel better, to calling for medical assistance. I pondered,
then declined, both offers. She then put through a request (later successfully fulfilled) for 17,500 miles to be credited to my UA MP
account as an apology for the Great F Food Fiasco of FRA-IAD. Her attitude and genuine helpfulness – not the miles – helped to
somewhat reinstate my faith in UA.

I will only briefly describe the rest of the journey. UA 965 IAD-ORD was an uneventful ride on a new-config 764, a slap in the face
after enduring FRA-IAD on a non-reconfigured 772. I overnighted at the Hampton Inn ORD, and took the noon Amtrak from
Chicago’s Union Station to Detroit the next day, business class. My favorite café car attendant Nick was working that afternoon,
and made for an enjoyable train ride. By the next morning, it quickly became apparent to me that – in contrast to my usual two
weeks of jet lag recovery after any transPac travel – I had no jet lag after this whirlwind RTW. None at all. A most refreshing
and energizing surprise. Possible reasons for this will become apparent in Part 2. Continued...

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Old Dec 27, 12, 12:11 am   #6
 
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Part 2. The Destination.

Preface:

One person in particular is the specific reason behind the resounding success of my Myanmar trip. Her name is Teacher May, and she was my guide.
If you would like to obtain her contact details, or if you have questions that are not covered in this TR, please feel free to PM me. Teacher May, a
veritable, well-traveled polyglot who speaks several Asian and European languages (in particular, she is fluent in French and English), is the
owner/director of Myanmar Sung May Lwin (Travels and Tours), a small, family-operated, private tour company
that also acts as a community reinvestment vehicle and a de facto nonprofit. I most highly and emphatically recommend Myanmar Sung May
Lwin and certainly the pinnacle of excellence, efficiency, and knowledge that is Teacher May. The agency is easy to communicate with, her English is
outstanding, she and her staff respond to email (they use Gmail) promptly, and in addition to being my guide and host, she arranged, coordinated, and
managed every aspect of my five-day stay, including hotels, domestic air tickets, local ground transport, entrance fees, sightseeing, and meals.
“Five-star service” does not begin to describe just how professionally and competently she conducts business. It was a huge honor to meet her and be
her guest – it has been an even greater honor to become her friend, and to learn from her about Buddhism, Myanmar, and life itself. As was customary at
the time, I paid the entire price of the trip (all-inclusive, except lunches / dinners / incidentals) in cash upon my arrival. I had ordered the pristine crisp
unfolded newer-than-2006 US currency (hundred-dollar bills are preferred) from my bank before the trip.

During my trip, I saw how MSML acts to foster integrity, transparency, and higher customer service standards in Myanmar’s still-fledgling, but already-
problematic, tourism industry. The outfit donates much of its profits to local orphanages, as well as to homes for the disabled and the mentally ill,
facilities that do not have any foreign sponsors or sources of non-state support. Based on my experience, I can say with confidence that, if you
allow Teacher May to be your window into Myanmar, then you will have more than just a great time: you will not regret it, you will not forget it, and you
will have likely helped the people of Myanmar.

Although my trip was a momentous eye-opener, a start of what has the potential become a long-term or lifelong learning experience, I still know very
little about Myanmar or Buddhism. If you would like to study, from a formal Western academic perspective, the history of the sites pictured or described
here, as well as the reasons behind the unique interplay of Buddhism with animist beliefs and historical facts in Myanmar, I would encourage you to read
the excellent and thought-provoking book by Donald M. Stadtner, “Sacred Sites of Burma: Myth and Folklore in an Evolving Spiritual Realm.” Stadtner’s
stunning photo illustrations, which accompany his in-depth scholarly study of Myanmar’s contemporary Theravada Buddhist spirituality, are vastly superior
to my snapshots below, too. I had bought my copy at the Asia Books, The Emporium, Bangkok.

Myanmar vignettes

---

Myanmar, Day 1

The Golden Rock: getting there is, and isn’t, half the fun

In Bago, on our way to Mon State and the Golden Rock, we ate yummy vegetarian egg rolls. Our table, on the balcony of the small and surprisingly
clean restaurant, featured this amazing view of the Shwemadaw Pagoda, the highest stupa in Myanmar (it is even taller than Yangon’s iconic Shwedagon)
and one of the holiest sites in the land that was known in colonial times as “Lower Burma:”



The view on the other side of the restaurant’s terrace was also relaxing, in a different, low-key way:



With my mind completely at ease after the relaxing lunch in Bago, and genuinely happy with the good fortune of having none other than Teacher
May as my interface with, and window into, Myanmar, I confidently regarded our plans for the rest of the day. Further along, outside of Bago, we were
treated to expansive and peaceful vistas of brilliant green rice paddies, under a clear blue sky. The verdant color gave the words “Burma jade” a whole new
meaning, for me. But as the car slowed down on its way into a dusty town that made Bago look positively metropolitan in comparison, Teacher May very
calmly informed me that “We shall leave the driver and the car here overnight… We must ride in the back of an open truck for 30 or 45 minutes
until halfway up the mountain. Foreigners cannot ride all the way up. At the halfway point, we will get off the truck, and we will walk, hike, the final 45
minutes to the top. There are no other alternatives, unless we wish to be carried up by porters, who cannot be completely trusted.” Little did I know
what was behind this innocent description. (And, kudos to Teacher May for offering me no details until that point in the trip. Had I known, I probably
wouldn’t have gone – and I would have missed the definitive highlight of this particular visit to Myanmar.) A glimpse of the porters (foreground) and our
means of transport, the open-top trucks (background):



To make a long story short, the “truck” portion of this journey was the most frightening trip (of any kind) that I have taken to date. Driving through
white-out snow and ice on I-90 in upstate New York during my college days in the 1990, and traveling on many nasty roads with dodgy drivers in several
SEAsian countries over the years – none of this had prepared me, at all, for these 30-40 minutes of sheer horror. The one-lane road up the mountain
consists almost entirely of hairpin curves, which are loosely negotiated (think “one wheel close to being over the cliff, three wheels still on the road”) by
the truck driver – and the driver who took us up that day drove as if he just might have been on amphetamines, or worse. With my rear sliding left and
right on the slippery wooden bench over every hairpin turn, I had precious little to hold on to, and falling out of the uncovered truck (left, right, or even
straight behind, a distinct possibility as I was in the penultimate row) felt like a real possibility. Even the normally serene Burmese were becoming evidently
scared. For physical rather than spiritual security – because holding on to the narrow and slippery bench with my sweaty hands in the day’s rising,
stifling heat quickly became well-nigh impossible - hence, I ended up holding hands tightly (on my right side) with my neighbors (a pilgrimage group from
Moulmein). On my left side, however, Teacher May was an unshakeable oasis of utter and absolute calm. Admittedly, the Golden Rock trip might be a
routine commute for my “Official Tour Guide and Boss of Travel Company,” but I was nevertheless very highly impressed by her calm and peaceful demeanor
during the entire length of the scary trip up the mountain. “Look at the sky! The hills! Look at the beautiful trees, on both sides of the road! The sky is so
blue… and these trees are so green,” commented Teacher May to me in her slow, grammatically perfect English, as she noticed my growing discomfort.
“But we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, and once we’re off a cliff, nobody will even know about this for a few days,” I silently thought to myself (I
knew better than to say anything out loud at this point). Of course, I was wrong. We arrived at the halfway stop. I was never so happy to be alive.
Myanmar certainly holds the power to make our private Western problems recede into the infinite distance… while replacing them with the forgotten,
albeit hard-earned, joy of merely living in the here-and-now.

The 45-minute hike, the final stage of the trip up to the Golden Rock, turned out to be so arduous that I understood – after just the first few minutes –
why some travelers choose to “pay unreliable porters who will carry you up.” The path is surprisingly deserted and almost devoid of Myanmar’s otherwise-
omnipresent drink sellers, although one stand was selling very dubious-looking bottled water, which we did not partake of, and warm made-in-Thailand
canned Coca Cola, which we did imbibe. It provided precious little hydration, and cleaning the top of the cans with alcohol wipes before opening
(because, who knows what was lurking in the melted-ice bucket these cans had been sitting in…) reminded me just how far from “home” I was. Toward
the end of this walk, I (a bragging “veteran” of 10-mile up-and-down hikes in the Cascades and the Olympics in the glorious summers of my grad-school
years) felt that my heart was jumping out of my body and that I have never known that it was even possible to become so severely dehydrated. "Walking
meditation... left... right... left... right..." and "Breathing meditation... in... out... in... out..." suggested Teacher May, advice powerful enough to see me
through the remainder of our ordeal. When I saw THIS at the end of the road, I realized that the truck ride and the hike were not the end of my
world, but rather, a purifying experience, or even the gateway to a new beginning:



The Golden Rock (Kyaik Htiyo Pagoda) appears to be a physically impossible phenomenon, its huge gilded boulder balanced precariously on its platform in
seeming defiance of gravity. According to local lore, as discussed in Donald Stadtner’s “Sacred Sites of Burma,” the Golden Rock used to levitate in the
distant past, then descended to the top of its boulder, owing to all the bad things people do in “our degenerate age.” When you are there, looking at it,
this is almost believable. Teacher May explained a prevalent local belief, one that Myanmar will be safe for as long as the Golden Rock remains balanced
on its boulder – and that people need to behave in the right way (live in accordance with Buddhist precepts) so that this amazing site can retain its
sacred and precarious balance:



The golden glow of sunset, reflecting upon the Golden Rock:



The overnight stay at the mountain was booked at The Mountain Top Hotel. While the front desk clerk was examining my well-worn passport, the
realization finally hit me. We survived the trip here, but a significant problem remained: I had left all my luggage in the car, at the bottom of the hill. I had
absolutely nothing to my name, except: my passport, my wallet, the clothing I had on, a bamboo walking stick bought along the way, and (fortunately) my
camera. “So, this is what it might be like to forsake all things material and to become a monk,” I daydreamed, but Teacher May brought me graciously back
to reality: “You left everything at the bottom. We should consider visiting the night market!” My modest needs for a change of clothes had been
well-served by the market, when it dawned on me that another danger loomed: my doxycycline pills (a prophylactic antimalarial that must be taken
daily to be effective) were also in the car. With truly angelic patience after the arduous day, Teacher May – as soon as I made the mistake of explaining
the sudden look of concern on my face – walked with me to the local medical clinic. Despite the late hour, the clinic was brightly lit, and a couple of
patients were waiting. The middle-aged female doctor, who saw us after a half-hour wait, spoke in great English to me (surprisingly for such a remote
place), and clearly understood my concern. She then apologetically and regretfully informed us that “doxy” was out of stock, but that “there is no
malaria here in Mon State now, in the dry season, at this altitude. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about.”

Power outage, Mon State, 3 am

If you ever stay at the Mountain Top Hotel near the Kyaik Htiyo Pagoda (address: “Next to Foreigners’ Registration Office”), ask for room 106. The
secluded downstairs room has an irregular ceiling with exposed rock formations – not quite your regular hotel room! After an MSG-laden fried rice
dinner, an excellent (hot and high-pressure) shower, and a perfunctory effort to watch ChannelNewsAsia on the ancient “tube” TV (news from the outside
world – after what I had seen in that one day – seemed utterly irrelevant anyway, as if coming from a distant universe), I turned on the fan (there are
no air conditioners at the Mountain Top) and called it a night, on a “nothing to worry about” note.

I woke up, not from a light or a sound, but from a complete absence thereof: an unfamiliar feeling of complete and profound quiet and stillness. “Is this
how it might feel to a monk or a hermit, meditating alone on one of Myanmar’s legendary mountain tops in the predawn hour?” I naively thought,
consulting my ancient Nokia cell phone (used only as a clock and an alarm) on the bedstand. I surmised that it was just past 3 am local time. There was
not a sound in the room. Outside, I could see stars shining in the clear night Mon State sky, and on the terrace, silhouettes of the orchid plants were
barely visible in the moonlight. I finally realized what was happening… a power outage. I had woken up because the comforting white-noise sound of
the fan was gone. Myanmar’s power outages have been much in the news lately, but in this grotto-style room, steps away from the spectacular Golden
Rock, this particular power outage felt… benign and even poetic.

---

Myanmar, Day 2

Early morning, a few steps away from Golden Rock. Monks (and novices) returning from the Pagoda encounter a hermit:



After enjoying sunrise at the Golden Rock (definitely worth getting up extra early for), we returned to Yangon. We first hiked back down the trail, where
there were a few refreshment stands such as this one (Monkey Coffee and Alpine Water are one of the many outcomes of the years of Western
sanctions; there is no Nescafe or Evian in Myanmar outside of top-end hotels, since Western governments have largely made it impossible for the
familiar multinational companies to do business here, although sanctions are on the verge of being lifted now and some companies are already heading in):



We then rode in a truck’s cab (rather than on the open benches out back) this time, with a driver who behaved a whole lot more responsibly than his
colleague from the previous day. Safely reunited with our own ex-Yangon ride, we stopped in Bago on the way back, visiting several sites in town,
including the majestic Shwemadaw Pagoda, which is surrounded by these fanciful gilded stupas all around its perimeter:



I spent the next night at the excellent Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon. The wireless internet in my room did not work. From the balcony of my room, I
had a dramatic and outstanding direct view of the Shwedagon Pagoda, lit up by brilliant floodlights in the distance, its gilded surface shining over the city
through the balmy tropical night. (If memory serves me correctly, I was in room 534.) As I paused to admire the view, the wireless internet’s failure just
didn’t matter any longer. With a view like that, who could possibly think of asking to change to another room? Myanmar, still a great place to be out of
touch with the world. A place offering an opportunity to reconnect, perhaps, with what is genuinely important in life.

---

Myanmar, Day 3

Amazing Bagan: on the other side of the dream

“The Buddha was a traveler. Just like you are today.” Having set an impossible-to-follow high standard with this brief remark, delivered with a
smile while looking into my eyes steadily, Teacher May proceeded to explain that our first point of interest in Amazing Bagan would be the Shwezigon
Pagoda:



Counting money from donation boxes. The floor of a temple pavilion, Shwezigon Pagoda compound:



The mandatory “I went to the morning market in Bagan, and here is what I saw” photo:



Teacher May and I had lunch at the Tharabar Gate Hotel in Bagan that day. In apparent defiance of common sense (in a country where “cook it, boil it,
peel it, or forget it” should be the prevailing guidance), we shared a fresh garden salad – soil particles were plainly visible on the uncooked vegetables,
and I didn’t want to think whether the greens had even been washed with any water (filtered or otherwise) prior to serving. We squeezed a couple of
limes onto this potential gastrointestinal catastrophe. Having enjoyed fresh-baked bread and soup to accompany this salad, we happily continued
with fulfillment of the day’s plans; we visited eight of Bagan’s most significant pagodas before Myanmar Day 3 was over. (We did not get sick.)

Bagan is truly staggering. Travel bloggers sometimes compare it with Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, but while I can connect to Angkor with a passion
too (as a three-time visitor to REP, 2001 / 2004 / 2006), the two sites are different and incomparable, and any attempt to force direct parallels is
somewhat misplaced. The sheer scale of Bagan, along with the continuing active Buddhist worship and veneration at its hundreds of pagodas (nearly
uninterrupted over its thousand-year history), boggles the mind:



The Irrawaddy River, a view from Bagan:



Sunset, viewed from the top terrace of the imposing ancient Shwesandaw Pagoda:



After a quiet night in my oversized bungalow at Thwante Hotel, unmarred by any electricity problems, I woke up at around 5 am local time… due to the
remnants of jetlag from the previous week, perhaps. For some reason, rather than staying up and reading til dawn and breakfast, I decided to – or rather,
I involuntarily returned to – sleep, again. Now, while we all have dreams every night, some people seldom recall their dreams, and I am one of those
individuals. To wake up from a dream (and to remember the dream) has always been an extremely rare event for me. That Bagan morning, I was
jolted – by the hotel’s late wake-up call well past 8 am, no less – out of a remarkable dream. In the dream, I had visited the eight pagodas… the actual
ones that we had been to, during the previous day… but in a completely opposite order. I had re-lived the entire preceding day backwards (just
imagine waking up from a stunning, graphic “DCBA” when the real order of events the previous day was “ABCD”), starting in my dream at the
Shwesandaw (sunset), and ending at the Shwezigon (which we had visited first in the morning, in real life). Do they call this place “Amazing Bagan” for a
reason? The implications of this dream lingered in my consciousness as we headed out for the day’s visit …

---

Myanmar, Day 4

Sweepers of the Monkey Temple

… to Mount Popa (sometimes spelled Poppa), where 37 “nats” (spiritual beings) are worshipped (in a uniquely Myanmar tradition that combines
Theravada Buddhism with devotion to local “guardians” and deities arising out of specific legends and beliefs:



Popa is not for faint-hearted folks like SEA_lurker. If being chased by aggressive rhesus macaques grabbing bags of food, water, and devotional
flowers out of your hands – while hiking up a steep staircase in 35(C)-degree heat – is not your idea of fun, or if you can’t tolerate even a remote
possibility of monkeys running away with your camera (no, it didn’t happen to me), please give this temple a miss. But was the climb “worth it” for me? An
emphatic yes. There were awe-inspiring views of the Bagan Plain from the mountaintop, and there was the sense of being in a really far-away, not-yet-
too-touristy place that stays with you long after you’ve left the country. Some time after we had reached the top, Teacher May said, “And now, let’s
talk with this lady here… so that we can borrow some brooms for the both of us. We shall be cleaning, sweeping a part of the temple grounds here at the
top, in order to make merit.” My nightmarish thoughts of dying a slow and painful death from inhaling pathogen-laden monkey excrement were quickly
countered: “By cleaning this specific place, we attain forgiveness for debts that we owe in our past lives.” Rock on, Teacher May!.. What a lofty idea. In
comparison… a Western bankruptcy attorney or judge can offer, at best, a relief of debts that are owed in this, current, life. Knowing from the previous
three days’ experience that it was a clear “do first, ask questions later” situation, I took the groundskeeper’s broom, and I enthusiastically and
thoroughly swept clean a hefty amount of square footage of Mount Popa’s marble upper platform surrounding the central hilltop stupa.

Myanmar at the Center of the World! One of the many devotional shrines at the base of Mount Popa. Have a look at this "golden globe" / map:



Myanmar, Day 5

No trip to Myanmar is complete without Yangon – and no sight in Yangon is grander than the Shwedagon Pagoda:



Monks…



…and nuns, at the Shwedagon Pagoda:

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Old Dec 27, 12, 12:14 am   #7
 
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Closing comments. Was it all a dream?

No. It was real:



I forgot to mention that I had bought my PR and 8M e-tickets online, directly at the websites of these two airlines. 8M’s Visa
card transactions were being processed at the time by Kasikorn Bank, Thailand. Both airlines used the Verified By Visa system,
and there were no problems with my card’s US-based issuing bank.

I have additional photos of Myanmar; please reply or PM if you are interested, and I can post or provide the links.

Thank you very much for viewing, and for reading, this TR.

Happy travels to all of you.

- SEA_lurker

Last edited by SEA_lurker; Dec 27, 12 at 12:41 am.. Reason: formatting line breaks
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Old Dec 27, 12, 3:00 am   #8
 
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Amazing report. Myanmar is definitely a unique and intriguing place. Definitely on my list of places to return to and stay longer.

While the old adage states that you should never, ever eat the fish while airborne (haven't you seen Airplane?!?!?), sadly it has nothing to do with United's catering. Any nausea and/or sickness from food usually takes about 12 hours or so to set in before you feel any affects.

However, just thinking about UAL's catering, just made me nauseous.

Amazing photos and report
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Old Dec 28, 12, 4:26 pm   #9
 
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Thanks for this. I'm currently working on my own Myanmar TR to come soon.
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Old Dec 28, 12, 7:20 pm   #10
 
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Oh wow a PR TR! That legroom is incredible but the plane looks so old.
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Old Dec 28, 12, 7:29 pm   #11
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Old Dec 28, 12, 7:57 pm   #12
 
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Probably Bad Myanmar food made you sick not the airline food

Great report. I was in Yangon in June and supposed to go back again on a broader Myanmar trip in January. Still figuring it out. But the last year has been amazingly exciting from a Myanmar standpoint. Watching Aung San Suu Kyi in the US and then Obama going to Yangon was fascinating. I even got invited to a charity event by coincidence in the Hamptons this summer called Burma Rising when I was overheard mentioning I had been to Myanmar recently

But I actually had a similar food poisoning and it rivaled the worst I've had from India and Nepal. I think it's unlikely it came from the airline business class food. Sometimes it can take two or three days to hit you.

I flew back from Myanmar to Bangkok to Tel Aviv to New York. By the time I got close to Tel Aviv I was a bit nauseous. Then I ate a bit of humus et. al in the El Al lounge and by the time I was an hour or two into Delta Business Class to New York I thought I was going to die. Definitely the worse stomach ache in 10-15 years that I could remember. Of course Delta wouldn't give me any medicine ...you would think they'd prefer someone to faint or do other bad things versus carrying extra pepto bismo. In my last two or three hours I thought that if I could make it to JFK I'd get a hotel at the airport versus even trying to get to Manhattan lol ...was that bad.

But still interested in Myanmar though might not eat on my next trip!
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Old Dec 28, 12, 8:17 pm   #13
 
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Enjoyed your trip report. We went to Myanmar in 2005 and it leaves an indelible impression on those who visit. Arriving in yangon my husband remarked 200 miles and 200 years ago from Bangkok. The people were so strong spiritual and resilient given all they have gone through. There is so much respect for learning and education We'd like to return but I'm not sure all the change will be for the better.

Some good reading is thant myint u grandson of former UN secy General U thant who writes beautifully weaving history and current events and the physical and geopolitical of a country between India and China. For fiction read Amitav Ghosh The Glass Palace

There aren't many places like this.
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Old Dec 29, 12, 5:12 am   #14
 
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How wonderful it is to read this Report

Mingalarbar: From 2003 onwards I was a regular visitor to Myanmar/Burma visiting all parts of the country: Mytykna in the north to Maulmein in the south east to points east and west and of course "lower burma".
Towards the end of 2010 I began noticing changes and on my last visit in 2011, the rapidity of change surprised me. I made a decision not to visit Myanmar after that, clinging on to the memories of the most wonderful people in all of asia.

my notes on Yangon/Rangoon and Burma are collected here:
http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/26dab/11d75d/

Once again thanks for a trip report that touches your heart.
Je su tin ba de.
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Old Dec 29, 12, 12:51 pm   #15
 
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Thanks for this wonderful trip report, it really was inspirational to read. Myanmar looks like an incredible place to visit.

It's cool to see a PR trip report, I never knew that the YVR flight originated in Las Vegas. The seating and on board comfort looks perfectly adequate, and very good value.

One minor plane spotters' note... your flight from BKK to RGN was on an A321, not an A320.
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