Showing posts from May, 2016

Day 11 – 23 May Muse to Dali

I had completely rearranged the bags yesterday in such a way that I had all the clothes and accessories that I wanted in China in one bag. I quietly acknowledged that I would have to do laundry in Beijing. By 6 am I rang up the reception for a bellboy to take my luggage to the car. In a short while Htoo rang me up to ask what it is that I wanted from the reception! I was all set in the next 15 minutes and waited for the others to join for breakfast. Before breakfast we exchanged presents. Pyae and Htoo, on behalf of Silver Hills, gave me a huge wall hanging with semi-precious stones depicting the life in Myanmar. In turn, I presented them with copies of my books and mugs of the London drive.
I limited my helpings to eggs and toast with fruit juice and mangoes. Htoo, Hnin and Pyae had a large bowl of soupy noodles and meat. Finally, by 7.30 am we were ready to leave from the hotel. The first stop was the Customs office. Sadly we found the office locked. Htoo walked around and found one …

Day 10 – 22 May Lashio to Muse

Over dinner we had agreed to leave from Lashio after 9 am since the drive to Muse would take just about three hours and the hotel check in would be only after noon. That gave me enough time to complete all my chores and be at the breakfast table at 7 am, again as decided last night. However, I didn’t find the others there. The young man who waited at the table set my portion which consisted of fried rice and a sunny side up egg on top of that, soup, n watermelon, cake and coffee. I noticed that a portion of fried rice and egg were placed in front of the Buddha image that was placed in the dining hall. Later, Htoo told me that it is customary for a portion of the cooked meal to be first placed before the Buddha image in every home. After a while a member of the family may consume that portion.
Lashio has been colder than the other places that I had been in Myanmar this time. The coconut oil also froze up. The water was quite cold too and hence, it was natural to look forward to a hot wa…

Day 9 – 21 May Monywa to Lashio

It had been Achachan’s plan, in the first place, to take a Xmas break in Madras, the present day Chennai. This was in the mid-60s and I remember being so proud of it because none of my classmates had been to the metro city. To top it all, the trip would be by car, a relative luxury in those days. Those trips served to reinforce many values, build extracurricular skills and understand how to plan such out of the ordinary trips. Most importantly, they were opportunities to observe and study from Achachan and Ammachi. Both of them ‘ran their races’ better than they were expected to and left for distant shores in 2006 and 2001 respectively. Today is the tenth anniversary of Achachan being called to HIS side. I join Geetha and Satheesh, my siblings, and our families in specially praying for his soul and keeping him close to our hearts.
During the trip to London I had entered China through Nepal. This time it is different because the Nepal route is still closed since the earthquake in April …

Day 8 – 20 May Kale to Monywa

The Taung Za Lat Hotel is bang opposite the Kale airfield, which operates ATRs and choppers. I have stayed at the hotel twice during the South East Asian Expedition. Both the times they had given me their premier room and this time too it was no different. It is a comfortable room with a private bath. But the hotel is entirely run on diesel genset, all 24 hours. I do not know how they manage. The constant whirr of the genset can be quite a nuisance at times. However, I was happy that the Wifi worked slightly better early in the morning for me do some uploads. I could not complete what I wanted to, but I was at least half way through. Nevertheless, I had had enough time since last evening to complete all the documentation, including the blog. That was a matter of great relief.
Breakfast was to be served at 7 am and Htoo promptly came over for a shout. The buffet had been laid out, mostly with local fare. Htoo and Hnin explained what they all were. The major item seemed to be a large por…

Day 7 – 19 May Imphal to Kale (Myanmar)

I have known KB Singh since my days in Loyola College, Chennai from 1975. Even though we were pursuing, or sought to pursue, different disciplines we were good friends in the hostel. And those days having a friend from the North-East was like having an overseas friend! Yes, I was enveloped in that mindset where all from the North-East were grouped together. It was not until I travelled across the country and spend over a month in the seven sisters in 2010-11 did I understand the diversity and richness of the people and land in the North-East. And in making me understand this KB Singh was an essential link. I have always turned to him for support and guidance during my trips through Manipur. Last year I was in Manipur twice while on the way out of India and back in during the Singapore expedition. I also have a few very good friends in priests in Kohima and Imphal, Fr Johnny and Fr Joseph respectively, They have hosted me on a few occasions in their residences. I could have tapped thei…

Day 6 – 18 May Maligaon (Guwahati) to Imphal

Last evening I had to change the room that had initially been allotted to me at the ORH in Maligaon since insects stole into the room in large numbers, the kind that heralds the rain. And it poured and poured for some time. I slept like a babe in the room into which I had changed. I was well rested by the time I got up an hour before my set departure time of 5 am. I felt a certain energy flow that comes with the body and mind in complete sync. This day I was to do about 500 km to reach Imphal. I had done the stretch in May 2015 comfortably and in good time.
The drive from Maligaon to Nagaon was a beauty. Thereafter the road to Dimapur, particularly the Karbi Anglong area was in poor condition. The congestion in Dimapur seems to be going up day by day. It was a struggle. A constable in one of the police check posts I was stopped at told me with a smile that the road in Nagaland is better than it is in Assam. When I negotiated it beyond Dimapur I wondered if the constable was having a la…

Day 5 – 17 May New Jalpaiguri to Maligaon (Guwahati)

Sharat Chandra Jethi is presently Additional Member Commercial in the Railway Board. All through my previous expedition I have leaned on him quite heavily for accommodation and facilitation. I remember the frustrating night when I was on the East-West expedition and the Rewa-Katni road had almost laid me hors d combat. It was Sharat who provided the support in securing accommodation at the shortest of possible notices and without a demur. When I was planning for the accommodation in New Jalpaiguri and Maligaon I naturally phoned up Sharat. As is usual with him, he took down the requirements to the last detail. It so happened that he was also likely to be at New Jalpaiguri on 16 May when I was to be there. We looked forward to meeting there. However, he called up on 15th to say that he would be arriving only on 17th due to official work in Guwahati. I agreed to postpone my departure from New Jalpaiguri by a few hours to accommodate the meeting.
Last evening the Senior Area Manager of NJ…

Day 4 – 16 May Farakka to New Jalpaiguri

As the day panned out I came to believe that the change in itinerary to halt at Farakka was a God-sent. The NTPC guest house has seen better days. Lack of maintenance has eaten into the facilities available. This was made up by the extremely friendly staff of the guest house. I woke up early and thought that it had become daylight already. I went out and saw that all the lights fans in the guest house were on, in the corridors and other common areas. I wanted some hot water to make coffee. A helpful attendant immediately agreed to fetch me some. When I got back to the room I realized that the water was less than lukewarm. Had to make do with that and I did.
I had paid the guest house charges the previous night, which included a princely amount of Rs. 40 for the room. By 5 am the bags were loaded, wind shield and windows cleaned and the engine was revved up. Within 5 minutes of leaving the guest house I joined the massive queue that was patiently waiting to cross the Farakka Barrage bri…