all my heroes are weirdos

We're All Mad Here

Chapter Two: Myanmar

After detoxing the days away I decided to get Fun Bobby out for a retox to say goodbye to my little sisters. It was the perfect night of cackles, vodka buckets and ballet dancing to techno before falling asleep in the back of a tuk tuk on the way home. 

But obviously with hedonistic highs, comes the distinct ability to sleep through an alarm clock – or in my case, forget to set one,  which then meant I missed my one-a-day bus out of Chiang Mai and had no more than twenty-four hours to leave Thailand before the authorities would start to come after me.

So the morning after the night before, after a much needed bagel brunch with the girls, nineteen coffees and a detox smoothie, I got straight on the case to avoid Thai imprisonment.

“No morning bus”,  said the lady behind the counter.

Sam and I looked at each other and she gave me that disappointed parent look to which I replied with an oops-ridden shrug of the shoulders. But while we battled out gestures, the lady continued to click her mouse a few times and by some sort of miracle turned the screen to show me the last two available seats on the one-a-day bus to the border. And one of them was in the row I’d wanted – row number seven.

So with a two-day hangover and the early onset of man flu, I boarded the 8.30am coach to Mae Sot and plonked myself down in 7C with an iced latte and fifty million halls soothers.

Aaaaaand we’re off. 

Wardrobe Warrior

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I was not born with the gift of common sense.

When I originally thought I’d be sticking around in Chiang Mai until the end of January, I thought it would be a great idea for my parents to ship over some of closet classics in a parcel that cost me  £150 of money I definitely don’t have. 

It was 10kg of traveller essentials. You know like my favourite rose-coloured sequined cropped jacket, a pair of nude stilettos and a faux-vintage ball gown that I picked up from a boutique in London last Christmas. 

By the time I realised plans had changed, it was too late, the fabric parts of my personality were already making their way to me through the air and  I no choice but to invest in another suitcase. And of course,  to keep it classy, I opted for a bright yellow kids bumble bee one. 

So there I am in thirty-five degrees heat,  wearing a bold pink jumper, blonde hair ragged up in a top knot, looking and feeling like death, lugging about 50kg of unnecessary clothing over the border and into Myanmar; a third world country that I then knew absolutely nothing about. 

Crossing Over

Walking over Friendship Bridge into Myawaddy was like turning the page of a book and starting a new chapter – the second leg in my Gap Year for Geriatrics. 

It was quite literally a different world to the one I was leaving behind. The air was more dense and smoggy, there were children sat on the floor with their hands cupped begging me for money and the polluted river below was wafting putrid smells of rotting litter into my nostrils.

Women stampeded ahead of me in brightly coloured clothes carrying huge round bowls on their head full of bananas or pots or seeds. The men were wearing short sleeved shirts and colourful skirts which I later discovered are called longyis – some sort of a traditional fashion statement here. 

Everybody stared at me. 

As I walked through customs, dragging behind my little yellow bumble bee and sweating profusely from the heat as much as the fever, a  man in a pale blue uniform marched straight up to me and I was pulled by the arm into a makeshift customs cubicle.  

The last time this happened I was detained in Boston airport for an hour while they worked out why I had about five passports on my record. I crossed my fingers on both hands and prayed a little that this wouldn’t be any sort of Loment as I was simply not in the mood for any of that right now. I just wanted find a place to sleep. 

I would walk 500 miles

The thing about leaving life completely down to adventure is that you can end up having to trudge five kilometres crippled by the weight of your wardrobes, along a road that isn’t really a road, more of a dirty track really and getting followed,  heckled at and spat at by locals. 

It was the setting sun and the fear of taking a taxi and getting kidnapped that kept me going. I knew that down the main road there would be a few hotels, somewhere to rest up for the night before leg two of my journey to Yangon the next day. So I waddled on and on and on. 

The busy roads were full of honking horns and staring faces.  The buildings had been left to ruin. The streets were lined with shacks selling mobile phones, snacks in plastic bags,  flip flops and Burmese fashion. There were stray dogs and chickens everywhere. Everything and everyone looked covered in a layer of dirt or dust.

Men, women and children sat outside on the pavement chatting away and fell silent when I walked on by, staring at me. I found myself staring back,  wondering what that almost neon yellow face paint was dotted on their cheeks and forehead.

At last I saw a hotel that looked less like the building where they filmed scenes for Trainspotting and more like an actual hotel. I dragged my heels up to the counter with hope and desperation in my eyes.  There was no room at the inn, but they did at least kindly offer me a taxi to the next nearest one. 

By taxi they meant hollering at the local fourteen year old kid to grab his moped and make a few quid off this horrendously dishevelled tourist. 

The kid pulled up and revved his engine, yanked my bumble bee suitcase out of my hands and beckoned me on board. I climbed on grabbing onto to my front backpack with my right hand holding onto the back of the bike with my left.  One sharp move or jolt and I would have tumbled off.

A gang of local kids surrounded us giggling and waving and off we went, whizzing another few kilometres up to Grade One Hotel. 

It wasn’t quite grade one;  the light in the hallway was enough to give anybody an epileptic fit and my door didn’t actually lock, but my room was big enough to do kart wheels,  had air conditioning and a double bed. So I treated myself to a 20p can of Sprite from the mini bar and went to sleep very happy,  very alive and very not in prison. 

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1 Comment

  1. Derek Rowe 15 December 2018


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