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Bangkok, Thailand

March 29, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

I leave Bangkok this afternoon for a two month journey. My flights are on Garuda Airlines of Indonesia and my itinerary is as follows:

29 March . . . . . Bangkok to Singapore. Change planes and arrive in the evening in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia for a two night stopover.

31 March . . . Denpasar to Perth.

25 April . . . . . Perth to Denpasar.

20 May . . . . . Denpasar to Singapore.

29 May . . . . . Singapore to Bangkok.

This essay was published in To Myanmar With Love. ThingsAsian Press. 2009.  pg 232.

I love Mandalay. I hate my hotel room.  I wander and explore.  I discover the Unity Hotel.   At the reception desk, Thida is so lovely and gracious.  With a kind smile she says, “We will be happy to welcome you.”  I checked in the next day

After breakfast, before my climb of Mandalay Hill, I invite Thida for coffee. She smiles.  She declines

 Before my tour of  Innwa, Amarapura, and Sagaing,  I ask again.  She smiles.

Finally, after I return from my river ride to Mingun where for good luck I pat the tail of the huge stone elephant, I try once more and Thida smiles.  “You have asked me three times.  Now I will say “yes.”  Yes!  

Public social relationships in Myanmar are conservative and discrete.  A “date” in Myanmar means that the girl shows up with a chaperone or two.  Thida introduces me to her cousin and her friend.  During our dinner date I comment on their excellent English.  They tell me they attend an evening class at the local Monastery School.  I admit that many years ago, as a high school teacher in New York City, my specialty was teaching English to immigrant boys.  (“Juanita is tall.  Conchita is taller than Juanita.  Carmelita is the tallest.”) Thida invites me to teach a class.

Portions of this letter were published in To Myanmar With Love.  ThingsAsian Press. 2009. pp187-188.

Pyin U Lwin, Shan State
Myanmar
Sunday January 16, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

This morning I am having a hot cup of real coffee.

Most of the coffee in Myanmar has been "Coffee Mix." A packet of instant coffee, sugar and powdered milk. Just add hot water.

Thankfully, coffee is grown in the hills nearby. Pyin U Lwin, an old British "hill station" in the mountains is just 67 kilometers east of Mandalay.

And hot is what I need. This morning I could see my breath! Man, it's cold. Osama was good enough to make some vegetable soup for breakfast. I dined out in the sun, with several layers of clothing. I remembered to bring along my scarf and hat, but I neglected to bring my woolen gloves. Why in the world did I pack them if not for mornings like this?

This adventure was published in To Myanmar With Love.  ThingsAsian Press.  2009.  pp 193-194. 

Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar
Saturday
January 8, 2005
Nyaung Shwe Dear Family and Friends,

Yes. You read the title of this piece correctly. A Bike - as in Bicycle - Ride. I was persuaded by the hotel staff that a trip to the Hot Spring would be a pleasant activity for the day. Since I was planning a rest today anyway, as I anticipated a travel day tomorrow, I agreed to a test drive.

Given my recent history, I approached this event with reluctance and apprehension.

The editor of To Myanmar With Love wrote:  "Jan Polatschek pens a love letter to Myanmar."  ThingsAsian Press.  2009.  pp 218-219.

Mandalay
Myanmar 
January 14, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

"Min gala ba" . . . Hello, I could begin my long letter

THIS WAY: "Jan, an American man, is sitting with Nori, his wife, Nana, and their friend Yumi, all from Japan; and Lorenzo, from Switzerland. We are watching a young waitress debone a Peking Duck in the Western Park Chinese Restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar."

OR THIS WAY: "I am sitting at a small café at a busy intersection of downtown Yangon (Rangoon), dizzy from the dust and the teeming traffic, munching on breaded, deep-fried greens (don't ask) and washing down my oily snack with an energy-boosting glass of juice, freshly squeezed from a stick of sugar cane. Add a splash of fresh lime."

OR THIS WAY

"I am eating an Indian dinner across the street from The Unity Hotel in Mandalay: Chapati, freshly kneaded, rolled, and grilled by an assembly line of men and women, chicken curry, potato curry and Chinese tea."

I WILL BEGIN THIS WAY:

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