On returning to Yangon from Bangkok, I got tonsillitis. It had been brewing in Bangkok… Then bam. Constant razor blades sensation in my throat, not just when swallowing. I had to take a couple of days off. Thank goodness for Facebook – a cry for help brought helpful responses including from an ENT doctor, and the combination of antibiotics and dexamethasone fixed me. I’ve been coughing a bit ever since, but that could just be me developing TB 😉
This blog feels a little heavy on the ‘fun’ writing and light on the work, despite the fact most of my time is spent working. I suppose I don’t want to be boring everyone with medical chat but also there are some things I’ll probably write about once I get home. Recently, I have started training the doctors to insert IUCDs. I was a little anxious to see how it would go, as it’s such a different setting to what I’m used to, but actually so far it has gone really well. We have also introduced some new training assessments so waiting to see how that goes.
Mum and Amy arrived on my birthday, which was really nice. I was keen to get home and showered ready for taking them out to dinner, but was slightly delayed due to traffic. Also delayed in a very nice way by some of the doctors wanting to take me to a shop to buy me a longhi and a lovely jacket, very sweet.
We went for dinner with Tony and Kim May, who I look on as my ‘burmese parents’ and have looked after us so well. It was great for my real family to meet my new family.
The next day we were up early to start our long drive at 6am (see pic of map). Our driver, U Htun, was very punctual. The journey started off well, with a mohinga stop to keep us going. The road from Yangon to Mawlamyine is pretty good and takes about 5 hours. Thereafter the road begins to deteriorate, gradually getting more and more poorly maintained. Despite it being quite bumpy, we all managed to doze to varying degrees, particularly Amy who was dosed up on antihistamines.
The scenery was lovely, lush green paddy fields, mountains, waterfalls, pagodas. By 4pm we were making good progress, hoping to arrive by sundown (which is around 18.45). Hardly any vehicles were on the road coming the other way. We were climbing the mountain roads, when suddenly we came to a stop. A big landslide blocked the way, which fortunately a digger and JCB had just started tackling. The digger was moving stuff around (technical term) and then the JCB would come in and push the piles of land and big rocks down a steep precipice.
After about 90 minutes, it was cleared and we all cheered. By this time there were quite a few motorbikes collected around us, and fortunately only a truck in front of us (quite a queue of vehicles behind us by this time). Unfortunately it then started raining heavily. U Htun started the engine as did the truck in front of us, which had one guy who jumped out walking alongside. I thought why is he doing that when it’s raining – basically he had a brick which he would slip behind the back wheel whenever the truck was stationery so it wouldn’t slide back!!
We managed to get past the truck and then back on our way again. But two factors were going to delay us beyond the 90 minutes – heavy rain and imminent darkness, as roads are not lit, so the driver can’t go very quickly, having to look for potholes etc. U Htun was pretty amazing – very safe but also efficient – and always good humoured, even though he must have been shattered. We finally arrived in Dawei at 9pm. Finding the hotel was also fun – though I knew where it was from staying last time, the darkness made it a challenge.
We managed to get an order of food into the Chinese restaurant next door, then headed to bed. The next morning we were visited by Ludu, who is a family friend, and his family, who we had all met in Yangon on our last visit in 2012. Ludu took us to my Grandma’s cousin’s family’s home which was really nice. This was the first time Amy and I had met any of our Mum’s family (apart from her parents and sister, who went to England) so it was pretty cool. Some of them looked so amazing for their age, must be something in the air in the South!
We then went to Ludu’s house, battling some flooding, which backs onto where my great grandmother’s house used to be. I should point out that the rain was bad that day – proper rainy season – Yangon is nothing in comparison! We then went to Mum’s cousin, Eddie’s house – this time on Grandpa’s side of the family. Ned and I had failed to meet him last time we were in Dawei as he was in Yangon at the time. We could actually join in the conversation this time as Eddie is an English teacher (with the other rellies I could understand bits but that was all).
Finally we visited Eddie’s brother, Michael. By now, Mum’s toothache was flaring up so we retired to the hotel so she could have some rest. The rain then gave us some respite, so Amy, Ned and I had a wander around the market etc and had snacks at a tea house.
The next day we went to Maungmagan beach, about 40 minutes drive from Dawei. We weren’t sure how much would be open as it’s off season, but there were still a couple of beachfront restaurants doing business. They brought out the fresh seafood on offer and we put our order in. We then drove to Myaweik pagoda, a bumpy 45 minute drive from the beach. It was intensely rainy and windy on arrival and as Ned and I had been before, left Mum and Amy to walk the slippery causeway to the pagoda.
We drove back to Maungmagan, passing through the fishing village. Our seafood was then cooked – a crab in Dawei style, barbecued prawns, grilled fish. It was delicious and perfectly cooked. By now there was actually a bit of sunshine so it was quite pleasant.
We then returned to Dawei, where we had a unsuccessful search for the ‘upone mote’ dessert and I had a perm. Never done it before, but it was a bargain and the girls did a great job – had a haircut and head massage as part of it – all for £20! We then had dinner with Eddie and met his daughter. We said our farewells, Mum got understandably a bit emosh, and we then packed for our onward journey to Mawlamyine the next day.
It was great to meet Mum’s relatives and see photos and hear about life in the 60s before she left. Plus Dawei is lovely, even when it is raining most of the time 🙂