Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Out and about around NPT

Wrapping up my time in NPT:

One weekend I visited a village on the outskirts of town and as you drove out of the city it was like an invisible line had been crossed and suddenly we were in a more familiar world again. There were people, shops, shop houses, dogs, traffic – all those things I seen everywhere in Asia, even down to bullock and cart transport. There was a lively market and there I got asked to stop for a photo – so I reciprocated and took his photo.

man

Watermelon & Betel

There are not a lot of big attractions in the city – given that the Gem museum sounded dull and the water fountain park only worked periodically, and we weren't sure when those periods were.  There is the Uppatasanti Pagoda, built as a replica of Shwedagon in Yangon, but measuring 30 cm shorter than the original.  It certainly stands out and could be seen from my hotel 12 km away.

pagoda2

At the pagoda are also white elephants.  I had never seen one before and they are considered to bring good luck.  There were 3 adults and a baby that was born in captivity.  Only the Thai royal family have more white elephants (10).  I told my Myanmar colleague about them and he didnt even know they were there.  I tried to explain they weren’t white like the paper we were writing on, rather the were sort of coloured like…me.

elephants

Even though the city was...unusual, the people were superb. Everyone smiled and wanted to wave or to say hello. Every time I walked out in the extensive grounds of the hotel the garden staff always waved at me, shyly. One older chap was very brave and he asked me where I was from, and if I was off to market. I was off to the mall but I agreed I was off to market (to buy chocolate and chippies rather than vegetables Smile)

Walking to the mall one day a car stopped and asked where I was going and when I told them, the family offered me a ride because “it is very hot outside”.  I declined but it was just lovely that they made it.. The mall was good and the Ocean supermarket had a wide selection of items for sale better than anything I could buy in Laos.

There are not a lot of foreigners and no obvious watering holes, they might exist, but no one I talked to knew any better. So when you see one you pretty much stop and chat – Hi, where are you from and which NGO are you with? I met some interesting people.

None of the roads we travelled were busy.  The busiest places I saw were away from the hotel zone and near the worker accommodation.  Staff live in rent free, government provided, accommodation and are transported to and from work each day by provided trucks/buses/transport. Once a week the transport takes them to the local market and waits one hour before taking them home. On that day it is a MEGA-market as all government employees are delivered there on the same day – and all the local vendors turn up.  I drove past the market once on that day and it was the most normal scene i had seen within the city itself. 

hotel road

This was how the road  from my hotel to the main road 1km away looked on any given day (2 lanes each way).  In the time it would take me to walk that distance I would see a couple of cars, a few motorbikes and lots of nothing.

In an odd coincidence another foreigner in my hotel was also working for the same ministry, so we car pooled. He was a nice man, but rather boring.  And he wanted to have dinner together every night. It was pretty hard to avoid as I didn’t have a vehicle, the nearest alternative eating place was a 30 minute walk away and taxis weren’t so easy. So lots of meals in the hotel restaurant (good food) making small talk and trying not to look like I was sleeping with my eyes wide open. And the interminable ride to and from work with the same observations each day…joy…joy…joy.

main road









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