We did also have a lovely holiday, before all the shenanigans with Thai hospitals and psychedelic drugs handed out by British Airways. And while I very much doubt I’m done milking the dramas of my pratfall and the associated decline in my physical wellbeing, I thought this week I would lighten the load and hark back to happier days pre-accident.
That’s a pretty picture isn’t it? Balloons rising with the sun over some of the 3000 pagodas of Bagan, Myanmar. My sister (who lives in Myanmar (née Burma) and was the reason we were there at all) had insisted we couldn’t go to Myanmar and not go to Bagan. Once there, the tour guides insisted we couldn’t go to Bagan and not climb the same temple every other Western tourist climbed to watch the sunset. So, reluctantly, we did.
It’s okay if you’re a tourist, as long as you’re the reluctant kind. So we were up there on the temple at sunset, complaining about how many people were there too, all also taking pictures of the sun as it peacefully set over the horizon of distant temples. Complaining, elbowing other tourists out the way while taking our own pictures and mocking the gap yarr students, just as Buddha would have wanted it.
Here’s Gaz turning the camera on himself, because we’re not like other tourists.
And here’s my picture of the Bagan sunset, with the coach park clearly in shot. I did that to illustrate the classy equilibrium between the historic beauty of Bagan and the coaches of tourists trucked in and trucked out, once they’d got their snaps. (We came by bicycle, not coach. So we can judge.)
So that was done and then it was Christmas, which we spent in Ngwe Saung on the west coast of Myanmar, soaking up the atmosphere of a South East Asian hotel trying really hard to appease all the Western punters there for Christmas, by blaring out Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time on loop from 6am and putting up tinsel like this:
But we made Christmas work for us. Sorry to all those who spent it in the UK, feeling cold and eating sprouts, but we spent it here:
And although it was tough, we just about made it through.
Yangon, where my sis has settled, is an extraordinary place. It’s full of cracked pavements so big you could lose a small child, table service so slow you could order lunch while you wait for your breakfast and so many cars that it’s always rush hour. But it also has an incredible feeling of change afoot, of anticipation and opportunity.
I met with some of my sister’s new friends – flung together from so many corners of the world that we referred to our dinners as International Dinners, for it felt awfully well travelled to sit beside some of the world’s finest other nationalities and not just the half-Welshman I usually dine with – and the lovely thing about the international community in Myanmar is that everyone is pretty new. Few ex-pats have been there years (born as that is from Myanmar’s complicated political history and brutal military corruption that has meant ex-pats haven’t really fancied it until recently) so, Myanmar may have one hell of a dark past, but it’s got a bright future.
Next chapter of the adventure came with our joining forces with friends in Bangkok for a few days. It’s been a while since I went on holiday with friends and I had quite forgotten just how absolutely brilliant it is. I mean, I love going on holiday with just my husband, of course, but with friends there too, everyone was on exquisite form and there was a general feeling in the air that we were forever united by every experience, every in-joke, every evening of merriment. Which is true of marital holidays too, we just cast the net a bit wider this time and bonded not only with each other but also with these luminaries:
From Bangkok we flew to Chiang Mai, where more friends awaited. Old school friends of mine, in fact, who I hadn’t seen in 15 years, or as one fondly reminded me, since the very day of 9/11, where our parting words were probably ‘bloody hell.’ 9/11 isn’t to blame for why we haven’t seen each other since… just time moving us along different paths.
The fella on the left was the first man I was ever friends with. Before him, I didn’t realise what fun it was to be friends with men. He was an early pioneer and our friendship led me on to many more male friends who have continued to make me laugh in a way I cherish. So I was sad we hadn’t seen each other in so long and couldn’t wait to show him what a legend I’d become.
His wife, next to him in the pic, is Thai. I have fond memories of her, for we shared a dorm. But I also remember our relationship being difficult because we both wanted to be best friends with the same girl. (School life – so complicated.) So I couldn’t wait to show her how much I didn’t care about the silly little things of school anymore and, to reiterate, I’m now a legend.
Sadly, our reunion revolved around me throwing up in the loo of their beautiful guest house, then my old dorm room-mate acting as translator in the hospital while arranging for the doctor to put steroids in my bum. I barely made it out of the room and most certainly did not get to show them I’m a legend. So that’s a shame.
I am about to get soppy, so before I continue, perhaps I should mention that I’m on a high dose of Diazepam. It’s for the muscle spasms but by all accounts is pretty good for chilling people out. Doc says I’ve got to be careful I’m not getting addicted for it is highly addictive. Pah! I’m not addicted, doc! GIVE ME MORE, I NEED MORE. HAVE YOU GOT ANY MORE?
I’m not addicted, yet, but I have noticed myself philosophising a great deal. Turns out I was surrounded by legends and did not need to worry about being one myself.
This little girl, the daughter of another old school friend, is an eight year old wunderkind. She became like a nurse to me, bringing me bananas and holding my hand whenever the devil saw fit to make me walk somewhere. So much kindness in such a young soul. When I was her age I just ate Curly Wurly’s and pretended my bike was a horse.
Finally, my two favourite people on this trip. My sister, who amazes me every day and gives me something to aspire to be. She’s not afraid of anything and always finds the adventure, wherever it may be lurking. If there is no adventure to be had, she’ll make one out of arts and crafts. I love her so much I’d even share my Diazepam with her. Well, she could have a half.
And him. You know him. Him who has been catapulted from the ‘health’ bit of ‘in sickness and in health’ to the ‘sickness’ bit years sooner than either of us anticipated, but with such grace, humour and patience. This is not our future, husband of mine. I’m reckless but I will not give him a life as a carer. Not yet. He will not have to put my pants on for me again for at least half a century.
I love holidays. Even ones that end in tears. Because even in tears, there is always something to be happy about. And, in these fine folk and the beautiful things we saw and did, I banked a lot of happiness.
Oh, and this guy.