Sunday 11/13/2016 - Homalin to Yangon

We woke up early this morning, and went up on deck shortly before 6 a.m. We seemed to be the only ones awake, though we were sure there was plenty going on below deck. It was very peaceful and romantic as we watched the sunrise. The cloud formations took on a pinkish hue and called to mind the fanciful artwork of Roger Dean. The golden rays of sunlight penetrated the purple clouds and reflected on the surface of the river. We felt lucky to have been granted this extra sunrise on the beautiful Chindwin River.

We could see our detached bright blue drive shaft laying on the riverbank. Now that they were docked in a larger port for two nights, they were obviously taking advantage of the opportunity to perform a longer term, quality fix. Locals started their day on the riverbanks, and many little kids waved enthuiastically to us and some even blew us kisses. We saw boats piled with giant woven baskets pass by our boat. These probably originated in the nearby basket weaving communities that Win mentioned to us.

At breakfast this morning, we got to enjoy the fresh-baked croissants, a marvel in this humid weather, made by our onboard pastry chef. They were delicious and delicate. Of course, us opting in led to an unfortunate shortage of the popular pastry. We ordered scrambled eggs and bacon, and drank coffee and juice.

We all disembarked again, thanking the crew once again. Luckily, our van this morning had functional air conditioning so that we didn't start the day off overheated.

When we got to the airport, the waiting room was full of the same travelers (locals and foreigners) who had been there last night.Many of them had spent the night sleeping right there in that cramped, stuffy, dark room. At least this morning there was sunlight permeating the windows and the early morning air is much cooler.

At around 8:30, we heard propellers, and the much-anticipated flight finally landed. The whole waiting room burst into cheers and applause. When it came time to board, everyone respectfully let the Buddhist monks go first. We really like this aspect of Buddhist culture. Rather than being proscriptive about sin and what not to do, they seem to focus on positive behavior as it relates to merit-making and reincarnation.

Our flight back to Yangon would not be direct, but that was fine with us. As long as we got back to Yangon in time to make our flight very early tomorrow morning, we were happy. After all, the plane hadn't even been scheduled to stop in Homalin at all today.

We departed Homalin at 8:50 a.m., and stopped in Mandalay. On each leg of the flight, we got a snack such as cake or a croissant, as well as a drink and "pizza candy" hard candies.

We then flew from Mandalay to Kyauk Phyu, and enjoyed nice views of the beaches on the Andaman Sea. Then we flew the final leg to Yangon.

We arrived in Yangon at 12:15 p.m. At this point, most of us went our separate ways due to differing travel plans. We said goodbye to Sara, Bob, Bets, Eda, and Barbara. It had been nice traveling with all of them on the cruise.

As for the Myths and Mountains crew, Toni met with San Win (who had served as our guide on our city tour of Yangon, and not to be confused with Sandro, who has the same name) to continue on to Sittwe. Patrick and Genean had a 6 p.m. flight, so they decided to stay in the general vicinity of the airport. Going into the city center would be gambling on the traffic gods, and they didn't want to risk missing their flight back to Boston. We returned to the Park Royal Hotel with Al and Esther.

A lovely guide named Kay met us and led us to the car. She was cheerful and excited, and said that she and the driver were available all day if we wanted to do any last-minute sightseeing. We had originally planned to go to Sule Pagoda and Bogyoke Aung San Market, but that was when we had thought that we had an entire day to fill.

But with the change in plans dictated by our flight delay, we decided that we should just rest before our long journey home. We still needed to reorganize all of our luggage in preparation for our international flight home. Kay seemed disappointed by this, as she was eager to show us her city.

But we did ask if it would be possible to stop in front of Aung San Suu Kyi's house in order to take a photo. We had passed it when we first arrived in Yangon two weeks ago, but it had been dark. The Lady is such an important icon in Myanmar, and we wanted to pay our respects. Kay, happy to be able to take us somewhere after all, said this was no problem and we could stop on the way back to the hotel.

It turned out that there wasn't too much traffic today after all, as it was a 3 day weekend in Myanmar in celebration of tomorrow night's full moon. So we stopped in front of The Lady's house and got a photo in front of her iconic gate. A photo of her father, Bogyoke Aung San, hung over the gate, and there were National League for Democracy posters on the sides. An armed guard in a guard booth nodded at us as we posed for photos.

We continued on to the hotel. We passed a procession where community members and businesses create floats and collect money for the Buddhist monasteries in advance of the full moon. It seemed like quite a party, and we would be sad to miss it. Kay said that during the November full moon, there is always a hot air balloon festival in Shan state. That must be something to see!

We arrived at the hotel at around 1:30 p.m. Esther and Al were also planning to get some rest this afternoon, and they asked if we'd like to join them for dinner this evening. This sounded great to us.

Al and Craig both wanted to have a beer in the room, but the hotel prices are ridiculous. I had bought a can of Sunkist at the bar the last time we were here, and it cost $4! Al had a trick up his sleeve, and he led Craig to a bodega near the hotel that he had patronized at the beginning of the trip. It was a little hole in the wall place which had a fridge of various single beers. The cheerful proprietor was delighted to see Al again and was extremely excited to have a new customer in Craig.

Esther and I sat in the lobby chatting, waiting for the guys to return. Craig got 2 large bottles (Myanmar and ABC Extra Stout), 2 cans (Andaman and Dagon), and an orange juice drink for me, all for 7000 kyat (less than $6). Not bad at all!

We checked into our room (#447), which was very comfortably appointed and well air conditioned. We took showers to refresh ourselves. Craig enjoyed his beer while I posted cruise updates and photos to Facebook now that we were back on the grid.

We met Esther and Al at 6 o'clock and walked next door to Bawarchi Indian Restaurant, which they had really enjoyed when they ate there at the beginning of the trip. Esther and I got piña coladas, and Craig had green tea. Craig ordered spicy chicken tika masala with saffron rice, and I had very spicy Lahori paneer. We shared an order of kulchas (bread stuffed with onions). The food was amazingly good; the best Indian food I have had outside of India. It was really nice to get to chat with Esther and Al and reflect on our trip before we each went our separate ways to opposite U.S. coasts.

We walked back to the hotel and said goodbye to Esther and Al, who would be leaving for the airport at 10:15 p.m.

Craig and I toured the hotel a bit, window shopping in a gift store and looking at the local art adorning the walls. We were wandering through the conference area when an employee approached us and gave Craig a big thumbs-up for his longyi. His nickname is "Jack Jerry", and when he found out we were from the USA, he told us that he loves our crime procedural dramas. "CSI: Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hawaii, NCIS..." He watches episodes to learn English. He looks up any words he doesn't understand in the dictionary. Sometimes it takes him 3 hours to watch one episode in this manner, but it has paid off, as his English is very good!

He has worked at the hotel for 17 years. Although his siblings went to college, he was unable to because he has had to work to support his parents. But he loves his job and was awarded a trip to Singapore as the hotel's Employee of the Year in 2007. His family is so proud of him. He's a very sweet man, and we enjoyed talking to him.

Now it was time to go back to our room, pack for our international flight, and try to get some sleep before our 5:30 a.m. airport pickup.
This cloud formation reminds us of Roger Dean artwork

This cloud formation reminds us of Roger Dean artwork

Sunrise on the Chindwin River, Homalin

Sunrise on the Chindwin River, Homalin

Disembarking (again) in Homalin

Disembarking (again) in Homalin

Our plane

Our plane

Steph and Craig outside Aung San Suu Kyi's house

Steph and Craig outside Aung San Suu Kyi's house

Dinner with Esther and Al at Bawarchi

Dinner with Esther and Al at Bawarchi

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