Two If By Sea (Or Actually River)

Blanket women on the boat from Mandalay to Burma

Do you realize that I have been back for more than a month and I still have not told you very much about Burma? Because guess what, I have been back for more than a month and I still have not told you very much about Burma! Specifically, I have not told you about the thirteen hour boat journey Sean and I took from Mandalay to Bagan, during which we sat cross-legged on the wooden floorboards of the ferry from 5am until 7pm, hanging out with the locals and buying the very same samosas that were the probable cause of our extended bout of vomiting 24 hours later, except life was still sweet then and we didn't know that yet.

One of the reasons I have been holding off telling the story is because I was thinking that perhaps I should try and tell it to a travel magazine instead, you know, SOMEONE WHO WOULD PAY ME, but then I realized that I am a) too lazy to figure out how to make that happen, and b) very ill-equipped right now to handle rejections from publishers, and so hi! You are hearing it from me now instead! When you are probably supposed to be working. Go back to work! Go, now! You will only get sucked into the Internet further if you stay here reading blogs all day---trust me, this is my life. Today I got precisely nothing done on my to-do list, but I do finally know how you all spent your Thanksgivings. And way more than I needed to about Britney Spears. And also that someone is going to have to buy this t-shirt for me, or I'm going to start using twee acronyms like LOL to describe what I did for, like, ten minutes after I'd seen it. (The brilliance of this t-shirt! It hurts me! I must have it! Refrigerator!)

I have also not been telling the story of the Burmese boat journey because I am experiencing this weird phenomenon right now where, if I start to think back to my trip, I become depressingly overwhelmed with the fact that I AM NO LONGER ON MY TRIP and then something breaks inside my head, and also sometimes my heart, and so mostly I try very hard not to think about it, about the fact that it's over, about the fact that I'm never going to wake up in Cambodia again and think "today I'm going to Thailand, where there is currently a coup! But first I will buy some very cheap Khmer silk cushion covers."

(I'm so cross that I never actually bought those cushion covers. It was ridiculous of me. They cost, like, $2 or some other outrageous fortune, and yet I was all like "they're too expeeeeeensive!" and "they won't fit in my baaaaaaaaag!" and so in some sort of protest I did not buy them, when really! How stupid am I? When else am I ever going to get Khmer silk cushion covers? Oh wait, my parents are going to Cambodia on Saturday. So maybe then.)

This boat trip, though, it was really something. I don't know what we were expecting, but we sure as hell weren't expecting this. (Actually, come to think of it, I think perhaps one of the things we were expecting was seats.)

On board the ferry from Mandalay to Bagan

t's sort of hard to explain what it felt like to sit in the same place for thirteen hours, stopping every few hours at places that looked like this:

Stopping at a port on the ferry from Mandalay to Bagan

and then being besieged by local sellers who ran on board to offer you bananas and coconuts and peanuts and beads and buddha statues and POISONOUS SAMOSAS at each port, hoping against hope that you'd buy something:

Banana lady on board the ferry from Mandalay to Bagan At one point, I woke up from a nap that I'd taken when the boat was still dark and found the morning sunlight streaming in through the sides and sixty or seventy Burmese people just looking at me. Just staring. I smiled and they smiled back. To my right, Sean was doing a sudoku puzzle, and four or five men were clustered behind him, watching over his shoulder and occasionally leaning forward to point and whisper "seven" or "four" or "nine."

We sat and we ate and we read and occasionally we got up to go to the filthy toilet, which THANK GOD was a squatter, because you wouldn't have wanted to sit on any seat, I'll tell you that. (Incidentally, your, ahem, business, went straight down this hole into the river. Don't you think that's kind of, I don't know, sort of simple and brilliant? Maybe gross, but also simple and brilliant?) I gave some local kids a Wilco masterclass on my iPod before their father came to tell them off, and they sat, rapt, for a good half hour, never complaining when I skipped through the long guitar solos in the middle so we could get to the next song.

Corrupting the youth with my iPod

Sean was a hit with the ladies, of course, charming them with his photos:

Sean impresses the laydeez

and I became incredibly popular when I pulled out a Cosmo I'd taken from a guesthouse in Chiang Mai and gave it to the first person who asked:

Corrupting the women of Burma

(Of course, I was terribly embarrassed about all the corrupting of Burmese youth I ended up doing on that trip. I mean, have you read Cosmo lately? It's obscene! Plus I'm pretty sure I played those kids Handshake Drugs.)

The night before we'd left on our mammoth boat journey---which, by the way, included our newest traveling buddy, English Steven, removing the stitches from Australian Eliza's ankle with a Swiss Army Knife as we sailed down the Ayeyarwaddy River at dusk, YOU DON'T GET THAT IN GREY'S ANATOMY, DO YOU?---we'd happened upon the grizzled hippie traveler Jerry Garcia guy at a neighborhood chapati stand. (Do you like how that sounded? I like how that sounded. Neighborhood chapati stand!) We'd told him, with great panic, that we were taking this enormously long journey on this enormously uncomfortable vessel, and he just smiled his laidback smile. "Don't think of it as this long, boring journey, or that you're blowing a day on just getting from A to B," he said. "Think of it as one of the best parts, one of the best days, one of the best damn experiences of your trip."

And if I could find that grizzled hippie traveler Jerry Garcia guy right now---apparently he lives in Florida, if anyone happens to know him---I'd shake him by his grizzled hippie traveler hand and say this: "Jerry," I'd say, "you were right."

Thespian Libby
Nov 29, 2006

Thank Jerry for the wisdom next time you see him. I needed that.

Nov 29, 2006

except for all the vomiting, it sounds like a great damn experience and i am super jealous of you and sean!

Nov 29, 2006

Oh that was magnificent. All of it.

Nov 29, 2006

I'D pay you for this.

And I love the t-shirt. Much giggling has ensued.

Nov 29, 2006

Hehehe I love that you corrupt people with Cosmo and Wilco!
And also, the way you tell it, doesn't sound that bad... sounds quite nice actually!
(of course I'm saying that from the confort of my couch...)

Nov 29, 2006

I just loved reading all about your have an amazing way with words

Nov 29, 2006

I thought I would help you with your To Do List:
If you'd like to pitch a story to Travel + Leisure magazine, here is there contact link
You can also send photos in for consideration
Travel + Leisure Magazine
Photo Department
1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10036
And don't worry about rejection letters, just remember Florida guys advice!

Nov 30, 2006

Beautifully done. Aplomb.

Nov 30, 2006

I think my neighborhood needs a chapati stand.

Nov 30, 2006

Delurking to say that I bought that shirt for my brother, who is a writer and thus it seemed perfect. But also because when I think of him wearing it, I wind up in fits of giggles. Refrigerator - ha!
Also - get thee a publisher, for I would definitely pay to read your stories!

Nov 30, 2006

Those pictures are fucking great. Yours or Sean's?

Nothing But Bonfires
Dec 01, 2006

Mine! All mine!

Dec 01, 2006
Dec 01, 2006

They're really good -- you should submit them somewhere!

Dec 04, 2006

I agree with JB. I totally would have paid to read this.