Hiking to the Waterfalls Outside Nabang/Laiza

After only a few days in the area, I had the chance to hike along the river that officially divides Yunnan Province, China and Kachin State, Burma to visit a waterfall with three friends. It was the only real trip I would make in my seven and a half weeks in the area, so I’m glad I took advantage of it.

It was a bit tough going in the midday heat right after eating a big lunch, but it was nice. We had to walk across the river several times where we couldn’t continue on the same side we were on, and as we waded across several times my bare feet nearly slipped on the rocks underwater. Luckily that didn’t happen, as I had two non-waterproof cameras, a non-waterproof GPS device, and my non-waterproof phone with me!

When we arrived at the waterfalls it was great to sit down and relax, eat a huge handful of peanuts, and take some photos of my friends playing around in the water:

The walk home was much easier as it was more downhill and the weather had cooled slightly. I like this kind of bridge – I wish we had more like this in Canada:

After returning home, it was time for supper, ping pong, a shower, and sleep.

Creepy Crawlies at the China-Burma Border

During my seven and a half weeks at the office, I couldn’t really go anywhere. I mean, I could walk upstairs, downstairs, and maybe 100 metres in any direction outside the compound. Other than that, I stayed within the compound, relaxing in my room on the roof or playing ping pong in the courtyard when I wasn’t working in the office or leading English conversation classes in the meeting room. As a result, it wasn’t always easy finding subjects to photograph. Luckily for me, there are tonnes of insects and other creepy crawlies in this area so I had something to occupy some of my spare time. I’m not a huge bug fan, but some of these guys were pretty interesting:

This leaf bug didn’t seem to realise that he doesn’t blend in so well on my friend’s plaid shirt…

Nor is he inconspicuous on a shiny window surface:

There are thousands and thousands of beetles in the border area around Nabang/Laiza. We often found really big ones lying on their backs, some alive, others dead like this one:

I noticed something in this photo only long after I had taken it – If you can see what I’m talking about, first correct comment wins a free beer when we’re in the same city:

A few minutes later, the dragonfly decided my friend made a better rest stop than the wall:

There are also many mantises, some green and some brown, and of many different sizes, in the area:

Leave the lights on in the office at night, and along with all the other crazy critters that turn up at the windows, you might find one of these huge moths. He’s about 5 inches across from wingtip to wingtip:

One of my past hobbies, for which sadly I rarely find time these days, is lockpicking. I was, therefore, surprised and impressed to find a mantis trying to pick the lock to my bedroom door when I woke up on the morning of April 30th!

These guys seem to stay put for many hours at a time. After about 4 hours on my door, he spent the rest of the day on the ground just outside my door:

While playing ping pong outside one day, I saw something strange and a little colourful walking on an upside-down garbage bin, so I quickly took a photo and on zooming in, this is what I saw:

This guy is unfortunately dead, but the lady who sweeps up the dead bugs every morning hasn’t yet come this way. He’s really bright and colourful! Not sure why we find so many dead bugs every morning – they fly around the lights all night then drop dead, I guess maybe from hunger or using up all their energy? I never thought much about it…

Later the same day I was about to play some night ping pong with a friend when we noticed we had a friend waiting for us on the net. My friend caught him (which wasn’t hard, considering the critter didn’t try to get away) to fry and eat later, but then he didn’t want to hold onto the bug while playing ping pong and had nowhere to store it so he let it go. Around this area, these bugs are well-liked as a snack.

After our night ping pong was over, my friend and I went to the office to check our email, and from a distance out of the corner of my left eye I caught a dark flash of something moving under a desk. I headed over and snapped a quick close-up of this scorpion:

Unfortunately, because he was trying to run and hide under the desk and everyone around here wears sandals except me, on the advice of my local friend, I had to kill it as these ones are venomous. Unlike with the huge wasps and bees flying in and out of our rooms all the time here, the locals are actually afraid of scorpions. My friends in the office were surprised to hear the next day that there was a scorpion in the office, as it hasn’t happened before to anyone’s knowledge.

Strangely, I found a scorpion in my bathroom three and a half weeks later! But this time the unwelcome guest was a bit smaller – only about 1cm long! Note that my left index finger is just under 1cm wide at the tip. I’m not really sure how I managed to spot such a small one from a distance, again from the corner of my left eye, but glad I got rid of him before he grew to a more dangerous size and hid in one of my shoes (a bad habit of scorpions).

This beetle sat dead on my desk for a few days, and since he was kinda shiny I took a photo before I threw him away:

This hairy moth was in my bedroom for a few hours; the wingspan was about 5 inches:

This guy was walking around outside and caught my attention pretty quickly – just look at the artwork on his wings and the crazy cartoon face! I’m not sure if those are supposed to be Disney-style fake eyes or what, but they’re AWESOME!

Close-up of the shot above:

Front view:

Burma to Bangkok to Kuwait to London to Uppsala, Sweden

On February 24th, after almost four weeks in Burma, it was time for me to leave. Having flown from Bagan to Yangon on the evening of the 23rd, I took a friend’s advice to stay at the Gardens Guesthouse in order to take some night photos of the Sule Paya roundabout:

In the morning, I flew to Bangkok and returned to my hostel of choice there, Soi 1 Guesthouse. I picked up my laptop and a bunch of clothes I had left with the owner, grabbed a nice shoewr, and in the afternoon I took off en route to London via Kuwait.

A snapshot of the dorm room in Soi 1 Guesthouse in Bangkok:

Because of the time difference, I landed in Kuwait on the afternoon of February 25th. Here’s a shot taken as we were coming in for landing:

I sat beside a really friendly Scottish girl who, incidentally, knows a couple I met in Mae Sot, Thailand months before. After a number of hours in the Kuwait airport chatting with the Scottish girl and watching the Japanese animated movie, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” on my laptop, I caught my onward flight to London.

After I arrived in London, I went for a coffee and some alone time, read a few of Checkhov’s short stories, then headed to my friend Aidan’s house. Aidan wasn’t home, but his flatmates immediately got me involved in a fun activity: filling his room with crumpled newspapers and phone book pages. We spent a fair bit of time doing it, and would have continued if we hadn’t run out of paper and run out of neighbours to ask for more paper. Aidan was slightly overwhelmed when he arrived home. Here he is, enjoying the new decor:

The next day I took a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park:

I sat down on this bench to take a break and eat a sandwich, and after a while noticed the inscription in the wood:

After my long stroll, I walked over to the Museum of Natural History and spent an hour and a half checking out their interesting exhibits. I’ve never before been to a museum with a full dinosaur exhibit, so this place was kind of exciting for me! A few random photos from the museum:

This is the caption for the photo that follows:

That afternoon I headed back to Heathrow once again, boarded an SAS flight to Stockholm Arlanda airport, caught a train to Uppsala, missed my bus even though I was ready to board, standing looking at the driver through the door, walked half an hour on ice to my old apartment, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep.

Bagan in 42 Photos

I arrived in Bagan at about six in the morning on February 22nd, after a nine hour bus ride during which I was unable to move or sleep almost the entire time. Not the worst bus ride of my life, but not quite the best either.

There are few words and many photos in this post, but first I should say that Bagan should be one of the 7 wonders of the world. Unfortunately, most people who’ve never been to Burma have never even heard of Bagan. You can get a very quick intro to this amazing place here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagan and read more elsewhere if you’re interested.

With only a day and a half to explore the thousands of ruins in and around Bagan, I set out immediately by cycle-rickshaw to catch the sunrise from an old temple a few minutes’ drive from the guesthouse I had chosen. Five photos taken from / of that temple:

Once the sun was up, I headed back to my guesthouse to eat breakfast and rent a bicycle to get around for the day. I left the guesthouse just after 8am and returned nearly twelve hours later in the pitch darkness. With a bare minimum of words, here’s what I saw that day:

After watching the sun set looking west from a fairly high temple roof, I began cycling back to the nearest paved road to get back to my guesthouse. Unfortunately, after a full day of cycling through sand dunes, stone paths, over brambles and through thickets and potholes, my luck ran out. As the darkness began to take over, I found myself with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, not even 100% certain which direction to head to get home.

Somehow, every time my luck runs out while travelling, someone or something comes along to rescue the day – this time I managed to stumble upon a tiny village with some children running around. A woman soon came up and took me to a house where the village bicycle repairman lives. They brought me a chair and a bowl of peanuts to eat while I watched him check and fix my inner tube. Turns out this tube had already been patched many times before, and on this occasion he had to put four new patches in! That’s right, I had managed FOUR punctures in one go!

After fixing my bike, he kindly cycled with me until the paved road and pointed me in the direction I needed to get to my guesthouse. A long cycle ride in the dark with no lights followed, and I managed to make it all the way home without incident.

In the morning I woke up, rented a different bicycle, and headed out for a few hours to see a few temples I hadn’t visited.

Afterwards, I returned to my guesthouse, packed my bags, caught a horsecart taxi to the airport, and flew to Yangon (Rangoon) in order to make my Yangon-Bangkok flight the following morning.

This was my sweet ride to the airport:

Looking down at Bagan as we circled to turn toward Yangon: