‘Here’s my last instalment for our Intrepid trip,’ says my son to the Travel agent at Escape Travel before offering a smile of accomplishment.
Just last week I was ahead on the payment stakes. Now I’m sitting on a little padded stool feeling a little underdone; as the traveler with a further grand to pay before my butt has a fully-secured place on both tours.
When beginning negotiations back in March it seemed like a whole pregnancy needed to blossom towards birth before we boarded our first plane out of Brisbane International headed for Yangon via a short airport stop-off at Singapore. Now it feels like we’ve felt the first of our Braxton Hicks contractions.
Perhaps it might eventually feel like we’ve engaged in the long-awaited, final pre-delivery check-up with the gynaecologist when our passports are delivered to the Myanmar Embassy in Canberra; for the payment & official stamping of our tourist visas.
Yet I’ve already given some thought to the packing of that important suitcase. I’ve bought sufficient Earplanes to cover all our flights. And checked out the continuing potency of past injections; even consulted a range of medical professionals about the necessity for antimalarial medications.
‘I’m allergic to doxycycline,’ I say. ‘After telling my doctor I wanted to use it again on a second trip to Vietnam/ Cambodia, I broke out in hives.’
‘Of course Malarone is not covered by the PBS. It’s considered if you can afford to travel, then you can afford the pills to keep you well enough to enjoy the trip,’ says the local pharmacist.
But apart from the expense, the side effects seem numerous & potentially horrendous. Including the onset of psychosis in vulnerable patients. So I will probably opt to cover up (dress modestly) and use bug spray; or else at least stand beside those who spray around DEET products at sunset!
One thing of concern for us now is the present declining value of the Aussie dollar; or specifically our capacity to purchase sufficient American greenbacks over the coming months to plump out our bumbags & travel wallets. We’ve purchased a fair amount between us so far but it’s constantly stated ‘Burma is no longer one of Southeast Asia’s cheap destinations.’ Particularly in Bagan. So there’s the deep concern we haven’t quite got enough to splurge on any ‘add-on’ tours, or to dole out to our travel guides as gratuities.
Yet I read today some comforting news
In January 2013, KBZ and CB banks opened international ATMs throughout Burma. These accept both Visa and Mastercard, and charge a fee of 5000 kyat. The ATMs are a real game-changer for travellers, as it means they no longer have to carry thousands of pristine US dollars into the country to change, or budget their cash load for the entire trip. Western Union also began accepting international funds transfers in January 2013.
That’s quite a considerable relief.
As is the fact we’re not travelling through difficult areas … along the borders with Thailand, China and Laos, where clashes between the military and armed groups have occurred; where there is ethnic conflict, banditry and the possibility of coming into contact with unmarked landmines, most pointedly in the Kachin and Shan states; from where tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced internally and to neighbouring countries.
Of more import to us as guided Intrepid travellers I guess is that we remember:
- money is handed over and received with the right hand, while the left hand loosely supports the right arm
- not to expose our shoulders or knees (as is the cultural practice);
- to remain guarded in political conversations
- to smile
- to use as many Burmese words we learn
- to buy & consume only bottled water
- to refrain from touching, because I’m a woman, the golden rock at Mount Kyaiktiyo (even if I’m feeling a little unsteady on my feet, from vertigo)
- to keep feet firmly on the ground rather than pointed at anything or anyone; though particularly in respect of buddhas & monks