RGN-PEK-ULN (Travel notes)

We flew from Yangon in Myanmar to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia with a 36 hour stopover in Beijing as both flights were in the middle of the night.  Three times in the past three years, we have flown over this part of Asia at night.

Some say long night journeys can save on hotel.  Not in my case, see our itinerary below.   I booked two nights in Beijing at the Aulympic Airport Hotel so we could check in at 8 am instead of 2 pm.  I’m getting too old to spend 14 hours trying to rest in an airport.  Things we learned (each one was an adventure):

  1. Chinese is useful to talk to front desk.  Google translate is the next best thing. Download simplified Chinese to allow offline use.
  2. Hotel email is usually not divulged from hotel or booking websites.  We used fax to alert hotel on our unusual schedule.
  3. Google translate worked pretty good at converting English to Chinese characters for the fax.  Tip: Use simple Subject-Verb-Object sentences with common words.  Limit adjectives and prepositional phrases.
  4. After a little discussion and explanation the staff was very kind and allowed a three hour late checkout for our flight on to Ulaanbaatar.
  5. The Chinese Visa free stay for up to 144 hours in Beijing takes about two hours in line, two sets of fingerprints taken, and a good helping of confusion.

Below you can see the map of our journey and the horizon as we neared Beijing. I did not even find a single cat to photograph in China.

Map-Asia

IMG_0339

Itinerary

Depart: Wed, 13 June 23:50
RGN Rangoon, Yangon International Airport

Flight: CA906   Operated By: Air China     Flight Time: 4h30m

Arrive: Thu, 14 July 05:50
PEK Beijing, Capital International Airport

Depart: Fri, 15 June 21:10
PEK Beijing Capital International

Flight: OM 224 Miat Mongolian Airlines    Flight Time: 1h30m

Arrive: Fri, 14 July 23:40
ULN Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International

From Burma to Myanmar and back

In 1981, I flew from Bangkok to Rangoon on Biman Bangladeshi Airlines.  In May, we flew Air Asia from Bangkok to Mandalay.

The first time, only one week visas were issued.  I just stayed in Rangoon as it took a lot of hard travel to make Mandalay and back in a week. This time we spent three weeks working our way south by bus. After Mandalay, we explored the temple city of Bagan and then to Yangon (current name of Rangoon).  It is hard to know whether Myanmar or Burma is the more politically correct.

There are way, way too many photos for me to post.  I started this post with about thirty but finally reduced to some significant experiences.

Mandalay

Kipling’s poem, Mandalay, is neither about Mandalay nor the road, but even today I think it captures an old soldier’s nostalgia for youth and adventure.  We stayed just across from the fortress.  The Kuthodaw Pagoda complex on the East side has a shrine for each tablet of the Tripitaka Buddhist Scriptures.  We walked over to the Irrawaddy river, the principal river of Myanmar.

Bagan

Some two thousand temples standing of the original twenty thousand.  After several earthquakes, access to the upper levels has been prohibited.  We still found many inspiring panoramas and interesting artefacts.

Yangon

We spent an entire afternoon at the Shwe Dagon Temple complex, avoiding thunderstorms and watching both tourists and locals.  Compared to 35 years ago, it is much better organized, cleaner, and worthwhile spending extra time to see the exhibits. Another day, we spent four hours riding around the city on the local circular commuter train, seeing both countryside and the hectic pace of city markets.  Finally, we wandered along the lake at Inya park coming to the house where Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest for many years.

 

RTW01 1980-81

In 1980, my company, NCR Comten, sent me to NCR Japan for software support of the first installations of our Networking Communications Processor.  Recently, a reply to my comment in Cook the Beans blog reminded me of that trip and my visit to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia on the island of Borneo in 1981.  This was one episode of that first trip aRound The World (RTW). This brings me back to the original idea of this blog to reflect on journeys and paths that brought me here.

I saved the diaries of my travels during those times for many years.  With our moving on, I wrote up some summaries and highlights and saved on Google Drive.  Much of the information written was technical notes and contacts.  Certain parts of that fourteen month trip are very vivid; other parts are just a mesh of several trips through the same areas.  My notes suggest I left Minnesota around 1 October 1980 and returned to my parents home for Thanksgiving in late November 1981.  Unfortunately, only a few blurry pictures and some scraps of mementos remain from that trip.  The many transitions of life and work resulted in a box or two purloined in various archives and the dumpsters of life, later to be left for collection at the side of the road.

Collecting and Collating digital searches, memories, and artifacts for this post reminded me of several amazing coincidences and connections that played out over the years.

First, a link to the itinerary contains a few notes gleaned from my diaries.  It’s a placeholder for my memory as details begin to fade.  The experience was so new and fresh, I never expected the frustrations trying to remember details today.

Itinerary RTW 1980-81

Itinerary1980-81

Here is the list of cities I visited in approximate order.

St. Paul, MN; Tokyo, Japan; Nikko, Japan; Yokohama, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Kamikura, Japan; Busan, Korea; Seoul, Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; Hongkong; Macao; Manila, Philippines; Batangas, Philippines; Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei; Singapore; Melaka, Malaysia; Georgetown and Penang, Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand; Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar); Rome, Italy; London, UK; Paris, France; Milan, Italy; Belfort, France; Bitche, France; Basel, Switzerland; Mont Saint-Michel, France; Cherbourg, France; Windom, MN

Three artifacts:

Three meetings:

The hardware tech assigned to NCR Japan was Sanford “Charlie” Brown.  After Japan, we worked together in South America, New Zealand, and SE Asia. Our paths still cross.  He taught me how to wirewrap.

In a Singapore hostel shared breakfast table with sisters Bea and Ev from France.  Years later they would pick me up from Luxembourg airport after spending ten days crossing the Soviet Union.

Anura Guruge at ICI UK.  He sent me to consult in Paris and Milan on a remote printer problem.  Some years later, I would find and read his first book, SNA Theory and Practice, in the NCR Japan technical library.  Some years after that, I would work with Lisa Lindgren an associate of Guruge’s consultancy.

Three things learned

Don’t be surprised.  Different cultures, different languages, different circumstances all have their ways of dealing with the situation of the moment.  Some of these will be completely different to what you might find usual.  Observe and Appreciate.

Grammar and Language: “Order word not necessary is.” Along with: “Verbs not necessary.”

In those days, I could live in Melaka, Malaysia for U$S 3 / day.  Knowing that, I only worked for fun from then on. I always knew that I did not have to put up with a bad job after that.

Here is the full map thanks to Google:

RTW_1980-81.JPG

In the years that followed, I circumnavigated (both westward and eastward) the earth many times providing onsite computer networking support.  There were some trips to South America and to Africa.  The type of technical career I did no longer exists.  In the past years, we have deviated from the original route more and more as we have free time to venture to different countries.  Here is my TripAdvisor Map:

TripAdvisorMap