Walking the Burma Road

We are back in Kuala Lumpur after four months in Penang. I have not been busy but I have been lazy in posting impressions on those four months. My recovery from cataract surgery completes giving me 3D and depth perception back. I don’t get so tired typing on the notebook computer.

The famous Burma Road was an allied supply artery to China during World War II. Leaving Lashio at the Northern border of Burma (Myanmar), it ran to Kunming and Yunan in China.

In Penang, Jalan Burma (Burma Road) runs from the edge of the Heritage Neighborhood of George Town up to the Mount Erskine area through a district known as Pulau Tikus. Historically, this area was the meeting point of various ethnic groups, cultures, and commerce of Penang Island. It was only a 10 minute walk from our place, so regularly we went exploring along the main thoroughfare and the side streets. We found some famous temples, unique spots to grab takeaway, and the occasional surprise.

Market Day in Penang

After living in the Malaysian Highlands of Cameron for a month, we trundled down to the island of Penang, about a 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland. Our trip had a slight detour due to Covid. We expected to cross one of the bridges to the island. As cases are increasing in Malaysia and especially one hotspot in the Southwest of the island, government Conditional Movement Control Order closed both bridges. We were wondering if the ferry would run. Only half the ferries were running but that was enough to get us over and find a taxi to our place. The CMCO limits the range of our activities. Basically, we can go for groceries or takeaway along with daily walks for exercise. A few restaurants offer socially distanced seating. Mostly we try to stay out of harms way. Sometimes, adventure just waits around the corner.

We are staying north of the main city of Georgetown. Our place is near the Erskine Hill market so Saturday we headed there to stock up for the next few days. Afterward, we took a local street back by the fire station that lead to an interesting encounter.

The pride of Mount Erskine Firefighters, Notice the implement in his hand.
What is in this yellow container. It is hissing and not happy.
Just a 120 cm (4 ft) Cobra found in a house near here. Don’t forget to close the windows.
Guess what he had in the back. A knot (I counted 4) of pythons waiting to be returned to the hills.

The cobra will be taken to a veterinarian for health and safety check. Our man with the snakes said after being resettled up in the hills, they’ve had no repeat offenders.

Wild Coasts, The northern edge of South America

We spent over three weeks traveling through the Guyanas (in colonial days called French Guyana, Dutch Guyana, British Guyana).  Today, they are Guyane, a department of France, Suriname, and Guyana. This is the unique linguistic enclave of South America where one hears French, Dutch (Netherlands), English, and Creole. I also heard Sranan Tongo, which I came across in a Sociology course long ago at the University of Minnesota.  In those days it was described as Taki-Taki, a derivation of English Talky Talky unless it was more formal, then Dipi-Taki (Deep Talk) was used.

Travel was a little tricky.  There is only one flight a week from Belem, Brazil to Cayenne the capital of French Guyana. There are no flights from Cayenne to Parimaribo capital of Suriname.  We booked a share taxi for 4:00 AM to Saint Laurent de Moroni, the river port across from Suriname.  A share motorized long boat called a Pirogue took us over the river.  There another share taxi took us to the door of our host’s apartment. Three others made the trip with us all the way from Cayenne. Along with getting in and out and watching our bags, we went to French immigration to get our exit stamp at the ferryboat port in Saint Laurent and stopped in Albina, Suriname to show our visitor card and passport.  The visitor card we obtained for 35 Euros from the Suriname consulate in Cayenne.  This gave us one of the few chances to show our Yellow Fever certificates. We flew from Paramaribo to Georgetown in Guyana.  The Suriname airport was built many years ago 40 km from the city on solid land away from the marshy savannas.  Similarly, the International airport in Georgetown is an hour drive to the city.

This sampling of photos shows coasts and colonial houses typical of the region.

Cayenne, Guyane Française (French Guyana)

Side trip to Kourou, Guyane Française

We rented a car for one day to drive down and tour the Space Port. It is a huge complex.

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Launch pad in preparation for the Ariane Rocket Launch that occurred two days later

Paramaribo, Suriname

Georgetown, Guyana

Impressions

There are many national forests and parks that we could have visited that are still quite natural and rustic.  Mostly, they must be visited on tours or using a personal vehicle.  These are not popular enough to have regular bus service that allow independent travelers to visit.  There were a lot of flashbacks to my early days traveling around southern South America in the 1970s. This trip was a mixture of unique experiences that keep alive the memories of the so-called “colonial backwaters.”