French cheroute, ultimately from Tamil curruṭṭu, from curi, to be spiral.
This lady was having a smoke following a wedding in a village just outside Mandalay, Myanmar.
Photograph taken in January 2013.
With a proper Thai massage parlour just round the corner from my guesthouse, I went for a real massage on my last evening in Mae Sot. I had to change into baggy pyjamas and lie down on a thin mattress. The masseuse was brutal. It hurt. A lot. I thought she would realise I was in agony by my whimpering and groaning, but she probably thought she was working on the correct bit of knotted muscle. When I could take no more and begged her to stop, she seemed quite surprised. Not as surprised though, as when I got cramp, and had to get up and hop on my left leg (never the same since sciatica in 2012). And the ending was very abrupt. She stopped in mid stretch, saying, “Finish now.”
I am not sure if you can describe an hour of being a willing torture victim for £2 as good value. I took some photographs of the classic Thai massage technique, and some exercises to reduce “watta on the scrotum” (bottom right).
Bamboo is amazing. It can grow at 10 cm per HOUR, reaching heights of 30 metres. It can be stronger than steel. It can be eaten, made into paper, clothing, building material, musical instruments and furniture. As a boy, my father told me about “split cane” fishing rods. In 1981, my wife and I worked for Save the Children Fund, in Thailand. We bought some bamboo garden furniture made by Khmer refugees in Sa Kaeo camp, Thailand. We stored it in a garage in Bangkok and planned to transport it back to UK. The bamboo had been treated by immersing the poles in running water to leach out the sugars in the stems. This had not been done very well with the bamboo used for our furniture. Within a month, termites had reduced the chairs to piles of dust.
These photographs were taken when I had to renew my Thai visa in January by walking over the Friendship Bridge to the small Burmese town of Myawaddy. You hand over your passport to a very friendly immigration officer, who will sign the entry and exit stamps so you can get back into Thailand for another 30 days. A snip at just US$10. It is always a good idea to look smart, be polite, chat about how poorly Manchester United are faring under Moyes and smile a lot. You can then step out of the airconditioned office into the Burmese sunshine and walk around the town for a few hours, before returning to Thailand. I went to the market and took some photographs:
I am not sure if One Direction are very popular in rural Myanmar. I doubt they are being paid royalties for this endorsement. Does Harry hanker after tamarind paste? We will probably never know.
Maybe I am being harsh. Perhaps the sun has bleached the skins of the family in the photograph.
How do you attract the ladies to your stall to buy clothing or material? Play Thai radio pop songs through loudspeakers? Or play your own chilled out guitar music, like this man?
Lunghis are wrap-around skirts used by both men and women. Men usually wear dark or solid colours; women favour more colourful designs and patterns.
While I was checking out the textiles, a troop of smiling children dressed in smart uniforms paraded past me.
And if all this shopping makes you hungry, you can always stop for a Burmese tea leaf salad, sticky rice pudding and cakes, or slowly stewed pork, skin included.
Once you have bought your new glad rags, you can go clubbing in the capital. Here is a poster advertising a fabulous night spot. It is a bit pricey at £3 – £6 per ticket, but style doesn’t come cheap.
Note the acronyms KNU/KNLA in the headline – Karen National Union and its military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army. They have been at peace with the military government in Myanmar since 2012. Perhaps Yangon Dream World is a political fundraiser.
That was too easy. How about this one below?