The temple town of Bagan, Myanmar

When we arrived in Bagan, my friend Tin Win wandered over to a horse-cart driver for a talk and a betel chew. We hired him to take us around to look at the temples and soon were riding along the dusty plains strewn with crumbling ancient stupas, passing numerous jumbled heaps of bricks in the…

Driving into downtown Yangon, Myanmar

I  took a bus into downtown Yangon which had a right-sided steering wheel, even though people drove on the right side of the road in Myanmar. I’d heard that many second-hand vehicles were imported from countries like Japan where they drove on the left, but this was the first time I’d actually ridden in one and…

Exploring the ancient temples of Bagan, Myanmar

In Bagan, my friend Tin Win hired a horse-cart driver to take us around to look at the temples. We were coming along a trail when we heard the faraway sound of bells. Soon we came in sight of the Ananda temple. Gazing up at a sikhara-topped, white-washed pagoda with receding terraces, I could understand why…

A serene boat trip on Inle Lake, Myanmar

In Nyaung Shwe I hired a narrow, long boat to take me out on Inle Lake. The boat headed towards the shallow lake, out across the water. The boatman wore a white shirt and traditional Shan loose pants. He talked about going somewhere, but it was hard to hear what he was saying from the noise…

Browsing the open-air markets of Yangon, Myanmar

I meandered along Shwedagon pagoda road and came upon a procession of barefoot monks carrying their alms bowls. Their red umbrellas protected them from the blazing sun as they passed a building surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. A man sat watching them pass by the side of the road, smoking a large newspaper cheroot.  I walked to an outdoor tea…

Riding the train to Bagan, Myanmar

Tin Win and I made a trip to Bagan, taking the old colonial rail from Yangon to the ancient temple city. The train creaked and clattered. The challenge was to stand up and walk, as the sway of the train made it difficult to keep your balance. Several times during the trip, the lurch of the…

Bob Denard – French mercenary and white sultan of the Comoros

In Paris, Ahmed Abdallah hired the French mercenary Bob Denard to make a coup in the Comoros to depose the dictator Ali Soilih. Denard placed ads in the Sud Ouest and Figaro newspapers that read, “Overseas security and protection company seeks cadres of all levels, in good physical condition – preference given to those having…

George Adamson – The lion man of Africa

One afternoon I met up with Kurt, a bush pilot, at a beer garden in Nairobi. He told me he’d been flying supplies to Kora, an isolated reserve where George Adamson raised orphaned lion cubs to prepare them for their eventual release back into the wild. George and his wife Joy had come to the…

Water World of Inle Lake, Myanmar

Nadya and I spent a night on a slow, uncomfortable antique train to Inle Lake in Myanmar. Sitting on hard, wooden seats, bouncing up and down in the rattling carriage was kind of like riding a bronco. Sleep was not possible so we were exhausted by the time the train screeched into Taunggyi, the capital of…

The Water Festival in Yangon, Myanmar

  The Water Festival, a giant four-day party which symbolizes the washing away of the old year and ushers in the new, is celebrated by the entire country with great enthusiasm and vast quantities of water. Anything that can hold water is used. Buckets, pots and pans, tin cans and water guns are filled with…

An afternoon in Yangon, Myanmar

One afternoon in Yangon, I walked along Kabaye Pagoda Road and passed a cluttered kiosk selling dusty cans of condensed milk, boxes of soap powder and tins of sardines. The video store next door was a lean-to of makeshift boards and corrugated iron where photos of Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone films were pasted on…

A sea-side disco in the Comoros Islands

It was a breezy Saturday night and me and a Comoron friend Abdul were sitting at a wooden table at a sea-side disco, sipping warm beer by a make-shift sand dance floor, watching colorful garbs fluctuate to strobe intensity. Illuminated in the glow of a red bulb, we slouched behind a clutter of empty glasses…