Days at the beach have their own special rhythm. The focus is on playing in the water and relaxing in the shade. Spend the hottest hours mid-day in the AC room - you know, the time when “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.” Those hours. (And for those who think of Myanmar and Mandalay as “wasn’t there a poem or something, The Road to Mandalay?” Yes, there was, and yes, the poem is by Rudyard Kipling, he of the “mad dogs” quotation.)
There’s the after-breakfast walk on the beach, before the sun heats up the sand to burn-your-soles hot. I love my morning walk on the beach, a mile or two in one direction or the other, then back - with my trusty camera, my walks turn into photo safaris, or maybe a photo shoot with the hat. The boats at anchor change daily, as do the cast of characters playing in the waves. Early morning finds few people in the water, but there are always several hardy souls out there for a swim, or children playing in the waves and foam. Our beach is lovely soft sand, miles and miles to the east of our hotel, and maybe only one mile to the west. At the west end, just this side of the hill, is an estuary or inlet, which seems to be full of water at high tide, and maybe during rainy season. But at low tide, the boats are marooned on sand bars, looking sad at being left high and dry, despite their cheerful colors. There’s something about brightly painted boats that is so picturesque, that demands photographs and paintings and sketches.
The hotel also has a wonderful pool, which is refreshing at any time of day. Lounge chairs are available for sunning, and the breakfast tables look over the pool to the beach beyond. Aqua tiles infinity pool that looks like it flows into the aqua sea beyond!
The café here is wonderful for lunch and dinner - and yes, we could wander out to the restaurants along the road, but food preparation can be a problem in Myanmar. Salad vegs need to be washed properly and thoroughly, meat and fish needs to be fresh, and drinks with ice are questionable. During such hot days, I tend to want salad for lunch, and the hotel café is safe. Besides, a salad with giant grilled prawns is less expensive than the salad with grilled chicken, so who are we to complain, or go elsewhere? Papaya or watermelon juice on the side, and I’m set! (And yes, they have some sandwiches, and a burger which they didn’t overcook to death. So Richard is satisfied, though not thrilled.)
Early afternoon tends to be time to nap, read, try to get on the internet, or just prepare the blog for when I can get a decent wifi connection. Downloading, editing, and labelling photos also takes place in the early afternoon. By 4 or so, the sun isn’t as hot, and it’s time to wander back out to the beach. Or maybe read under one of the palm frond umbrellas on the beach, while relaxing on a comfy lounge. (Life is full of options, and sometimes it’s so difficult to choose.)
This time of year, the wind comes up in the afternoon, creating decent swells, so the teens are out in the water with inner tubes, riding the waves that roll in and crash on the beach. Some of the waves are pretty good-sized - not exactly surfing waves, but enough to topple the inner-tube-riders and knock them off their black rings. Lots of screaming and squealing, and it looks like great fun! (We haven’t found where one can borrow or rent an inner tube - you know I’d be out there in a minute!)
The beach has areas with big outcroppings of rock jutting out, making small rocky hills amid the sand. The big waves crash in, creating huge sprays of splash and foam, full of sound and fury and looking very dramatic against the dark craggy rocks! Young men tend to climb on top of the biggest rocks and pose for their friends, getting soaking wet as the waves send spray all around.
I looked closely at some of the rocks, and while most of the rocks look like nice solid metamorphic rock, I think some of it might be igneous, or volcanic. The eroded patterns look almost like air pockets, the way rock looks when formed by molten lava hitting water. I don’t know for sure, I’m just guessing. And Dad’s hat isn’t talking. But the hat enjoyed the beach time, as well as exploring the rocks covered in barnacles, and the scattered tide pools with small fish and crabs scuttling around. The hat and I shared memories of summers spent on beaches, Dad doing his beach research, and the five of us kids playing in the sand, surf, rocks. Beaches always evoke memories of our wonderful summers. Idyllic in memory, if not actually back then. (The summer in Nova Scotia, when I was about 10 or 11 years old, was my first try at scuba diving. Those summers at the beach influenced my life choices far more than I would realize at the time.)
And then a crowd gathers to watch sunset over the hill to the west. Not that we actually see the sun seeming to sink into the ocean; no, it goes down behind that hill. But the sky turns wonderful shades of yellow and peach and rose and finally a deep lavender, and the sea reflects those colors. As does the wet sand as the waves crash and thunder on the rocks. It really is a spectacular time of day, sunset. Sunrise probably would be wonderful as well, but neither of us seem to be in a hurry to climb out of our comfy bed and leave our large room, complete with a balcony. So I haven’t seen a sunrise here, and keep thinking well, maybe tomorrow.
Richard and I were chatting at breakfast, and he asked if I was ready to leave tomorrow. No way, I could easily stay another week. Or several weeks. I could even see living here for quite a while.
But we only have a 28-day visa from the Myanmar government, and it expires on May 5. Our flight back to Bangkok is scheduled for May 4. So we’ll head back to Yangon on Thursday, as planned, and explore that city for a few more days before winging our way back to Thailand.
We have a vague plan for the next few months, though no dates yet. Just the outline of a plan. We’ll get back to the US for our annual medical checks and renewing the prescriptions. I’ll “shop” for a new wardrobe in the stored boxes, we’ll both stock up on toiletries. We’ll visit family and friends, of course, and catch up on everyone’s lives. See how the little ones have grown, meet the baby born while we were somewhere in Asia.
And then hit the road again. We have yet to visit India, China, and the countries in-between those two huge nations. We were both looking forward to Nepal, but that might have to be on hold for a while. So so sad to learn of the tragedy of this earthquake, watching the news with tears in our eyes. Truly devastating. We met many Nepali people working in various countries we’ve visited, and most were trying to earn enough money to return to Nepal and open a business - there’s that connection you make when seeing the same people over and over, chatting, developing a friendship. We hope that relief can arrive soon, that trapped people and the mountain climbers are rescued, that the people of Nepal and the neighboring countries have what they need to survive and rebuild.
The big question is always “Where next?” Where do we go within a country, especially when we have limited time? Where do we go when we leave on place, heading elsewhere? And do we want to stay within the same region, the same continent, or go somewhere completely different?
So, we're back in Yangon now, just got back today (30 April) - there's some famous Buddhist monk speaking at an event, and the street for our hotel is blocked off. We walked around the back of the stage, had to take off our shoes/sandals to walk down the red carpet and the various mats that were set up for this special event, and pass monks sitting in the audience or arriving to hear the speaker. There was also a special altar or shrine set up, with golden statues of Buddha covered in fragrant garlands of jasmine and orange blossom, or something similar. No idea what it was all about, but it was exciting and colorful!