We made it to our December break. No one is feeling very jolly though, as we are still not able to travel. There was a government announcement a week ago that formally opened up the ability to travel within the country as of December 16th. However, the rules are so complicated and vague that it is rendering travel basically impossible. To get on an internal flight you have to have a negative covid test no more than 36 hours old. This is theoretically ok if you are in Yangon as there is a testing solely for people who have no symptoms and it seems like everything works ok but you do have to get there early and stand in line outside for hours. But what happens when you want to get on the flight to come home?
Are there testing sites at the beach? No one knows. Also, there is a rule that if you are coming from a township with a stay at home order (like Yangon) and go to a place that does NOT have a stay at home order, you must quarantine in a government facility for three days. If you choose to drive to your destination to avoid the weird covid test airline rules, you will be travelling through many, many townships and theoretically could be stopped and detained at any one. Boo. It seems like travel was really opened up to allow people to go back to see family for this holiday period and not for casual sightseeing. So this morning I cancelled yet another round of hotels before we got charged and we will sit tight and see what happens.
In better news, it has been announced that the international airport will opening again on January 1. This is a massive relief for everyone as it has been shut since March. This means it will be theoretically possible to leave if needed and be guaranteed the ability to return (with the proper quarantine). Obviously no one from school is going anywhere so we are starting to get creative with ideas to entertain us during our three week break.
Over Thanksgiving Gavin and I took a lesson on how to drive a proper motorbike. We love our little ebikes but know that in lots of places in SE Asia if you want to really get around you need to rent a scooter or motorbike and that some of them will possibly have gears. A local travel agency was advertising lessons to teach you and get you more comfortable, so we decided to have a go. They told us we would start in a parking lot and to be honest, I assumed that Gav would be fine and I would be stuck forever in the lot, never quite getting the hang of it. I started having some flashbacks of Gav teaching me how to drive a manual car in central London. The tears! The panic sweat! The putting the car in park and forcing Gav to run around to the driver’s seat to take us home! But actually, much like the car driving experience, once I managed to figure out getting going in 1st gear, all was fine. After about 20 minutes we graduated from the abandoned road we were learning on and slowly ventured in wider and wider circles until the teacher decided we were ready for a little adventure.
We took off outside of the city limits on a pretty fun little ride. I was quite impressed with the safety equipment provided-full helmets and knee and elbow pads- but my bike only had one rear-view mirror, Gav’s had none and none of the bikes had working turn signals! It makes sense because Myanmar people do not seem to put a lot of stock in using turn signals but still. It was pretty fun, I didn’t freak out, and we even graduated to a little off-roading. We liked the experience but definitely are not going to be trading in our nice simple, light ebikes any time soon.
We actually held out hope until very recently that we would get to travel within Myanmar over the break. I did a lot a panic-booking, thinking that the nice hotels would all get snapped up quickly from all the foreigners who couldn’t do their usual travel during the holidays. Well, now by email inbox looks like this:
as all the hotels notify me that they aren’t open or we decide we just can’t take the risk trying to get there. Before you feel too badly for me though, check out what we did on our first day of vacation!
That’s right, some friends threw me a belated birthday party with an ice theme (you know how I dream of that cold, frosty air, or any air that is less than 35 C! Liz, Party Planner Extraordinaire, arranged for the ice factory where we did ice carving two years ago to bring blocks of ice to a friend’s pool. Her idea was that we would carve it around the pool, but honestly after we built a bar with beer holes we just started throwing the blocks in the pool like we were at a fancy Vietnamese resort. It was so much fun and you can even have your very own serving tray if you wait for the blocks to get a little smaller!
So here we are on Christmas Eve, still just kind of hanging around the house trying to be festive. It hasn’t been too bad, a local restaurant offered an Advent calendar of cocktails, so for 12 nights we have gotten to try different cocktails in the comfort of our own home, which has been pretty great!
We found out at the local flower market has Poinsettias! On our way to buy some we accidentally also bought another Bougainvillea. Whoops, can’t help it, we love those things.
We got inspired by some houses we saw during the last full moon festival here who put up candles on their gates or balconies and decorated the outside of our house. You can tell which fairy lights we brought from the UK and which ones we got here by the “warm vs. cool” battle, ha!
And so we are settling in for our long 3 week vacation. I am coming up on one year of staying put in one country, something that I have not done for 23 years! Oh well, everyone in the whole world is in the same boat. Merry Christmas and here’s hoping next Christmas will look a lot different!