Footloose Scot

Footloose Scot by Jim Glendinning Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Footloose Scot by Jim Glendinning Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jim Glendinning
place of business. After a slow explanation via the ancient's wife, who was younger, it appeared he was a doctor of traditional medicine. This was timely since Roy was suffering from digestion problems. Roy extended his hand for examination. The doctor, Mr. Soo, painstakingly examined it, then diagnosed stomach problems, and offered some powders as a cure. Some time later, having taken photos and found out more about the doctor's background, Roy paid a few
baht
and we left. The next day Roy reported that the powders had worked. He said he was feeling better.
    Before heading back to Bangkok by train, I gained some insight into the expat's life in Chiang Mai. At a party given by an American researching a new book, I spoke with a German who made musical instruments out of bamboo, listened to an older Japanese couple talk about how it felt to retire to Chiang Mai and met a famous guidebook author. Thailand has long been an easy place to which to retire: warm climate, tolerant population, good food and laid-back life style, an open attitude towards sexual proclivities, and low prices. Total annual tourist arrivals in Thailand are approaching 20 million of which the USA provides 609,000; and the USA has more expat residents in Thailand than any other country.
    Before leaving, I visited Roy's wife Laddawan's well-stocked boutique, bought a brightly colored shirt and received a foot massage from her niece; they called the treatment Happy Feet. Her store, "Laddawan's," is well located on a main tourist shopping street and is run by her and her family. Colorfully shirted and with happy feet, I felt re-energized and ready for a move to the next country.
    BURMA
    Many of the tourists on the flight from Bangkok to Rangoon in 1987 carried a bottle of whisky. We had all read the guidebook which advised that a bottle of Johnny Walker would work wonders if a bureaucratic problem arose. Thailand was an efficient country with a robust economy visited by millions of tourists annually. Burma was backward, rundown and controlled by a military junta. Most tourists avoided it out of concerns for their safety or comfort, others as a refusal to condone the military regime.
    I wanted to see the gentle people described by Orwell and Kipling, who wrote, "This is Burma. It is quite unlike any place you know about." This was why I was lining up with my bottle of whisky at Burmese Immigration. We waited an hour to get out of the ill-lit airport terminal, and then took a bus into town. As we bumped along the uneven streets we caught a glimpse of a soaring illuminated gold stupa, the Shwedagon pagoda, which would be the first site I would visit the next day. The bus dropped off a few people at hotels where they had made reservations and finally stopped at the YMCA where the remaining passengers unrolled their sleeping bags on the floor of the gymnasium. It was too late to go looking for rooms.
    The next morning I roamed the streets of Yangong, the name which replaced the old colonial name of Rangoon when the country became independent from Britain in 1948. I noticed old British cars like a Hillman Minx, long out of production, parked on the street. Street vendors sold individual cheroots to smoke, and had a smoldering length of rope from which to light your purchase. A tailor's shop advertised: Tip Top Tailors for "Gentlemen's suitings and shirtings," a quaint reminder of the past.
    The Shwedagon pagoda, 2,500 years old and 325 feet in height, is the oldest Buddhist shrine in the world, and home to the relics of four Buddhas. The overwhelming gold color, sparkling in the sunshine, comes from real gold plates. The bell-shaped stupa rises 325 feet and is decorated with thousands of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Approaching by a walkway filled with vendors, the visitor removes his shoes before entering. Overwhelmed by the magnificence of the building and the awe reflected by the ordinary Burmese visiting the temple, I was surprised when two novice monks

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