27 March 2015

Meandering in Myanmar: Yathaypyan Cave in Hpa-An

Yathaypyan Cave is actually the first cave I visited when I was in Hpa-An for a day. While riding a motorcycle taxi, we went to the main road again and followed the Thanlwin River, crossing it once, and then driving on a dirt road for a few minutes. We approached a limestone hill, and sure enough, there was an opening, and from there we ventured forward.

25 March 2015

Book Review: I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Oh boy, what did I get myself into?

See, until I read this book, I never really had a clear idea about the history of Ancient Rome. I knew there was a Julius Caesar, an Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Constantine, but I never really figured out how they all related, and how they all succeeded each other. This book actually enlightened me when it comes to history. After reading this book, I had a better idea of how it all happened.

This book was actually written in 1934, yet it was written in such a way such that it felt like it was actually Claudius who was writing it, as an autobiography. At times, I felt like I hated it because it felt like a dry antiquated history book, but then later on I realized that that was in fact Graves' point: he wanted to make the novel feel like it was an antiquated history book. When I realized that, I changed my impression of the book, and actually grew to like it. One needs to give kudos to the author who can write in a style seemingly not his own.

23 March 2015

Meandering in Myanmar: Kawgun Cave and Kyauk Kalap in Hpa-An

Mawlamyine was my base when I was in southern Myanmar. However, I also did daytrips to other places. One of the places I loved was Hpa-An, which was actually located in Karen State, two hours away from Mawlamyine by bus. So I went to the bus station after eating my breakfast of Shan noodles, and boarded the rickety bus that took me to Hpa-An.

21 March 2015

The Evolution of Airline Communication

I've been flying in airplanes for 30 years now. I don't remember anything from my first flight, when my father moved the family from the Philippines to the United States, on the other side of the world. He was awarded a scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the University of Denver, so we flew in 1985 from Manila to Denver, via Los Angeles. I don't remember anything about this flight; I was just three years old. All I remember are the stories (and the reconstructed memories based on these stories) of my bathroom troubles during this flight; apparently I had some issues going to the toilet back then. And 30 years later, I find myself flying again into Denver, albeit in a different airport (Stapleton International Airport closed in the meantime).

19 March 2015

Meandering in Myanmar: Kyaikthanlan Paya in Mawlamyine

I didn't see just old crumbling colonial buildings when I was in Mawlamyine. Of course I also visited a religious site, yes, another Buddhist temple. Now for this one, I should first talk about Rudyard Kipling. The British author famous for writing The Jungle Book features quite a bit in Myanmar. And this is due to his famous poem Mandalay, whose full text can be found here. See, as much as the title makes a reference to a city in northern Myanmar, Kipling actually never set foot on Mandalay. Rather, the only places he visited in Myanmar when he was returning from India to England on a eastward route were Yangon and Mawlamyine (Rangoon and Moulmein in the old Anglicized spelling). His visit allegedly only spanned three days, but his imagination was definitely in overdrive. So in his famous poem, when he referred to a "Moulmein pagoda", there is a high chance that it was Kyaikthanlan Paya.