The Lonely Planet is our go to guide book. I’m familiar with the layout, now. It begins with information necessary for planning your trip, then the next section On the Road, breaks the country in to regions. Each chapter is crammed with information about getting there and away, accommodation, sights, activities, entertainment. I refer to this part of the book the most when we are on the road. But it’s the section I enjoy the least beforehand.
You see, when it comes to travel styles, I belong to the “we’ll see what it’s like when we get there” camp. There are some huge advantages to this; most notably flexibility.
There’s one big disadvantage: missing out on experiences due to a lack of planning!
The worst time was in Florence. My sister and I once had two days there. And we queued for a ticket to the Uffizi. Uh-huh, we did!
Experienced travellers in Europe will be sighing or rolling their eyes at such foolishness. They will know what we found found out the hard way: that line of maybe a hundred plus people did not budge more than a metre in over two hours.
In the end we gave up and wandered around the corner to the Palazzo Vecchio—less famous, fewer art works, but no queue. And from the battlements we got to look through a trapdoor to the piazza below. It was easy to imagine soldiers five hundred or more years ago lobbing all manner of nasty things, boiling oil springs to mind, through those same trapdoors and down on to their opponents.
Nevertheless, if ever I find myself back in Florence I’ll have pre-booked my ticket to the Uffizi, no matter how frustrating it is to be tied down to doing something particular on a particular day months ahead of the actual trip.
As it happens not only do I like to wait and see what it’s like when I get there, with some books, travel guides in particular, I read the last section first. Why? Well in the LP the last section is titled Survival Guide. It’s written to terrify or inform, depending on your timidity. Yep, bad news attracts me like a good soap opera. There it is, as if written just for scared old me, everything you ever needed to worry about while travelling in Myanmar: diseases, pick pockets, scams, insurgents, bombs! and snakes. What’s more, I didn’t realise until I read this section, a lick from a dog or monkey could be dangerous, potentially fatal if the animal is rabid. (A fact that rather changes my perpsective on my close encoutner with a monkey in Lopburi, Thailand a couple of years ago.)
There’s even a section titled: Availability of Health Care. Worried by that title alone, the very first sentence freaked me out:
Myanmar medical care is dismal, and local hospitals should only be used out of desperation.”
Thankfully, we have a medical kit, we’ve talked to our doctor about vaccinations—ours are up to date. We have pills for just about everything. And we know, sadly from actual experience (apologies if this is a little tooo much information), the most common problem for travellers in this part of the world is Traveller’s Diarrhoea. And right there is the reason I’ve been practicisng my squats at the gym and at home.
Ah, well, all in the name of adventure, and exploration, and the thrill of going places I haven’t been before. What’s more I can always cross my fingers for luck. Or hold my breath—that helps, too, in certain circumstances.
From this post you will, no doubt, have figured out that the yellow post-it notes decorating our already slightly dog-eared copy of the Myanmar LP do not belong to me.
They’re John’s. He’s enjoys planning things. An itinerary is like a map for him, he uses it to picture things in his mind. Luckily, and this is another learning based on experience, it’s a starting point not an end point which means, when we finally get there, we’ll be working things out for ourselves as we go along. Hopefully, that means we won’t be ducking down too many side streets to rename them “Argue Alley”!
A while ago John asked me whereabouts in Myanmar I want to go.
“Ohh, you know,” I replied, vaguely, waving my hands in a northerly direction—almost anywhere in the world is north from here—”Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake, Bagan”.
He’s a wise man my husband. He hasn’t pressed for more information.
Although once or twice he has prodded gently: Do you want to see the possible itinerary I’ve worked out?
Maybe later, was my reply.
Well, later is nearly here.