Monday, February 4, 2013

After a lot of honey, a little mudslinging as well (with photos) - Burma

An inspiring panoramic view of the room
After pouring jars of honey on it, it's finally time to mudsling Burma a little as well. I do it both because I am an asshole and I can't help it and because I think that highlighting the pros of something and covering up its cons is not gonna help promoting it. Whatever that thing is.
As you have already noticed if you've read the previous posts this nice and charming country also has its flaws. First of all Burma is not a clean place. Trash is piled up anywhere, next to the roads, on the hills and the riverbanks: if a Burmese is left with an empty plastic bag in his hand he will throw it away, no matter where he is. However, after all the years spent traveling in Asia, I am quite used to it. You might say I'm a bit nuts but a little rubbish, decaying and colorful confusion rather than depress me often tend to put me in a good mood. The taxi drivers racket at the bus or train stations and the airports though is definitely annoying. Especially when you find out that, after having negotiated the price like a money lender to be ripped off anyway, a few hundred meters away there are a lot of honest guys who are obviously not allowed to ambush the travelers who have just arrived. Solution: look for those honest ones and negotiate a price, with firmness, alright, but a little comprehension as well. The chances to get food poisoning are also high, due the the bad hygienic conditions: you need to be careful but not paranoid, otherwise you will miss lots of the fun the country has to offer. In the worst case scenario you will be pissing a little shit-velouté out of your ass. After a while there won't be anything else to piss and everything will shortly get back to the good old solid state.
For the time being though, the worst aspect of the country for those who visit it is the accommodation scene.
In the last year, after the introduction of the latest reforms, the number of tourists (and investors, businessmen, journalists and academics) has sensibly increased. There haven't been any new hotels opening though, and many of those who didn't have a license to host foreigners didn't get it in the meanwhile. As a result, for 30 dollars a night you are put up in a cubby-hole for which you wouldn't pay more than 10-15. And if you are set to pay 10 dollars you'd better cover your eyes and block your nose before entering the burial cell they are gonna show you. I've often traveled tuned to these last figures (also less than that actually: I remember staying in a dingy tiny cell at Chiang Mai for a dollar fifty a night: private bathroom included!). I did it even here in the past. And for 5-10 dollars I've always been offered rooms like the ones these Burmese spiders are asking 25-40 dollars for now. As soon as I arrived, a couple of weeks ago, I even saw an 80 dollar room, not better than the other ones by a bit.
Unfortunately negotiating the price, a common thing here and in the rest of S.E. Asia, is impossible in this situation. Basically the hotel owners, without them knowing it, have been turned into a oligopolist clique, raised their prices to a ridiculous level and became a bunch of lazy parasites who just look at the stacks of dollars entering their pockets and won't move a finger to paint a stained or cracked wall, repair a broken door-lock, change a burnt out bulb, often not even to wash the floors or the bathrooms. Charging sums that in the neighboring countries would get you very good rooms in fantastic or very central locations.
Obviously in a matter of few years those who own properties and capitals will built new hotels, guest houses and resorts, and the lazy owners of these hovels will have to start working their asses off to restore their run-down structures, cutting down their rates at the same time. For the moment though the situation is quite frustrating.

Here are the photos of a hotel in Mandalay. The fee is USD 30, non negotiable. I wouldn't complain about the dingy atmosphere, I'm not that type of guy. It's the price that leaves me kind of speechless. 

There is even an air conditioner! Yeah, yeah, and have a look at all that nice stuff around it...

A complicated sequence of pipes ending with a shower head

A layer of mold and a few tiny sections of wall behind it

Another shower. This one leaks, so it is necessary to place it on the floor otherwise the dripping will reverberate in the toilet and keep you awake all night

Naked cables, mysterious signs, cracks, etc...

Rotten trap door leading to an attic I haven't had the guts to explore

Very useful lamp without a bulb

Nice and extremely creative decorations on the wall

I borrowed these three photos from my friend IZ

Tears, blood, bullet holes, who knows...

Cracked paint next to the pillow, most likely a rudimentary message left by one of the former prisoners

Nylon hotel, they called it...Nylon, what the fuck...and even hotel...double what the fuck!

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