I had lunch at a small cafe on the river’s edge where very good food and a banana split all cost a mere four dollars. Waving down a riverboat, I got on wanting to go one stop but instead spent an hour trying to get off it again. When I finally managed this I walked back to the Best Western Riverside through a profusion of small, interesting backstreets. Stopping at a local market, I bought fruit and other essential supplies. Then I called an end to the day’s explorations.
I tried to blog another couple of nights in the hotel but could only get one as everything was full. The coming weekend was the beginning of the four-day celebration of the end of Ramadan, Ide el Fittr, which I was familiar with from my Saudi days. I used the hotel’s wifi to try to find somewhere to stay. It was hopeless. Everywhere was full.
Burma Attractions Map Photo Gallery
Dinner time came and I walked to where I had seen a few restaurants and nearby noticed the Accordion Hotel. It looked okay so I convinced the woman presiding over the desk to accommodate me when I had to leave the Riverside. She had said no at first, then relented, having perhaps concluded that, although decidedly strange, I was not actually dangerous. I paid a deposit and ate dinner on the opposite corner at a Chinese restaurant. I had rice balls and chicken, a local specialty, and it was the best, most perfectly cooked chicken I have ever had. It was accompanied by some chicken soup that tasted as though the chicken had merely walked through the bowl of water (without washing its feet), and a battered tin mug of what the waiter alleged was tea, but I doubt it. It was a strange, thick, dark-orange brew with scum on the top. I gave that a miss.
I returned to my room at the Riverside happy, securely accommodated and well fed. In two days I moved to the Accordion. Checking out, to my surprise I was given a thirty-seven ringgit (currently about three to a dollar) refund. I have no idea why. I must have been unknowingly a Good Little Tourist.
The Accordion was on a corner of one of the main streets that lead down to the town centre and the Red House. From my front room I had a good view of the street action but at first I felt I was on the Marie Celeste. I saw no other guests even when I sat in the lobby. Then the holidays came and the guests flooded in, and the usually empty downstairs area was full of prams and baby seats and families with children.
Coffee was provided in the downstairs area and I sat there sometimes to talk to the staff. I couldn’t find anyone else who spoke English. Under interrogation the manager told me that he had spent four years in Perth in Maylands, the suburb next to the one I had lived in there, Victoria Park. And one of the women receptionists had a daughter at school in Adelaide, the Islamic school two streets from where I live.