My escort team was a lovely young couple, newly married and trying to make enough money for a house. They took it upon themselves to become my minders, which was endearing, although they did rather treat me as though I was in my dotage. Every now and then the sweet young girl would lean over into the back of the tuk tuk, where I sat in the tiny open cabin, and gently fan me. And if I was too long in a temple she would come looking for me, thinking perhaps that I had succumbed to the strain.
Then we found the snake! Enthroned in splendour in its own pagoda, the Snake Monastery, lives a gigantic Burmese python. It is believed to be the reincarnation of an especially holy monk and is 127 years old. About seventeen feet long who would be game to stretch it out to measure it one foot wide and very thick, it looked exceeding solid and heavy as it lay with its beautifully patterned brown, beige and black body coiled in graceful, sinuous loops along a carpeted dais.
This venerated and worshipped reptile sorry, monk scoffs down eleven pounds of chicken every ten days and is possibly the world’s biggest living snake. I did see a longer anaconda in Brazil but it was stuffed (in every sense of the word) and much thinner. This boy looked heavy. It was fascinatingly beautiful, but it still seemed sinister to me.
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Donations of money from adoring fans lay all along its sleek body and its own personal servant sat cross-legged beside it, attending its every need. Nearby was a tiled pool for its bath and woollen rugs to keep it warm at night. What a life although it could have got a bit boring. Deciding that it would be a good idea to placate this awesome creature, I lay a few kyat notes beside it and stroked it cautiously. It remained immobile and didn’t seem to mind. I guess at 127 years of age you wouldn’t have the energy to get up and chase a tourist.
At dinner in the Three Seasons someone else finally appeared in the dining room that up until now I’d had sole use of. It was a convention of men who after a while produced a microphone and some absolutely appalling and very loud singing. I bolted through my dinner and left.
Early the following morning I was ready to move back to Yangon. I had found that the cost of a long distance taxi was reasonable and it beat the difficult bus times. The hotel manager rang the number I had been given to ask the driver to collect me, but Friend and his motorbike turned up instead. He said the taxi driver wanted another five thousand kyat. He could not look me in the eye when he said this so I knew it was a con. He also entered my room, shut the door and lay on my bed to deliver the message, which is not done in polite circles, Burma or anywhere. I paid him the five thousand to get rid of him