Well, we had our first epic failure of planning and interface with a different culture. Though if this stays our worst day life is pretty good.
The goal for the day was a day trip to mt popa to see the nat shrine on top of a volcanic spire then go for a hike in the forest featuring 30 types of orchids and ending in Thazi to grab a morning train tomorrow.
We talked with the clerk at the hotel and he got us a car for 120,000 kyat for 8.5 hrs including 4 hrs wait time while we hike a bit.
This sounded "okay" (1000 kyat = $1). We figure, it's a long day and the guy has to deadhead back 5 hrs.
Th car shows up as scheduled at. 9 am and I have my first tinge of worry. It's a minivan with tinted rear windows that don't open. I'm sure many fat Americans would love a nice Cush a/c tinted ride, but I like open windows and taking pictures.
We've entered the "tour-ist zone". It's that world where the handlers want to extract cash from us with as little deviation from the tour norm as possible.
"do we want to see how they make palm sugar and buy souvenirs?"
We pass giant tour busses disgorging Danes by the bushel into fake markets.
We dodged that one.
But we see trouble ahead.
We ask to get some local tea. Strong and sweet. The driver says its not available as we drive by places that probably serve it.
Thd driver refuses to engage with us. His lady friend (wife?) riding shotgun doesn't really speak to us at all.
We get to mt popa the nat shrine and dutifully climb the 777 steps to put a bit of spendy money in some shrines to pre Buddhist animist spirits. There are wild macaques everywhere. It is amusing and odd. Nice even , but hardly worth not taking the bus so far.
Upon return to the van we ask to go to the park to hike a bit. "not possible" we are told. Only day treks with guides. Please take us anyway. Nope. No dice. Tourists aren't supposed to want to go for a walk in the woods. Only "trekking. ". Of course in Hawaii I've wandered up jungle paths in city parks that make these woods look like Iowa. Actually it mainly looks like a very dry lame river valley wood here.
We give up.
He asks if we want to eat in minkitla a few hours away. We say yes and happily eat peanut butter sandwiches we made at breakfast. We aren't complete idiots.
At minkitla we ask to get some tea again and he says eat at "myanmar food restaurant" that looks like more tour-ist food. We make him drop us in a street of tea joints and walk till we see a soup joint and grab an awesome bowl of mohinga for $0.40. Then some nice chai for $0.60. Screw fancy restaurants.
Then back to the van for another hour to Thazi. We check out the two hotels and go with guesthouse wonderful as moonlight guesthouse looks like the place where they invented bedbugs.
So now I have to have the discussion with the driver that we contracted for $120,000 for 8 plus hours and he didn't let us hike so we want a discount?
(it's now 3, 6 hours have passed)
Those of you who have experienced se Asia know how much this sucks. The guy will never back down, but also won't argue really. Just pretends to get ready to cdll the hotel guy and says no no no, 120,000 kyat is the price.
In the end I cave. Screw it, it's maybe $30 I could possibly recoup (tho that's a whole day of food and hotel in cambodia).
I give up and comfort myself that I can smack the hotel in Bagan through tripadvisor and loneyplanet in the Internet and make sure I can vent my digital spleen. The modern travelers vengeance!!!
And really, it's only a bit if money. It's just the annoyance of being treated as an idiot that annoys.
But I was an idiot to try and use a hotel desk to book anything close to what I wanted. They work at sheltering tourists from the locals, so it makes sense. Exactly what we want the least.
Live and learn a bit by bit.
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