Jungle Isolation, Southern Myanmar.
Saturday. I decide to make the most of the weekend and what with my Wii U suddenly breaking down there’s very little to do at home besides sit in front of the fan and become progressively more uncomfortable as the heat climbs into the mid-thirties (that’s Celsius, obviously). I could try to remove the gecko shit off the downstairs walls, I suppose, but there’s so much of it now the paintwork resembles woodchip wallpaper, giving the building a pleasantly retro 70s feel.
I think about calling Simon in Vietnam and at that moment he calls me. Spooky entanglement. Quantum stuff.
“Think I’ll go out with my camera,” I say. “Take some more photos of Myeik. I may even head to Golden Hill karaoke fashion show later.”
“Yeah, you should do,” he says. “I’m on my seventh beer. It’s quite good.”
I head out and for once there is a motorcycle taxi waiting at the end of the street.
“Hotel Grand Jade,” I say. I always say this. It’s the only landmark building in Myeik and google maps has no street names listed.
I wander down side streets and dirt tracks, past pagodas and packs of wild dogs panting in the shadows of shops and shacks on stilts. Mobbed by children, grinned at by their elders whose gums are red from betel nut, I move through markets and neighbourhoods snapping at everything and everyone but not with my jaws- with a camera.
[photo gallery bit to be added here]
I’m not even annoyed by the drive-by cries of “Hello, my flend!” today.
I smile and nod and say, “Hi!” in acknowledgement. Outside work, these are the only face-to-face conversations I have had in days.
Coming full circle, I have a beer on the rooftop bar at Hotel Grand Jade and end up talking to a couple of elderly tourists who are making small talk about how few foreigners there are here.
“I live in Myeik,” I say. “There are four of us in the entire region. The German tour guide downstairs and a couple who teach at the university.”
“What do you do for entertainment around here?” one asks.
“Well, the sunset is always beautiful,” I say. “Apart from that, there’s not a lot going on.”
“No nightlife?” the other asks.
“I might head to Golden Hill tonight. It’s a karaoke fashion show place. And yes, it is just girls singing and doing a fashion show. They’re not prostitutes.”
(This is actually debatable- my local friend Boom who I haven’t seen in weeks denied that kind of thing goes on in Myeik. The girls do sometimes end up in romantic relationships with the customers but only after several weeks of wooing and tinseling them. In Yangon, however, the whole ‘karaoke fashion show’ thing is a poorly-disguised front for prostitution; here in Myeik it almost certainly is what it appears to be- an evening cabaret of variable singing and rubbish choreography).
After home and a bacon sandwich I think damn it I may as well go to Golden Hill after all. Time is running out in Myeik so I may as well spend the evening doing something more than just watching Ash vs Evil Dead.
There are no taxis. I walk the fifteen minutes it takes down dark lanes and past hordes of dogs who howl or bark or snap at my heels- not with cameras- with their jaws.
I turn around to face them down and they run off in terror, yelping all the way.
Golden Hill has a new outdoor stage and the garden setting is laid-back and pleasant. The girls come on one at a time to sing and nobody applauds. They all come on together and take turns to sing and sway from side to side. Nobody claps.
The girls get tinseled- mainly by the waiters. This is a Burmese way of showing appreciation and costs 5000 kyat if you’re a customer. No customers are tinseling tonight- it’s just the staff trying to generate a bit of interest in the show.
I leave after a while, convinced I’ve fallen in love with one of the singers. My imagination sustains me as I face down the snarling dogs and avoid the potholes going home.
I sit at home all day in my boxers, bored beyond belief.