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« January 08, 2005 | Main | January 06, 2005 »

January 07, 2005

Summit Parkview Hotel, Yangon, Room 533 (7:06 AM)

I discovered this morning after sunrise that my room has a beautiful view of Shwedagon pagoda (see Sunday at Shwedagon), the largest temple complex in the city.


Summit Parkview Hotel, Yangon, Room 533 (4:45 PM)

Spent all day at the WCS Yangon office and have made most of the arrangements for the trip. We got collecting permits approved by the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division (NWCD) of the Forest Department, we found out that we can use the plant driers at the Botany Department of the University of Yangon, and we got our visa renewals started by turning in photocopies of our passport and two passport photos. We will be collecting at least four duplicate specimens of everything: one set for the Forestry Department, one set for Yangon University, and two sets for NYBG.  We also turned over $4,500 to have converted to kyat in small bills to be used for covering the expenses of the expedition, e.g. food, field assistants, and elephant and truck rental.

We also met the rest of the crew (see HKVRattanSurvey.pdf for more details and images of everyone) and were pleased to find that they are all really nice guys. U Tin Maung Ohn, is from the Botany Department at Yangon University. Tall, skinny man with glasses who is somewhat quiet but smiles alot. U Saw Lwin is the orchidologist who sent me several e-mails before we arrived to Myanmar.  His English is quite good, and he has been on several expeditions with Alan Rabinowitz; one to the Hukaung Valley in 1999. He is a very gregarious man, has traveled through the U.S., and he certainly seems to know his orchids. U Myint Maung is the Forest Department warden for the Hukaung Valley, and he will essentially be our liaison with "The Authorities". Again, a nice man who is very knowledgeable about the area and a good resource. U Kyaw Lwin (no relation to U Saw Lwin) is a biologist from Mandalay University. Seems quiet and somewhat tentative relative to everyone else, but very pleasant. U Tun Shaung is from the local WCS office and is a photographer sent to document the adventure.

When the money changer finally made it back to the office around 4:00 PM it was quite a show. The $4,500 had turned into 40 million kyat - all in 500 kyat bills. This was an enormous, extremely heavy block of money. [NOTE: We learned that you get a better exchange rate for larger bills.  We had brought all our cash in $20 bills, and we told that it would have been better to bring $100 bills. So you know.]

Our flight to Myitkyina on Sunday leaves at an unspecified hour, usually sometime in the morning. Bibiana from the WCS office will call us tomorrow afternoon to let us know what time we need to be packed up Sunday morning.  Two round-trip tickets for foreigners are $660.

We went to lunch with the whole crew to a local restaurant.  Not a foreigner in site. Good thing that Saw Lwin was there to translate (the first of many times...).  I had a big plate of rice with two curried prawns, some creamed corn, mixed vegetables with cauliflower, some type of soup with leaves floating in it that I didn't actually taste (the broth looked kind of murky), and lime juice with sugar and salt to drink.

Tomorrow will be a day to rest before our departure on Sunday, and I will probably walk down to spend a few hours in Shwedagon pagoda.  Hopefully the wood carvers will still have their shops set up outside the pagoda. I bought some beautiful Buddha statues from them on my last visit.

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