Our guide in Yangon, Paris, may not want to go near the American Embassy, but the British Embassy is a different story. We are actually to meet Gary, the owner of the tour company for a drink in the British Club, which is next door to the Consulate. Paris tells us that this a great honour as Gary never asks to see his clients, and very few people are allowed into the Club. We have to be signed in and Paris is very excited to find out that the invitation has been extended to him. He preens before entering, and does his film star routine again. The club itself is almost as run down as the City, and perfectly represents Britain’s former glory. There is no one there other than Gary and his general manager. Gary is a large man in his 60’s with a bulbous nose, large ears and full lips. In fact everything about him seems to stick out. He has a glass of beer in his hand, which it soon becomes apparent is a permanent fixture. He is with his manager, a Burmese man, around 40 years old, small, olive skinned with a ready smile, and a twinkle in his eye. We discover that he is also Gary’s partner in life. His name is N.T., affectionately known by one and all as Aunty.
Gary is less affectionately known as someone who never stops talking and enjoys a drink. But, like most people who drink a lot, Gary tells a good story and we laugh a lot. He is delighted to meet up with two English people and it turns out his own home in the North of Wales is where Gordon’s mother retired to. It is a very small world.
Gary had told us prior to our arrival that very few places accept credit cards, and that dollars are not accepted in Myanmar. We must change our money into Myanmar kyats, on arrival. and we will get a better exchange rate in Yangon than anywhere else. Consequently, the first thing we do is change $1000. What Gerry has not told us is that the largest note in Myanmar currency is the 1000 kyat. And that 1000 kyat is worth 75 cents. So in return for ten $100 dollar notes we get a huge stack of over twelve thousand Myanmar notes. We need a small suitcase to carry them. Unfortunately, we find out later that Gary’s information was wrong. Everywhere we go, people want dollars, and we get a much better deal if we pay in them.
Another piece of misinformation that Gary gave us was that we could bring our laptop and although all incoming and outgoing emails were blocked by the Burmese government, there were always ways around this. Many people tried to unblock our emails, but no one succeeded.