Published Articles

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: "Serious Police, Serious Mud, Serious Sights"

My muddy mis-adventure was published in To Cambodia With Love.  ThingsAsian Press.  2011.  pg 150.

Phnom Penh
Cambodia

Dear Family and Friends,

July 1, 2002

The rain is incessant so Jeff and I decided to skip the beach at Ko Chang and go directly to the Cambodian border. I misplaced my passport photos so the border guards ripped me off for a couple of extra dollars for the visa. We spent the night in Koh Kong - a dusty and unappetizing place. Actually the hotel was comfortable and had a lovely garden.

The next day, Jeff and I had a disagreement. He was in a hurry to get to Phnom Penh. I wanted to travel slowly to Sihanoukville. So we compromised. He went his way. I mine.

Now, here's an adventure to remember:

I made a reservation on a mini-bus that was due to pick me up at 8:30. It arrived on time at 9:15. After fifteen minutes on a rutted dirt road we were stopped by the police and abruptly sent back to town to the police station.

Saigon: "Love and the American War"

In 2008, I was pleased to announce that "Love and the American War" was the very first of my travel essays to be published.  The essay below is included in a collection called To Vietnam With Love.  ThingsAsian Press.  2008. pp 93-96.

July 30, 2003

Saigon
Vietnam

Dear Family and Friends,

My dear readers. You must be wondering, "Jan has traveled the length of Vietnam. He has extolled the physical beauty of the country and the wonderful people he has met. But nowhere has he mentioned the unmentionable." Stand by.

My tour outside of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) made two stops. The first was the Caodai Temple in Tay Ninh. The second was the Cu Chi Tunnels.

The Cu Chi Tunnels formed a network of military strongholds which held up to 16,000 Viet Cong for months at a time. Only 6000 survived the relentless bombing. Thousands of civilians died in the vicinity.

At Cu Chi, tourists crawl around the tunnels and then visit the adjacent museum. I politely declined. Instead, I sat at the nearby café and started to gather my thoughts for this letter.

I really cannot explain my reasoning; I cannot account for my emotions. Sometimes, I just "decline."

Impressions: "A Bouquet in My Boat"

The editor of To Myanmar With Love wrote:  "Jan Polatschek pens a love letter to Myanmar."  ThingsAsian Press.  2009.  pp 218-219.

Mandalay
Myanmar 
January 14, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

"Min gala ba" . . . Hello, I could begin my long letter

THIS WAY: "Jan, an American man, is sitting with Nori, his wife, Nana, and their friend Yumi, all from Japan; and Lorenzo, from Switzerland. We are watching a young waitress debone a Peking Duck in the Western Park Chinese Restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar."

OR THIS WAY: "I am sitting at a small café at a busy intersection of downtown Yangon (Rangoon), dizzy from the dust and the teeming traffic, munching on breaded, deep-fried greens (don't ask) and washing down my oily snack with an energy-boosting glass of juice, freshly squeezed from a stick of sugar cane. Add a splash of fresh lime."

OR THIS WAY

"I am eating an Indian dinner across the street from The Unity Hotel in Mandalay: Chapati, freshly kneaded, rolled, and grilled by an assembly line of men and women, chicken curry, potato curry and Chinese tea."

I WILL BEGIN THIS WAY:

Mandalay: An Evening Teaching English

This essay was published in To Myanmar With Love. ThingsAsian Press. 2009.  pg 232.

I love Mandalay. I hate my hotel room.  I wander and explore.  I discover the Unity Hotel.   At the reception desk, Thida is so lovely and gracious.  With a kind smile she says, “We will be happy to welcome you.”  I checked in the next day

After breakfast, before my climb of Mandalay Hill, I invite Thida for coffee. She smiles.  She declines

 Before my tour of  Innwa, Amarapura, and Sagaing,  I ask again.  She smiles.

Finally, after I return from my river ride to Mingun where for good luck I pat the tail of the huge stone elephant, I try once more and Thida smiles.  “You have asked me three times.  Now I will say “yes.”  Yes!  

Public social relationships in Myanmar are conservative and discrete.  A “date” in Myanmar means that the girl shows up with a chaperone or two.  Thida introduces me to her cousin and her friend.  During our dinner date I comment on their excellent English.  They tell me they attend an evening class at the local Monastery School.  I admit that many years ago, as a high school teacher in New York City, my specialty was teaching English to immigrant boys.  (“Juanita is tall.  Conchita is taller than Juanita.  Carmelita is the tallest.”) Thida invites me to teach a class.

Nyaung Shwe: Bike Ride to the Hot Spring

This adventure was published in To Myanmar With Love.  ThingsAsian Press.  2009.  pp 193-194. 

Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar
Saturday
January 8, 2005
Nyaung Shwe Dear Family and Friends,

Yes. You read the title of this piece correctly. A Bike - as in Bicycle - Ride. I was persuaded by the hotel staff that a trip to the Hot Spring would be a pleasant activity for the day. Since I was planning a rest today anyway, as I anticipated a travel day tomorrow, I agreed to a test drive.

Given my recent history, I approached this event with reluctance and apprehension.

Pyin U Lwin: Riding Shotgun

Portions of this letter were published in To Myanmar With Love.  ThingsAsian Press. 2009. pp187-188.

Pyin U Lwin, Shan State
Myanmar
Sunday January 16, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

This morning I am having a hot cup of real coffee.

Most of the coffee in Myanmar has been "Coffee Mix." A packet of instant coffee, sugar and powdered milk. Just add hot water.

Thankfully, coffee is grown in the hills nearby. Pyin U Lwin, an old British "hill station" in the mountains is just 67 kilometers east of Mandalay.

And hot is what I need. This morning I could see my breath! Man, it's cold. Osama was good enough to make some vegetable soup for breakfast. I dined out in the sun, with several layers of clothing. I remembered to bring along my scarf and hat, but I neglected to bring my woolen gloves. Why in the world did I pack them if not for mornings like this?

Pages