Kings of the (rainy) road! 

Still south of France but in the last day it was kind enough to provide a few foggy-cloudy mornings to ease the transition to Scotland

A few days ago I arrived in Saint Jean pied de port, had just a few hours to visit the town (with backpack, after 730 kilometers I don’t really feel the weight of it anymore, just a strange lightness when taking it of) and get the last stamp on my “credential” before meeting my friends and heading to their house, where I spent a (last) night on a real matress. 

The next day, we packed their old car transformed into a minivan with our tents, waterproof jackets and a stack of good coffee and headed north. This is the last month, the last trip before all of us have to get back to work and sedentary life. So to make the most of it we…haven’t planned a thing. We are headed to Scotland, because it was a long time dream of my friend to see the Highlands, and because after 3 and a half weeks in the South of France we might need rain to balance all this sun. What we’ll do when we get there and exactly where we’ll go I haven’t a clue but I know there’ll be more walking (because why not, it’s not like it’s all I’ve been doing for a month, and the calluses I have on my feet and hips (from the backpack, that’s a first!) Might as well be put to continuous use), some driving, a lot of wild camping and probably a bit of whisky tasting. A better ending to this year of half-nomadic life I couldn’t dream of, I even have a few books by Scottish authors in the backpack, so everything is set to go!

P.s. other suggestions in Scottish reads are always (as ever) welcome:)

Faithful backpack has had a few mishaps, allowing me to widen my medical expertise to the non-living (well, non living only if it is still bedbugs free)


Walking on the Chemin de Compostelle (Le Puy-Saint Jean Pied de Port), week 2: On randomness, light rain and hard roads

Lauzerte. Depending on which hour of the day you arrive you might see a lovely church square or more paved roads to cross

The last time I wrote about the stretch of long-distance-hiking I’m currently doing (I still don’t feel like I can call it a pilgrimage, I’m after all not hoping to find God on the way) I was a few hundred kilometers from where I’m now. It sounds strange, but the kilometers, when your feet aren’t hurting anymore, add up without you noticing them, and in a few days you’ve done a hundred more. But you quickly learn they are absolutely not a reliable way to measure difficulty, or effort, and even less distance, and that the ones you do early in the morning, watching the sun rise over fields, in absolute quietness not only seem but probably are much shorter than the last ones of the day, under a burning heat, on paved roads. So let’s not talk of kilometers anymore.

by far the best moment of my days these past weeks, walking at sunrise

 The landscape is still nice, less impressive than the Aubrac region, with its austere beauty, and sometimes rather dull (or, as another pilgrim told me, “meditation-friendly”, – by which you should understand: there’s not much to distract you from your thoughts or your blisters) with corn fields and cow fields and no hill in sight. (That, I’m aware, is a Swiss biais, as I would definitely prefer any hill climb, be it devilishly steep, to a walk on a flat road anywhere. Don’t worry, I’ve expressed that opinion on the way and have been repeatedly struck by walking poles). But it remains: I don’t like tarred or paved roads, they are much too hard to walk on, they have french-driven (equals fast) cars on them and no charm at all. So, some days have been a bit…unattractive. And call me a profane pessimist but I don’t think you absolutely need a boring landscape to meditate. 

While I understand the necessity for cornfields existence I could easily do without them

Anyway, the small villages, country churches and the few towns on the way are still lovely. And mostly, the people provide well enough distraction, should you need one. I’ve met a lot of interesting ones, some you meet for 5 minutes on a lunch break, others you end up walking with for days, and – and I should maybe state a disclaimer here, so that you aren’t put of with the whole idea – some of them are lovely, absolutely rational people (I’ve met a couple from the Basque country with a dark, self depreciating humour who loved drinking wine while debating on atheism and politics with a retired french teacher, some very discreet and polite retirees, university students and farmers who had decided to go on a break to discover the country so keep them in mind for the following minutes). I’ve also met a woman who was conviced to be the reincarnation of a Korean warrior (who had died from a combat wound to the shoulder, which explained why her (or their combined)shoulder hurt when she was carrying her backback). I’ve met a young (and rather lonely) french guy who was explicitely doing this stretch of the way to find the love of his life, was rather conviced I was the one (despite all the ways I could think of to express him my lack of interest), and sang songs  for two hours straight about spirits, sitting just behind the (closed)  door to my room. I’ve met a German guy who spoke not a single world in French but found the French stupid because they didn’t understand him. I’ve met countless very charming people who, upon learning I was a doctor, took pains to convince me that Western medicine gets everything wrong and that I should go and study acupuncture/herbal medicine/digestive medicine (don’t know what it is either, and yet I’ve had a full exposé on it)/ spiritual healing and so many others I will stop the list here. In short, you don’t stand a chance at boredom, you’ll meet colorful, if somewhat “illuminé” people (a pilgrim from Zurich asked me what the term was and, when I had explained it meant something along the lines of “nice, but ever slightly lunatic”, started a game of diagnosis consisting in hearing a person talk for a while then turn to me and say, with a hopeful smile, “Would you say this one was “illuminé”(en français dans le texte)?

Well, literaly, it does mean lit and I would say they have lit up my days – with the exception of the singing serial bachelor, this one I could have done without (and slept far better).

Useful notice in a church: It is highly likely that upon entering the church you might hear God’s call. It is unlikely however that he should contact you on your selfphone

Cambodia: a land of contrasts

This isn’t very actual, at least to me, because I’m not in South-East Asia anymore, I’m doing a study on blisters and the right way to cross a cows field without annoying the bull (no one wants an angry bull) along st James way in France. But I haven’t mentioned Cambodia yet, the third country we visited in the summer,  and that is truly a shame, because it deserves full notice. 

In Cambodia, we started with Phnom Penh, which is also a big, motorcycle-crazy, polluted and frantic city, like others but still each has its own flavour (at least to me, and Phnom Penh has a nice river front as well) where I’m sure there is lots of fun things to do but we went for the horrible and instructive ones: we visited, on a row, the tuol sleng prison, where the angkar  (the Khmer rouge effective power, hiding under an elusive name (it means the organization) tortured, imprisoned and forced fake confessions from thousand and thousand of people (objectors, people who looked like “new people” (that is, that might be intellectuals/city people: with glasses or soft hands), and progressively just about anybody, including party members in a frenzy of paranoia and horror). The prison, that used to be a high school, still has blackboards where commandments of the Khmer rouge are written, in french, in a strange primary school teacher style handwriting, and the confrontation of the hundreds of faces of the prisoners, photographed at their arrival, the paintings from the few survivors depicting life (if you can call it that) in the prison and the mundane  suburban setting of the school building is particularly chilling. And raw, and awful. And so sad, to think of so many lives (1/4 of the population at the time!) lost and so much suffering in the name of nothing we can really grasp. 

To continue on the same theme we also visited the killing fields (it’s only one of many across the country, and that fact itself is horrific enough) where the prisoners would then be sent and bludgeoned to death, to save bullets. Again, it seems impossible to link the gruesome facts, and the bones and pieces of clothing emerging from,  the mass graves with the quiet surroundings, the fields at the periphery of phnom Penh. Just as it seems impossible to imagine it happened less than 40 years ago when you walk the streets of Cambodia now, meet smiling people. I’m guessing that of course if you do spend more time with people and hear their stories you would discover the horror every family has had to life through, but on the surface the horrors of the past and the quiet peacefulness of the present don’t seem to belong to the same time continuum.

But Cambodia must not be resumed to the Khmer rouge of course, and so we also went to the small town of Kampot, filled with expats, pepper farms and a distinctive post colonial vibe (even if the majority of the buildings are actually Chinese merchant houses, not french), then to a secluded corner of a beach near sihanouk ville (you can find some, of season) where we did nothing but play in the waves and read for 24 hours, which, after seeing the memorials of Phnom Penh, seemed artificial and somehow wrong, and, to close on a high note, went to Angkor Wat (well, Siem Reap) where we stayed much longer than we had previously thought, because, as mentioned somewhere else, it is much too beautiful and grand to just pass through. 

Sunset at the beach near sihanouk ville

And what I’m left with, as a lasting impression, is a land of so much contrasts (I think it just beat India which was holding the record for me up to that point, if there is such a competition) that is difficult to encompass, and to understand fully, but also a place of incredible beauty and a definite proof that you can evolve and – never easily- begin to recover from atrocities of the past. 

Coconut Sunset in kampot

Walking the Chemin de Compostelle from Le Puy, Week 1: How to successively obsess with and then loose count of blisters and kilometers

I am sitting in a fancy café overlooking the vast baren fields of the Monts de l’Aubrac, looking at a storm approaching (the same one I outwalked earlier today, first shower of the day) and enjoying a cold beer. Everything, including the word “sitting” is a cause of such unprecedented bliss only people who have walked for seven days in a row will understand. Some say you go on treks like this to discover the beauties of nature or find God, Isay you go there to re-learn how bloody splendid a chair is. 

In short, I’ve been walking. I left Le Puy en Velay, the beginning of one of the most famous going to Santiago de Compostella, and – judging by the number of people who were on the train to Le Puy (I have never seen a train so full with hikers, and I’ve spent most of my life in Switzerland) and at the Cathedral for the “Pilgrim’s mass” – a tradition before starting the walk, at 7 a.m. and after which you can acquire the “credential”, a booklet stating you are indeed a pilgrim and are allowed in various “gites d’accueil” on the way, but mostly allowing you to collect an aray of stamps from churches, mairies and B&B’s. I usually walk on secluded trail paths were you might meet a few (generally old,bearded and laconic) hikers, so this crowd is new to me, with it’s own customs and idioms (you soon learn you are suppose to differentiate the “real” pilgrims from the others, though the definition may vary (usually in favour of the person offering that distinction): the real ones are either those going at least all the way to the spanish border in one go, or those carrying their own backpacks (you can leave it to a transport service, if you are a cheater/lazy person who claims to have back problems – as a french pilgrim told me), or those who have come there to “reflect upon themselves or faith” – but that might not include, for example, an english guy who does meditation, a german guy who does tantric yoga. 

So according to those definitions, I am and at the same time I am not a pilgrim. How quantic of me, I might need a cat. Mostly, though, I don’t care, and that creates a problem when I’m supposed to go on with those conversations: why do we need to order people in terms of their respective merits according to how many kilometers they do per day, again, or how many churches they visit? Maybe I’ll get it on the way. For now, I just enjoy the landscape, which is amazing, I stand in awe of the small chapels and churches built sometimes in the 13th century, a perfection of form and in complete accord to their surroundings, and wonder at the strength of this thing called faith I’m still not sure I understand, that made people build all these, and walk, since centuries. 

And I don’t reflect much. Mostly because I’ve been busy obsessing on a nagging pain in my foot, that probably comes from my ankle and sole having to overcompensate from my permanently-on-holiday-ligaments, it is amazing how pain can become everything you think of, for hours on. When I forget it, I struggle with stupid songs stuck in my head (I did about 15 kms, today, with the theme from “Pipi Longstockings” in German. Am I in need of help?), or I’m busy talking to people on the way (after a few days, people have spread out on the way according to their pace, and you meet and meet again the same people, it is a nice routine), and when I say talking I mean mostly listening, because there is a particular brand of the “hiker/pilgrim doing Santiago”, the one that comes to solve a p or many life problems, and they usually, with the lack of usual social conventions that characterize people who have been lonely or travelling a long time, restitute a complete story of their divorce/heartache/chronic pain of various causes/chronic pain without a cause/anorexic children/friends with cancer and many others to me. I don’t know if this happens to every one on the way, or just to me, as I’m usually the one people talk to in life as well, and I am very glad of it, most of the time, because it makes my job as a doctor easier, and because I love people and their stories. But I’ve discovered I don’t like people with problems that much when, after the end of a day’s walk, I’ve just sat with my book outside in the afternoon light. Then, I could probably do something as sacreligious as burn someone’s second pair of socks. 

I shall be walking on – (an update an a review on top)

faithful backpack has found an elephant friend in Cambodia, both ready to ramble again

So I’ve just come back from South East Asia, about which there would be a lot more to tell and hopefully I will write more in the coming weeks, about Cambodia, its tragic recent history mixed with the utter magnificence of its past, about the randomness of restaurants’ and hotels names, and much else.

But for now, I’ve unpacked, spent about a second (or so it seems) in Switzerland emptying the remains of the shared house I used to live in (which feels like the end of an era, and the true beginning of “proper adulthood”, which I am in no hurry to enter into) and repacked. Because this gap year is coming to a close in two months (something else I don’t want to contemplate, let’s forget the last sentence) and I have to make the most of it before being re-stuck in a hospital for countless hours.

So here I go. I had absolutely no plans, or rather, there are still too many things I want to do and two months would never suffice, but I’ve made my mind – helped with a welcomed coincidence: as I was “complaining” to friends that I couldn’t decide between going trekking along the Camino de Santiago way in Southern France or go trekking in the Scottish Highlands, they mentioned they had wanted to go to Scotland for a while, and so we planned a trip (well, we decided we would go, which is the level of “planning” we usually do) in October. I can’t wait.

But in the meantime, I shall head out on foot, along the “Chemin de Saint-Jacques”, across Southern France. It’s been a while (well, about 9 months) since I’ve done a long distance walk, and since it’s about my favourite way to travel, I am enchanted to start again.

Of course, this choice of way is book-related (what, in my life, isn’t?) as one of the books I read in Myanmar is Jean-Christophe Rufin’s account of his walk to Compostelle, in “Immortelle randonnée”. It has yet to be translated to English, as much as I’m aware, sadly, but it has none of Coelho philoso-mystical ramblings and all of the practical quirks of “the walker”, with his smelling socks, and legendary stinginess, the snobism of the long term hiker towards the daily walker and much more. It is hilarious and light, but it still manages to give you Compostelle envy, so there it goes, I’m going.

All of this to say, I shall probably be away from the internet for a while – as the French “Gites de Pélerins” are probably not equiped with the latest technology, most pélerins actually going there to avoid our connected world, but will try to update when possible.

For those who want to read Rufin and don’t happen to speak French, the only book of his that I can find in translation is “The Abyssinian”, which is not my favourite of his by far, but even average Rufin is worth a read, trust me.

The many faces of Angkor

I’ve been silent for a long time, there’s really no excuse for it, except maybe that, for a while, I have been rendered speechless by Angkor. How do you write about a place so magical everything has already been said?

We spent about a week there – much longer than we had planned – we simply couldn’t leave. Angkor isn’t one temple but the vast ensemble of ruins of what was the capital city of the Khmer Empire (9-15th century), spreading from Myanmar to Vietnam at its peak.

It was progressively abandoned and fell into oblivion, the surrounding jungle reclaiming its rights over the stones, with magnificent trees separating the blocks to spread their roots. It is so vast you won’t even mind the crowds of tourists with their selfie sticks (granted you leave the “classic” itineraries and wake up early enough). It is, in short, breathtaking.

But mostly, what I found so touchingly beautiful are the details: the stone carvings, depicting scenes fro the khmer battles or mythical scenes from the Mahabharata (the Sanskrit/Hindu epic) are so vibrant with details and the faces of the Apsaras – the divine dancers decorating almost every pillar – are smiling and staring at the visitors from centuries apart with a mischievousness that makes time stands still. You recognize the faces of fellow humans, no matter how many years have past and how many trees have grown amongst the stone. And it feels you with wonder, to think of this great empire that once was, and is no more, and of all the people that lived there, danced there, carved stones for generations to come.

Nothing will ever replace a visit there, so book a flight and take your time there (seriously, we didn’t even have a chance to see the city of Siem Reap, we had too much fun and fascination chasing every single Aspara), but here are a few snapshots of the details  (no selfie, of course) to entice you:


From the Ramayana: the army of Monkeys fighting/biting an army of demons (with seemingly delicious buttocks)


Some Apsaras chilling out in their fantastic hair dos


the many faces of the Buddha in Bayon

​Mud cycling and a sense of eternity – Bagan

Myanmar has the ability to surprise you,  again and again. After a few peaceful days in the Shan state,  mostly trekking and cycling, we arrived in Bagan, an old royal city where about 4000 Buddhist pagodas were built (in a few centuries time).  Because you can never have too many Buddhist temples. The latter might sound ironic, but after 4 days of cycling from one to another, along small muddy paths transformed into rivers and swamps by monsoon, on old and shabby cheap Chinese bicycles, I can truly say I can’t have too many of those. 

We were warned (by our old guidebook, by well meaning self-proclaimed South East Asia experts (i.e. people who had been to Thailand to the beach, in general) that travelling during the rainy season would be hell. Up until now, we had met very little rain, (and by little I mean short showers of torrential storms) but in Bagan we got a sense of what really is the Monsoon. Upon arrival already the road just after our hostel had turned into a big puddle, the heavy rains (every two hours, a gigantic storm passing by obliterating everything) having filled it up nicely. Not that it provided much cause for trouble for the Burmese, who had simply transfered some of their boats from the Yrawaddy river close by to use the to cross the said “road”. The most ingenious ones where already advertising it as a touristic atraction: you can boat on the road, miss, 2000 khyats!(2 euros). 

During our stay, the state of things only worsened with every storm, the ponds getting bigger, the river swelling up, forcing people living close by on houses on bamboo stilts (not high enough, sadly) to move to relatives’ houses or stay and build a platform of chairs inside their houses-aquariums. Again, nothing out of the usual, they would reiterate to us, maybe “just a little bit more water this year”. 

For us, having the luxury of a room in the second floor, a change of clothes and time on our hands, it was absolutely fine. (I mean, for me and my friend, I had to endure a 10 minutes rant from a Israeli tourist blocked like us by rain under an ancient temple who thought it was insufferable) Maybe I’m too lazy but getting angry at the rainy season never occured to me as a something worthy of my time. Instead, we pushed on through the rain, stopping every time there was a “really strong one” (our standards have increased as to which amount of rain will constitute an absolute necessity to seek shelter, think Noah’s Ark level of “mh, it’s not that bad, I needed a shower anyhow”) under one of the many pagodas spread in the Bagan plain, even the smallest one providing us with at least a roof and usually some interesting details, a view over the river, a mischieviously smiling Buddha, ancient stone carving or a small army of squirels playing on the temple steps. The small paths turned to ponds, which we cycled through (we are now official experts in the art of cycling on water, and in this land of Buddha ironically, Jesus would have been impressed), then to muddy swamps (still cycling through), back to sand and dust to come back to their under-water stage a few hours later. And through this, almost no one to disturb the quiet peace of the temples, just a few women selling sand paintings, farmers leading their cows and ploughs, and the intermittent sound of rain on the leaves. Everything as it probably has been for a few centuries, and we felt so lucky to get a rare chance at a glimpse of atemporality, to stop in time and space here in Bagan and let the rain make the world, or rather everything further than a few meters away, disappear. Stepping out of the world without escaping anything is a rare and beautiful thing indeed.

​View from the top of my (audio) book

Today we decided to go out on a limb and give up our usual way of transportation (the night buses, their loud music and crazy drivers) for a boat. Maybe seeing all the fishermen on the gigantic Irrawaddy river (which would already be wide in its normal state, but has taken possession of meters and meters of land on its sides) gave us navigational envy. I love ships, and boats, and – compared to buses or anything with wheels – they are my particular friends because I can read on them without the immediate risk of restituting my last meal onto my neighbour’s lap. So we left Bagan on a ship to Mandalay, which is expensive (for our budget, it’s still only 32 dollars for an 11 hour cruise), going upstream to the old capital. The buses do it in 5 hours. Sometimes, the real luxury is to travel slower. 

From the deck, then, we watch the flooded shores and the white birds fishing, the pagodas lost amongst the trees and the river, its slow waters spreading almost all the way to the horizon, merging with the sky which has the same blue-grey color. And we read (I’m halfway through “The glass Palace”, by Amitav Gosh, which starts in Mandalay at the arrival of the British and just adds to my excitement at finally seeing it tonight, to compare, but I’m also plucking in and out of Jeanette Winterson’s “Art objects” essays, which take time to process). But mostly I listen to an audiobook – not taking full advantage of my non-travel-sickness-state, as I usually use audiobooks in buses as an alternative way of reading – because the audiobook I’m listening to right now is “The piano Tuner”, by Daniel Mason (would recommend the audio version read by Graeme Malcolm by the way, fantastic narrator), which also takes place in Burma, during the colonial times, and is about a piano tuner sent to tune a prestigious Erard piano in a secluded post in the Shan State. Right now I’m at the stage in the book when the tuner is coming from Yangon to Mandalay, by boat, on the same river I’m in. And there couldn’t be a better place to listen to it.

​Travels in a shifting land – Thoughts on Myanmar

I’ve been in Myanmar for almost a week, now. And there is so much of note, so many experiences – of all the senses – I struggle to put them into a clear narrative. Everything comes in a comparison, seems to remind me of something seen somewhere in Asia but then it shifts somehow and manages to look entirely new.
Mostly, what is striking, is that this country is changing faster than any country I’ve been to. It might have looked completely differently 3 years ago. I’ve been travelling with a guide book from 2011, the year when the country first started to re-open itself, had its first “democratic” (still, very suspicious) elections, and the power of the military junta started to decrease. Then, in 2015, another election year, this time a lot more democratic, brought Aung San Suu Kyi’s party to power, a non-military president, and an frenzy of investors, openings and globalizations.
Still, it is fascinating to read our guidebook (not for any useful practical information, save the one saying it is dangerous to walk in yangon at night, not because of thieves, but because you might accidentally fall into a sewage hole, (a friend already verified this in practice), but as an old photography of what it was, a mere 5 years ago: no freedom of the press, no sim-cards (for burmese people or tourists), no wifi, a government so corrupt you had to take every measure to “travel responsively”, that is, try and give the smallest amount of money to the government (avoiding organized tours, government-owned entreprises, etc…), very few tourists, I’ll stop the enumeration now. 

We half expected something a bit more opened, but we were astonished, arriving in Yangon, which shocks, at first sight, with the density of its traffic (it takes now two hours to reach the public bus station from the centre, it took 15 minutes in 2005), the size of its advertising billboards, the amounts of construction sites promising luxury residences or supermarkets, the small stalls at the market selling Iphones. And every hotel providing reliable internet. 

In many ways, then, it looks like a metropolis of the South, a bit of Bangkok, a bit of Ho Chi Minh City. But it is also unique. The smells of the food stalls (small “burmese pancakes”, “samusa thoke” – bits of samosas in a type of dahl), the remaining old colonial buildings, covered in dirt and conquered by vegetation, the chant of the muezzin in one mosque followed by buddhist prayers in a pagoda across the corner. A crossroad of India, Thailand, China and more, but also something particular.

From Yangon, we left for the Inle lake, in the Shan region – it is one of the mandatory tourist stops – on a luxury night bus (at least it looks very luxurious to me, compared to Nepalese public buses for example, they even gave us a free pastry (?some kind of artificial baba-au-rhum with undetermined jelly on top, but still, free food is always good food!) and arrived at dusk in  the small town bordering the lake, with mist rising from the paddy fields and swamps surrounding the lake. Back to the country side after three days in the frenesy of the city. And the countryside here is indeed glorious, with the bright green of the rice fields and banana trees, the calm waters of the lake, the small fishing villages and floating gardens (they grow tomatoes on the lake, which still looks like magic to me), and the Stupas and pagodas, all gold, lost in the hills above the lake. Here as well, hostels are coming out of the grounds faster than you can count them, some have an upper floor under construction but the reception is already open, and the traffic of motorboats on the lake is increasing. But you can escape it all on an old chinese bicycle, rented for a thousand khyats (1 USD) and go get lost amongst the hills, disturbed only by a passing stray dog, a few water buffalos placidly checking the intrudor out, and children on their way to school who always wave hello and smile. 

And you could be nostalgic of all this change, all this growing. But first, you have absolutely no right to be. This land, or any other, does not exist for the benefit of tourist on the look out for authenticity. And while there are a lot of drawbacks to globalization there is also an increased access to information that comes, as always, with internet and phone. And, aside from all of this, there is a peculiar beauty in witnessing a metamorphosis on the making. I am happy to be there, and now, that’s as much as I can say.

​Anatomy, golf  and geopolitical history – Yangon bookshops 

I’ve been in Myanmar for 3 days now, after just a short stop in Bangkok (just enough time to get, in a blink of a eye, a sense of innumerable crowds and hectic traffic), and I should (and will eventually) try to gather all my thoughts and experiences into an article, but as today we went on a idle walk all around the center, without any sense of purpose, just to discover small streets and corner stalls, I couldn’t wait to share a few glimpses into some of Yangon’s bookstores. 

There are many, ranging from open air stalls (that is, a plastic cover with piles of books arranged in a way that clearly defines gravity) appearing and disappearing just as quickly with each rain shower, to two storey bookshops in ancient, crumbling colonial houses. In one of those, (Yangon book house) the owner was idly scratching on a guitar when we came in, giving to the small, peaceful place an Cuban atmosphere, and we talked for a long time about Myanmar History, its various (and numerous) ethnic tribes and about Burmese colonial days.He had everything, from old reader’s digests to “Burmese Pamphlet”, my favourite of those, dated 1937, was a collection of “up to date basic statistics on Burma”, where you could read, under telecommunication: ” the number of telephone exchanges for the year 1936 was 9″.

In a other one a bit further down the same road (I love the organizing system of markets in Asia:everything grouped by articles, that road was apparently only books+tea stalls, a perfect combination) we found another second hand book store, dusty and dark just as we like it, with a various collection of bookish gems,  old penguins, and half destroyed books on Buddhist history and culture. To note, “how to improve your golf”, written in Burmese language, with a handful of schematic drawings picturing a very English gentleman golfing (very wrongly,  under a big red cross,  and then the right way, with a satisfactory smile),  a book on numerology for the years 1968 to 1970 (useful, to predict the past) and a scientific book on sexual anatomy, complete with detailed measurement of the “median size of Sexual appendages”, but not one picture inside, despite the cover saying it’s “illustrated” (probably the term they were looking for is graphic).

In the end, amongst all these treasures, I managed (with the help of my friend, who kept showing me my backpack as a warning) to restrain myself,  and only bought a battered orange penguin, collective short stories and radio plays by Muriel spark, from 1966. 

I now don’t want to leave Yangon before I’ve been through all those small bookshops, but it appears we must travel on (at the risk of me using my food budget on outdated books),so I’ll jump in the public bus with Muriel Spark. It’s a worthy company for a stunning country.