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Reading ‘The Mask of Apollo’ in the Myeik Archipelago

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The book: The Mask of Apollo, Mary Renault

The place: Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar


(Not pictured: millions of invisible stinging things in the sea that have me covered in painful welts. Small disadvantage of somewhere that is otherwise an untrammelled delight.)


Oh, hello there. Why yes, I am on holiday somewhere utterly blissful, thank you so much for noticing! I’ve been in Myanmar for a few days now, poking about up north in Bagan and Mandalay; I came south yesterday, and to the islands today. There is always a slight feeling of trepidation when coming to somewhere overtly resort-y as a singulon, fearing the Weirdo Loner stigma, but should fear of said stigma stop one from coming to one of the most beautiful places on earth for a few days of reading and diving and looking at the sea? It should not. And indeed of course now that I am here it is totally fine, and I actually leaped for joy on checking into my beachfront bamboo cabin. Good choice, self. Very good choice.

I’ve never travelled much in South East Asia, and what travel I have done in the region was quite a long time ago now, so one of the joys of this trip has been spending time somewhere that feels palpably foreign, culturally and socially and politically, from the sorts of places where I normally am. Through sheer dumb luck, I’ve timed this visit very well: it was the Thadingnyut Festival last week, which involves fireworks and families illuminating their homes with thousands of candles – and next Sunday, 8 November, is the election. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to is a staunch supporter of ‘The Lady’ and her party, and I’ve been assured by many people that if the Generals’ party wins, they will have stolen the election. However this morning on the way to the quay in Kawthaung there was a neat line of green-clad demonstrators waving flags in support of the government, the first of the kind that I’d seen – the NLP-supporters I’ve spoken to said dismissively that such demonstrators are paid, that no one supports the government but the military and the uneducated, but we’ll see what way the election goes, though it will be difficult to see the objective truth of it.



  • I finished A Little Life a couple of weeks ago, and though there have been books that I’ve thought were better books, and books that I’ve liked and admired more, I don’t think I’ve ever been haunted by a book quite this much. This review in the Guardian sums up pretty much exactly my own thoughts about it.
  • More recently, I read Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and just adored it. A beautiful, elegant, gentle, lyrical book, the kind that fills the reader with inchoate and semi-pleasurable yearning. (Or perhaps that’s just me.) Highly recommended.


* PA270102
Apparently pouring water over Buddha gives you a long life.


Cliched ‘sunset over Bagan’ shot. As is often the case, it’s a cliche for a reason.

Moonset over the Ayeyarwady…


…and sunrise, ditto.

Had a good chat with these chaps while wandering the streets for Thadingnyut in Mandalay. Not sure if you can tell, but the guy on the right is wearing an NLP sticker on his forehead.

Small child + puppets, Mandalay

Very stern small child in a Mandalay puppet shop.

U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world! (Seems a bit of a niche record, but who am I to judge?)


Current location.

Sunset from my bedroom.

Written by Jess

October 31, 2015 at 10:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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