Jody's Adventures

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Myanmar to Putao the flight

Curbside check in Illegal Airport Photo
British Built Airport
Checking in for the next day's flight- reviewing a list of the passengers posted outside the airline office.

So my guide for my Putao trip met me in Myitkyina to accompany me on my flight to Putao. Foreigners are not allowed to travel on the road up there and even if you are it takes 1 week to 4 months depending on road conditions, rain, snow, and landslides to travel the same distance that the 1/2 hour flight covers, so I flew. The "airports" and I use the term loosely were not much more than one building along a stretch of concrete which serves as the runway. We took a motorcycle taxi to the airport which is a motorcycle with a cart attached with just enough room for 2 people and bags. The moto taxi stopped in front a place which looks like a cross between a street market and a bus stop with several women sitting behind tables of water bottles, toilet paper, and assorted snacks. Gradually I notice the piles of plastic bags stuffed full, and cardboard boxes tied up with string (not likely containing my favorite things). Then I notice that many of the men milling about are wearing name tags which say Myitkyina airport, and someone takes our luggage into a wood and fence stall and I realize that this is curbside check in! We are at the airport! Our bags are brought around a green wooden partition and placed on tables for searching. A man in camo carefully inspects each of my pens as a friendly but somewhat scared German Shepard looks on. About 30 armed men later we arrive in a colonial era 3 room building- the original airport built by the colonial British. The waiting room had a high ceiling. The paint that hadn't chipped off the walls yet was a tired white. Lazy ceiling fans hung from it. The windows and doors had appropriate era wavy glass windows to let the light shine in on the red plastic chairs, and we waited. The plane was only 1 hour late- we were lucky. As I walked across the tarmac to the awaiting plane I was thankful we were not flying the government owned Fokker, but a more modern craft complete with a very well dressed stewardess with airbrushed designs on her toenails. Obviously a resident of the big city of Yangoon she looked very out of place in this town. The government Fokkers in addition to being antiquated and rattletrap are at the disposal of the government/military officials and flights are regularly cancelled if someone wants to go somewhere. The plane was already half full as it had come up from Yangoon so I did not get the view for the 1/2 hour flight. As I disembarked at the equally non modern Putao airport I was gently reminded that any and all pictures of the planes or airport facilities are not permitted, and strictly watched by the dozen military personnel armed with rifles at the airport. But I was here, and the famed snow capped mountains were in sight.


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