To Hopeland and Back (Part VI)

Day One: 12 December 2013

This may be the 6th trip back to the country I have come to call Hopeland. But it is also the first trip alone, with no companion to pay for my bills. So when the taxi driver offered to drive me to my hotel for 10,000 kyat ($10), I felt insulted.

Hopeland does not seem to have direct flights, if my experience since March (second trip) is conclusive. The plane, instead of flying straight to Rangoon, wanders off to Lashio, further north, and then to Mandalay in the west, before deciding it’s time to call it a day and turns south.

The result was that it took us more than 4 hours to get there instead of two. We started at 15:30 so by the time I got off the plane it was already 20:00.

Sun Wu (Photo:

Not that I’m complaining. The time spent waiting for the plane and riding it is the only time I can read books that I have been wanting to. This time I had brought “The Chinese Martial Code”, a compilation of works by warrior-philosophers Sun Wu, Sima Fa and Wu Zi. It had been with me for two months.

“Why are you reading Sun Wu?” Friends who have known me long will say that. “You’ve read it since you were thirty. In fact, you’ve already translated it.” All of which is true. But Sun Wu or Sun Zi’s Art of War is one book I never get tired of reading. Each new translation gives light to some of what the Master was trying to teach me.

Sima Fa (Photo: Sompong Yusoontorn)

Sima Fa, you will also like him as I do, even though he is less well known outside China. He sounds like the Master himself when he says: However strong a country maybe, if it loves war it will be ruined. But however secure an Empire Maybe, if it forgets war it will be in danger.

Wu Zi, who has been immortalized in several Chinese movies, gives an almost identical advice: If the ruler does not advance against the enemy when he comes, it is not righteousness. And if he is sorry that men are killed it is not benevolence.

Sun Wu:
War is important to the nation. It is the ground of death and life, the path of survival and destruction. Hence, under no circumstances it can be neglected.
Wu Zi (Photo: Sompong Yusoontorn)

My mind, still immersed in Sun Wu, Sima Fa and Wu Zi, was rudely awakened by the taxi driver’s statement of his “outrageous” taxi fare.

“Are you not asking too much?” I responded. He said, “No. We’re going from one end of the city of the other. And we’ll have to navigate through heavy traffic. I can go down to K 9,000, but not more than that. Take it or leave it.”

While he was talking, my senses returned. Hey, I told myself, K 10,000 is 300 Baht. You pay that much or more whenever you land in Bangkok.

So I meekly consented and went along with him to a hotel on the Rangoon river. It was also near the venue where the Burma News International (BNI) ad hoc meeting was to take place tomorrow.


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