Burma/Myanmar - Rambo country
After action report: Burma
Mission Objective: Rescue a group of missionaries that have been captured by rebels in the far north. (Rambo 4 was based on this mission)
Operatives: Major Dutch and Captain Chunk
We flew into Yangon on a civilian craft, using the cover as backpackers to infiltrate the country and gather any Intel that was available on the missing missionaries. Upon arriving we passed through immigration and made contact with our local asset, Chef hangi pants. The local asset was someone I had worked with numerous times over the years and trusted completely. He informed us he had sourced us local transport and guided us out of the airport and to a parked taxi. Immediately he presented us with cold beers and told us the best way to blend in was buy drinking heavily and playing up the drunken, British tourist route. After drinking the beers we proceeded to drive across town to our base of operations (BOP), a high rise in central Yangon.
We decided it would be best to use his apartment as a base for Intel gathering and movements around Yangon. He had a wife called Z who was also working deep cover and worked as our translator and guide. Upon arriving she called their black market money man so we could exchange currency. Note – guidebooks will tell you, you need to take in Pristine USD to exchange with the local currency and that international Credit cards will not work in ATM’s. This is incorrect. There are international ATM’s installed in the country now and you can get a good rate if you change money at a bank as well. We can sourced some local ‘classified’ as it would add to our cover of backpackers, so we started acclimatizing to the local ‘classified’ and proceeded to discuss our plan of attack.
After hashing out a rough plan we headed out to a local hot pot restaurant and sampled the local cuisine
before heading to a Beer Station – local bars that have popped up where you can get cheap beer, food and listen to Asian pop music on the side of the ride. We discovered the local ale Myanmar beer was delicious so imbibed some while monitoring the locals.
The next day we decided to do a recce of the city and popped into the Hotel where Chef hangi pants was posing as the Head Chef for some food and to plan our day. We were seated and asked for some local food and were sent numerous dishes to sample. Sometimes this job has perks and we were fed like kings with local and western food.
After rehydrating and gorging ourselves we headed to the local market to source some supplies and see whether it was worth trying to source local weapons and equipment.
Captain Chunk got it into her head that buying a puppet would be a great idea to blend in as a tourist buying useless souvenirs, so we spent ages hunting for the perfect puppet.
She couldn’t make up her mind so we left and had a delicious lunch of biryani. Surprisingly Indian food is very popular in Burma due to the large Indian community living there. We then explored the city a little bit.
After this we proceeded back to our BOP to rest. After resting we headed to shwedagon pagoda – one of the largest and most spectacular religious sites in south east Asia. It was very impressive and very secure.
We decided if we came under attack this would be our fall back point. After blending in and making a few offerings to Buddha we ventured out to popular bar called 50th st with the expat community. We sampled the food which was delicious and also gained some Intel on places to visit and travelling around Burma.
The next day we decided we would try and venture to one of the beaches but upon finding out the bus only runs on a Friday and we would need to hire a driver or fuck about catching loads of buses we decided to get a night bus to Bagan as we had heard rumors or rebel activity in the area. We got a taxi to the bus station across town which took over an hour. Upon seeing our bus we were not impressed so went to a local beer station and sampled more local beer and waited for our bus to depart.
Upon boarding, we realized the seats are not really the correct size for large westerners, and they, like the rest of south east asia like to play Asian pop and karaoke dvds at full volume for most of the ride which means you don’t get much sleep on an overnight trip. The tickets are very cheap though and the transport surprisingly fast. We were supposed to arrive at 5am but arrived around 3am. Upon leaving the bus we were asked if we wanted a taxi and negotiated a price, we walked to the taxi and then realized it was a horse and cart. I asked the man how long and he said depends on donkey. It was a 45 minute ride through pitch black countryside with only a torch taped to the side of the cart for illumination.
Once we arrived at the hotel we were told we wouldn’t be able to check in until 9 am so decided to head out for some local breakfast and sightseeing.
Once back in our room we had a quick equipment check and decided to hire bicycles and explore the local area. Chef hangi pants had provided us with some local Classified so we partook and proceeded to explore pagodas and temples and bike around old and new Bagan. We didn’t see any rebel activity but took many photos which we sent back to HQ for analysis.
The next day we did similar activities of posing as tourists cycling around but spoke to many locals and got valuable feedback on the current political situation. That evening we decided we would take a sunset boat cruise to see if the river was a valid insertion point for a small military force. We sourced a local boat man to take us for a sunset cruise for $5 or so.
Posing as a young couple in love we sat on the roof of the boat and drank beers and canoodled while really taking photos and marking points on the map of interest.
That evening survived cycling around the dusty, dirt roads to a small town where we dined at a local, well known Indian restaurant Aroma 2 which was delicious and drank more of the local beer before heading home to our little bungalow.
The next day we had to travel back to Yangon by bus and opted for a day bus rather than another night bus due to the bullshit karaoke and shitty seats. The bus was full of locals again and half way through the journey there was a loud explosion and the bus swerved. I thought we had been discovered and the Junta were trying to take us out. The bus managed to pull over and we piled off. Upon discovering we had a flat tire, I examined it and it had been sabotaged.
They were onto US!. We knew we had limited time before they would find out the accident hadn’t been fatal so as soon as we got back to Yangon we found an unmarked taxi and headed back to the BOP. Once there we decided we would need to re-evaluate our activities and stay incognito for the rest of the trip.
One evening Chef hangi pants mentioned he was doing a valentine’s day 11 course meal at the hotel which would be a great opportunity for us to observe some of Yangon’s political and military elite. We dressed as smart as possibly could and proceeded to listen in and observe the proceedings over dinner.
We didn’t manage to get much Intel due to their also being a 6 course wine tasting menu which captain chunk and myself got intoxicated on but we deemed the night a success regardless.
The next day we sourced a local guide and decided to head out of the city to check out the floating pagoda as we had heard they had installed high tech security systems which were obviously being used to monitor tourist activities. We had hoped to sabotage the system, but enroute captain chunk was coming down with a vicious case of so called food poisoning so decided it wasn’t wise to engage the enemy. At the temple you are able to feed giant catfish with balls of popcorn, which we did.
Upon leaving the temple we told our local guide we wanted to try Bat meat. He took us to local joint where we sampled Dirty Juice – local champagne in his words. It is a fermented local spirit. It smells disgusting but actually tastes pretty good. We also sampled some local deer, which is illegal due to it being a protected species, but alas there was no bat available. They had mouse on the menu but due to the captains state and my fear of a possible poisoning we decided against sampling the mouse. It looked pretty fucking disgusting.
Once we had finished the dirty juice we headed into the city and got dropped off at a luxury hotel to continue our façade as tourists and spent the afternoon by the pool, sipping cocktails and sunbathing.
That evening we went out for some street food where I sampled the delicious Shan Noodles – a spicy noodle type soup for around $1.
After eating we headed to a local bar where a fashion show was going on, young pretty girls get dressed up and parade on stage. If you like the girl you place a necklace of flowers around their necks and they come and join you at your table afterwards. It was quite a strange sight. We were unsure if this lead to more adult activities or it was just innocent talking. More research is needed, I will ask Chef hangi pants to investigate.
The next day we decided to cross the river and head into the Delta. To do this you are supposed to obtain permission from a government ministry but due to them already trying to take us out we flagged this and just jumped on a local ferry across the river to stay under the radar. Once we had docked on the other side we hooked up with another local asset posing as a trishaw driver and proceeded to pretend we were visiting the local market but actually were just debriefing him.
He informed us the situation was pretty stable but we had to be careful when discussing politics still. I had also heard rumours of underground fighting similar to Muay Thai held in villages. He informed me he had participated and showed me his scars. We had enough Intel so decided to head back to Yangon.
Once there we headed back to the Market to pick up some more souvenirs. I managed to source an opium pipe while captain chunk got her puppet. After this we had an hour and half long massage
then headed back to the BOP to regroup with Chef hangi pants and his wife Z. We went out to a famous restaurant – Feel Myanmar and asked Z to order for us.
We ate ourselves to shit then headed to a local late night club to try and make contact with some other local assets. Upon arriving at the club we immediately noticed the sex tourists and made a note of them to report back to HQ. I went to the bathroom to urinate and while pissing a man started massaging my shoulders, I tried to move away but he kept saying “its ok, its ok” and it felt ok so I let him continue while I finished up. Once I had finished I tried to tip him but he wouldn’t take it and when I returned to the group and informed them about my impromptu toilet massage they said it was completely normal. The evening ended with me in my pants and chef hangi pants asking me to transport a valuable egg back to London.
We didn’t manage to rescue the missionaries but we got a good feel for the country and decided we would be back sometime soon to try again.
Valuable Intel for civilians or military personal travelling to Burma
Take Pristine USD as currency but also credit cards as they will work
Use local taxis and barter for a good price, they are cheap and we travelled everywhere in them. Around $2 to $3 per journey around town.
Local street food is generally ok to eat. Just make sure you go to busy places and see what the locals are eating.
Overnight/Long distance buses are pretty good although not that comfortable for sleeping. Not on par with Thailand or Vietnam. Similar to Cambodia.
Organizing travel takes time, buses don’t run everyday, hotels get booked up very quickly, highly recommend to plan trip in advance and book accommodation. Turning up to a destination without accommodation is niggly.
Travel across country takes a long time so take that into account if you don’t have very long.
The locals are extremely friendly. we didn’t get ripped off once and they all just want to talk to you and practice their English Easily the friendliest country I have visited.
Tourism is growing fast so the time to go is now!
Central hotel in Yangon is a great place for cheap, good massages. although the staff seem fixated on my crotch. The spent an inordinate amount down there and Captain Chunk was getting concerned. for an hour and half massage it costs around $6.