Now and then we passed people walking along the roadsides, even though it was almost four o’clock in the morning. I had noticed that people were always out and about at all hours of the night. I suppose this explains the ludicrous train and bus times.
From the turn off on the main road, another long road led to Nyaungshwe. Arriving there and asking directions, the driver got me to Teakwood Guesthouse where I had bloged a room Despite the hour, a woman soon opened the gate. In the semi-open office area two young people lay sleeping on old grey blankets on the cold tiled floor. ‘My staff’, she said to my enquiring look. Poor kids. Apparently a tough employer, she was a brittle woman, not at all like other Burmese women I had met who were soft and gentle and kind. I did not take to her. However, right then all I wanted was a bed. Desperately.
From a monastery across the road a very loud chanting bellowed out nonstop. I asked for a room at the back further away from the racket and was told that this would cost more. Upstairs was even dearer. And yet, value wise by Burmese standards, this was a twenty dollar hotel! They didn’t even supply a bottle of water or a glass if you had brought your own. Thank goodness I had the bottle the bus company had given me; a miss-spent youth drinking beer from bottles serves me well in times like this.
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I slept until after eleven and got up, bleary eyed, for lunch. It was hard to believe the difference between the wonderful Tungapuri hotel I had just left, that had cost only two dollars more, and this place. The ‘nice garden’ of the Teakwood’s blurb was for me a fine outlook onto a couple of clothes-drying racks laden with crumpled washing. And as for that chanting! The same phrase shouted with the aid of an amplifier over and over very loudly. It did not stop all day as this was now a special time of Buddhist lent. I am not adverse to a bit of chanting, but I began to fantasise about marching over there with a big pair of scissors and cutting the cord of that amplifier, or at least pulling the plug.
Unfortunately I had been pressured into paying up front for three days when I arrived, otherwise I would have moved.
Towards evening I ventured out. I was told that it was only a five minute walk to the main street of this small town and surprisingly it turned out to be true. It isn’t always. The street contained small cafes, shops and boat tour offices. I arranged a boat trip on Inle Lake, an obligatory exercise when visiting this area, with a friendly man whose smile displayed betel-destroyed teeth and blood-red gums. Nearby was a bank with a money change office, but it was not open until morning. Outside it stood a brand-new ATM, the first I had seen in Burma.