Myanmar On Map

At train time I took a horse cart, the local means of transport, to the station. It had poured rain for the last two hours and I had sat watching it and thinking about the brolly I had just lost. That little pink umbrella had been with me for years since I had bought it in Laos. It had learned to look after itself and must also have had a charmed life because I had left it behind in cafes, shops, markets, buses, hotels, anywhere I could in fact. People were forever running after me with it or I was trotting back to retrieve it. But, sadly, there was no going back for it this time. I hope the tuk tuk man would be kind to it.

The train arrived from Mandalay bang on time at six pm. Among the crowd on the platform I was the only foreigner, but I had three station workers looking after me, carrying my baggage and shepherding me along like a visiting film star. All that was missing was the red carpet. They saw me installed in my sleeping compartment of the one sleeper carriage on this long train. Then we all shook hands and they waved me off. It was going to be a shock to go home and be treated like a mere mortal afer Burma.

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The train quickly gathered speed and we lolloped along at a cracking pace, rocking and rolling and making a very satisfactory train-type sound. Soon we were in countryside that looked a bit dryish now and then. Later, as we went south, there were extensive areas of crops and rice and buffalos, cows and goats. An attendant wandered by with a menu. I ordered and food was produced shortly afer. I had asked for noodles and chicken. I got a massive pile of fried rice. I left some on a station platform for one of those poor stray dogs. This train was different again from other sleepers I had had. However, none of them had been new in the last forty years. This compartment had only two berths with narrow beds one above the other and the usual open window. The metal sides were beat up, scratched and scuffed and covered with just plain dirt. A good scrub would have helped a lot. But in general it was superficially clean. At least there was a clean sheet on the cloth seat and a little pillow-cased cushion.

This was a real express train, unlike some that are called express but aren’t. We only stopped for five minutes at a few stations and actually passed through others, something other trains seemed incapable of doing. I slept afer a less than satisfactory visit to the heaving oriental loo. It was nice to sleep with my face level with an open window but it was strange to wake up when we had stopped in a station and find people on the platform closely inspecting me.

This journey was fast and in twelve and half hours I was in Yangon station. Five minutes before arrival people appeared on the train offering taxis. I accepted one man and he lumped my bag out onto the platform where he sold me to a driver, an older man who insisted on taking my hand to lead me down the stairs. At the bottom stood a posse of other hopeful drivers, who cheered and clapped my guardian as though he had secured the prize. Which he had. He charged me double the going rate. We got into his old car and lumbered off. No sitting in the back with this bloke driving, he almost pushed me into the front seat with him.

Early morning Yangon was alive with street vendors and monks making their alms rounds. Motherland welcomed me back and had me in my room, after the compulsory breakfast, by eight o’clock.

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