Yangon Burma Map

I had expected a grand new bus station, but the government apparently is not interested in bus travellers. They want cashed-up flyers. There was nowhere under shade to sit except up some steps in a daggy little office. My bag was left down in the street beside a stall selling packets of munchies. You wouldn’t do this in Thailand or many other countries. When the bus arrived it was not as good as the last two I had taken. The seats were tiny and rock hard and they did not recline. If I stretched out my legs I had only half my bottom on it. Thank goodness for my pillow. Though each seat was provided with a green-frilled baby pillow, they weren’t much use except to help insulate you from the sharp arm rests. We left the bus station on the dot of six, but it was half past seven before we got away from Nay Pyi Taw.

There were three bus stations, all miles apart, in Nay Pyi Taw. We called at them all collecting passengers, as well as a village on the outskirts of the city where there was a market and some normal-looking Burmese houses.

Outside my bus window an almost full moon was rising and I fell asleep watching it. Despite my fears of spending a sleepless night on a bus, I was snoring long before half-past eight. I woke up then because the bus had stopped for our first feeding and toileting session a whole hour had elapsed since our last pick-up stop. This is going to be a long trip, I thought.

Yangon Burma Map Photo Gallery

Everyone had to get off and we were locked out of the bus until the driver returned. The next stop was at eleven-thirty and the same procedure followed more food, more toilets. Then the old bus began labouring up steep winding roads into the mountains. Halfway to the top we pulled off the road at a place where several buses and trucks stood in mud and puddles while their drivers hosed down their tyres, cooling them in preparation for the rest of the ordeal.

Continuing on with cool tyres, grinding and bumping in an ever-winding ascent, we arrived at the top. I slept again and woke when we had our last stop for refreshments at half-past one. An hour later we seemed to have arrived somewhere. People had been getting off along the way by calling out to the driver to stop, but this place looked like a major halt. Wherever it was, everyone got off, so I did too.

I showed someone the ticket that had on it my destination, Nyaungshwe, the closest town to Inle Lake, and received the unwelcome news that I had come too far. The bus driver had not realised that I had no idea where I was and that the road signs I had seen, being in Burmese script, had told me nothing. The driver’s assistant, who had been told by the ticket seller in Nay Pyi Taw to put me off at the Nyaungshwe turn off, had disappeared somewhere along the way. A man who spoke English was found to talk to me. He said I could take a taxi back to Nyaungshwe, and a vehicle was promptly found. It was a long way back. The taxi, a decrepit old heap on its last legs, bucked, jolted, creaked and groaned over the bumpy road, innocent of windows, which was handy for the spitting. Not me, the driver, who was chewing betel and seemed to be having trouble with his eyes. He slowed to a crawl when cars or trucks with lights approached.

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