After a little “cooling off” at Bogyoke Aung San Market, it was time for my bus ride. Fortunately, getting a taxi here was a snap. I considered trying to commute my way to the bus terminal but I was afraid I would run out of time since the bus terminal was quite a fair distance away from the market. It was a good thing that I asked my other taxi driver how to get someone to bring me to the bus station since this driver doesn’t seem to speak English at all. The name of the bus station is the Aung Mingalar Bus Station.
As expected of a bus terminal, a lot of buses to other parts of Myanmar start from here. The dusty bus station is actually just a bunch of two storey buildings with buses in front of them. Visitors need to know where they intend to go since the buildings can be quite confusing, English is almost non existent here. Fortunately, my driver managed to find my bus terminal by also asking around. The waiting shed was nothing more than the ground floor of the building with benches. It was dark, very dusty and full of people. I guess a lot of people also plan to go there.
It seems that I was the only foreigner in the group and the operators asked me to for my name and passport number since they need to mark it down for documentation purposes. The locals were friendly enough but none of them spoke English. My driver was the one who got me my ticket and I wanted to know how much it really cost, but all the signs were all in Burmese script and I couldn’t understand them. I got a ticket to the town of Bagan for K20,000, which I thought was a lot. I thought transportation would be much cheaper in a country like this.
Not before long, we were signalled to board the bus. Just my luck, they put me at the last row beside the window which I found out cannot be opened. The ride to Bagan will take me around 13 hours. The trip started off quite well as we travelled on surprisingly well paved roads. Watching the road, I could see how vast this country actually is. I could also see how poor most of the people here are since most of them rely only on agriculture to sustain them. This area of Myanmar is practically the dust bowl of Myanmar and you can see the dust flying everywhere.
As night fell, our problems started. The air conditioning of the bus conked out and the bus had to stop several times to cool down the air-conditioning unit. We were stopping in the middle of nowhere with no houses in sight. In pitch dark the bus guys were frantically trying to cool down the bus. I was thinking to myself how they plan on moving us assuming the bus can’t start? Well, it did, but remember that I was seated at the last row? This is where the engine was! So as the engine grew hotter and hotter I can literally feel my butt grow warmer and warmer. At least it wasn’t burning hot. Since the air-conditioning was down, heat started to build up inside the bus. And for some reason, the people kept thinking that the air-conditioning was working and stubbornly refusing to open the windows. Since my window was stuck, I couldn’t open it even if I wanted to.
After a few sweaty hours of travelling in the pitch black of the night, at the same time trying to fend off the boy monk who was seated beside me. He was sound asleep but was practically leaning on me for support. Finally, someone had the presence of mind to open the windows much to the relief of the people insde. I couldn’t understand what took them so long. Anyway, the open windows were literally a breath of fresh air for me, since I was already drenched in sweat from the sauna that was the bus.
Needless to say, the bus ride became much more comfortable from then on. I was even able to get a few minutes of sleep from that. Until I would be repeatedly knocked awake from my sleep from banging my head against the bus. I heaved a sigh of relief when we finally entered what seemed to be a major town. I kept asking the monks beside me whether this was the town of Nyaung U, but they didn’t seem to understand me. I did my best to hand sign to them but I didn’t get any answer. I decided to wait it out until the bus stops since not all of the passengers have gotten off yet.
Well, we finally did get to Nyaung U and I was really grateful that that journey has ended. I would have to say that was the worst bus ride I’d ever had, but only in terms of discomfort. My co-passengers where quite friendly though they don’t speak a word of English. They even tried to share food with me. As I unloaded my stuff, I needed to figure out how to find a place to stay. I remembered seeing a few inns along the way as we were entering Nyaung U and I intended to find it.
There was someone at the bus terminal who offered to take me to one of the hotels here. I instinctively tried to ignore him and said I would do it on my own. But I realized how futile it would be at this time of the night. There was a power failure and it was still pitch black. I realized I would not be able to find the place on my own. So I let the guy lead me to the hotel he had in mind. It was a short walk from the bus terminal and we were basically walking in the dark. He didn’t have any torchlight and neither did I. But he did seem to know where it was.
The name of the hotel is New Heaven Hotel, it is a long one story building with several rooms available for use. For US$4 I got myself an airconditioned room. Not much use when there is no electricity. At least there was running water so I was able to clean myself after that long and dusty ride. It was already four in the morning, when I finally plopped onto one of the two beds, I quickly fell sound asleep. My first night in Myanmar.