Breaking Burma Day 109: The Questionable ‘Night’ Bus

After sleeping in till 6:45 am (not quite reaching my aspirations for what should have been a sleep in day), I sat around in the hotel lobby eating breakfast, foolishly sipping the sugar crazed coffee that comes in those coffee packs, and chatting with people arriving in and departing Bagan. Whenever I told people that I was headed off to Pyay they gave me a weird look since they didn’t recognize it and because it isn’t exactly on the backpacker trail. Eventually I made my way over to Treasure Queen to wait on my pickup to the bus station. In the meantime I chatted with the treasure queen herself (aka mama Myanmar). She reined down my ride, a truck taxi doing errands for the day before going to the bus station. She told me that the ride would cost me 500 kyat but when I presented the given notes the driver shooed it away refusing to accept the money. What a magical world this country can be! Still, why must these people be so kind? Sure some people aren’t (like the always pleasantly persistent taxi drivers) but for the most part they don’t take advantage of Westerners as much as I had gotten used to in Thailand. Maybe because I was a friend of mama Myanmar, he was willing to help me out as a favor. Regardless, the gesture is greatly appreciated. At the bus station, I finally got a reasonably priced and filling meal at one of the bus station restaurants. Further revealing my celebrity status, one man at the restaurant couldn’t help himself and had to shake my hand with the biggest child’s grin that defied his age. The bus advertised air con which is awfully generous considering the sweat marks that deposited themselves onto the back of my seat (oh the joys of taking a bus in the middle of the day. Now I know why I prefer the night buses). The bus had the usual television with the usual awful Asian TV shows. These TV shows sometime get so bad that they go beyond the efforts of comedy. Sometimes I want to tear away at my hair or beard over how impressively T-E-R-R-ible it can be. Singing the typical chorus found on most Myanmar buses, people were heaving their insides out especially the poor chap behind me who sounded like a cat trying to release the world’s largest fur-ball. This just goes to show you that Asians have the weakest stomachs of any continent in the world. I was already the only Westerner/white person on the bus but my uniqueness became accentuated when we stopped for a meal/toilet break. The toilet situation like many others before seemed more appropriate for livestock in a realistic sense. I feel bad for the people, namely women, that have to subject themselves to the unsanitary squat toilet hole. Not wanting to relive that experience further, I sat at one of the tables as some of the locals shyly eyed me before curious children moved in towards me. I said ‘hello’ and ‘min-ga-la-bah’ while smiling and waving in their direction. With a coy grin they waved back before eventually sprouting a full gaping smile. The oldest of the bunch, a girl, knew some English and asked where I was from. After telling her I was from America, they whispered loudly to one another the word ‘America’ several times over like a secret chant. The adult onlookers watched this all going on and smiled since the children took a strong liking to the strange white person. For some reason, the girl said that I looked beautiful. I told her thanks but with my beard I am not so beautiful. Actually, I told her that she was the truly beautiful one. Sadly, she said that she was ugly and that I was beautiful. I had to correct her showing her that I was (with hand gestures) all the way at the bottom to the floor on the beauty scale while she stood high above up me towards the ceiling on the scale. She smiled sheepishly after that one. Eventually, the bus and thus I had to go continuing on to Pyay but not until I could say goodbye and hear a chorus of byes from the kids. The rest of the ride continued as before with cramped seats, puking, spitting of beetle nut juice, crap television programming, and a quickly falling asleep behind (at least something can fall asleep on the bus). I waited it out catching up on the blog until I would arrive at the inhumane hour of one or two in the morning in Pyay and hope to find a guesthouse willing to put me up for the night on the cheap. At 9 or so in the evening, we made another stop but I sat still as if nothing were the matter. Apparently we had arrived into the city of Pyay. After getting a rough sketch of the city with my chosen guesthouse plotted amateurly on it, I began the 3 km walk in its direction more for exercise than being cheap. I brushed off many people calling out for motorbike taxi services until one came hollering with the friendliest and best quality English I had come across amongst the sea of cat callers. By this time, I began to wonder whether I would be able to find the hotel even if I were but a street away since the map was damaged goods at best. The man asked where I was from and when I said ‘America’ (most don’t recognize U.S.A. for some reason) he told me he could drive for only 500 kyat. With the way I was headed I would have been stupid to pass this up but on the road you can never be too sure of a good thing. He drove me along the surprisingly lengthy stretch of road pointing out the pagoda made famous as the tallest in Myanmar and the statue of Aung Sun Chin’s father (the general killed as I had been told by the military junta regime). After some more chatter in the evening wind, he deposited me at a different hotel which he said was better and I couldn’t argue with his statement as the room was clean and had the only air-con room I have experienced in Myanmar. Sold! You have yourself a deal. After a shower needed to erase my memories of the filth I am now so used to, I curled myself up into the bed with the rare necessary covers over me reminding me of an evening in good old Ohio.

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