Bus to Kalaw

My bus was at midday so I was told to catch a taxi at 10:30. I toyed with getting the public bus, but this would take up to two hours plus the walk into town to catch it.

I said my goodbyes to Peter and a group of lads who’d given me some trekking hints and jumped into the taxi.

100m later we did a u-turn as I’d forgotten my hat. As luck would have it, a French couple were just leaving and looking to share a taxi, so my 6000K fare got split 3 ways.

It’s 45 minutes or so out to the bus “station” which is an enormous open-air affair. It’s more an industrial estate with streets all over. I was dropped at the Hein office for the start of my 18-hour journey.

The seats in front of me were taken by a Polish couplewho were heading all the way to Inle Lake – and had also been told their journey would be 18 hours. So I guess mine would be 16. Or theirs 20. Or something. Welcome to Burmese transport.

The journey was nothing really to write about. Movies and music at ear-splitting volume reminded me of India, and frigid air-con brought back memories of a boat trip in Malaysian Borneo. My earplugs reduced the noise to the level I’d normally listen to my MP3 player at, and I long-sleeved top kept off the frost. I’d kept my sandals on, so my tootsies were cold once night fell.

The air-con barely seemed to function during the day, but at night the temperatures became positively arctic. Well before myself and the Poles started to wrap up, locals were donning jumpers and jackets with the hoods up – and looking utterly miserable. I just don’t understand why someone didn’t say something.

We were stopped partway up the main highway and us foreigners had our passports checked and details taken. On boarding the bus back in Yangon, my passport number was logged against my seat. They really do try to keep track of your movements here.

For dinner we stopped at one of those huge cafés that anyone who’s bussed through South East Asia will know well. I decided to cross the road and go to a tiny little place with dinky chairs and tables instead. None of the girls who worked there spoke a word of English and I’d left my guidebook on the bus so I looked and pointed – rice, chicken and a random soft drink.

As I ate, I glanced up and all five of them were staring at me. They broke into a mass fit of giggles and dispersed.

At 4am I was woken by the Poles who’d decided to hop of at Kalaw which we had reached. We walked the empty streets for a while until we found the Golden Kalaw guest house which the Poles took the last room in. I wasn’t really up for paying for a whole night when I was only sleeping for a couple of hours, but after getting bored walking round until 5am I rang the bell of the Golden Lilly next door and checked in.

It was cold, but the bed was snuggly and only $5. It was still a shock to see my breath in the air after the heat of Yangon.

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