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February 27th 2016
Published: March 7th 2016
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Chinese BuffaloChinese BuffaloChinese Buffalo

Upgrade from a water buffalo. Relatively cheap import from China. Single stroke engine used for just about everything, from irrigation water pump to a replacement engine in an old army truck. Distal engine runs on just about anything and smells terrible.
Our driver arrived at the appointed time and then a discussion insured about who sits where. I wanted the front seat for the legroom and view. I was told I had to sit in the back with Claudette and another passenger. Claudette refused to sit in the middle hump, pleading her age. She made the young fellow feel guilty about not having respect for his elders. I was made to understand that the next passenger had paid extra for the front seat. We had to wait about 10 minutes for His Arrogance, outside his luxury hotel. Not once over the length of the trip did he acknowledge our existence. There was a parcel to be picked up and the driver got lost down some back alley in a shanty town. This district was devoted to truck repair. There were pieces scattered everywhere and legs sticking out from truck bodies that looked like they were being cut up for scrap.

We stopped in front of a little store and across the street was a hovel with a yard of trodden cow dung and mud. A few chickens scratched for grubs. A golden retriever lounged in the laneway. Out of
Train CrossingTrain CrossingTrain Crossing

Some guy jumped off the train and ran forward to lower the barriers. Cars and scooters rev their engines to get going again in the rush hour traffic.
the house appeared a young woman. I was surprised at how well-dressed and clean she appeared.

We were shortly out of town and stopped for gas. The driver and the two other passengers were presented with bottles of water. We were not. Yesterday, when we stopped for gas, I saw a case of water on the counter. I received a confused look when I offered money to buy a bottle. The driver said something and I was given the bottle. Apparently, it is part of the service offer. No matter, bottled water is cheap here, about a quarter for a half litre.

Back on the divided highway. Two lanes each direction with the medium planted with scented flowering bushes. It sure helps cut down on the diseal fumes. There are no painted lane markers. People drive where they please and maybe they will pull aside if honked at. Nobody seems to drive over 80 kpm.

It took hours to cross this vast prairie and then we came to the mountain and the steep winding road. Small villages hung precariously to the hillsides. Some even looked quite prosperous for some unknown reason. The steep incline just made truck emissions that much worse. Hack, hack. We have come to dislike our driver but give him due credit for his skills behind the wheel. He must lean far into the passengers lap to see if it is safe enough to pass. I have come to realize that there is a code to the incessant honking. It is the drivers way of communicating if it is all right to pass, what is around the next corner, et cetera.

We made another pit stop at the top of the range and then started down hill. It began to rain. Not hard but enough to make the roads slick. We saw a couple of vehicles lose control. They would regain traction on the gravel shoulder.

The climate is much different in the valley we rolled into. Gone was the dust and leafless trees and the brown grass. Various shades of green and lots of flowers predominated. Arriving in the Inle Lake district, we were shaken down for $25, as are all foreigners, to enter the area for one week. So far, I cannot see any difference in the infrastructure or administration to warrant the fee.

Aunang Shwe is the smallest community we have stayed in. There is much less traffic. Our lodging, the Aquarius Inn is a pocket of paradise. Tucked away on a back street and surrounded by flowering vegetation, we weaved our way along a river smoothed rock path to our room. It is spacious with all the amenities, including a toothbrush and a tub. The interior wooden beams are covered with smooth stones stuck on with cement. The only drawback seems to be the very slow internet connection. We decided on a change of cuisine tonight and found a Nepali restaurant around the corner. Good wholesome grub with Dal bat and a vegetable curry washed down with a masala tea and a pineapple lassi for desert. Back to the hotel and in bed by 9:30. That’s way too early for me. I knew I would regret it and would be up at 2am, ready to go. As it was, I slept in until 3 when I was awakened by a coughing fit as my lungs tried to rid themselves of all the nasty things I had inhaled over the last few days. This hack and spew must have lasted an hour and I felt a bit better as I fell asleep again.


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