Losing our way northbound

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February 23rd 2009
Published: February 23rd 2009
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Me again,

So where was I? I ended that last entry really rather abruptly didn't I? Government informers pissing me off and all of that...

Anyway, we've traveled north, just about. There was no point going south toward the Golden Rock pilgrimage site because of shitty bus times we'd have had to stay a night after getting there and another after we'd visited it as it's a hike up there that mountain plus the next bus left in the early afternoon. We jumped on a bus from Bago on the main road north but only after feeling the pressure of the English speaking bus and motorcycle guys - we felt pressured into making a travel decision.

Anyway, the bus north we got at around 4.30pm and b was it decrepit, the sats were ancient rusty and never washed. The passengers were marginally better, nearly all men, gawping at us as we boarded and chewing the betle that makes them high and their teeth into the owners of bloody vampires. Awful stuff that gets spat out onto the street and stains like blood. They kept looking back at us and to be honest I quite like looking back, what with the longyii skirts and unusual faces.

After five and half hours with a stop in between (where we received curious looks from all at this shack with food being served) we got to Toungoo. Fortunately we got dropped off right next to the road with a sign advertising Dr. Thin's Guesthouse - which had been recommended by the Lonely Planet Guide as the only thing worth stopping for. We had to call and whistle outside for a bit, seems people get to bed early in Myanmar. The manager got up for us and showed us the teakwood rooms - pretty nice. We slept long that night and a great shower in the morning with a big breakfast. We had the usual sweet slices of bread with fresh fruit and granual instant offee. I'm trying to get over the sweet bread to be honest, it's weird. As a side note, there were French people staying there and the manager told us they were engineers who were going to see the elephants work later that day, an expensive activity it seems. Could well be connected with the oil and gas infrastructure the junta are developing with Total. Tut and again
the pick-up truckthe pick-up truckthe pick-up truck

some nosey-parker looking into my bag on top?

After paying up we headed for the road through the town of Toungoo and then picked up a trishaw - a pretty cool way to get about, a bicycle with a back to back seat on the side. We go to a bus ticket office and were told that there were no buses up to Kalaw until 5.30 in the afternoon. Bummer! Undefeated John suggested we just hitchhike along the road, seemed a fairly good idea as he'd done it down Africa that way. However, this is Myanmar and locals get into trouble if they let foreigners stay with them or let them journey with them. We walked in the sun for a while, got told there was a bus station about a mile away from some alcohol smelling dude (a lesson there?) so kept walking for a good while and then got skeptical and stopped by the side of the road. I had some exchanges with locals waiting by the road - mostly hand movements and pigeon English, but miraculously a pick up truck came along and stopped to pick us up. We jumped on with our bags and thus began the journey north again.

It was probably one of the highlights of the trip so far, over six hours sitting opposite and next to locals stopping at towns with various people getting on and off. Lots of food sellers at each stop but one too many stops for no apparent reason too, it slowed us down a fair bit. Ultimately it was not a very good journey to where we wanted to get to, because we only gt to Pyinmana, instead of what we thought was Meiktila. Only half way to our destination! So, it was a blazing hot day at around 4pm stuck at this dusty bus station in Pyinmana, miles out from town. Despite my phrase book we struggled to make ourselves understood, with no English speakers around, it didn't help that their sript is different, so we can't point at things like place names. Plus the place names are pronounced totally different to how they are spelt. It got worse, we eventually got directed to the main bus station where we were met by the local police, specifically Special Branch...


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