Yangon 10

April 28th, 2015
The bus pulls into a restaurant stop and people begin filing off the bus. It can’t be later than 3 or 4 in the morning, and it just doesn’t seem sensible to be eating at this time, considering that we should be arriving in Yangon soon – or so I had been hoping.
I crouch in my seat in a sullen torpor, long legs intertwined in some painful position, severe exhaustion long having nullified my ability to arrive at a compromise in terms of comfort. At the same time I am fascinated by the passengers who politely file off the bus and stand around in the bleak darkness, chatting, smoking, and perhaps eating.
I coil up in my seat as the passengers file back onto the bus and we depart, the lurching back and forth encouraging the last round of celebrants to wretch into their small plastic bags, the idea of people throwing up long having lost any power to offend on this protracted mobile torment.
I had very high expectations of being able to sleep, given how cramped my sitting position is, but just want to arrive in Yangon without feeling utterly wretched. The road just continues on and on, the mists of dawn rising through the deep olive forest. From the hazy brown of the rice paddies, the shapes of the spindly young hardwoods lining the uneven road emerge from the darkness.
Once we are well past our last stop, I get stomach cramps, which grow increasingly painful as we continue overtaking one vehicle after another. Small urban settlements come and go. What may look like the approach to the bus station turns out to be just some motley collection of stone and thatch shacks receding into rice paddies and scrub to the back.
I carefully change my position to alleviate the stomach cramps and mitigate the possibility of the contents erupting from the wrong orifice. Perverse as it sounds, I am wishing that I could be vomiting the contents out, given the pressure of the alternative I am facing.
Just as every good experience comes to an end, horrible experiences have a habit of coming to an end as well. Once we cut into a small country lane and then turn on another highway flanked by large factories, warehouses, and lots increasingly filled by buses, it becomes apparent that we are in the vicinity of the bus station.
I have been waiting for the bus station to appear so long that the approach into the station is almost anti-climactic. I had been dreaming of begging the conductors to just let me off the bus at any point on the highway, telling them in sheer embarrassment that I would catch up at some later point, but happily that never happened.
Given that the bus has pulled into the station next to the small company office, there is little chance of my things going missing when I race off to the washroom me in the main building. In fact, even though there seems to be a flood of water on the floor, the soapy suds and generally clean ambiance reflect a shockingly different public sanitary space than I have gotten used to in the country. Problem resolved, I am suddenly surprisingly awake and in good spirits as I stride back to the bus office to pick up my bags.
The next big headache presents itself, and that is trying to get a taxi without being ridiculously overcharged. Despite the congenial staff confirming definitively that the fare to my hotel is 3,000 kyat, the taxi drivers will hear nothing of it.
I am quoted several fares in the neighborhood of 9,000 kyat, my insistence at a fare of 3,000 kyat being treated with effective contempt. Some drivers concede – they would think about the 3,000 kyat fare, but it would be a shared taxi. No, no, and no. Finally one of the drivers concedes, but in a sleight of hand, he leads me to a car with another passenger, who drives the car to the entrance, where another driver takes over, but not after handing him a number of bills.
So I was effectively just dealing with touts, and this will be a shared ride after all. I don’t really care in the end – I just want to get to my hotel and sink my head into a set of pillows for a while.
As the driver seems to get lost the moment he pulls out of the bus station, I remember the words of Sandy, the Canadian woman I met in Nyaungshwe, who commented that Yangon taxi drivers not only have little idea how to navigate the city, but carry smart phones and fail to use them to assist in their search.
Thankfully, the Diamond Star hotel I have chosen to stay in is close to the bus station, although the driver has had nothing but difficulty trying to locate the place. Pulling finally up to the hotel – like, how could the driver miss this place – the establishment looks vaguely acceptable. However, the room situated on the third floor is nothing more than a sealed-in cubicle with a shower stall and toilet wedged into the side. Despite the utterly exhausting journey, I am shocked to be staying in this non-entity of a place with no windows, no space to move or put my things, never min the price being askedd. What a depressing parting blow …
The air-conditioning and wifi work, which I do concede is somewhat shocking. Then the predilection in Southeast Asia for making budget air-con rooms windowless is also understandable, given the amount of heat that would enter through the windows. But nonetheless, it has a horrible feeling.
In the end I just want to sleep. I can’t believe how tired I am. If this trip had ended when it was supposed to at 5 am, perhaps it all wouldn’t have been as bad, but at this point I am just a mess.
I had scheduled the day for catching up in my journal, but that will be hard to achieve in this utterly depressing, microscopic room. I just find it difficult to wrap my head around justifying Myanmar as a budget travel destination. It is so incredibly underdeveloped and yet overpriced for hotels, completely out of synch with what is offered elsewhere in Southeast Asia.