So far Myanmar transport has proved difficult. Finding information about buses and trains seems to be a near impossible task. All tickets are written in Burmese and unless you have a basic understanding of the language there is little hope you will be able to match your ticket to your bus.
Dropped off at the side of the road by taxi, we were left there unknowing if we were at the right pick up point or if the bus would even arrive. Bus after bus rolled through but none were ours. We waited over an hour and a half before we were whisked away without warning. It all happened so fast, it was like a kidnapping. “Are we on the right bus?” We asked profusely but all we heard back was “yes, yes, yes, your bus”. As were we arguing our case the bus had already taken to the road, so we had no other option other than to take our seats.I’m Still convinced it was the wrong bus.
Shortly into the journey I spied a look at the price on the ticket for the seat in front of me. It turns out that I had to pay 6 times more to be on the same shitty bus as the locals. I don’t mind having to pay a little extra but for paying 6 times more, I want something other than being cramped into a bus as tightly as an elephant wearing Speedos. Seriously they had chairs that fold out so they can have people seated in the aisle.
This was not my main issue though. On an overnight bus it would be nice to at least have the option to sleep. Myanmar pop music is played at a high enough level to almost rupture your ear drums throughout the journey. I had headphones in with the volume turned to max and all I could hear was the high-pitched, piercing whines of Myanmar pop being drilled into my brain. How locals on the bus can just close their eyes and drift of into some sort of self-induced coma is beyond me.
Travelling the night bus is a true test of mental strength. If you can survive the night and not crack, fair play to you. I lasted 3 hours before I decided that I had endured enough torture and had to get off the bus at the closest city to spend the night.
After the bus fiasco we decided to take to the tracks. When I caught the first glimpse of the train my first thoughts were “please don’t be our train” and “How will I last 8 hours on this thing?”. There were no heirs and graces on this train. An old, red, rusted steel can with back to back wooden seats up the middle. There were a few windows that allowed some air to filter in and allow the musky smell to vaccate and it rocked back and forth violently to the point of de-railing. On the plus side it did have a toilet but I didn’t even dare to look because I saw the look on the faces of the poor people entering who just couldn’t hold on any longer. I imagine it being like the toilets in the film Trainspotting.
So buses are bad and trains are bad but to get to your next destination you have to either take an 18 hour bus or a 24 hour train with the option of upper class. I chose the lesser of two evils and decided to take the upper class train option. I have to say it wasn’t terrible at all. Lots of leg room, comfortable chairs and if I wanted I could recline like a Buddha. At each stop vendors boarded the train walking around with various foods to buy. Great, this is far better I thought. Well it was, until the sun disappeared. The lights on the train attracted every bug, mosquito, moth and firefly in the area. They filled the cabins. Some of the fireflies were are as big as my hand. The only way to try to sleep was to place a towel over your face but with the heat it felt like you were suffocating. When you did finally drift of something would fly into your ear or conveniently land on your nose making you wake up doing some funky karate moves.
It seems there is no easy way to get anywhere in Myanmar. Trains are unreliable, slow and for the most part uncomfortable and buses are faster, more comfortable but will in the end destroy your soul. Whatever mode of transport you chose in Myanmar, I wish you luck.