Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Busloads and boatloads

We have ridden three night buses now, and that is enough for quite a while.  Two of them played the same DVDs, so we have repeatedly heard Burmese versions of La Isla Bonita, La Bamba, and Gangstas Paradise.  We are now fans of a Burmese sitcom that feels like The Taming of the Shrew.  And we did indeed witness the barf phenomenon, though to a far far lesser extent than any other travel blog narrates. Maybe we didn't pick sketchy enough bus companies. The most memorable ride was from Myawaddy to Yangon.  Advertised as arriving at 5 pm, it actually arrived at 3 am.  My right heel remained numb for part of the next day.  I have never been on a more congested, narrow, beat up, and inefficient road.  Again, since this was a new border, our passports were checked four times.  Huge respect to the local people who never expressed frustration at having to wait for us at these passport checks.  They gave us the best seats in the bus while many others sat in the aisle on plastic chairs for the entire ride.  And the view was great.  Along the mountain pass, cars piled with people and electronics and food bumped along, while nuns stood at the side of the road here and there and shook their begging bowls.  The rattling noise from the bowls must have been rocks.  Myanmar does not have coin currency.

The two other night buses took us to Bagan and Inle Lake.  The former is a field of reconstructed Buddhist temples and the latter a big shallow inland lake with floating gardens, villages, and market.  The word floating does not mean on a boat.  It means they are built on dredged dirt with a snaking series of canals.  Some houses and monasteries are on stilts above the water but most are on "ground."  Lots of tourists focus photos on the local fisherman, who use a unique paddling technique where they snake their leg around the oar - it was fun to watch and would have been more fun to try.  But my favorite part was going to the market, which was clearly not built for anyone of Western height (Josh bashed his head on three separate stall canopies), seeing the people in different "ethnic groups" wearing their chosen patterns, and seeing old ladies paddle around with boatloads of stuff.

As we head out to Malaysia,  I think the thing I will miss most is interacting with people who are not used to tourists.  The thing I will miss least is the haze.  Looking forward to somewhere the horizon is visible…

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