Headed south….Mawlamyine, Myanmar

I usually try to start my entries with our horrific travel stories, before making you jealous with the amazing photos Riki takes. But this one takes the cake, at least up til now.

Ambitiously, we had decided to take a 20 hour bus back to Yangon and then transfer to a 6 hour bus further south to Mawlamyine. So part of this long and arduous journey was our fault, but only a small part.

Our 9 am bus arrived at 10:45 and we were once again granted the horrendous wheelwell seats. Usually we alternate who gets the window, but in the case of the wheelwell, well, Riki just can’t fit. So I get the window and Riki gets to use the aisle for a little more legroom. But not today. In standard Myanmar fashion, the aisle is also used for seating. Sometimes, it is a real seat folded out from the side. Today, just a small plastic chair with the worst possible inhabitant. He’s using Riki’s armrest as a spot for his snoozing head, wrapping his arm all the way around the rest, practically resting in Riki’s lap. He has his feet under the guy across the aisle and then in the back of the guy in front of him. He spits sunflower seeds on the floor. And then he decides to smoke a cigarette. His friend behind him says something, but he continues to smoke and snubs it out on the floor. All the while, the wheelwell is getting hotter and hotter and we have had to remove our shoes and put our feet on top of them to keep them cool. And then he smokes again. He fails to acknowledge my remarks (presumably because no one on the bus speaks any English) and my blatant display of disapproval of opening the window and letting hot air fill the air-conditioned bus. And he ignores his friend, who pokes him to stop. We decided he is a Myanmar gutter-punk. He didn’t smell like booze, but certainly appeared too dazed to be sober. NOTE: No one else smokes on moving buses here. They wait til it makes a long stop, open the windows and then smoke.

And that was just the first leg. We arrived the next day around 6 am, having slept very little. We were told there was no bus to Mawlamyine, but knew that couldn’t be true. A friendly taxi driver offered to drive us there (6 hours, can’t imagine what that would cost) but we politely declined and found another guy to take us through the maze that is Yangon’s bus station to another bus company. They also told us “no bus” and we wandered off in search of someone who could help us. Didn’t take long and a young guy who spoke some English told us three minutes walking, leaves in 10 minutes, no problem. So off we went and we were in luck. Two seats left. The guy got a little commission from the bus company and everyone was happy. Until we got on the bus. Not an air-con bus. Normally, it wouldn’t be so bad, but we had the very back seats, where there were no operable windows and no breeze and no curtain for shade. The highlight of the trip was the Shan noodles we had at the very posh bus stop in the middle of our journey. Hot and very tired, we arrived in Mawlamyine after 7 hours and shared a tuk tuk with a German guy to our hostel.

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Mawlamyine is the fourth largest city in Myanmar, a former British capital and a large port.  It was really just a stopover for us so we didn’t have night bus after night bus.

We attempted a modified walking tour of the town and even visited the Cultural Museum – this one was open. Luckily, there were English signs for most things, though often times we were left more confused by the translations than by the displays. But it got unbearably hot and we returned to the hostel to pack our stuff and check out.

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We had some time to kill before our 6:30 pm bus further south to Dawei, so we walked to the market, which was huge and bustling. We managed to find Riki a Myanmar beer shirt (yes that’s what it’s called), which I may have been more excited about then him. Then we continued up the hill to the pagoda, which in true form, was unbearably hot to walk around barefoot. Luckily, there were a couple of cats.

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Next stop: Dawei, a night bus ride to the south. Why all these night buses? Apparently, that is the only option.

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