Saturday, August 14
I had to take a taxi cab ride or two again today, and boy, do I know how to choose 'em! The first driver was an old man who was supposed to drive me a short distance away to the Easter Hotel, where I could cash some traveler's checks. A lady from Motherland Inn II even wrote down directions for him in Burmese. He ended up schlepping me all over downtown to two or three other hotels, as I sweltered in his hot, dirty, beat-up old car, often sitting motionless in really bad traffic. But, at least I got a quick tour of downtown. After asking two or three different other cab drivers, he finally dropped me off at the Eastern Hotel, not Easter. Ha-ha. They charged me a 10% commission for each $50 check. Ouch! But, I had to do it, because Iâ€™m going to Mandalay soon, where only one place does it, for a whopping 20% commission. Since my hotel was only a half mile away, I just walked back and rubber necked at all of the quirky street stalls selling the most random stuff, like one guy who sold only nuts and bolts, and another who offered only huge precision bearings. When I return to Yangon next week, Iâ€™m going to snap a photo of that one.
The Internet in Myanmar is painfully slow, so I had to spend three hours posting the previous dayâ€™s update! And the only thing that makes it possible is a proxy server, as the military government here restricts a lot of the good olâ€™ World Wide Web that we take for granted. Right when I was finished, it was time to catch another cab to the bus station about 10 miles North. I shared the ride with another guest from the Motherland Inn, who also happened to be going to Mandalay on the same bus as me! At $2.50 each, it was a good deal, even though we had to stop three times when the tailpipe on this rattletrap cab came loose and dragged on the ground. No big, the driver just tied it back up with a plastic bag.
The long-distance bus was a pretty cramped single-decker. I could barely fit into my seat with my backpack between my knees, but at least it had air conditioning. For the first few hours, we rode up an incredibly bumpy single lane road, later merging onto a divided highway with two lanes in each direction. It was a little bit smoother, but not by much. The driver played a DVD of some awful Burmese power ballads for a while, followed by an insanely violent Japanese martial arts flick. After that ended, he finally turned off the player, but the ride was still loud as hell as the bus groaned, squeaked and rattled over all of the bumps and potholes. The air conditioning got so cold, other passengers wrapped the bus curtains around their heads and I covered up with my rain jacket. I was also feeling the slight malaise of diarrhea, and I only got in a few short naps all night. This 12-hour jaunt proved to be, hands down, the most hellish bus ride Iâ€™ve ever been on in my whole life.