Sunday, August 15, 2010
At about 6:00 a.m., I was rudely awakened from a nap by a return of the sappy Burmese power ballads cranked at full volume as the bus tooled across the dusty land of central Myanmar and on through a small pagoda-dotted town near Mandalay. The combination of the jarring ride, the music and the driver constantly beeping the horn at bicycles, motorcycles and other vehicular traffic was annoying to the extreme. I got dumped off at the Highway Bus Station, a bumpy, dusty, ramshackle, multi-building place that, under the blaring sun, is totally inhospitable to every life form except maybe bacteria. I tramped around in and out of each building looking for the fellow Motherland Inn guy to share another ride taxi with, but he had already disappeared. I haggled with a lying-ass cab driver who tried his hardest to convince me that it was 14 kilometers to town, even when I shoved my guidebook in his face, which was turned to the page that said it's only seven. I finally talked him down to $2.50.
I climbed into the back of a tiny truck called a lain-ka (similar to Thailand's songthaew) the size of a golf cart. I got bounced around like a ping pong ball and nearly smacked my head into the roof as we made our way down a really bumpy dirt road. At one point, the truck passed the most beautiful Burmese lady who was on foot, wearing a traditional longyi skirt and gold thanaka paste smeared all over her face for sun protection. I smiled and she smiled back so cute for a super long time as she faded away out of view into the dust. It was such a beautiful moment. When we finally made it onto pavement, we passed scores of people riding bicycles, which was great to see, as well as the usual motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, etc. engaged in a semi-orderly yet chaotic dance. I had the driver drop me off at the Royal Guest House, a cramped, multi-story place with funky yet appealing decor that is kept spotless by all of the kids who run the place. I felt really lucky to get a room, which was only $5.00 per night. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a log, sawing lumber from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. just like a job. That evening, I ate a veggie burger and fries (all seven or eight of them) at V Cafe, a pretty swank place that serves U.S. and European-style food. The taste was all right, although it was tinged with that slightly odd Burmese flavor that I can't really describe.
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