Buying train tickets in Myanmar. Certainly no on-line booking facility
06.08.2011 - 06.08.2011 29 °C
Kyaiktiyo to Bago, Myanmar
After falling asleep to the sound of light rain we awoke to the sound of yet more light rain. Our room at the Government run hotel was functional and, I suspect, offered fantastic views over the surrounding jungle clad hills. Yet, we could see nothing but the white clouds enveloping us. With clothes still damp from the previous day we were keen to leave the summit of Mt. Kyaiktiyo and descend into what we assumed would be the warmth of the valley below.
Descent, naturally, required a reverse of our previous day’s journey. Meandering rivers cascaded along the road as we trudged down to meet our wooden board equipped truck. Sitting on the truck we met our two friendly monks from the previous night and their entire family, confirming the quality of the previous night’s sleep and that they would be returning to Yangon today. Waiting for over an hour for the truck to fill waves of monsoon rain passed through the small village. Undercover we hoped that the truck driver in his warm, dry cab would not chose to leave at that precise moment. Eternally happy Chinese tourists departed in their own private truck but we continued to wait. Eventually, it was agreed that we would all pay a little more than the usual fare. This would allow us to leave “immediately”. Having paid the extra $.50c each we left fifteen minutes later. Different definitions of immediately here!
Whilst dry as we left it was clear, from the dark ominous clouds, that the monsoon rains would soon return. Bouncing down in the mountain in absolute Disney rollercoaster style the lack of passengers encouraged our sliding over our boards. Soaked from the monsoon rains, that had duly arrived, we suddenly broke through the cloud line and into a world of clear bright skies. Stunning vistas of sharp, jungle clad mountains could now be seen. A warm wind below to dry our moist clothes. The truck still bounced, jerked and attacked each and every corner on our descent but at least the water boarding had stopped.
With an easy pickup truck ride back to Kyaiktiyo, surrounding by extremely smelly but delicious tasting Dorian fruit we were soon ensconced in a traditional Myanmar Teashop sipping sweet milky tea. After being approached by our helpful bus tout from the day before we were happy for him to arrange our tickets back to Bago, although, now wise to the ‘ticketing process’ we bargained our fare down to around half of the price we had paid the previous day.
Relaxing in the teashop we could observe traditional Burmese life pass by. Travelers in this part of Burma simply pass through. Constant shouts of ‘Hello’ from small children and adults alike greeted us, as they have throughout Burma. Pink clad nuns and maroon clothed monks walked by. A cornucopia of scooters, trucks, buses and a lone car continued their journeys, some stopping to pick up passengers or visit the bustling market. Betel nut stalls prepared their green leaf encased, teeth destroying wares and street food vendors hawked all manner of meat, fruit and drink to passing locals.
Sad to leave this typically Burmese yet still alluring vista behind we had soon boarded our bus bound for Bago. With a brief stop at the ‘services’ where a strange selection of curries, crispy prawn cakes and locust were on sale we arrived back in Bago a few hours later.
Meeting us at the bus station our untrustworthy bus agent now explained that he needed to show the station master our passports in order to buy our train tickets to Mandalay. Unable to see the scam, unless it was to try and get us to purchase bus tickets, but certainly not happy giving this agent our passports we climbed into a tuk-tuk and headed for Bago main (well only) train station.
Housed in a dilapidated building as one might imagine some hundred locals were waiting at the ticket windows to purchase their two dollar tickets to Mandalay. As westerners our tickets would cost fifteen times that amount. Yet, as westerners we would not have to queue. Our agent escorted past the lines and into the stationmasters office. With thick iron bars for windows we were now looking back at the queue of eager travelers seeing the ticket sellers view, one that presumably repeats all over Burma.
After only a few minutes and without needing to show our passports, our whole reason for being in the back office, we had our tickets to Mandalay. Why the agent had not just purchased the tickets we will never know. However, now we had our tickets, we could check into our hotel and find some food and a cold beer. Returning to a bar close to the main market Trey thoroughly amused the local street hawkers by purchasing some of everything they had on offer. Retiring to the bar we sampled our excellent food selection, washed down with a few cold beers, as heavy monsoon showers arrived. This time undercover the rain was of no consequence. Later we would walk back to our hotel in the driving rain but for now we could sit and reflect on our worthy pilgrimage to Mt. Kyaiktiyo, having toiled and strained as all pilgrims must.