The day before we left Mandalay, I recall sitting in one of the city’s finest hotels, behind the souvenir desk…in the corner…on the floor. This was the only spot I could get wifi! Yes…I am a crazy person. The things I did to get wifi in Myanmar! It was time to unplug, stop this nonsense and take the slow boat to Bagan…
No one was awake in the morning. There were bodies all over the reception floor, no lights…just quiet…it was about 5am.
You get used to this site across Asia as all the locals can sleep anywhere…anytime. You will see people asleep behind the counter at the local shop, on tables in a restaurant, a tuk tuk driver asleep inside, on top or hanging from a hammock in his tuk tuk and you will definatly see reception staff or members of the family asleep on the floor or bench at a guest house/hotel or hostel. They wake up around dawn so they need a little snooze during the day and at night sleeping on the floor is more the norm than in a air con bedroom!
Our friendly driver chan chan turned up on time and took us to the boat jetty.
We were ushered into the ‘ managers office’ this is we’re all foreigners seem to have to go Pay 10 times the price of the locals and for them to proudly have our passport details to prove more visitors are coming to Myanmar.
Once on board Dave got us some nice plastic chairs to chill on and watch the views as the world goes by…
The locals boarded with their, chickens, children, jelly bean bags full of food and drink. Lots of women carry these colourful rubbery bags – I call the material jelly bean. Think of those croc shoes (yuk) but in a bag form. Also there were lots of bags of rice loaded on board, bananas , nuts, and god knows what else all packed into the two floor ferry. All the locals apart from monks, sat and lay on weaved mats on every inch of floor space. It was packed.
Women sold fried bananas, samosas, kebab skewers holding who knows what and donut looking fried things with no hole in the middle…they got on and off at every stop along the way.
Two women in particular stand out as they could speak English. One lady tried very hard all day to sell us stuff and in the end I paid 5000 for a half hour massage which was very good- so good I fell asleep straight after!
She got off the boat to fetch us anything we fancied for a commission…
The other lady was elderly and smoked big fat cigars. She gave me one of her hand rolled cigars in return for a pen for one of her grandchildren. She was sweet and had one of those big kind smiles that stretched across here entire weather beaten face.
Every stop was different, some of them busy little ports were rice was being taken off to sell on further into villages etc, some stops were just a sand bank full of cattle with owners waiting to carry heavy loads on their backs, some stops full of children covered in the thanaka….waving and asking for pens! And some stops were full of people battling to sell their freshly cooked local delicacies…oh wow…what an experience!
I enjoyed this leisurely day cruising, witnessing everyday life of the local people living along this route. I even had a few hours sleep as we had brought cushions from a supermarket in Mandalay – good thinking.
On arrival in Bagan it was pitch black. We had to clamber up a hill and then there was a crazy rush of horse and cart drivers all trying to take us in to the town of Nyang U.
We nearly didn’t get on a horse and cart as they bombarded us so much. It certainly was a jolt out of our chilled states from the slow boat and back onto dry land…