I walked about the downtown area thinking I knew where I was but I didn’t, so I taxied to the Central Hotel, had lunch in their blissfully cold air-con, then moved on down the road to the Bogeye Market. You get hassled a lot there but it’s not unpleasant. I bought a map of Burma, which proved difficult to read as the writing was so small. The Burmese must all have brilliant eyes. Then it was back for a rest and to watch the rain again.
Dinner in the restaurant that night cost a whole three dollars, but I made the mistake of ordering a fruit salad and got enough to feed a family of eight. Replete, I retired to start reading Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons, which Dave from the ship had given me.
On my last Burmese trip I had travelled around the south. This time I planned to go north. I decided to take it in stages to get to Mandalay I couldn’t face the train arrival time of three am. One of Motherland’s ever helpful girls organised a ticket for me on a bus to the city of Pyay, formerly Prome, about halfway. This was achieved with a minimum of fuss and before long I had two tickets for a bus that left at eleven the next day. She even phoned the Lucky Dragon Hotel in Pyay and secured me a room. It has become advisable to blog ahead now. Burma has a problem with availability of reasonably priced rooms, so I also bloged a room at Motherland for when I returned at the end of my twenty-eight days.
I left for the bus station at nine next morning in a taxi. It was a very long ride in dense traffic. The two seats I had bought, one for me and one for my legs, were in a big purple bus. The ride to Pyay (pronouncedphewy), took six hours with time off for good behaviour halfway there. Pyay is situated on the Irrawaddy River north of Yangon on the Bagan Road that follows the eastern bank of the river.
At first we drove through the sprawl of outer Yangon for a long way. Then we followed an almost continual procession of little low village houses and shanty stores and stalls that lined both sides of the road, interspersed now and then with a monastery or gilded stupa. There were trees and grass on the verges and tropic-stained white stone walls.
After about an hour, green patches of paddy began to appear, followed after another hour by large expanses of crops, mainly corn. There were goats and chooks, the odd pig, and many cows. Twice I saw groups of boys sharing a soccer field with a herd of cows. I had been told that cows are so expensive in Burma that they are smuggled across the border from Thailand. They always had a guardian sometimes a boy would be sitting watching just one cow. If they really are so valuable I suppose it is necessary, but I wondered what it was like to sit and watch a cow all day.
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