Back at the hotel I rested for the remainder of the day. I had paid for a late checkout at six. I was preparing for my train ride, expecting the worst that I would have to sit up all night.
At six I checked out and sat in the hotel’s hot foyer on its uncomfortable carved wooden furniture. A little breeze off the river wafted in the open windows and after a while a fan was brought for me. Then, half an hour before I left, it finally occurred to someone to turn on the air-conditioner.
The taxi the receptionist had managed to find arrived. I’d had enough of tuk tuks for the time being. It had rained earlier and the track to the station was difficult even for the taxi. Large pools of water lay like lakes in its ruts and deep holes.
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The station was a cement-floored, open-sided stone building covered by a roof, with a small stifling hot office on one side. A few people sat outside on plastic chairs. A station employee wearing only a sarong knotted around his waist came to talk to me. He asked if I was not afraid on my own and offered to come to Bagan with me if I liked. I declined with as much grace as I could. I selected a plastic chair and sat down to wait.
The train was due at ten or thereabouts. At half-past nine the station master appeared. I was surprised to see that he was wearing a smart dark-blue uniform and was smaller than I am. He had walnut-coloured skin, a lovely thick mop of wavy brown hair and the delicately sculptured face of a beautiful ten year old. He summoned me in to the office and laboriously wrote seven copies of my ticket and gave me the good news that he had been able to get me a sleeper.
I moved to sit out beside the train tracks with the few passengers who had arrived by now. It was a little cooler there. The area outside the office was only a little less stifling than inside it. At a few minutes after eleven, which was pretty good it’s often much more the train came into sight. The station master hurried up to wheel my bag down the train to the sleeper car. He banged, shouting loudly, several times on the window of the first compartment until the person who could be seen sleeping in there roused and opened the door. It was the train conductor.
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