After the experience in the train-old man and charged with considerable dose of adrenaline, we arrived at Pyin Oo Lwin, our stopover to the way to Inle Lake. There, we had to transfer from the train – “Shinkansen” to midnight bus, which tickets we had bought quite diligently and deliberately two days earlier. We had free time so we decided to have a look (or two) at the realty of this “town” with a modest population of nearly 300,000 people. Our first task was to find the bus station, our departure point in the evening. Well, we found it – it turned out to be a nondescript garage with two employees, five plastic chairs and two benches outside, that would take a major role in the subsequent adventure.
Overdosed by the train adrenaline and feeling the firm and not shaking surface under our feet, we rushed into the unknown town. We decided to split for 2-3 hours with our companions – the young guys from Pays-Bas, which subsequently turned out to be a good decision given the future events. We wanted to drink good beer, which surprisingly was not hard to find in this country, they wanted to eat something delicious, served on a white tablecloth. Yes, we drank beer, we became one with the locals while having our lunch, and again we drank beer and finally, at the appointed hour we gathered again at the bus station with one only purpose – to be noticed by the bus coming from nowhere and going to Inle Lake.
The kind (in the beginning) employees assured us in clear and pure Burmese that everything is OOOOKKK and the bus is going to come. It turned out that this was the most dirty, dusty and noisy place in this town which otherwise is beautiful one. The bus station was located at a junction, where passes the entire heavy-freight traffic to China. Later we understood that over 5,000 very-heavy trucks pass this road daily exporting whatever could to be exported to the elder and richer brother. At the “bus station” there were all kinds of individuals, monks, parents with children, grandparents without their grandchildren, mothers without their fathers, fathers without their nephews and all they waited their transport to somewhere.
What about us? All kinds of busses passed, stopped or not, people got or not onto them, but our turn never came. At each stop of a vehicle, disguised as a bus, our magnificent Four lifted all our luggage and set off to it, meanwhile saying prayers to “the One who takes care of the transport” and each time it turned out that we had mistaken the vehicle.
However, the traffic to China increased in inverse proportion progression if anyone finds in this description general progression. Incredible noise in the night dust, forever remembered dust in the midnight racket, horns (able to awaken up the Sleeping Beauty without the necessity to seek for prince) constantly teared the evening, which in its turn suffered from lack of peace and silence. Dust literally spread over our waiting bodies, minute after minute, hour after hour.
At the very beginning, the discussions with the two employees at the bus station were friendly, with both side smiles in style “well, it happens for bus to be late”, but this attitude started to change little by little to “Hey, what’s going on – do not worry, everything is OK (without explanation and details). Next step: “Where is our bus, man???” – shrug and “I du not understood, I du not speak Englis”, then “you, bastard, tell us how much more we have to wait?” And subsequent desertion of staff – one of them went to bed (meaning – between two chairs, behind the counter) and wrapped himself with a blanket and the other disappeared somewhere. Even the court (in this case garage) cat slipped under the blanket of the employee in order to avoid our questions as well.
What about us, the magnificent Four? Live the Bulgarian-Dutch relationship between the nations! We remained there, not dear to anyone, waiting for our bus. Covered by one inch dust, already having lost 7-8 hours while waiting for the bus. One representative of the each ethnic group decided to get some sleep on the bench as in the dust, while the big heavy-freight and noisy trucks passed by. We waited, waited, and finally we did not wait for the bus to come.
The decision was taken – we leave and look for a hotel. Where are you going to look, my dear? We are in the middle of the unknown, in the middle of the night, no cars, no taxis, no tuk-tuk and suchlike passed by. “It is 3 AM”, announced the local radio. The good news is that we had split with our comrades earlier and close to the “bus station” they had found a brand new, modern and clean hotel, where they had their dinner before our bus-waiting epos. Even they shared that they were personally greeted by the owner of this place – a Burmese pop legend.
Come on! The decision was immediately taken – we go there. The midnight staff was dumbfounded at the vision of four tourists, unrecognizable by the dust that covered them, pulling all sorts of suitcases and backpacks, who wanted rooms for half night (it was 3:30 A as I mentioned). It turned out that the rooms were amazing. From “those” place we found ourselves in “this” place. We tried to show our respect and gratitude to our brothers in arms (the Dutch guys) using our polyglot skills and ability to express in Old Dutch in order to share our enthusiasm.
Afterwards we took a shower, then shower again, then many showers, sleep and shower again. We needed a lot of scrub in order to wash out what covered our bodies while waiting at the junction. In the morning we had breakfast in the polished and wallowed in luxury restaurant. It was different from the expected and the experienced so far in Burma, but at that time we welcomed this experience. Of course, the owner came. He looked like Vasco Ketsa of Myanmar, the Burmese Karel Gott, Julio Iglesias from the Far East – namely Nym Ronnie. Accompanied by his retinue, he waited for us to finish the breakfast and immediately came to introduce himself. Great attention! He invited the four of us in his enormous jeep, and first drove us to the “bus station” to revalidate our bus tickets. When the employees there saw our companion, they became very excited. They not only revalidated our tickets, but also promised that if the bus again did not come the next night, they will produce a new one, with the name of Ronnie inlaid on the front window.
Then our host took us for a drive around the town and left us in front of the amazing park in Viennese style (literally) and we agreed to meet in the evening at the restaurant to have a drink, before the start of the second episode of “Waiting for Bus”.
At the appointed hour, our savior was waiting for us with a big bottle of his favorite black label whisky and with generous smile. He told us his story: when he was young, his father forced him to start a career in the army, then he became a big head and part of militarized governance of the country over the years, then he retired and now he was doing what he always dreamed of – singing!!! Yes, singing. He has issued more than 10 albums with his own songs and was making any kind of concerts. All the time, the TV screens in the restaurant broadcasted his concert at the National Stadium in Yangon in front of at least 30-40 thousand people.
Everything looked very abstract and surreal, but it was true. We received a disc with his albums, with dedication from him; we watched his concert and only nodded our heads. Big deal, big meeting! We tried the black label, we ate local delicacies and the time for the second bus experience came.
Before leaving, we participated in apparently well worked out exercise – picture with the host. A hotel employee appeared out of nowhere and brought a hat to the hotel-owner-singer. It was obvious that this was many times repeated situation! Only the one, who writes this travel notes could understand why. Let the readers guess.
The Myanmar nightingale gave orders and our luggage was loaded immediately in the jeep. Then he drove us personally to the parking stand and spent nearly two hours with us to assure himself that the bus will come this time. “Oh, thank you, god of transport, that this time you did not abandon us!” Thank you Ronnie for your exceptional hospitality! Thank you, Bus that you did not come the previous night and we “needed” to go through all this!
How the adventire continued – read here.