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[MYANMAR] Van Journey to Bagan (Nyaung U) from Mandalay - Experience of wonderful Burmese people

Never had we expected a 2 days short visit to Mandalay would be such a memoir. The people, food, culture, and even street at Mandalay had engraved a deep impression within us, partly enhanced by the exotic experience in maneuvering the streets on a bicycle. We wondered would we have the chance to return to this city again, considering there are many parts of the world awaiting us for discovery.

Whilst there are many mode of transportation from Bagan to Mandalay or vice versa, we opted for the most economical and conventional way - land transportation. The bus is operated by OK Bus, and booking can be done here. Privilege was given to online looking as the bus comes directly to our hotel to pick us up and send us directly to our destination, which we have input during booking.

The entire booking of OK Bus was done online and a ticket was sent to us a few days after payment was done. Inevitably, we felt anxious over the authenticity of the tickets. Emails were sent and there were no responses. Feeling helplessly, we could only pray the tickets were no scams. 

That is why we confirmed and asked the hotel receptionist as soon as we checked in Hotel 8. Thankfully they clarified with us that this is the norm of bus operator in Myanmar. Yes, the norm is ticket sent to your email and it is confirmed, no further information will be divulged till you arrive on the site. 

The bus comes on time on the day departing to Bagan, As the bus operator name suggests, the bus was just OK. In fact, it was a 19 seaters minivan with limited legrooms and improper air conditioning. Oh well, we were fine and not quetching about it. Just to give an idea for those expecting a luxury bus service. Good thing was that wet tissues and water were given.

Within a sudden something crossed my mind upon boarding the minivan. How come my camera was without camera pouch? We stopped up, looked beneath the seat, flipped through the bags, checked the floor. It was nowhere to be found.

I have a bad feeling about this immediately. We must have the camera pouch in the hotel couch while snacking on the couch. Although the camera pouch just cost perhaps a few dollars but we would not want to lose it that way.Without further due, I approached the van conductor and told him we needed to turn back to the hotel.

Me : "Can you go back to hotel 8? We left something in the hotel"
Conductor : "?????"
Me : " Hotel... Luggage.. Turn back... "
Conductor : "?????"

The entire communication was breaking down and was akin a duck talking to a cow. During this critical session, hand language came in real useful.

I pointed to my luggage, and the other hand pointed to far far away, slowly pronouncing the world  "H O T E L" to the conductor, hopefully he grasps what I was trying to say.

For that few seconds my heart was pounding fast. The communication failure had never came in a wrong time other than this. Shortly after a few repetitive pointing the luggage and mentioning the word "hotel" to the conductor, he then talked in Burmese language with the driver and I totally had no idea what was going on.

Fortunately, I knew the minivan was heading back to the hotel direction by looking at the surrounding buildings. The familiarity was built up thanks to multiple cycle trips to and from the hotel.

I was surprised of what I saw upon arrival at the hotel to collect my camera pouch. The bellboy was standing right in front of hotel entrance under the scorching sun, with his hand holding my camera pouch, looking to right and left as if he knew I will be coming back! I had no idea how to express my gratitude towards his kindness other than saying thank you. Today, we warmly felt how wonderful are Burmese people.

After a few hours of journey, the minivan stopped by the roadside for a short toilet break. We saw some snacks were sold - fried quail, customized for daring person. A few Burmese ladies also approached us and asked us to buy something from them. As much as I wished to help them but the snacks did not look appealing to me.

This was our dinner during the long minivan journey. The Burmese bread was different from ours, with a slight sweet taste but it gets boring after a few pieces.

 The place was sandy and make some spectacular views whenever vehicles pass by. Having said that, we inhaled uncountable sand into our respiratory tracks as well.

At the same rest station, we befriended a kid whom just love to pose with his puppies buddy to our camera. Put it this way, how many of the urban child still cuddling with puppies on the ground, and appreciating the little nature creation surrounding them, instead of over indulging in smart phones or electronic gadget?

The entire minivan journey was not a pleasant one. It stops at random places and pickup locals, then drop detour to drop them at some random places, resulted in the minivan was over crowded. Moreover, the ventilation system was not working well and we only could relied on the natural wind breeze, which was not comfortable as the wind had some sandy texture within.

Endurance of the minivan journey came to an end after 5 hours of uncomfortable journey. We reached Bagan at approximately 8pm. Instead of dropping us directly in front of the hotel (which we have entered the details during booking), the driver dropped us on a random street, much to our dismay.

We felt we were being dumped by some irresponsible drivers by the roadside, needing us to get to the destination ourselves. Luckily, the conductor helped us to hail and organize a horse cart to ride us to the hotel, without charges.

 We were not sure whether the action of getting us into the horse cart was a ploy or non-intentional. The rider kept persuading us into getting his services as a tour guide, citing the needs and advantages on having him, the promotion he was giving, to the extent we were almost fed up with him. Even upon arrival at the hotel door, he was still insisting on coming in next morning to pick us up in the next morning for the sunrise trip, which we declined. This is one of the reason we dislike visiting tourists attractions, as the touts were real annoying.

Thank god we arrived at Bagan safely to start a great adventure in this ancient city...

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