Hsipaw was suitably snoozy and very dusty. A lot less sleepy than it used to be but quiet enough and there wasn’t much to do which was perfect. I was feeling the lurgyness and wanted to take it easy before hitting Inle. The most taxing thing was finding a place that sold coffee, and deciding what to eat in the pretty average Chinese place. They were concerned to sell me the pork belly for my tea one night, apparently ‘foreigner no like’, well this foreigner does, so load that lardy pig on a plate PURLEASE!
The second day I managed to haul my arse up to see some ruined stupas, ‘wellllllll, when in Myanmar….’
It had been a schlep to get there, which meant the schlep to Inle was going to be even worse – an overnight bus back via Mandalay down the windy mountainous road and then another 9hrs or so onto Nyaung Shwe. Didn’t really think this one through.
I have never been on a bus with so many people vomiting, it’s not even that (and the smell – public transport here will forever be associated with the smell of vomit) but it’s the gut wrenching heaving noise that everyone here makes to accompany it, men or women, makes no difference. They even do it when they’re hunting for phlegm, this deep retching noise as if they’re attempting to regurgitate their lower intestine via their mouths. One guy spent about 20mins trying to locate a piece of his left lung by inducing these retching noises and converting them to hawking phlegm noises at the end of the process. It was nauseating to listen to, and I only hope he rasped his throats away and won’t ever be able to make such an uncomfortale noise ever again. Every bus I have been on someone has thrown up and to top it off today – shared taxi from Aung Mingalar bus station, and after 50mins in the car, and 150mtrs away from my hotel, stuck in traffic the woman next to me repeatedly chucks up into a small plastic bag. We were stationary for fuck’s sake! What is going on with everyone?!? What are you eating people?
Meanwhile back on the Inle bus my neighbour was a German guy, obsessed with being judged by the pretty laydees getting on the bus who might categorise him as a trekking nerd on the basis of his artic explorer kit topped (or bottomed) off with socks and sandals. A strong look, made even stronger with an eye mask, headphones, a snood, the bus company fleecy blanket (his had cows on it, and a lot of grubbiness) and a slack jawed drooling induced by a Valium.
Buses here are notoriously cold, so I was initially taken aback when he got on wearing shorts and a vest. Then he dug into his bag and retrieved his winter wonderwear. Sensible lad. I’d opted for a sleeping bag, which is fine till you’re trying to disentangle yourself at every wee stop. I was a bit jealous of his passing out for a period of time, plus he was only going as far as Kallaw so didn’t have to then endure two rabbiting ladies and their over excited kids who struck up loud conversations and play time just after 3am. They of course fell asleep around 15mins before my stop meaning I wasn’t really going to get much of a snooze in.
We stopped for a civilised dinner break about 2hrs out of Hsipaw, this might explain a lot of the vomiting, as it was mainly buffet and I wasn’t sure how warm it was, so swerved it. At some point past midnight we stopped at some loos, bad enough most loos weren’t flushed as you had to fiddle about with the cistern to find how to flush it, and the taps were caked with so much limescale they were growing little stalactites but to find that there’s a cockerel also in the loos with you and he’s giving you the look of ‘what’s your problem?’ was disconcerting to say the least.
To say I was a little tired and possibly a little emotional on arriving into a misty and cold Nyaung Shwe at 6.30am, after 13hrs would perhaps be an understatement, although I did manage to merely retort with a snarl and a ‘Yer having a laugh, I’ll walk’, when told the price of a ride in the minivan to the hotel. I just knew that there’d not be a room for early check-in, and check-in wasn’t officially till 2pm. The thought of trying to remain alert for another 7.5hrs was beyond me. So when I saw a couple curled up on the sofa in reception I thought ‘bastards’ as they’d got to lie down and I’d be stuck in a rattan chair. The hotel staff mournfully confirmed the rooms weren’t ready, but they held back the big reveal that they’d be cleank g rooms as they became free and so it was about an hour later I was tearfully rejoicing at being able to pass out between clean sheets without a vomiter in hearing distance.