A very smart version of the 36 Bus
Obviously my blogs are going to be like the number 36 bus seen above – several arrive at the same time. It would be good to think that the content of the blog will be as jammed as the bus is every morning and night, literally packed with people like a sardine tin, all hanging on for dear life as we charge along the roads at break neck speed and even more aggressive breaking – although I am not sure anyone could fall over in the bus as it is so full but there could be a nasty crush. One slight down side is that if you get caught in the middle of the crowd you have no idea whether you have reached your destination as you can only see the heads, chests and arms of the maze of people all around you and you literally have about 10 seconds to get off – still for a flat fare of 12p what do you expect.
The bus routes – unfortunately they don’t have any resemblance to reality
Yangon Railway Station
Last weekend was a three day break so the VSO team went ‘up country’ to get away from the heat, pollution and concrete. We all 7 from Yangon met at the railway station to take a train to Thandaung in Kayin State – half way between Yangon and Mandalay. The station is amazing as it clearly has not been touched since the days of the British Raj – I thought of my father who used this station on many occasions and am sure he would recognise its sounds, smells and sights which I am sure have hardly changed.
Waiting for the train – Yangon Railway
We caught the 1500hrs to Mandalay and treated ourselves to a slightly elevated carriage status, lovely big comfy chairs with leg room for the tallest person but still no glass in the windows – quite wonderful to watch the town and its smells slip away and slide gently and quickly into the flat, fertile land beyond.
Railways and the life lived in the land immediately next to the track are always fascinating – probably best of all were the little smartly kept stations (once again the originals I am sure) and the station master at each station standing on the platform edge with his green flag – not for passengers but to give the all clear to the approaching train as it ‘sped’ through at 30 miles an hour.
As the sun went down we opened warm smuggled gin, tonic (very difficult to find) and limes into plastic cups and life seemed perfect.
On arrival at Taungoo at the base of the hill resort it was dark, we set off to walk to the guest house only to discover it was going to be a bit of a hike – so ended up taking motor bikes and side cars – another first for me. We lost one person to food poisoning but otherwise we all went to bed very content.
The Guest House
The next morning I was up early to take sunrise shots and eventually we all piled onto the floor at the back of a truck for the 4 hour journey to take us up to 4150 ft and the peaceful hill resort of Thandaung. A great journey up the hill as the road twisted higher and higher and the view of the pristine jungle grew wider and wider in waves of blue and purple mists – we did what only Brits would do in such a situation and sang ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday’.
A very sociable form of transport – the truck
View from the back of the truck
The area around has been out of bounds to foreigners until recently so our motley crew (swelled by two extra volunteers from Mandalay) drew some interest with the locals who insisted on showing us round their villages and humble homes, a truly authentic experience. We on the other hand stayed in a Victorian hill station bungalow, light and airy and full of 1912 charm.
Sunrise Thandaung at sunrise
Isn’t she beautiful!
92 years old
Great to see some wild life other than stray dogs – a chameleon that soon turned brown
Plenty of walking, talking to locals and doing our civic duty by calling out the fire brigade to yet another forest fire (there were 3 in the 2 days we were there) and being seen off by the military when we asked if we could see their fort station. All low key but a complete change to our lives in the cities – where we returned this time by express bus and for once we were all allocated seating – except for those that joined along the way who sat on plastic stools in the aisles which was till definitely a step up from the number 36 bus ………………