“Good or bad, it’ll be a fun adventure with a story at the end!” she said…
Well adventure it was for sure. So much so that when I tried to book a return ticket to Mandalay, adamant on getting a sleeper bunk this time, I almost cried when they told me there was no vacancy until the end of the month! (For real – tears welled up.)
I’m happy that I did it (or perhaps I’m still just trying to convince myself of that), but somehow even this train ride was worse than the first! Despite the fact that I purchased an Upper Class ticket this time!! I mean, yes this one was 10 hours longer than the first (making it 24 hours), but surely the higher class was going to make it much more manageable! But even though the chairs were nice and comfy, the recliner was broken so the chair was upright, the windows were so dirty I literally could not see a thing out of them, and I was right by the bathroom so I learned how truly disgusting people can be!
I started off being taken to what I thought was my seat, which was beside an empty one! I was happy with this and was able to sprawl a bit. I was also the first in the row so I had the wall right in front of me. This mean that I was able to put my feet up on it and get comfier than the other seats! But I quickly learned that this is also when I figured out I was right in front of the bathroom.
The bathroom needs a paragraph all to itself: it was horrible! To start, it was waaaaaay worse than the one that I had on the train in Ordinary Class. That one had an actual toilet that you could flush and there was a sink to wash your hands! Oh, and it was quite clean! This one was similar to the ones I experienced in India when I was there a few years ago: a nice squatter with a hole right onto the train tracks! Now, the squatter thing doesn’t bother me much. In fact, I prefer them! Your skin touches nothing, so no matter how raunchy it is you’re good! But this one was so gross. By the end of the ride there was liquid (I use this word because I could not figure out what it was) covering the floor which included wads of spit, it stunk despite everything going right outside, it was so disgustingly dirty, and there was no sink or anything. How the heck does Upper Class have a bathroom like this?! Whatever, like I said, my skin touches nothing so really for a short period of time it’s manageable.
At the beginning, I despite the unideal setup, I was able to perch myself on the armrest and watch out the window, as it was stuck half open. I think everyone on the train thought I was crazy (but really, I get stares no matter what I do), but I was able to enjoy the scenery. And this time was even more magical than the first! At first it was very similar to the first ride with the ox and water buffalo and never-ending landscapes of farmyards. But this one made me feel like I truly went back in time. Like, far back. Like, so far back it was not even on this planet. And this is part of the reason why I am glad that I took the train because otherwise I would not have seen any of that! We passed little lakes and rivers where men were perched in their boats making their way slowly and peacefully across the water. We passed sunflowers all facing towards the sun. There were palm trees and cornfields, sections overflowing with vegetation, and others brown and quite baron. We passed villages so tiny and far away from anything else, I even say a woman getting water from a well in the centre of things! There were a good 5 hours I was able to watch this all, and thankfully I was able to experience another sunset in this time. It was truly breathtaking. And during my time doing this a man who could not speak any English was inquiring (with zero language) if I would like food! I pulled out my translation book and he was super happy to help me get some vegetarian food. It came a very long time afterwards, so long in fact that I was unsure if I was ever going to get it! But it came and I was so thankful for his kindness!
While I was sitting over there, across the aisle from me was a monk who really made me feel really confused. His mouth was stained so red from chewing the paan, and his teeth all looked like they were about to fall out. I’m pretty sure he had also ordered a beer. He seemed pretty young, maybe in his late twenties. He was wearing some “fashionable” (maybe not in the western sense) sunglasses and had a cell phone that he was playing rap on and talking on the phone loudly with it on speaker phone. He definitely was not the image I had of a respectable, admirable monk. Isn’t the whole point not to have attachments and materialistic things? To avoid addiction and temptation in the hopes of attaining enlightenment? I also saw a couple of monks smoking! (Because oh yes, I was also right behind the smoking area!) I think I have some research to do about monks in Myanmar…
Despite being in this seat for many hours and having my ticket checked twice with no issues, at one of the stops in the late evening I was moved to the other side. And although I specifically requested a window seat, and despite being directed to it, a very old man was sitting there instead. So I got the aisle. And if this man wasn’t so darn old and fragile and really, truly just so ancient, I definitely would have been adamant about getting my correct seat. But I didn’t. Which meant no more window for me! Instead I spent the next 13 hours observing the people in the train, and turns out these weren’t the locals that made me feel all those wonderful feelings of admiration and inspiration! These were people that were obnoxious and gross and loud and quite unpleasant. And this was mixed with very unpleasant food being taken up and down the aisles; I’m pretty sure that at one point this included some sort of roasted bats. Yes, BATS! Ah!! It was kind of fun though watching this kids, probably early-middle teens, who seemed to have a competition of who could sell their items the fastest! And I watched the attendants for so long that they became sort of cartoon characters to me: there was the tall skinny guy with the suuuuper slicked back hair, the man that was super short and round and very smiley, and the weird older dude that seemed a bit mean and had a huge mole on his face that had the longest, grossest hairs growing straight out of it.
Soon enough though (let’s be real – it wasn’t near soon enough) people started to wind down for the night and started to go to sleep. But I have NO CLUE HOW! The train was rocking so hard back and forth that if there wasn’t an armrest to my left I literally would have been thrown into the aisle. My body couldn’t relax at all because every muscle in my body was trying to hold myself in my seat! And as the sun went down, it started to get FREEZING. And I know, if you’re reading this you’re probably in Canada right now and it’s actually freezing there…. But seriously cold! I was wearing all of my warmest clothes, including my toque, and was even bundled up in my sleeping bag! But I still could barely feel my feet. In the morning I woke up to seeing my breath even. Brr! Definitely not a recipe for a restful sleep. I popped a sleeping pill with the hopes of at least a couple hours, and somehow at some point I did drift off to sleep!
But that was until I was woken up by yelling and extremely aggressive banging on the train door right in front of me! If anyone were to have looked at me I bet they were laughing at me: I bolted sitting straight up, my eyes wide with terror at the horrible possibilities of what this could be, just staring at the door not moving while everyone else slept. Eventually a man got up from somewhere behind me and ran towards the door. As he opened it a man flew across the train and out the other side of the train holding a huge wooden thing in hand. It was essentially a big open round thing with a handle. I have no clue what it was or what he was doing, but he didn’t come back!
Closer to morning, when I was thankful to have been getting at least a little bit of sleep, I was woken up twice by guys asking me when I was getting off. 1. Super thankful that they were ensuring that I wasn’t going to miss my stop but 2. Every. Second. Of. Sleep. Is. Crucial! Definitely didn’t miss my stop, but definitely missed that sleep. And I was just drifting off again as we actually arrived and I needed to gather all my things and get off! As I did, the only English speaking guy of the journey was this old man with a Turban and we welcomed me with “Hello! Good morning!” And told me how to get through the mess of trains and railways to get out.
Oie. What a journey!!! And one that turned me off from making a similar one any time soon. I’m writing this from the air, having watched the sun be replaced the moon over the crops and fields that I’m seeing in such a different way! Best $142 I’ve spent so far, I think! Definitely a huge splurge, especially considering the tiny distance that this is covering. But this way it’s a quick hour to my new destination, and I won’t have to waste tomorrow catching up on lost sleep from an uncomfortable journey. Sometimes you just need to do things that will make you happy and comfortable! And I think after the collective 38 hours of train within a period of about 72 hours earned me that!