Escape from Pyay

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Myanmar  ,
Thursday, August 11, 2005

I left Yangon on the people's bus to get out to the highway bus station. It was supposed to cost about 20 Kyat (about 1.5 british pence), but the guy didn't give me any change from my 50 kyat note, I guess due to my foriegness, so it ended up costing me about 3 british pence. Rip Off, pah! I also didn't get a lot of room on board as it was jammed packed full. It's all relative though as one local said to me that this was ok and just as well it wasn't rush hour!

I managed to get quite a reasonable bus out to Pyay (pronounced Pee-eh). We stopped for lunch at the side of the road and I was a little peckish. I couldn't decide which of the dives to eat in so I decided to follow what I considered to be one of the richer looking locals, eating where he ate. It was disguisting, I had a really tough piece of anemic looking chicken with some rice that looked a bit old and some smelly broth that tasted like the crap bit of chicken. I barely ate half of it before deciding enough was enough and strangely enough I was no longer hungry! To cap it off I was bitten twice by a mozzy whilst in there, I don't think I'll be eating in any of these kind of places again if I can help it!

It didn't take too much longer before I arrived in Pyay. And it really didn't take much longer after that until I'd finished looking around the town. The only reason that I've come to this place is as a convienient stop over between Yangon and Bagan breaking the 15 hour journey into managable chunks. There is a rather pretty Pagoda and Buddha here but I didn't want to discover all of Pyay's secrets in one day. I had my dinner in a restaurant overlooking the river which gave me a great view of the bluest sunset that I've ever seen, extremely strange. I also caught a glimpse of what looked like giant man eating bats as I sat there. I reckon these things where at least the size of a blackbird. I'd keep a careful lookout behind me on the way back to my Guest House I think!

One of the curiosities of Myanmar is the chewing of Betel Nut. Everyone is at it. They get a 'Betel Nut', which I guess comes from a Betel tree or shrub, sprinkle a little lime or other condiment on it and then wrap it in one of the tree's/shrub's leaves. They chew this parcel producing this lively red saliva which they spit out all over the street. This leaves loads of red marks on the road, pavement, everywhere really. It also leaves a nasty looking red stain on the chewer's teeth. The 'upside' to this chewing and general redness is a very small feeling of intoxication as it's a very mild stimulant.

I got up the next morning with a bit of a dodgy stomach, nothing too bad. I climbed up to the Pagoda, which was fantastic but extremely like the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Very nice but nothing that I hadn't already seen. It did have a huge buddah on one side. The Pagoda is set on a hill and the buddah has been built at the bottom of this hill. Yet, the Buddah is so large that you look at him at eye level as you gaze out from the top. Very nice.

I was catching a night bus to Bagan that evening, but since my stomach hadn't settled down I lay on my bed for the afternoon trying to feel better. Eventually it came time for me to leave and I went down to the recepetion to meet Zoen (or something equally weird) as I'd bought my bus ticket from him, he took me up to the bus stop and waited. The bus was travelling from Yangon so it didn't have an exact time to arrive. I had some immodium in my little bag as I was a little worried of what may happen on the bus. We were sitting there waiting and I was feeling crap, the bus to Bagan takes 8-10 hours so it's not exactly a short journey. I was beginning to sweat with fear and was considering if I really should be doing this as it may lead to one of my worst travel experiances ever, or it may be ok. The longer I waited the worse my stomach got. I calculated the financial implications of staying, $9 bus ticket would be gone, plus another $15 for one of the hotel's nicer rooms with ensuite batroom and air-con (I'd stayed in the budget $3 room the previous night). Eventually I gave in and decided to abort my attempts to leave Pyay. I took one of the nicer rooms as planned and within five minutes of this my decision to stay was explosively justified. After a quick sortie into the real world to buy 5 litres of water I returned to my room with the intent to flush, flush and flush.

The next morning I felt a little better but the stomach still wasn't perfect. I'd test it by getting out and finding some nice plain boiled rice. This was remarkably hard to find considering I was in the middle of Asia, at the first two restaurants I'd start of my asking "Steamed rice, do you have s t e a m e d r i c e?"
"ahhhh rice, yes" they'd reply.
"one please, one steamed rice"
"you want chicken?"
"No, just rice"
"No, I only want steamed rice", starting to get irritated now
"Fried Rice?"
"No, steamed rice please"
"Ahhhh, steamed rice"
"Yes", at last I was getting somewhere
"No have"

I just don't get it, why don't they have steamed rice? I eventually found some at the riverside restaurant that was on my illness inducing suspision list, but in my heart of hearts I was pretty sure it was that chicken in the cess pit at the side of the road. So anyway, the waiter eventually brought me exactly what I required, I was so happy that I could have kissed him right on the mouth with those gorgeous Betel stained teeth, I really was that happy. I got some salt and sprinkled it quite liberally on my rice, the waiters sat and watched me do this. I think that they tought that I like my rice this way, nope it was disguisting but it was required.

I spent the rest of the day in my little hiding place preparing mentally and physically for the evening's bus journey. I met with Zoen again and he took me up to the bus stop, this time I felt well enough to sit with him and drink some tea while waiting for the bus. Despite the fact that I'd been in Pyay for a couple of days I hadn't seen any other tourists, Ok - so I'd spent a lot of time in my room! While I was sitting there an English girl called Rachel came past and joined us in the tea. She'd only arrived that day but was also struck by the lack of foreigners and like me she was delighted to meet another one. I guess it a little like Stanley finding Livinstone in the middle of Africa, only on a much smaller scale! Zoen introduced himself to Rachel as the 'Ticket Manager' for the bus company and suggested that she should buy her ticket to Bagan from him as well. This appeared to be a rather grand title that he bestowed apon himself as he was a trishaw (i.e. rickshaw) driver that was just making a little money on the side by helping tourists catch the bus and skimming half a dollar for himself, but he was such a nice guy to go with it that you really didn't mind. Rachel agreed to buy the ticket but on the proviso that she saw my bus turn up and watch me get whisked away, the proof is in the pudding afterall. True enough it turned up and I finally managed to escape Pyay, one day late but away, and feeling much much better than the previous day.
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