The thumbnail picture of this ramshackle, broken-down bus in Southern Myanmar is by no means related to or indicative of my luxurious JJ's "Joyous Journey" bus trip from Yangon to Mandalay, but basically the opposite, which saddens me ever so slightly.
After being based in Myanmar on and off for three years, I have come to find that the dodgier the experience, the more memorable it is. I take boats, trains and buses (in that order) at every available opportunity.
Two years ago I took a bus from Kawthaung to Myeik in Southern Myanmar, and whilst I thought it was the trip from hell at the time, it is a story I have often regaled with just a smattering of embellishment. On that particular bus trip they handed out sick bags to all the passengers on the packed bus. I thought that was hilarious.
But it wasn’t.
As soon as the bus started moving the oddest symphony of regurgitation began. At first I was somewhat amused, but when all 7 people on the back seat were simultaneously hurling to different degrees, I started to feel slightly nauseous myself. Of course this had a knock-on effect, and maybe sixty percent of the bus passengers were not in good shape.
But as soon as the bus stopped the barfing stopped. By stopped I mean the bus broke down in the middle of the highway for two hours. But as soon as it was “repaired” and the engines started, the symphony resumed.
There were also two half hour stops for people to eat and go to the bathroom. At this stage I was still petrified of travelling alone and was repulsed by the toilets. Later in the journey the bus stopped again for a few hours, but they would not let anyone get off the bus. In hindsight, I think that a bridge may have collapsed.
Then there was “bus” guy. Bus guys are awesome. They know who everyone is, where they are getting off, and are always on the phone to pick up passengers on the highway. They are like executive administrations, and they do an admirable job.
Fast forward two years later, and I have come to thoroughly enjoy these journeys. The dodgier the toilets and food stops are the happier I am. 10 points if the bathroom is adjacent to the kitchen.
But JJ’s busses are nothing like this, They are akin to flying business class on a reputable airline. The hostesses are dressed to the nines, there are reclining seats, video screens and they provide a snack when you get on. There are only two toilet stops, and at these it is not compulsory to get off the bus. There is absolutely nothing dodgy about it, and the upside is that you may get a good enough sleep to ensure that the next day is not a total write off.
I booked my bus trips through the wonderful staff at “Unlock Myanmar”