18 January 2009

Mandalay malady and the night(mare) train to Bagan

Liz went down with a good old dosage of the "traveler tummy" in the
early hours of Wednesday morning and was really ill for all of
Wednesday. We won't go into any details in case you have just eaten.
Thursday saw a significant improvement and by Friday she was back on
her feet again and ready to move on. The guide books warn that about
half of all visitors here usually end up with some sort of bacterial
stomach trouble. It's a good job that Liz managed to talk that useless
GP of ours into (reluctantly) giving us a prescription for some

As well as nursing/annoying the sick I have been keeping myself busy
with the excitement of preparing my tax return for 2008/9. There's no
let up from Her Majesties Revenue and Customs even if you're a few
thousand miles out of the country.

So on Friday evening we bid farewell to our friend and tri-shaw driver
Zeze and left Mandalay for Bagan on the overnight train. We've said on
previous posts how it's great catching the train in this part of the
world. We now have to add an exclusion to those previous comments -
It's great catching the train unless you are on the Mandalay to Bagan
line. We have never been on such a complete heap of a train. It was

When we arrived on the platform at 8pm to board the train it was in
complete darkness and we thought maybe they hadn't turned the
electricity on in the carriages. On closer inspection we realised that
it was on, it was just that the only illumination for each car was
provided by two ten watt bulbs. So with our torches on we clambered on
to the train and fumbled our way to our (grubby) seats. As well as
there being virtually no lighting there was also no luggage rack so we
had to cram all of our baggage (about 150 litres worth) into the space
around our feet.

Things didn't get any better once we set off on our way as the
suspension on the train felt like it was made of of Zebedee's legs.
Boing! The slightest undulation of the track would leave the whole
train bouncing along like an electrocuted kangaroo. There were several
occasions where just staying put in your seat was a real physical
challenge. Getting up and moving around was neigh on impossible.

On the one occasion when I did move from my seat to go to the toilet I
wish I hadn't of bothered. Upon opening the loo door I was treated to
the most unusual sight of three two inch long cockroaches racing each
other around the floor of the toilet in my torch light. I decided to
return to my seat and cross my legs instead! Maybe it's for the best
that the lighting was so dim on the train.

Whilst we're talking of dim we aught to give a special mention to the
two local girls who were sat opposite us for the first couple of hours
of the journey. They kept us thoroughly entertained with a torch light
sing song jamboree. For the second time in four days Liz was on the
verge of violence.

As a tourist we had the privilege of paying $9 each for a seat. If we
had paid the same rate as the locals, $0.50, I would have still felt
overcharged! The man in seat 61, the best resource out there for train
information, warns that once you get off the main Yangon to Mandalay
line things can get a little more challenging - I think we may drop
him a little update!

We arrived in Bagan at 5 in the morning and made our way to our
accommodation for a quick disinfection before crashing into bed. We're
actually staying in a town called Nyaung U which is about 5km from Old
Bagan. We're staying at a lovely place called New Park Hotel in a cosy
little teak floored chalet.

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