20 January 2009

Not letting the train take the strain

After two days of dashing around the plains and climbing the temples of Bagan we were thoroughly "templed out" and in need of a day out of the dust. So today we again headed back to the luxury accommodation of Old Bagan to make the most of relaxing in someone elses expensive hotel and swimming pool.

Tomorrow we are catching a flight to Inle Lake which about 200km to the East of where we currently are in Bagan.

One of the things that makes Myanmar so different from the rest of Asia is just how difficult it is to get anywhere. We have always found travelling in most countries throughout Asia to be a fairly simple task but it sometimes feels like it is made difficult on purpose here. Particularly if you want to go anywhere using public transport.

Nothing ever seems to run at a sensible time. Every bus or train we have caught or looked at catching in Myanmar has either left or arrived (or both) at at stupid o'clock in the middle of the night or morning. The other problem is that it takes forever to go even a short distance. This is partly due to the road conditions but also due to the Mad Max type vehicle that you usually find yourself traveling in (or balanced on).

A good example of this is the journey from Bagan to Inle Lake. Instead of flying we could have caught the bus. The bus leaves at 3 in the morning and and takes 12 hours to go roughly 200km. That averages out at 16km per hour! Only marginally faster than hopping . . . backwards. Also, rather bizarrely, taking the train is often slower than going by clapped out local bus. And dirtier too if you're on the Bagan line!

The other option for long distance travel is to hire a car and driver. To go to Inle Lake would cost $130 in the luxury of a 1971 Nissan Sunny and take 8 hours. $16 more than two seats on the 45 minute flight in a shiny aeroplane.

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