The Myanmar bus trip from Yangon to Bagan was our first long bus trip in Asia. It was also our first exposure to the size of the Asian bus transport industry.
The main bus station is some distance from down town Yangon so we took a Grab. It was just as well; the bus station covers an area over a few kilometers.
The journey included some interesting moments.
As we waited to leave we watched a bus being offloaded. Included was a consignment of beans which in true socialist fashion was being “shared”. With the driver and a few others each helping themselves to a few handfuls. A food supplement to their meagre wages?
Travelling by bus is very economical. The Elite bus trip cost 14 300 Kyat per person for an 11½ hour trip whereas the Grab taxi from downtown to the bus station was 8 000 Kyat for a 35-minute ride.
Myanmar Bus Trip
We departed 20 mins late.
The bus was in good condition; the recliner seats were very comfortable with plenty of leg room. Fine for sleeping on an overnight journey.
We were given a blanket, a bottle of water and a food box which contained a soft sweet bun and feather light piece of cake and coffee served in a cup labelled “Finest Myanmar Tea”.
Like much of Asia’s public transport the aircon was at full blast cold. It was freezing and I realized why so many passengers were wrapped in fleece jackets and hoodies.
We passed large nurserys. Open fields with hundreds of new buses and trucks. Food places and repair shops.
The ride was generally quite smooth. In a few places the roads were being resurfaced and bridges rebuilt. These sections were not.
Impression: There are areas with significant soil erosion but still many wide open spaces with lots of water and I presume agricultural opportunities
As we travelled on I noticed something I hadn’t seen for years; distance markers ever 1/10th of a mile. Now supplemented with kilometre markers every half a kilometre. It seemed redundant and I wondered who had got that contract?
About an hour into the trip the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere. It was a toilet stop. A number of people wandered off to find the odd bush. My thought was that for men wearing a sarong and squatting is a lot more discrete than standing legs apart gushing a stream.
We stopped for lunch at a service area that catered for transit buses. This was a completely new concept to fast food: the menu was extensive but within a few minutes everyone was served with their ordered dish.
The road skirts the bizarre new capital, Nay Pyi Daw, where we could see buildings in the distance.
We turned off the highway at Meiktila and passed through several small settlements. The sides of the road littered with plastic garbage the closer one got to the settlements. There appeared to be no planned garbage disposal.
At one point the bus veered across a toll road onto a weighbridge. The conductor jumped out and then paid the attendant. It seemed quite unusual and I wondered if that’s how the system should work?
As we passed one village there was a building crew mixing cement. They had no piped water and were adding water for the mix container by container. One that looked more suitable for cooking than a building project.
The eventful and enjoyable trip came to an end at the bus depot in Bagan. Which for some unknown reason is located about 5 kilometres from the town.
The arrival in Bagan became the only unpleasant part of the whole Myanmar bus trip.