The express boat to Bagan
Bagan Travel Blog› entry 18 of 27 › view all entries
Good thing we called it an early night yesterday, because we have to get up 0500. We have to get ready, because we travel to Bagan today, by boat. Express boat, that is.
The bus was supposed to be at the hotel at six o’clock, but it isn’t. No reason to get nervous instantly but, as the minutes go by, Aart-Jan starts to get slightly on edge. The bus arrives ten minutes late and the busdriver and his helper say that they are very sorry, but that there was a problem with the bus and they had to fix it first.
The ride through the, for the most part, sleeping city to the jetty where the boat is waiting is very short.
It is still rather chilly and it doesn’t take long before almost our entire party is having breakfast (a packed breakfast, containing two slices of toast, two hard-boiled eggs and a banana) inside the semi-closed compartment on deck. The eggs have been boiled a bit too long and the yoke has turned blue, but hey, it’s food and I’m hungry. The captain is cold as well, he’s got a towel wrapped around his head and even closes the doors and windows of the wheelhouse. We don’t mind that at all, because it is directly connected to the cabin where we are sitting, and it takes care of the nasty draft.
After a while I get out of the cabin, onto the deck, where I watch the world waking up.
We go to the restaurant on the lower deck and order a pot of coffee for the ridiculous price of $2 and eat some of the chocolate rolls we bought yesterday in the baker’s shop.
It takes about half an hour for the sun to repel the fog, but when it finally clears we can continue our voyage. The landscape is sometimes beautiful, while a few minutes later there might be nothing interresting to look at.
After nine it starts getting warmer and life on the river gets going.
In spite of our chocolate rolls we eat a hot meal on the lower deck, it is a set menu for which we have to pay $6, another astronomical amount. It is amazing how fast you get used to the laughable low prices in South East Asia, in Holland it is impossible to find much more than a bowl of soup for six dollars. Then again, the portions on board are rather small and the courses are served so quickly that the next one is always waiting before we finish the current one. Conclusion: If this were a normal land-based restaurant, I wouldn’t go here a second time.
The trip is a long slow one, once we stop because one of the crew members has to cut away weeds and junk from the propellor to avoid malfunction. Later on the day we even have to anchor because of engine trouble. To me this is a nice intermission, because we can get off the ship for a while and visit a riverside village. The people living here have hardly ever seen tourists, let alone a boatload of them. Hardly any of them speak any English whatsoever, but all of them are very friendly. They show us their methods of working and when we, after an hour or so, go back on board, the entire population accompanies us to the river and waves untill we have completely gone out of sight. And the most unbelievable part of it all: Nobody wanted to sell us anything!
Soon it goes dark and the skipper has to find his way by use of a searchlight.
We disembark in Nyaung U at a quarter to eight in the evening, where a bus is already waiting to take us to New Bagan, which lies 7 kilometres along the road. A welcoming committee awaits us at the Kaday Aung Hotel, all dressed up, serving us drinks. When we have put our belongings in our rooms we head out for dinner in a restaurant that is only a five minute walk away. It isn’t far, but the road we have to go is dark and is almost impossible to come across without a flashlight.