Share taxi from Maymyo to Yangon
ETD: 7 a.m., price from my Maymyo home to Aung Mingalar bus stand, Yangon: 70.000 K, front seat. More expensive than usual because according to ‘new regulations’ only 2 passengers are allowed in the back. A lie, of course, see below…
Actually, I would have preferred to go by bus. But the bus company that operates buses from Maymyo doesn’t accept foreigners. Dunno why … JJ Co. in Mandalay, however, does. That means I’ll have to charter a car from Maymyo to Mandalay. And might miss the bus because the car is late. So I’ve opted for a share taxi, which gives me more flexibility and it’s faster. At least that’s what I thought…
At 7.00 pm I have an appointment with a friend in Yangon whom I haven’t seen in three years. Plenty o’ time…
6 a.m. the driver calls and asks if we can start at 6.30. Denied!
7.22 the driver arrives in a white Toyota Probox with an Indian passenger and a 7 ft potted tree on top of his car.
In Anisakhan we pick up a female passenger after several phone calls. Then hand over the tree to a motorcycle driver in front of a monastery. Finally, we’re on our way.
10 min stop in Ohn Kyaw at an Indian shop. The Indian passenger gets down and a lady replaces him.
9.22 arrival at a taxi stand in Mandalay. No Yangon car in sight. I call my wife and let her talk to the guy in charge. He tells her that my car has gone because I arrived too late. Most probably a lie.
9.45 a Yangon car arrives but there are no passengers aboard. My luggage is loaded onto the car. The driver and one passenger board the car and tell me that we’ll have to pick up the remaining passengers. We end up at the main bus stand where a half dead old man is hauled into the car by his nephew. I’m glad! Finally we’re on our way even though mysteriously nobody has demanded the fare from me so far.
10.15 We arrive at another taxi stand where the old man and his nephew as well as the other passenger get down. A man demands the fare from me and I pay 70.000 K. Then he requests me to wait there, because the driver has to pick up another passenger near a toll plaza in Amarapura. Which confuses me, as the car is already full. I insist on staying aboard because my luggage is in the car. On the way I ask the driver what time we’ll arrive in Yangon. He tells me that there are a lot of potholes in the highway. I ask him if he has been to Yangon before and he tells me that he’s from Yangon. But he pretends not to know how long it will take to get there. Burmese way … Note: never ask a driver for the arrival time! It brings misfortune!
10.30 a.m. We arrive at the toll plaza in Amarapura and wait for 15 minutes. Nobody comes.
10.45 We’re going back to from where we’ve started
11.05 We’re back where the other passengers are waiting and relaxing in bamboo deckchairs.
11.11 The man who collected my fare boards the car and off we go. The old-timer and his nephew stay behind.
11.13 arrival at a bus stop on the highway where some buses and scooters are waiting. The fare collector makes some phone calls.
11.16 arrival at 365 milepost. We stop again. The collector makes frantic phone calls.
11.20 a man arrives by scooter and hands a big carpet wrapped in plastic to the driver who fixes it on the roof.
11.28 The old man and his nephew arrive by scooter (!). The sick man is hauled into the car with some difficulties. Another passenger boards.
11.30: Off we go! Only four hours since I left Pyin Oo Lwin…
11.55 arrival at the airport roundabout and much to my surprise we are turning back to Mandalay. Driver tells me we’ll have to drop one passenger. Not far from here, he says… On the way there’ve been several U-turns. The other passengers don’t seem to care…
12.05 back at airport Sagaing roundabout. 358.5 miles. Car stops, driver makes phone calls.
12.10 The nephew disembarks, another passenger embarks – and off we go!
On the way the driver is chewing betel and empties the juice into a plastic bottle. I’m losing what’s left of my appetite…
One passenger on the back seat seems to be shooting a road movie because his camera is running the entire time.
14.30 We stop for lunch near 233 milepost. The driver asks the old man if he should get something to eat for him. Silence. He thinks the old guy is asleep and taps his shoulder. The old-timer nearly falls out of the car, the driver can hold him at the last second. Terror! We check his breath and heartbeat, but there’s no doubt. The man is dead! Panic!
Driver nearly starts crying and all passengers are somewhat bewildered. I suggest informing the next police post, but everybody vehemently disagrees. So we board the car and leave before drawing the attention of others. Wild chatter among the passengers, while we are slowly continuing towards Yangon. I don’t understand a single word. But the matter is clear: everybody (except me) is afraid of the consequences. Suddenly the driver leaves the highway and turns into a dirt road with plenty of bushes. The car stops and all of us get down. Obviously, they’re planning to dispose of the corpse here. I intervene: That’s not a good idea! At least the old-timer has the right to a decent burial and not to be dumped in the middle of nowhere, eaten by wild animals. I suggest dumping him secretly at the gate of Yangon’s Yay Way cemetery in the night. After some discussion everybody agrees.
Then the next problem pops up: nobody wants to sit next to the dead man! What to do? I suggest wrapping him in the carpet and putting him on the roof. Good idea, my fellow travellers like it! The driver unloads the carpet, removes the plastic cover and unrolls the carpet. Then he and another guy pull the body out of the car and place him on the carpet. I sacrifice a 1 Euro coin that I’ve brought along in order to rent a luggage trolley in Germany and put it in his mouth. For the ferryman to the other side … They roll up the carpet, wrap the plastic sheet around it, put it on the roof and tie it thoroughly. Relief! Let’s go!
We continue our journey and stop at the next freeway restaurant. We definitely need a drink after this shock. I invite the whole crew to a can of beer. In order to avoid attention we park the car as far as possible from the restaurant. The driver begs us not to tell anybody about this ordeal. We promise, of course! Then back to the car. When we arrive there our jaws drop simultaneously: the carpet is GONE!! Who the heck steals a carpet with a corpse inside? And my coin is gone, too! Anyway, that solves our problem and we get into the car asap before the thief returns to get rid of his booty! I wonder what has happened to the corpse later.