726pm. I’m inspecting a wilted chocolate doughnut and unidentified bun squished into a small cardboard box with flowy Burmese writing on it. KG is not interested. She’s sitting in the puffed-up recliner next to me, huddled in a fluorescent apricot CottonOn hoodie that looks a lot brighter than she does, staring up at the TV screen, which, incidentally, is playing the same music video of an albino popstar that’s always on in Lucky’s teahouse in Mae Sot – weird.
This is the second night bus we’ve caught on this trip and I’m the one who made us get it, instead of a significantly more expensive flight, despite KG’s besieged intestinal tract not being 100% recovered. Although it smells like garlic cloves in here and the air-conditioning has that Legionella-feel to it, it’s sort of warm and cozy (not literally – technically it’s v. v. cold).
We waited around for several hour in this strange, chaotic makeshift terminal on the side of the road, straddling our backpacks expectantly. The driver and most of the other staff of the Shwe Mandalar bus company are loud middle-aged men with their bellies stuffed tightly into dark green longyis. They herded us on and chuckled explosively when I attempted (in Burmese then in English) to check this was the 730pm bus to Yangon. HAHAHA??!!
We haven’t started moving yet. An eager younger man in a pressed white shirt just brought round a tray of Sunkist cans. He looked confused when we declined.
On top of the snack box and the soft pink blanket with bunnies on it, it looks like we get a complementary toothbrush- yay!!
I am feeling overwhelmed with guilty excitement. Guilty because I’m a lot more excited, it would seem, than my travel counterpart. The garlic-clove smell isn’t sitting well. She is looking unimpressed and a bit pale…
127am. We’ve pulled into a vast and bustling highway market with a series of all-night cafeterias. All the spare change and bright, jangling lights make it feel a bit like a casino. And at the same time, it feels vaguely… communist? Maybe part of the dictatorship hangover?
KG’s perked up after adjusting to the bus smell and we’ve been ranting at each other about relationships, being 30, jobs, biological injustice, men – specifically Australian men – and what’s wrong with them. Neither of us has needed the toilet up till now, which is lucky because there isn’t one on board. My night bus guilt is starting to fade.
In the stores they’re selling avocados and oranges, packets of banana chips, an infinite range of fried snacks, jellies and plastic jars filled with things that look like dried black fungus.
Some of the labels have Snow White on them.
I just bought a big glutinous grey rice-based blob of something wrapped in plastic but threw it in the bin after a couple of thought-provoking chews. I also bought a bottle of white ‘grape wine’. KG rolled her eyes at this. It seems I’m impulse spending. And I think I just saw a monk instagram something. Brain over-stimulated. Starting to get very tired.