The ride to Bago was rough but nowhere as rough as my previous train trip. The windows were too filthy to see through, so it was a good thing that they had solidified in the half-open position and I could see over the top. There were few passengers in this upper class carriage, but a profusion of vendors passed through intermittently hawking chips, lollies and unidentifiable objects in mysterious bags.
Although the bus takes two hours to Bago, this train ride took six. We stopped for ages on an elevated bridge in the middle of rice paddies with nothing in sight, probably due to a breakdown. This train thankfully had a lockable toilet, but it was still a major acrobatic feat to use it as I had to cling desperately to a pipe on the wall with one hand.
We arrived at Bago station only two hours late, which I believe is par for the course. On the platform I was kidnapped by a smooth type, who shunted me into a trishaw and in light rain sent me off to inspect a hotel he recommended, despite my saying that I wanted to go to the Bago Star Hotel. He followed behind on a motorbike, no doubt in order to squeeze a commission out of the hotel for obtaining my body. The place we arrived at looked a frightful tip and I did not even go in for an inspection. Agreeing to look at another that turned out to be miles away, I was pedalled off in the rain feeling terribly guilty about the poor man pushing me along.
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The town was semi-flooded and the trishaw man had to wade, shoving me through foot-high lakes across streets. I offered to walk up the hills we came to but he said, ‘No’, and got off to push the bike with much panting and wheezing on what were by then dirt tracks. We had left the town after crossing a high bridge over the Bago River and turned off onto a rutted strip of bitumen that led onto dirt and rubble paths. Still we continued on, until finally we pulled into the courtyard of a building. By this time I would have said yes to any old dump to end the rider’s, and my, torment, but happily the place he had brought me to was lovely.
Its name, Shwe See Seim, translates as The Three Seasons. First I was shown a downstairs room and told it was thirteen dollars. Next, a bungalow that looked like of all unlikely things a Swiss chalet. This was seventeen dollars. Still further we continued in the tour of the place till the piece de resistance was produced. Upstairs with a little Juliet balcony, was a large comfortable room that cost twenty dollars. I asked about electricity and was told, ‘Yes. Is electric. Not every, but some’. This I took to mean that it came and went at will. Bless it.
To prove a point, the lights went out the minute I attempted to enter the room. It was bucketing down rain by then. We were in the middle of a big storm My escort explained that the electricity’s excuse this time was that a tree had fallen down. He gave me a suspiciously at-hand torch.