Thursday, January 31, 2013

After lots of rascals, here are two gentlemen - Mandalay, Burma

The train to Hsipaw
Basing it on my memories from ten years ago we've decided to travel by train from Mandalay to Thibaw (Hsipaw). The trip is very uncomfortable, slow and bumpy, onboard some ancient cars equipped with wooden benches that travel on narrow-gauge tracks. We have already booked two moto-taxis that for a little sum will take us to the station at three-thirty in the morning. 
As I'm looking for some guest houses on the web I come across a page with some information about the same journey. And I realize that I got it all wrong. What we actually want to do is reaching Maymyo (Pin oo Lwin) via road, visit the town and catch the train there. The interesting part of the trip, the one which includes the Gokteik viaduct, is beyond that place and by doing like that we are gonna be spared a few hours on that Burmese roller coaster.
As we are going out for dinner we stop by the reception, we ask the ladies who work there to let the drivers know that we've decided not to leave that early and, without waking us up, to give them the agreed sum anyway. We hand them the banknotes and leave. When we are back they give us our key together with something else. At first I think it's another key, and I am a bit puzzled. Then I realize it's actually some money. The money we left there for the drivers! "Never mind..." they are telling us. The ladies called the drivers and they must have appreciated the fact that we informed them in advance and that they don't have to wake up that early. They told the ladies that they wouldn't charge us. Two poor people, eager to come and pick up two rich foreigners (actually it's not true, but from their standpoint it is) in the middle of the night and take them to the station for such a little amount. They could have just pocketed the money, which was already there, waiting for them, sticking to an already settled deal. Even in the wealthy west I met a lot of people who would have done that. "Unbelievable!" IZ keeps saying. "It's the only country I've been to where something like that can actually happen…" And I suspect that he is actually right.
We witnessed the scene at a very proper time, just when we could have started to  have the temptation to think strange things about the local taxi drivers. But it often works like that. Don't get me wrong, some Burmese taxi drivers are real assholes that the country should get rid of, especially the ones belonging to the stations and airports mafia cliques. This story only proves that, as one would expect, they are not all like that. 

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