The day started off in Gangaw, at the Kaung Myat Thu Hotel, with a bang for Vince and I with our iPad alarm failing to wake us (it had not been able to connect to the wifi due to power cuts so had not adjusted to the 1 hour ahead time change in Myanmar!) I had got up to visit the toilet and absent mindlessly checked the time only to suddenly realise we had 15 minutes to get up, dress and pack the bike before our 7.00am departure. I quickly woke Vince and it was the fastest we have ever moved….even half asleep. With Aad (Art) and Mike’s help to carry out our gear to the bike we got it packed with minutes to spare and were on our way.
It was a new day and at our 30min breakfast stop everyone was in good spirits….great! Unfortunately, our breakfast of local fare was not really to our liking so we left feeling empty and hungry. We headed for Monywa, a five and a half hour drive away, where we stopped for lunch. I had hoped to avoid the overload of wasted food from yesterday and just order one thing….but it was a buffet at 2500 Kyat each. I didn’t want to be difficult so thought I could just go with it and select what I wanted….but NO…..it was the same deal as yesterday with about 25 little dishes of unidentifiable stuff arriving. After trying a few…one in particular I had to spit directly back out onto my plate (it was so foul tasting I thought I would vomit). Win came to talk to me and explained that we were supposed to go see the Big Buddha but that would take and hour and a half and we still had a three hour drive to Mandalay after that (our itinerary also showed a visit to Amarapurs to walk over the Bein bridge – the longest teak bridge in the world and watch the sunset – but no mention of this was made). I reiterated that avoiding driving at night was the priority so we would forego seeing the Buddha.
After lunch various people needed to change money so a few stops were made…..then we all had to stop to refuel. I was then confused when we went to the Big Buddha…..Win explained that a government official wanted to make a video of us to put on TV so I would have to forgive him if we ended up travelling at night….I told him in no uncertain terms this was NOT going to happen…..we needed to get on the road and to the hotel before dark….I went and told Vince, Aad (Art) and Mike and before we knew it the bikes were on the road! I later discovered that the “memory” shots the staff have been taking without our prior consent, and sometimes without our knowledge, have all been for publication/publicity/propaganda …….so I was furious and feeling totally exploited and violated……NOT HAPPY JAN!
Of course all the smiles and assurances of yesterday faded into oblivion and darkness engulfed us and we were again placed in a position of having to ride at night in highly dangerous conditions…..and Vince was very fatigued (a 13 hour day on the road yesterday and now a 12 hour day today……..he is so amazing …….and this is $&;@! rediculous…..we had several near misses…..including a near head on with oncoming traffic coming directly at us on our side of the road……and the support vehicle lost the 3 four wheel drives for over half an hour in the dark…..everyone is pretty much really pissed off big time!
When we got to The Little Bit of Mandalay Tavern we were all just so relieved to be alive and safe! As Win, our Tour Guide, gave me the key to our room, I calmly but firmly told him…”I am going to go to my room and calm down, as I am very angry right now….when I come back I want the contact details of your direct line manager and the owner of the company and you and I will have a very serious discussion!” The smile faded instantly from his face and he put his hand over it….I walked off. Vince didn’t even look at him….he told me later he was so livid he just wanted to punch Win in the face!
There was no sign of any of the tour staff at dinner….and when we enquired we were told Win had left the hotel and would not be back until 10.30pm….we were so exhausted we just had our dinner and went to bed….but not before I sent a detailed email to him demanding immediate assurances about our safety before we proceed any further with this tour and instructions to destroy the fraudulently obtained images of us……luckily we have not yet paid the balance of our tour due to wifi problems… So we do have some leverage ……..you can run but you can’t hide…..showdown at daybreak!