On the day we were going back to Yangon… “Taxi costs 6000 Kyats, pick-up only 500 Kyats, not more.” Our favorite guesthouse lady Ma Su (from Queen Inn) gave us detailed instructions on how to get to the bus station and take a shared pick-up from there to Shwe Nyaung Junction (about half an hour ride from Nyaung Shwe) to board a 20 hours overnight bus back to Yangon.

“It is very easy, you only pay 500 Kyats, no more! You can walk to the bus station.” She specified and sent her worker to take our heavy luggage on his little motorbike, while we were ‘escorted’ by Martine and Fabienne on foot. Everyone seems trying to make sure we get to the bus station safely with no problem. Well, the problem started right after they left.

The so called, ‘bus station’, was actually a normal street with pick-ups parking along the road. When we arrived there was only one empty pick-up, which the driver claimed to leave only when he has 20 passengers. He helped us load our luggage onto his pick-up. It was 10.15am, and we only need to be at the junction by 12pm. Even if we leave at 11.30am, we would still make it. Safe! While awaiting, we ordered some tea, coffee and snack in a little cafe, at the same time watching people loading their big baskets of tomatoes on top of the pick-up. 15 minutes past, we still didn’t see any other passengers, only the baskets.

As soon as we finished our little tea break, the driver drove us to another place a few streets away, perhaps another pick-up station. Then, he stopped his engine, sat on a wooden bench and started smoking. Two guys approached him, during conversation, they all looked at us, the guys then walked away. Later, an older man with a head full of gray hair came to join us in the pick-up. We started chit chatting. With little command of English, once knowing that we need to be at the junction by noon, he suggested us to pay 2000 Kyats each, the pick-up would go immediately. It was 11am, so we had half an hour waiting time, I thought, we decided to wait. Slowly, they were some passengers joined us, but I doubted we would get 20 passangers on time.

The scene alarmed us was Alex suddenly saw the two men who spoke to our driver earlier, they were sitting on another pick-up (which was full of people, at lease 20, if not 30 people), drove passed us. It was 11.20am. Instantly, I went over to the nearby shophouses, grabbed a young man with uniform (police of some sort…), questioning him what our driver was waiting for. He then yelled at the driver and the driver replied rudely, sort of telling us to pay 1500 Kyats each and he would go. The gray-haired guy was also helping to push us submitted to his deal. Apparently, this gray haired guy would gain at least a free ride if he managed to get us pay. They were playing time game now…

I rejected their deal, of course! Then, the police suggested me to go back to the original bus station for another pick-up. Among all these negotiations, I was also checking for a taxi and I got the price for 5000 Kyats from another gentleman.

“If I would pay 3000 Kyats (< US$3) for your bloody pick-up, I would rather pay 5000 Kyats (< US$5) for a comfortable taxi!” My heart counted and I was pissed.

“5000 Kyat is fine. I would appreciate if you could get me the taxi.” Time was running out, it was 11.40am and we didn’t have time for another pick-up.

When we finally reached Swee Nyaung Junction, it was 12pm… we were just on time. Wintin the 20 minutes waiting for our Long distant big bus, there was no sign of the pick-up. Perhaps he was still waiting for passengers… or may be another rich tourist…

Ultimately, most locals thought foreigners (like us) earn a lot more money than them, therefore, we can pay more. If they would approach us properly, or he would run around to collect people (like other pick-up did) I don’t mind paying more…

Jing

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