Leaving Bagan

We hadn’t made a lot of plans on this day, since we were flying back to Yangon in the afternoon. After breakfast, I decided that I could use one more shave before leaving Bagan. This time I walked to a different beauty shop that I had seen near where we had eaten and I got a much better shave from the lady who was running that shop. When I returned, the family wanted to do some shopping, so we headed to the other end of town, which was home to a variety of wood-carving shops. We bought some woodcarvings as gifts and then caught a horse cart out of town to a restaurant, Bagan Princess, that Justin had noticed halfway to Old Bagan.

We were, of course, the only ones in the restaurant, which was slow but good. It was connected to a nice hotel that had an outdoor pool in its courtyard, the first that we had seen around Nyaung-oo. We had decided on living large that evening and staying in Yangon at a hotel with a pool. At $50 per night, it cost more than twice as much as we had paid anywhere else in Myanmar, but it was the only hotel which was close to the airport, and we wanted to be as close as possible to catch yet another early flight the following day. We walked down the street after lunch until we found a horse cart that would take us back to the Eden II to checkout.

Soon, we had all our luggage stacked in the lobby of the hotel, awaiting our ride to the airport. It was only then that the owner happened to mention that we owed him 8000 kyat, 3000 for the original ride from the airport and 5000 for the ride there we were about to take. Even though this was less than $7, and therefore not a huge deal, I felt like this was a cheap parting shot. When I had called the hotel from Yangon to make a reservation, they had said “we’ll pick you up at the airport”, which is different in my book from “we can arrange to pick you up at the airport for a small fee”. I wondered why hadn’t they just charged me then, rather than waiting for three days? Also, the fact that a trip to the airport was more expensive than a trip from the airport rubbed me the wrong way- I would have preferred him to tell me that the cost was 4000 kyat each way. I really had enjoyed our three nights at the Eden II, but this last gesture left a bad taste in my mouth.

We later boarded our 4:40 pm flight to Yangon on the same propeller plane that we had taken into the area. After it had lifted off, they handed us the “New Light of Myanmar”, a government-sponsored newspaper. What was most striking to me was not the vilification of the U.S. whenever it was mentioned in news accounts, but a column of headlines somewhere in the middle of the paper. They read “Plane crash kills family of six in California”, “Turbulence injures 16 on a flight to Hong Kong”, and “Airbus 380 collides with building in Bangkok airport”. What a paper to hand out on a slightly dodgy airplane!

By the time we landed at the airport at 6 pm, we had devised a plan. Knowing that people were going to try to carry our luggage, unasked, we were determined to handle it ourselves. Besides, I was almost out of kyat and hadn’t changed more lately, since I knew the hotel in Yangon would prefer U.S. dollars for the room as well as for any food that we would have there. We had our luggage claim tags stapled onto our tickets and, as we entered the terminal, two men wearing orange vests asked for them so they could get our luggage for us. “No thanks, we’ll take care of it”, we replied. They pointed to their vests to make sure we knew they worked for the airport, but we still did not relent. Finally, as the luggage cart was wheeled into the terminal area, but was just beyond our reach, I caved in and handed the man our claim tags. They picked up our luggage off the cart and moved it maybe ten feet, to where we were standing and then reached their hands out for money. I handed both of them the equivalent of 16 cents, to which they complained, “This is little money”. “Little distance!”, I retorted, indicating with my hands the distance that they had actually travelled with out bags, thereby ending the conversation.

We managed to take out bags as far as the waiting car that the hotel had sent before two other people grabbed hold of them and helped us lift them into the trunk. “Good job”, I said, somewhat sarcastically, handing them both 4 cents, the smallest bill that is printed in Myanmar (there were no coins, just bills). The driver of the car laughed as we got into his car, perhaps he had seen other foreigners who were fed up with the airport “services” as well.

The hotel was literally across the street from the international terminal of the airport, it had formerly been a Ramada- but when I had called from Bagan, they answered the phone with a more generic name, such as Airport Inn. It was still as nice as a Ramada would have been, with a first class restaurant as well as the aforementioned swimming pool. We went to the former after we got settled and, after a nice meal, headed to the latter. The pool was an outdoor one, and was a little chilly, but was the first one we had been to on our trip and was therefore a welcome luxury. We swam together until the pool closed, at 10 pm, and then headed to bed to get ready for our early flight out of Myanmar.

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