One of the things that I was worried about before arriving in Myanmar was the fact that it was monsoon season. I hadn’t read very much on the internet, but enough to know that I’d likely see some heavy rains and those heavy rains could affect the road conditions, sometimes making them impassable. I was a little concerned about this … until I got on the bus.
Even at the bus station, I was impressed. Although it was a tiny little room and the squatter toilet wasn’t the best, the staff were dressed in nice uniforms and even served us a complimentary beverage while we were waiting. Really? At the bus station?
Our overnight bus from Yangon to Mandalay was the nicest coach that I have ever been on. Now, I wouldn’t call it luxury, but it sure was nothing like what I expected. We climbed up the stairs to the upper level and got comfy in over sized seats that had an unusual amount of reclining ability. Considerably more spacious than flying Air Asia and still more spacious than Thai Airways! It was clean and air conditioned. One of my favourite parts was that they gave us each a fuzzy pink polar fleece blanket to cover up with through the night. Generally speaking, they kept the air conditioning at 18 or 19 degrees. Through the night, that’s pretty chilly.
We took off on time and after navigating through the streets for only a few minutes, we set out on the highway. I didn’t even know that a highway existed! Here I thought we would be driving along back roads, getting washed away by mud slides.
Sure enough, it rained pretty much the entire time we were on the bus, but the roads were good and the driver seemed to be very careful. Not only was it a highway, but it was a four lane highway with a median in the middle pretty much the entire way. Apparently it has only just been completed in the past couple of years. It was in really good condition and only a few big bumps when crossing over bridges.
Throughout the night, the bus had pulled over a couple of times because of accidents on the highway and to switch drivers. After all, it is a really long drive, late at night on a straight, boring highway in the rain. I slept through most of the stops, but one long one (about 45 minutes), they served everyone snacks (a piece of cake and a cinnamon bun type thing). Can you imagine? I didn’t wake up for that either! I got mine early the next morning.
We left late in the evening and arrived in Mandalay the next morning around 6:30am. Apparently that was an hour or so later than normal.
The bus tickets were included in our tour, but I think the overnight bus was $20 US or less. If you are considering the trip between Yangon and Mandalay, I think the bus is a great cost effective way to go. Much cheaper than flying and you save on a night’s hotel room.
All in all, the bus ride was uneventful and a pleasant experience. Who would have thought that in Myanmar I would have a better public bus than anywhere else I’ve ever been!