Food Poisoning Right Before 10 Hour Bus Ride

After a great weekend trip to Mandalay, I was reading at Ostello Bello Hostel before my scheduled bus that was leaving Mandalay at 9pm. The bus to Yangon is about 10 hours long. While I was reading, I could feel my stomach starting to get upset. I knew immediately that I had food poisoning, as I’ve become all too familiar with it since moving to Myanmar.

The food poisoning didn’t seem too bad. I kept thinking I’d had worse, so I figured I would try to suffer through the bus ride because I had to teach the next day. I got on the bus and we started our journey. Almost immediately after the bus started moving, I began feeling worse and worse. The bus was a local bus, not VIP, so the seats were cramped. The man in front of me had reclined his seat, so he was essentially laying on my lap. Less than an hour into the ride at a small city named Tada U, I knew I needed to get off the bus.

So I went to the front of the bus and tried to tell the driver and assistant, in my limited Burmese, that I was sick and needed to get off the bus. Luckily, a passenger could speak English fairly well and helped translate and explain the situation. We were near a police checkpoint so the bus stopped.

The passenger and I got off the bus and went to the police station to inform them that I was getting off the bus and needed a taxi to go to a hotel because I was sick. It seemed like the police understood, so the passenger got back on the bus and I watched the bus drive away from a chair outside the police station. The policeman made a call and told me to wait. Eventually, a car pulled up to the checkpoint, and I got into the taxi with the policeman.

I looked up hotels on my Google Maps and found a hotel. Since we were in a small city (more like a village), I had no idea what the hotel actually entailed, and the policeman and taxi driver had never heard of it before. We pulled up to the hotel, and a young man was working at the front desk. After a fairly long discussion, the young man at the hotel called someone so that they could translate. The person on the phone told me that I could stay at the hotel for 17,000 kyat and that the hotel would help me get a bus ticket in the morning. I offered to pay the taxi driver and the policeman refused.

Luckily, the hotel was actually fairly nice and had all basic western amenities. After a not so dreadful night, I woke up at 7:30am ready to attempt to get back on the bus. The same young man was at the front desk in the morning, so he called his friend again to translate for us. After some miscommunication, it became clear that I wouldn’t need to travel an hour to Mandalay to get on a bus, but that I could catch one from Tada U, which was great news.

I hopped onto the back of the young man’s motorbike as we headed towards the bus station. The engine on his motorbike wasn’t working, so he had to stop every 2 seconds to restart the engine. I think after getting fed-up, he pulled up to a road-side shop and asked someone if he could borrow their bike because I needed to get bus tickets. We made it to the bus station, and I got a ticket for a bus leaving at 9am for 12,000 kyat. We then hopped back on the motorbike to go back to the hotel to grab my backpack.

In typical Myanmar fashion, the bus arrived around 9:45am, but I was just thankful to be headed back to Yangon. I had a seat in the front row, so I had a ton of leg room, and no one was sitting next to me. I was feeling substantially better from the night before. Even though the experience was fairly crazy, I’m so happy that I made that decision.

People were incredibly helpful and kind and without that, I don’t know how I would have found a taxi, hotel, or bus ticket. On top of that, it only cost me 29,000 kyat (less than $22) to avoid a dreadful bus ride. I’m so grateful for the generosity and kindheartedness of the people that helped me that night and morning.


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