Getting from Bagan to Myanmar’s famous beach town, Ngapali, is not an easy task. To summarise the trip: leave the magic of Bagan behind, board a minibus and get a glimpse of hell, before finally arriving in paradise. It is a 25 hours ride in dingy old mini busses that will cost you no less than 37,000 Kyats, depending on where you book it. The first minibus goes to the town of Pyi Yi. It was a minibus for 12, but we rode with 26 people at some point. People were sitting on top of each other, on stools, and on the roof. This was a ride of 8 hours, and probably one of the most difficult ones we had, and we have taken many busses around Asia.
After arriving in Pyi Yi, you will get to see that the promises “big bus” is actually a 24-sitter bus from the 70’s that somehow manages to still get its wheels to turn. The seats are cramped and most are broken. This is the night bus for the journey, and you simple cannot imagine how you could ever sleep, let alone sit, on these seats for 12 hours. The journey from Pyi Yi to Ngapali should last 12 hours and goes through a mountainous region with very bad roads. With leaving at 18.00, we were scheduled to arrive at 6.00 in the morning.
We had a very different experience unfortunately. After leaving a half hour later, we drove for about an hour when the bus came to a halt. The driver mumbled something in Burmese and proceeded to disembark the bus. The rest of the passengers, silently off-boarded the bus too. An Italian family and us two were left on board unsure what is happening. We soon found out that there is an issue with the vehicle and we have to wait for another bus to pick us up.
In the dark, on the side of a road we were, waiting for our rescue bus to arrive. The bus took over an hour to reach us, and was in a worse condition than the previous bus. With no other choice at this point, we boarded the bus and continued the journey to Ngapali beach. In between dreams about the palm line beach that waits for us, we would wake up from the bumpy road and horning trucks on the mountainous road.
After a few hours of driving, our new bus driver has realized that with all the excitement of the rescue mission he forgot to pray for the journey. So on a sharp turn on the mountains, we stopped the bus in the middle of the road next to a tiny shrine near the road. The driver and his co-pilot got off and prayed to the Buddha statue inside the temple. After 15 minutes of praying, we were safe to continue our journey in the almost 50 years old bus. Several hours alter, still on the bumpy road where we drove not faster than 20 km/h, the driver stops the bus in the middle of the road once again. This time he does not step out, but remains seated for the duration of 10 minutes, simply staring at the dark road in front. We are not sure if this was another meditation for a safer journey, or simply a nap with eyes open.
Finally after 25 hours on the road, feeling like we have been put in the washing machine with 1600 spins per minute, we arrived at our hotel. The driver was nice enough to drop us off right in front of the hotel, probably the best part about the entire trip. We checked in our room and went to sleep. It took us 2 days of laying around on the beach to feel recovered from this journey.
Would we recommend this journey? Not even to our worst enemies.