Into the Wild in Inle Lake
Monday, November 23, 2015
If this were North America, I’d be in a panic.
It’s 9:47 a.m. Our flight to Heho, Myanmar departs at 11:00 a.m. And we’re hopelessly stuck in Yangon’s diabolical traffic.
There is a beat-up red pickup truck next to us, the back of which is filled with dozens of brightly-coloured plastic gas canisters. Between the heat and their unsecured nature, it’s a miracle the entire thing doesn’t go up like a Jerry Bruckheimer-esque ball of fire.
Vendors wade out into the street, large plastic satchels slung across their bodies like messenger bags. Inside, they’ve got bottles of water kept cold with a mixture of melted ice and water that’s pooled at the bottom of the bag. They walk up and down to each vehicle snarled in this automotive mess, hoping that some sweltering passenger will buy one. No one does.
Our coach creeps ahead a few metres at a time. Finally, the cause of the delay comes into focus: construction equipment, which narrows four lanes of traffic down to two. Compounding the problem is the fact that five lanes of traffic have crammed themselves into these four lanes, and now three rows are trying to inexplicably squeeze into two.
One driver trying to maneuver his beat-up Fuso truck into the melee leans out his window and ejects a surprisingly long stream of brown liquid from his mouth – the byproduct of chewing the narcotic Betel Nut that is common in this part of the world. A carcinogen, it leaves blood-red stains on the road and will eventually give its owner black, rotting teeth and throat cancer.
Welcome to Monday morning in Myanmar.
Our Live Voyage Report from Viking River Cruises’ Myanmar Explorer continues tomorrow from the Areum Palace Hotel and Resort and Inle Lake! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.