We booked an 'air con' bus from Mandalay to Hsipaw (pronounced Sibow) which meant up at 4:30am to get to the bus stop in town for 5am. Although it was still dark it was interesting to see many cafés in Mandalay were opening up at this time. People were gathered around small fires on corners as it was relatively cold, about 12c. The monks were already doing their rounds, pacing the streets barefoot with a bowl in hand looking for food donations to take back to their monastery.
We'd reserved the front seats so we could get a good view of our journey to Hsipaw. The driver and his two aids, who stood for most of the trip, all fervently prayed before setting off. A few wreaths of jasmine flowers were purchased as we drove out of town, for good luck for the joinery. Unfortunately, as you can see in the photo below, the picture of the smart modern bus and our bus were not closely matched. our bus was an ancient Chinese cargo type bus, no air con, no suspension and the door didn't close- which meant we got very cold as the sun was not yet up.The bus carried pretty much everything, apart from other live animals; bags of veggies, charcoal, rice and wheat were wedged in with chairs, toys, fish traps and engineering parts. It almost seemed an inconvenience to the driver to carry passengers!
At our first stop we moved seats towards the back with the aromatic cargo, the seats there were very small and could not accommodate our femurs, but it was away from the cold wind. At our planned stop we brought a good breakfast of rice and meat, and I thoughtfully gave Chris the pork nipples from my plate!
Sunrise on the road to Hsipaw
No breakdown cover out here
Luxury bus tours of Burma
Hmm, are you sure that's the bus in the picture?!