500 Kyats

Published on July 20, 2017

Might have been my favourite haggle so far, strangely enough it was one that I lost. I pushed for 2000 kyats and he won at 2500. Alas! I took the motorcycle taxi for the 20 minute ride from Kin Pin, the base camp of Mt Ktatatio, home of the Golden Rock to the train station. We drive off in a breezy night in a dark road at 10PM.


I cannot remember the last time I saw so many stars.


In the darkness...we reach light again to fuel up at the gas station. At 0.65USD/Litre, it’s still more expensive than Egypt.


We drive off shortly just to be stopped by a police officer. Speaking in Myanmar* to the driver, pointing with his traffic rod at him then myself with anger and condescension. He talks to me after saying “this is a very dangerous road, also more dangerous at night...many accidents, where are you going?" I answer, he paraphrases and repeats himself. I sense my driver's heart fluttering. I explain that I understand but there is a train, there is me and a road in between, that might be dangerous, but roads are roads**. Speaking to the driver again in Myanmar, he instructs him to take off his helmet and give it back to me, being a tourist here clearly makes my life more valuable. I instructed him back not to oblige, explained that we both understand and explained that the driver will be very careful. Then I repeated to the driver the same, not as a request or a demand, more of a prediction really. Not much unlike God, with the minute exception that I have no clue what I am doing, and also in a mortal sense that I might actually die in a few minutes.


The road was dangerous.

But I was not afraid, for I just could not remember the last time I saw that many stars. The heavens were watching over me.


We drive through the dark road in silence. With the sky so clear above us and the only light is out of our headlights. The only sounds are the motor engine and the whistling sounds of the trees past us. It took some time and fear crept in a little, all it ever needs is time. Then I remembered that last time I saw that many stars and my heart clenched a little more. The stars remained the same, as beautiful as ever, watching over, so many.


Eventually we arrive at the train station and he gives me 500 kyats back. "You cool guy.” "You take motorcycle, train, plane. You take. You stay cool.”


Might be my favourite haggle so far. I feel stupidly invincible. Also his military jacket was kind of awesome.




*"Myanmar" is the new name for the country previously known as "Burma,” but it is also now the official name for the language and nationality. You live in Myanmar, you speak in Myanmar and you are Myanmar. Not Myanmarian or Myanmarese (guess which one of those my phone did not consider a spelling mistake).

**I thought of inviting him to see the road I take home back in Cairo but I chose not to digress.