train ride

It's still dark at five o'clock, there's something dripping behind the window.
Hotel boys are a bit confused, discuss possible train times and come to the conclusion that the train has already left. At five o'clock. Possible, but there has to be more trains. One of the boys drives us through the empty city to the railway station for 2000 kyat. There's life. Train goes 7:15, exactly like said. Ticket costs 14$, not 16$. We're not even offered second class tickets. Ticket is hand-written and all the text read out aloud to me with an important face. The change is not in kyat but two crisp one dollar bills. Someone grabs our bags and runs off towards the train. Train is there, totally empty. The someone has found a helper, they direct us to our seats, put the luggage in place, lift window covers and counting themselves and the bags evaluate the service worth 3000 kyat. They get 1000. I've already improved the life of Burmans quite a bit.
A monk is sleeping in the middle of the railway station on a bench. Noisy people gather around him from time to time but he's not bothered by that. A little girl offers us some tit-tats for sale. We're not interested. Then she finds a tangerine-seller and we're interested in tangerines.
I want to take a picture of the sleeping monk and look around to make sure that no official- looking person is around who would mind when someone is recording such an important place as a railway station. Külli confirms that there's no-one and it doesn't sound very trustworthy taking into account that the little girl is peeking from behind her back. After a while she demands a tangerine. What the heck, then she doesn't turn us in hopefully.
More tourists appear. Three locals sit opposite us. Husband, wife and husband's mother. The mother has a plastic cover over her eye. Obviously she has been in an operation. I try to imagine what an eye operation would look like in Burma. Better not to delve very deep into the matter. The state spends about 1-2% of GDP on health care.
The station watch shows exactly 7:15 when the train starts to move. With moderate slowness we pass huts and apartment blocks from which it is not clear if they are ready or not but laundry hangs everywhere. There's enough time to notice bowls in windowsills, dusty palm leaves, skinny dogs, monks, children and motorcyclists who are waiting for the train to pass. The city ends, surroundings are flat with lone huts and palms in the middle of rice fields. Wind is still cool and landscape fresh. The advantage of a train is the absence of dust. But the train swings from side to side and now and then makes everything jump up.
Sellers of food and other stuff walk past. Who has seen us already several times smiles more broadly at every next encounter. I understand the words "coffee", "tea" and "noodles". A seller forgets herself looking at us and tells the price to a local in English. Everyone gets the joke. Our neighbors offer us boiled eggs, some cake with a sign "Hollywood, special quality" and maize corn. We give them tangerines in return. The family is also going to Moulmein. Geography knowledge is not very extensive, the woman is a Muslim. Sure they had names but I'm pretty certain they forgot ours as well.
When I wake up there are mountains on the horizon and more plants. Huts, palms and hills reflect on the rice fields. Field work is done with ox carts. We stop at some stations, women with all their goods for sale on their heads walk along the train. Sometimes we just stand in the bush. Temperature rises but luckily enough wind blows in from the window.
On every hillock is a golden stupa and golden spires are also visible in the villages. They have glued all their GDP there. Really diligent people. If they'd gather garbage the same manner then all of their country would shine with cleanness.
In villages children stand by the rails and wave to the train. It seems to be just their way to pass time and they are not even looking if someone waves back. Towards the evening people gather to wash themselves and clothes around the wells.
Evening light is as nice as the morning one. And then the sun disappears behind horizon although we were supposed to be there at 16:40. The drive continues long in the dark, we arrive in Moulmein about 7 o'clock. This 270 km went like flying. The family opposite to us shakes our hands to say goodbye. We join two Dutch for a tuk-tuk to Breeze Hotel where we get the last free room for 12$. Toilet and shower are shared and judging on sounds also the rest of living space. Life in a broom closet.
We eat rice with something and walk around in the dark city. It would be nice to see a city in daylight for a change tomorrow. Anyway, they have a night club, lot of flashing lights and a clothes store.
pagodas and monks

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