The Road From Bagan To Mandalay, Burma


It was Saturday afternoon and the next bus did not leave until Monday. We were able to catch a ride with a guy who was going from Bagan to Mandalay for the weekend.  Travelling by a personal car is not usually the way that we roll.  There is nothing like taking a crowded bus when the passengers are packed like sardines to get to know the locals and feel the pulse of the culture. The people riding the bus in places like Burma or now called Myanmar are carrying everything from chickens, bags of vegetables, to any other number of sacks of items that was purchased along the way.

At this time, the road was under construction and the surface was nothing but loose gravel until it could be sealed and made into a formalized highway of sorts. Our driver told us that a very large Chinese company was constructing the road, but the Burmese people were doing the actual hard labor.

As we continue driving along, the area increasingly became agriculturally rural. We pass a variety of people walking along the dirt road as we drive on by. The driver then begins to lower his window and throws out a plastic jug. Looking back in the side mirror, I see a lady scramble to pick up the jug. A few minutes later, the driver asks Jo who is sitting in the back of the SUV, to open one of the two large black plastic bags on the seat and to hand him another empty plastic jug. The driver again opens the window and throws another plastic jug out of the car. This time a man who is walking along picks up the jug on the road. This process repeats itself over and over throughout most of the rest of our journey.

The plastic jugs are important for the people living in this rural part of Myanmar. The jugs are needed to haul water. The poverty is gut wrenching throughout the country. Life is very hard.

Even years later, sometimes when I throw away a large plastic container , I have in my mind, that image of the driver throwing those plastic jugs out the SUV window onto the gravel highway and then being picked up like they were treasure, by the people walking along that road in Burma.


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