Given the choice of paying $9 for a deck class ticket or paying $54 for a cabin, the cheapskate in all of us would go for the $9 ticket every time. Ok… so a deck class ticket means a mat on the floor, I can handle that. The boat ride is 36 hours? I’m starting at this point to think maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
I boarded the boat without a clue of where I was supposed to go and spent a good five minutes wandering aimlessly before I was rescued by a boat employee and pointed in the right direction. He took my up one floor to deck class where about 200 people and their belongings had already settled in. It seems like each ticket reserved you a rectangle shaped space on the floor of the deck and I was directed by him to my new home for the next day and a half.
I had been told before that people from Myanmar love to laugh and it seemed to be the case on this boat ride. People were chatting and sharing of food and, despite everyone being practically on top of one another on a hot, uncomfortable boat deck, people were happy and laughing almost the entire time. I was adopted by a few families and was able to communicate a bit with them with wild arm gestures and I managed to keep a group of people entertained for a while when I let them take photos of each other with my camera.
One of my favourite parts about this trip was the camaraderie that develops between the passengers. Everyone looked out for me which could be explained by the fact that I’m a solo woman foreigner but the friendly atmosphere seemed to exist between everyone on that deck. At night, after the lights went out, the people on my half of the boat were still cracking jokes and giggling like school girls for ages which I couldn’t help but laugh at.
The trip from Bhamo to Mandalay by boat really is about the journey, rather than just being a way to get from point A to B but holy crap… 36 hours is a long time to spent sitting on the deck of a boat. It was a pretty awesome experience overall though and I’m glad I did it but I probably won’t be jumping on any super long boat rides again anytime soon!