After a quick early morning runaround Meiktila (giant duck thing ? water pagoda ? lake ? noodles ?) it was time to bail and head to Kalaw. I grabbed a motorcycle taxi for the kilometre-ish run up to near the bus station where my moto delivered me to the next minibus heading to Kalaw. Downstairs was already packed, so it was straight up onto the roof where I settled in for the five-hour run up into the hills.
If you’ve not ridden on a minibus roof before, it’s a bit different to being in a seat. For starters, you have to hang on real tight — real tight. When you’re downstairs and the van is rambling at 40km an hour you might well be wishing the driver sped up a bit, but on the roof, well, 40 is plenty, thanks!
You also need to watch out for low hanging branches from the surrounding trees and a hat is a very good idea. As you’re often just sitting on a bamboo mat laid over the metal wrack, something, anything to sit on (a towel is good) to protect your fragile backside is a good idea. And if you don’t think your backside is fragile now, trust me — in a few hours you will.
Don’t sit on your pack though, as that will considerably raise your centre of gravity and you’ll be at a greater risk of falling off (or scoring a tree branch).
The upside of putting up with a sore butt, of course, is the views.
Because you’re hanging on with one hand, it’s best to have a camera you can easily use with one hand, though you’ll likely still end up with a ton of blurry pics.
It goes without saying obviously that riding on the roof of any moving vehicle is pretty stupid and totally unsafe. If you do fall off you’ll at the least probably break a limb or three. And if the bus hits something else, you’ll most likely keep going for a while and it won’t be pretty when you stop. So don’t try this at home.
But then there are those views.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 6th February, 2015.