My journey in Bagan was coming to a close. On our way back to the inn, Mime asked about the Philippines. He was curious what it’s like here. So I showed him some photos from my phone and told him briefly how long it took me to get into Myanmar and how some things are similar with Myanmar as well. Mime has been a pretty reliable horse cart driver and guide. At first I was pessimistic since I’ve heard from friends of lazy and opportunistic horse cart drivers they had. But getting to know him, I learned more about his life here as horse cart driver.
I used to tease him that he knows all the names and location of the temples here but he said no, only about 125 of them. Still that was impressive! At 35 years of age, he’s been a horse cart driver for more than 8 years. He hasn’t left Bagan all his life. He has two horse carts and he pays about 20,000 kyat a year for the license of each cart to drive them.
Though he had expressed ambitions to go out of the country it would really take some time and money to get requirements. He told me that processing passports takes about a year and VISA to get out of the country takes about 7 months.
I asked Mime to fetch me in the evening to take me to the bus station. Since there was time to kill after checking out I walked around Nyaung U. I was amused to see a mock 7-11 nearby with a small convenience store and internet cafe. I took time catching up on the web for 1000 kyat per hour on a decent speed. Walked up to the market and back seeing the low rise structures alternating from teahouses, shops and inns. At the inn I spent time reading, watching other travellers check-in and check-out until Mime arrived.
Since the bus would leave at 8pm, I asked Mime to join me for dinner at the restaurant row. My fave restaurant there was Pyi Wa, since it’s beside a stupa and they have a very impressive puppet show in the evening for free. The ambiance is a plus from the great food they have. We went through my notes and found out we visited about 15 temples in two days.
Mime also told me that he also live near the area. On our way to the bus station, we saw his wife, pregnant and waving happily. He told me she would be due in 3 months. I congratulated him and told him that if I come back, I should see his child. At the bus station I asked him how much for the ride and he insist that I don’t pay. Still, I slipped a little kyat for him since I know he’ll need it more when their baby comes. He seemed to be content with his life here. I noticed he’s got a lot of friends and soon a child to complete his family. I bade good bye as I put my stuff inside the bus.
If you’ll ever visit Bagan, say hi to Mime for me and his horse Chune. His horse cart numbers are #20 and #150.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.