A day on the Yangon River
Source: Frontier Myanmar
Date: 29 December 2017
Yangon's water bus may not yet be a viable alternative to commuting on the bus or train, but it does make for a pleasant day out.
A FEW weeks ago, I left Frontier's office in downtown Yangon at 4.30pm, confident I would arrive for a meeting in Insein Township at 6pm.
I really should have known better.
At 5.45pm, having been stuck at Hledan Junction for 30 minutes, I sent the person I was meeting a courtesy text. "Stuck in a bit of traffic, likely be 10 minutes late or so."
"No problem," came the response.
Fifteen minutes later, I sent an update: "Hardly moved. Make that 20."
Again, the response was sympathetic to my apparent tardiness.
By 6.30pm, we had crawled over the junction at Hledan, but were stuck behind half a dozen buses on Insein Road. The windows on the taxi would only partially close, and we were stopped adjacent to some open bins.
As a point of courtesy, I decided to phone ahead to explain the situation. He laughed and insisted he understood, although I could sense a hint of frustration growing in his voice.
Another 20 minutes later we reached Parami Road. I sent another update: "Nearly there, 10 out."
The response was immediate. "I have another meeting. Best we cancel."
It's fair to say that at this point I was not in the best of moods.
Which explains why I audibly chortled when a few days later a friend suggested spending the following Saturday exploring the sights of Insein.
Besides, what exactly were the "sights" of Insein?
"Well there's the prison," my friend responded unconvincingly (it doesn't do tours, we checked). "And apparently a few nice churches to see."
But my skepticism grew at her next comment. "Plus, there's the new water bus that goes there."
I had read about the launch of the Yangon Water Bus in October – we covered it in these pages – but I wasn't confident it would make for an enjoyable day trip.
After the chaos surrounding the launch of the Yangon Bus Service, and didn't hold out much hope that this new transport offering would fare any better.
Having grumbled too many times that there weren't enough things to do in Yangon at the weekend though, I eventually relented. So, on a recent Saturday morning, I found myself at bustling Botahtaung jetty.
It's not something I like to admit, but my cynicism on this occasion was entirely misplaced.
The water bus has two boat types: smaller ferries that make the journey from Botahtaung to Insein in about two hours and a large, Australian-made "express" vessel that makes the same trip in just over an hour. We chose the latter option, which was due to depart at 9.40am.