We’re all going to die. Surely this is the end.
The plane, a beat-up propeller number so old it has ashtrays built in, rattles its way toward Rangoon’s airport, seat cushions and armrests falling into the aisles and overhead compartments bursting open. The engines sound wrong. With each inexplicable jolt, the passengers gasp and grip the space where their armrests once were.
The flight attendants are unconcerned, wobbling from side to side, pushing the drink cart and spilling coffee. This is business as usual on the morning flight from Thandwe, Myanmar, and its vast deserted Ngapali Beach on the Bay of Bengal to Rangoon. This Myanmar Airways plane – the national carrier! – is busted to bits. So why are we on it?
Time. It’s less than a two-hour trip and covers the ground that would have taken more than 24 hours by bus, if the bus made it at all. Myanmar, a country still in the early thralls of its tourism boom, is a land of unreliable transport: the trains derail on the old British lines and the buses break down on the terrible roads. With infinite time, the slow, bumpy route could make for interesting travel. But my partner and I have only three weeks in a country dense with unmissable sights, so these shaky flights are the convenient alternative. And like most other conveniences in Myanmar, they’re expensive.