Yangon, 4:30 AM

When I returned to Yangon from Bagan, I took the bus. As is often the case with buses in this country, either the departure time or the arrival time is designed to be as inconvenient as is physically possible. Some departures are at 5:00 AM, but mine was at 3:00 PM. To equalize this convenience, we arrived at Yangon at 4:00 AM only to be assailed by taxi touts offering prices to town (did I say "inconvenient?" the bus station is farther from the city than the airport) at twice the day rates. I negotiated a better fare, while simultaneously earning the last delivery from the share taxi I was stuffed into. This gave me a very interesting hour to look at the city. The air is actually fairly cool at this time of day, and consequently there are a good number of people out jogging. This is a strange thing to see, particularly as all of these people are running in the middle of the road. Stranger yet when you consider that there are almost no street lights and about 10% of the cars insist on running with their lights off. But those who question the sanity of these joggers are unfamiliar with the sidewalks in the developing world - pretty much everything I'm saying here would apply equally to Mumbai, New Delhi, or Bangkok, although I haven't seen the 4AM joggers there. Most sidewalks here are very battered, if you can find them at all. The first thing you need to know is that the sewer runs directly under the sidewalk, and at many places the concrete pads that should be covering the sewers are simply gone. This may be for a multitude of reasons, from the trivial (a place to spit betel juice) to the critical (severe flooding during the rainy season required a bigger entry to the sewer). Other parts of the sidewalk frequently look like they've been torn up in anticipation of repairs that never came. And then there are the vendor's carts and shacks, often taking up better than half the width of any flat patch of sidewalk left - especially if it's on the shady side of the street. Negotiating this incredible obstacle course in the dark would inevitably lead to a sprained ankle - if you were lucky. Jogging in the street seems pretty sane to me. During the day, even less sidewalk is available as any food vendor has set out one or several small tables and stools (looking like they escaped from a child's backyard plastic patio set). If the vendor's food is any good, these tiny tables are populated by people eating noodles or sipping tea, while the vendor chops, stirs, and fries. It's now too hot to jog, so you walk slowly and try to stay in the shade.