Kawkareik to Hpa-an 96km
Woow. Myanmar is blowing my mind. The last time I was so overalled by all that was happening around me was many years ago, when Ju and I stopped off in Delhi, after trekking in Nepal. This isn't quite as intense, but certainly a good warm up for whats to come in India.
Here's some of the stuff that's fascinating me:
I'm cycling along minding my business, and a scooter slows beside me. I'm handed a package. It's filled with guava. I take it, and they zoom away, before I can even say thank you.
Another scooter stops, and the rider takes photos of me approaching. He flags me down to chat. He is a young Burmese Doctor, on his day off from his rural practice, keen to talk, in English, and very keen to visit NZ.
Traffic is stopped in a small village, because a Chinese Dragon is dancing, paying homage and respect to all the Chinese merchants and shop owners. This is a main highway, but it feels like a rural side road. It's very bumpy, patches on patches, but has very few potholes.
Another village is at standstill. A music group with singers and dancers is cheering a motor rally through the village. Lots of "classic" cars, with very powerful engines, and big wheels, with huge "Mandalay" banners, have been passing me all day.The musicians also cheer me past, and one of them runs after me and gives me a large bottle of water.
Ruth, a lone English woman, is cycling from Yangon to Singapore. This is her fourth day. She's uncertain about cycling over the mountain pass I cycled yesterday.
Another cyclist, from Germany, is passing me very late in the day. We have a great chat, as he has ridden some of the same route I'm hoping to ride. He flew from Teheran to Calcutta though, not trusting Pakistan.
The towns are amazing. There are Buddhist Temples, Chinese Temples and Muslim mosques. The peoples skin clouds are very varied, from a slight tan, to very dark. The clothes are very different as well...Muslim, Buddhist, and Burmese. The monks wear mauve instead of the orange I've seen before. And the traffic.....
The traffic is intense, but not crazy. Many many more cycles, of all sorts, two wheels, three wheels, with front seats, side seats, back seats, side cars, trailers...and all are loaded to the hilt, with everything and anything you could imagine.
As are the cars, vans and trucks. The most popular vehicle seems to be white Toyota Corolla station wagon, as used by a Hanmer builder for many years, but he just cannot compete with the amount of stuff locals here get in and on their cars.
Buses, trucks, vans, ute, are all cramped fill. Sometimes with goods, sometimes with people. I counted 35 people on one small truck, about the size of JD's, and I don't think I counted them all.
The population intensity and energy is amazing, and almost over bearing. Myanmar has 52 million people, and they seem to be packed into very small areas. Walking and riding through the streets is a whole new experience. But everyone is so patient. They wait, and wait, and wait, and eventually the rickshaw is unloaded, does its U turn, and the way is clear, for 10 meters.
I meet a young American teacher. He is teaching at an International School in Yangon, and spending this long weekend sightseeing. It's great meeting him, because today he had introduced me to several Burmese foods, all of which have been delicious, and available most everywhere. Yummy. The lovely Spanish pianist, he introduced me to was also a wonderfully yummy. I had a lovely evening with them both. Thank you young people, for listening to an old crazy man's stories. Good luck to you both, following your dreams.
And then my lack of money problem continues. This town has one ATM, but it will not recognize my cards. I tried to contact my NZ bank, but noone here understands a reverse charges or collect call, which the bank is happy to accept, so they will not let me use their land line. I've managed to exchange the last of my Baht on the black market, because today is Saturday, and the bank is closed,and if I'm really careful, I might have enough money for the next two days ride to Yangon, and the next money machine. Adventure. I love it.