Hpa-an to Kyaikto 127km
Kyaikto to Bago 94km
So much is happening in this country of such intensity, I'm unsure how to write about in a flowing manner, so I'm just going to list some of the stuff that has lept up and hit me.
I am greatly saddened by the death of my friend, Francisco in Thailand, side swiped by a pickup truck. He was an amazing man, following his dream with passion. He and his family have been on my mind a lot the last two days, and I am being extra vigilant as the traffic gets heavier. I can't imagine the gap his death will leave, and I do not want to put my family and friends through such an event. RIP my friend.
But on to other things....
Most of the big bridges here in Burma seem to have a toll, but I haven't had to pay, I just get waved through. They also have security, soldiers, armed, sitting in concrete bunkers, or near sandbagging fox holes.
There are also a lot of young folk standing outside Pagodas, rattling begging bowls, looking for donations from motorists. Often the rattling is accompanied by one of them singing prayers on a loud speaker system, not unlike Indonesia, but for a different religion.
Lots of the locals chew some sort of nut, that produces lots of red spital. You need to be very careful where you walk or bike, because if the chewer doesn't see you coming, you might be covered it vast quantities of red saliva, as they spit it all out. The streets are covered in red, blood like stains.
The juice also gives the chewer red lips. It looks like lipstick. Also, many, males and females, cover their face with a yellow herbal cream, to protect themselves from the sun. They sometimes just smear it on, which makes them look jaundice, but often they draw patterns on their face....Burmese fashion. It's a little disconcerting when a guy, with "make up" and "lipstick", comes up to me and wants to hold my hand, and stroke my sunbleached hairy arms. I'm unsure that I will get used to it.
I stopped for a break in the shade of a tree outside an army base today, the 14th Infantry. A soldier came towards me, saluted, and shook my hand. He was in jandles, his epuletes were flapping, and his shirt was hanging out at the back. He was on sentry and road crossing duty. Very chatty, but wasn't keen for me to take a photo. Never mind, reinforcements were on the way. Some hours later I saw a convoy of Armed Troop Carriers, stuck in a roadworks traffic jam. Seems these vehicles have to be moving to stay functionable. Several had their bonnets up, having overheated in the queues.
I saw a monk, on a decorated throne, on the back of a truck, in the middle of another, very noisy, convoy, today. Lots of music, horn tooting, singing.Didn't recognize him as the Dahli Llama, but must have been important. Also, for the first time, I'm seeing nuns. They wear pink robes, have their hair shaved off, and all look very young.
Men wearing skirts is starting to make sense. It's very hot, and I'm suspecting a skirt is reasonably cool. Also I've noticed, unintentionally, that they don't wear undies, so the breeze flows. This also allows them to squat at the roadside to pee, not unlike a certain famous All Black.
The other night, while sitting on a riverbank watching a sunset, we noticed many locals doing the same....oh no they're not......they're throwing their trash in the river. Yep Myanmar has the same old Asian problem....what to do with trash. It's very noticeable, especially at lookouts, shrines and other places that you would hope might be sacred enough to keep trash free. Oh dear.
Some of you may remember a photo of Juliet in Vietnam, sitting on a baby chair. Well here in Burma, the chairs are even lower. I feel like my knees are around my ears, I can't imagine how my mates like Graham Allan and Rod Ell would cope.
Not all is equal in Myanmar. Foreigners are only allowed to stay at designated Guesthouses. We are not allowed to be hosted by locals, nor camp. Thus last night, there were cyclist from France, Switzerland, and a couple from Taupo ( who know Graeme Shaw), at the same lodging. Nice catching up with them all, and exchanging notes and stories over a meal. Today, we've all gone separate ways.
Tomorrow, into the big city. I've heard the traffic is manic. Even out here in a small town it is intense. I will be taking it all very carefully. Catch ya soon.