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Travel Thailand by bike, cause what else is there to do? SE Asia bike tour launching January 14, 2015 in BKK

Burma superstar! (updated by L)

MYANMAR | Monday, 2 February 2015 | Views [402] | Comments [2]

January 30 @ 1129 Welcome to Burma!! (I apologise for the formatting of these entries! This is a terrible site for journaling and I don't recommend it at all!)

We got up at seven to truck it over the border to Burma this am. Not at all to our surprise, the road to the next town on the way only runs east today so “for our safety” we cannot go anywhere today. We made the best of it and cycled around Myawaddy after an easy no hassle border crossing (no waiting probably because everyone else knows the direction of the road today!). The officers at the Burma border were incredibly friendly and polite. One tried to help us find an english map of Burma, but none in this town - he thinks he should buy many and have them to sell to foreigners like us. He thinks he could make a good profit and I agreed! He also suggested he write down my vegetarian requests when I asked where I could get some good food in this town. He was very helpful and welcoming. We rode around Myawaddy, asked for prices at about 4-5 hotels/guesthouses - $20/night is cheapest we found! Quite a rude awakening after what we paid in Thailand. We found a quiet place on the sidewalk to enjoy our breakfast - we picked up to go from our favorite Jay food stall in Mae Sot. We also ate some huge bananas Joe bought last night. They were tasty, I shared two with two small (about 9-11 years old Monks who walked by looking for their morning offering. They were very cute and seemed just as surprised by the size of the banana as I was. Next we found a cute gas stations store to have some soda. I wanted coffee but could not find any hot water. Ashamed to say I was learning little words in Thai to get by, however I know NOTHING in Burmese. Nada. I’ve heard people saying thank you but the sounds are quite hard to remember concretely. We have now checked in to a guesthouse/hotel right outside of the main drag - should give us a head start on the climb up the mountain tomorrow. It’s comforting to be riding on the right side of the road again, however a little nerve wracking that the cars/trucks are still left sided vehicles. Makes me nervous that they can’t see us as good when passing etc. Very dumb set up if you ask me!

Burma feels very different from Thailand, already. I felt it the moment we crossed the bridge (“Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge”). The people look very different. The infrastructure is different. The writing on the buildings is totally different. I am not surprised by how different things are given the history. This border has only been open for less than two years. Burma has a very complex history and things are changing daily. There is much to be learned and observed. The main similarities between the two countries are motorbikes (and temples)! Beeping is the way here - buses, cars, motorbikes - always beeping and it’s not always clear the reason. Seems right of way is determined by vehicle size and frequency of honks. Luckily the shoulders are nice and wide so we can just crawl through the traffic - with stares and smiles constantly coming our way.

January 31 @ 1600

We got up early today and headed through the rest of Myawaddy to the mountain on our way to Kawkareik. We were scared of what was to come since we were able to find little to no information on this road/ride eve after extensive internet searches and Warmshowers inquiries. The road was nice and easy for the first 4 or so miles, rolling hills and gentle climbs. It was hard to tell when we got to the actual mountain climb as is was a gentle uphill climb the whole way. From our hotel to the top of the mountain, it was about 16 miles. It was never steep enough that I had to get off and push the bike, it was also never flat enough that I got out of 1st gear. Luckily, (most) of the traffic was facing west along with us so the sharp curves were not very difficult to maneuver. The road was very rough in certain areas, gigantic potholes and old pavement definitely kept us as a slow pace but all in all it wasn’t bad. It was nothing like the mountain we conquered a couple days ago (Tak to Mae Sot). The downhill was a bit scary because it was pretty steep and the road again was pretty torn up, but we did our best and made it down to the valley around 12 noon. We passed through two military checkpoints where they took our passports and ran away with them, supposedly writing down our information. They were very polite about it and tried to be as helpful as possible with our questions. Seems a lot of people here speak the sentences in english they have practiced and know for work, but may not actually speak it enough to have a simple conversation. Most know no english besides “hello!!!” We rode into Kawkareik around 1330 and checked into the best guesthouse we found - there was one next door for $7/night but Joe wanted to upgrade to the one with more than just a wooden bed that was $15. There is still no actual mattress, just a outdoor porch like cushion on the double bed. Feels pretty uncomfortable but will have to do. Electricity turns off in this whole town from 10-6pm so its a little toasty in our room without the fan to cool us off! It’s okay though, we were able to get out and get some decent veg chinese food down the street and a couple pints of Myanmar lager on draft. We bought some fruit for dessert and will probably end up eating it for dinner (pineapple and oranges). No wifi in this town, just smiles and thumbs up. Tomorrow we are off to Hpa-an-- exactly 90 km from here.
It feels somewhat of an honor to be one of the first foreigners to be coming through these towns, they have been shut off from the world for so long. People stare at us as if we are so strange looking, they don’t know what to do with us. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be them. I can’t imagine what they must think of us and where we’ve come from and how we got our flashy bikes here to ride around their countryside. I wish there was less of a language barrier. Seems like there’s a lot more in Burma than what meets the eye.

February 2 @ 18:30

We road to Hpa-an (“Paan”) yesterday - about 60 miles. It started out a rough day because the roads were absolute crap and the traffic was very heavy with no shoulder at all to bike on. We were on Burma’s “highway” thus the traffic (especially the huge trucks with big loads barreling down the road honking at anyone who got in their way. To give an idea though the actual road was similar to a back country lane in US. As I suspected, cars being right handed cars on the right side of the road resulted in many near misses when they would come flying around dumptrucks and slow moving farm vehicles to pass them and suddenly be in our lane, oncoming at 60 mph. A couple of times we would yell “abort” to each other and actually had to fling ourselves off the road, onto the dirt/rocks to prevent a collision. During the morning, we stopped at a roadside restaurant for breakfast and had a lovely stirfry with vegs and chickpeas and BYO instant coffee. Across the street, a “night of fire festival” was going on so we walked around a little bit. Most of the booths were still closed but we got to see some middle school aged kids dance “traditional” and that was very nice and entertaining. It was getting sunny and hot so we decided we better get back on the road. Luckily, the 2nd 30 miles of our ride was so much better than the morning. The road got less bumpy and wider. There was also less traffic. We arrived in Hpa-an around 2 or 3 and checked in to the first guesthouse we found (Nadi Taw Lwin) that was $20/night and remarkably better than our room the night before. It had air con and was clean.. There was an actual mattress that was so comfy and nice. I never wanted to leave! Thanks to lonely planet we had dinner at this amazing Burmese curry place called San Ma Tau. They had a choice of about 10 veg curries we chose from and then they give you rice and like 8 different sauces to try. And a little plate of fresh raw vegs to munch on during the meal. They lay it all out on the table and you just eat and eat. It was amazing! It also came with “free dessert” which was just three jars of assorted candies. We had our meal with fresh lime juice and were in heaven. The meal was about $4.40 total for both of us.
The next morning (this morning) we decided to follow lonely planet’s advice again and ate breakfast at a place called White. They made naan bread and various pastries (none sweet, all rather bland other than the mini-somosas) that would dip in sauces or just eat plain. We had naan and some coffee. Joe had tea. The man running it was very nice and helpful, but I got a creepy feeling as he was ordering around the two 12 year oldish boys who worked for him. The boys seemed to be having fun sometimes, but they were definitely doing all the work (except collecting money - the old man did that). I have yet to read about schooling in Burma, whether is compulsory or not.. Also we passed a small section of road being rebuilt - all by hand - and Joe said he saw one of the workers was a small boy (they were filling up baskets with rocks to bring over and make the road). I understood that the political changes meant there would be no child labor in Burma - hard to tell though what is really going on.

Today (Feb 1st) our ride was nice - the road was even smoother and less traffic today. The landscape is beautiful, green and lush fields - small cliff/mountains jetting up all around. Temples on top of the mountains everywhere you look. We had a short ride today to Thaton (only about 32 miles) but it took long because we met a friend on the rode - a nice man on a motorbike who brought us back to his family’s tea shop/corner store. We met his father who was very nice - he was an engineer who designs buildings - he showed us his drawings - all by hand, was a nice visit. We had some coffee there - our new “friend” had whiskey and told us he would ride with us to Thaton and help us find guesthouse and lunch. We were reluctant to take his help as we have been getting by fine but he insisted. Later along the route, we met a lovely woman who lived in Bangkok for ten years and spoke perfect english. She was nice to talk to and was very excited to tell us about the places she wishes to travel some day. The guy had more whiskey and was getting to be very annoying by now. He rode with us to Thaton and almost got hit by a truck more than once - not sure if it was cause he was drunk or because he is a bad motorbike driver. Luckily, we found the woman from earlier again- she owned a clothes shop there. She was happy to walk us to a guesthouse and help us check in. After lunch we finally got rid of the drunk guy after Joe helped him fixed his breaking down motor bike. He left soon after much to our delight. We’re off the lonely planet trail now so are the only westerners in this town as far as I can tell. Still happy faces and warm welcomes from the people here. Now that we have wifi, we are doing some research on our route to the northern part of the country - will take a train from Yangon most likely.


February 5 @ 1453

We have made it to Yangon - we have been a bit under the weather (both got the same stomach bug) and finally are feeling better today (finally bit the bullet and bought some antibiotics. 5 days of Cipro for less than $2) It seems to be working and we are feeling much better. We took the bus here yesterday from Golden Rock and checked into a lovely Airbnb with a kitchenette and clothes washer!! It is so nice to have clean clothes on for once :)

We booked our airline tickets today to fly back to Thailand - Chiang Mai to be exact. We have decided to skip the touristy northern section of Burma due to the cost of traveling/accomodation in this country. Also, we like Thailand so much more and want to spend more time there. We cannot bike back unless we follow the exact route we came from which would be no fun. (There are many travel restrictions in place for foreigners so a border exit in another area is impossible).   We've been taxi-ing it around Yangon because it is very dusty/dirty/fumes everywhere. Our next adventure is to find bike boxes so we can get our bikes on the flight on Saturday.  

Chiang Mai is known for being "flower city" and is ridiculously bike friendly. It also has about 17 veg restaurants! We've been excited to explore it since starting this trip so I happy to be going there soon. 


More later..







So glad to see your update! Sounds like an incredible time. You guys are in my thoughts and prayers. Love you!!!

  Lindsey Feb 4, 2015 8:55 AM


You bro's should hit up Mario's in Yangon. Best vegan paella that side of the Himalayas.

  Chad Feb 6, 2015 3:00 PM

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Before setting out - near Pittsburgh. Enroute to Washington DC

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