The isolation of the long distance cycle rider. At least the guitar is a constant companion!
We reached our destination too late to cross the border that day, so early the next morning we made up the final few miles. The road crossed from left – side drive in Thailand over to the right on the bridge, a literal X shape on the painted lines. We’d done it, we’d finally reached Myanmar, and the first ‘never-visited’ country for the Hair e-bikers since China.
Day 26 (Danny)
I’ve often wondered how bordering countries which drive on opposite sides of the road deal with the swap over at the border. Now I know. Traffic lights. I probably could have worked it out if I’d thought hard enough.
We were heading into Myanmar, the first country on our list neither of us had ever been to, and we had no idea what to expect. The border town of Myawaddy surprised us both with how different it was to Mae Sot – Thailand’s respective border town. Here are our first reactions.
With all the visa malarkey we had trying to cross we were setting off pretty late and had a lot of ground to cover. The map showed a mostly flat trip except for an incredibly daunting set of mountains taking up the middle third of the day. The sun was relentless, and the mountains completely deserted. Eventually our water and morale dried up as the mountains got steeper and steeper. When a slope goes round a corner, you pray and pray as you reach the turn that it’s going to flatten out or start to go downhill. This zig zag of a mountain was toying with us, occasionally giving us 20 metres of rest before turning another corner with 100 metres of climbing. At one point I took to waving my empty bottle at a car driving past, which promptly stopped and the driver amazingly handed us 4 bottles of water and refused to accept payment. This was our first experience of an act of kindness in a country that we have learned is rife with it.
Finally the ups became downs and we sailed down the other side of the mountain just as the sun was getting ready to go down. We hadn’t anticipated either the delays with the visa and or having such a hard time with the mountains, so we started looking for alternative places to stay. Google maps showed us a town that looked reasonably large, so we turned off the highway and headed towards it, fingers crossed. When we got there it was pitch black but still hot as ever. Exhausted we started asking around for hotels, motioning with our hands that we were looking for beds. People dismissed us and shook their heads and hands ‘no’, and we started to get worried.
Eventually someone told us of a place 2km down the road and without any better ideas we sceptically made our way towards it. We were surprised to see that the building did in fact exist. However, the owner told us they couldn’t accept foreigners without a police report. We told them that we had spoken to the police and they were fine with it, but the guy didn’t seem sure. Eventually a bit more money exchanged hands and we found ourselves in a dark green wooden room, roasting in the Myanmar humidity, with no power for air con or even a fan. We had coldish showers (they only went a little cold) and got settled in for a sweaty, itchy night.
Day 27 and 28 (Danny)
We were drenched in sweat when we woke up. My hair felt thick with moisture and I could barely tie it up. Waking up in humidity like that is not pleasant and it took us longer than it should to shake ourselves off and get ready for the day to come.
Our second day of cycling in Myanmar was nice and we saw some pleasant scenes, crossed some bridges and took great pleasure in meeting our first Myanmar locals. They were almost universally happy to see us and to help us with our food orders and bikes, whether or not we had asked them, and whether or not they spoke a word of English.