The second day of the Burma crossing was not much easier than the first. Certainly, we were leaving behind us the countless collapsed bridges, distraught rivers, and muddy paths but we would be driving 350 kms today, which made was the longest distance of our 9-days tour around the country.
The day went relatively well, and we made regular stops. We followed each other, again and again, through landscapes that gradually revealed their secrets to us. The jungles were opening up to neon green fields, and mountains were revealing beautiful peaks overlooking the valleys. We kept going and finally reached our destination a few long hours later.
Neon green fields of Burma
The good thing with this organized group is that we never have to worry about anything. The hotels are all booked in advance for us, and are usually quite luxurious. We have individual rooms every night and regularly sleep in nice resorts which sometimes have – and this was the case tonight – pools. The hotel was amazing and just perfect after a long drive. The pool even had a bar where you could order beer while swimming. They knew how to make us bikers happy, really.
Nice way to finish a long day
The next day our route, much shorter, took us to the archaeological Buddhist site of Bagan, also called the “land of 2000 temples”. We stopped on the way to visit a huge statue of Buddha, in which the bravest can go and climb all the way to the top. In Bagan, we rented electric scooters made in China for us to cruise around and visited several temples. Those scooters were really fun to drive, and were completely silent. We raced each other, and beeped our horns whenever we could . Yes, we are big kids.
We climbed up a temple to the highest possible point and watched the sun set over the valley. The last sunrays illuminated the many temples visible in every direction, standing gracefully for over 900 years through this pure green landscapes.
Sunset on Bagan and its 2000 temples
The next step was the city of Mandalay, which was one of the ancient capitals of the country some 160 years ago. We stopped on the way to visit a beautiful temple that stands on top of a mountain and can be seen from very far, and we get to the ancient capital. Mandalay is a big city, and the traffic was much denser. We stayed 2 nights on site, which allowed us to have a proper rest and to see some important sights of the city. Amongst them, the longest teak (wood) bridge in the world -1.2 kilometers long- , the temple of Mahamuni Buddha where people come to cover a Buddha image with gold leaves, or the big hill overlooking the city.
Sunset from Mandalay bridge
Fully rested, we left for a distant but sublime destination: Inle Lake, the largest lake in the country. We left our bikes at the hotel early in the afternoon and went on fast boats across the lake to visit the floating villages at the center. Wooden and bamboo houses on stilts seemed far from any agitation. The people there grow vegetables and fruits on floating gardens, and harvest them on boats. They weave, sculpt and forge. Selling their crafts is their main source of income. The sun peacefully set on the lake when we left, our hearts filled with wonders.
Beautiful Inle Lake
The next day was really different. We left for the new capital of the country since 2005, Naypyidaw, strategically located in the middle of the country. The city has no soul. The city has no character. The city is not a city. We came from the north and were quickly surprised by the condition of the roads. We went from muddy gravely roads to perfectly maintained smooth ones. The lanes widened, reaching the ridiculous number of 8 lanes per side, or 16 lanes in total. We were psyched, and took advantage of the absence of any other vehicle to ride side by side, one motorcycle per lane. This was a really strange experience for a capital city. Martin and I went for a ride together in the evening, in search of a city center, downtown, or whatever, but did not succeed. The “city” seemed to be made of isolated buildings and shopping centers only accessible by road.
Happy bikers each riding on our own lane
We were glad the next day to leave this lifeless capital to reach our final destination in Burma, the city of Kyaikto and its famous “Golden Rock”. The rock is perched on top of a mountain seem to defy gravity (legend has it that a strand of Buddha’s hair is holding it in place). It is a big pilgrimage place for Buddhists. We went up to visit it at the back of a large truck carrying some forty people. We felt a little bit like cattle, and the woman behind me seemed to vomit all the entire content of her stomach (and much more), but the views were worth the effort. We went back to the base of the mountain where our hotel was and spent our last meal together. We thanked our guides profusely, and were given certificates to congratulate and officialise our crossing.
The “Golden Rock”
This brings us to our last day, which meant crossing into the country of massages, lady boys, and often both at the same time. Thailand was just a short distance away. We got to the border, took a few hours to complete all the administrative steps, and finally managed to pass one by one. It was time to bid farewell for most of us. Natalie and Taylor were leaving together, Neil would leave on his own to the North, and the three Australian mates Andrew, Alan and Choy would stick together as well. I decided to keep riding with Jukka, Martin and Phil for a while. We found a small hotel for the night in the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand.
Burma was one of the most peaceful, interesting countries of my trip, and was not affected by tourism that much yet. It is an amazing destination, that will be I think much more touristy in a few years. This is the perfect time to go there and experience all that the country has to offer. Well, I am recommending you to go now, but am I not contributing to the development of tourism and therefore making the place less attractive and wild by promoting that? Okay, I am a bit lost now. I’ll let you think about it all while I go and get a nice Thai massage. Let’s just hope that it is not going to be from one of those lady boys.
The big Buddha