Atheists at churches and a smelly celebrity – Dawei to Ye in two days

I was dreading getting back on the bike. I really, really didn’t want to. It’s just going to be exhausting and wet. But staying in Dawei? Nah. But what was to come was quite bearable.

IMG_5703So at 1pm we were fed and checked out, back on the bicycles. Especially the beginning rolled down easily. Paved road, I was rested. People were waving, smiling and nodding at us. Beautiful.

 

Bad luck I don’t like the typical Burmese food as inu cold meat in some curry sauce with plain rice. Yan was very pleased. I was hungry. Knowing about the next day I would have been happier about the food I got.

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A not-so-romantic roadside camp

We rode into the night. Restless roadside camping just out of Kyauk
Shat next to a river in a hot-humid tent with all of Yans clothing on a line in the feeble attempt to dry it and hardly enough water to wash ourselves. Dinner and breakfast were cold ramen noodles eaten as biscuits.

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Our view in the morning

The eighth day of riding was finally getting to Yan who refused to have a rest day in Dawei. His mood was…. Well, he just wanted to be done with riding, get to Ye, get to a hotel, an air-con, a shower. No matter what. People offering bottles of water? No stopping for that.

At 30k I talked a shop keeper into fixing some rice vermicelli for us – she just had this very small store in a part of the front of her house and I assume we ate at her table. Her daughter washing some dishes for us.

When we rode on, I got a head start – but Yan is faster than I am so I didn’t worry. Until about half an hour into the ride. So I stopped. And waited. Fittled around with my phone. Waited a bit more. Filled up my water bottle. Waited a bit more. And waited. And waited. Wondering if I IMG_5714should go back? What if he passed me when I was taking pictures of the reclining Buddha earlier? I already waited there for about ten minutes but two men showing up made me feel a bit uncomfy so I rode on for a bit. Yeah, 30 minutes of riding, pus 45 minutes of waiting? Whatever issue there could be on his bike… he would have fixed it and caught up with me by now. He passed me at the Buddha – either not seeing me or not caring to stop – and is propably waiting at a restaurant down the road.

Nope. 15k later – still no Yan waiting or catching up whatsoever. Great. I mentioned the food situation earlier right? I decided to eat even though Yan would be further away if I stopped and finding him in Ye could become a hassle. So I stopped at a restaurant, put up my smiley-face and mimicked my wish for food. I was declined and they pointed further up the road. I smiled, nodded, rode to the next restaurant-like place, smiled, talked, mimicked. And got declined again….

Outside the village I stopped, considering myself lucky for having ramen noodles and coconut milk for a cold lunch. Yeah. What a feast. Not.

Next village, next restaurant. Some real food. Rice. Egg. Veggies. I stopped, put up my smiley-face and mimicked my wish for food again. Again – I was declined. Ok, next place. Bigger. Very, very restaurant-like. I stopped, put up my smiley-face and mimicked my wish for food. No such luck. Declined. Again. I mimicked drinking, pointing to the electric(!) fridge. Yes. I could have a drink. At least that.

The man next to me started a conversation with me. Where I started my tour, where I go to. And then – the one finger in the air. The sign for the question, if I was on my own.

That’s when I realized it. I was not in front of Yan. They haven’t seen him pass through. He is somewhere behind me. It’s been more than 20 hilly k since I’ve seen him… Not. So. Great.

He should have caught up with me by now. Ok, I wasn’t  going slower as I assumed he was in front of me, but still – he is faster than I am,  I stopped all these times…

Sipping my fizzy drink I watched the road – and there he was! Of all places – Yan, the atheist, went to service at a Baptist church in the middle of Burma.  He was battered. And pretty happy to get a cold drink and some uncooked ramen.

Before us was a long climb up to the border between Mon and Karen state where I listened to George Orwells explanations w20160806-20160806-_FUJ0019hat Burmese and Chinese think of the smell of  White people. Which didn’t help me in feeling better as I was sweating my way up-hill.
We had a real passport-controlling check point and when we went up to take some pictures a group of wealthy Burmese travellers spotted me.

After checking into the finest hotel in Ye – and a shower -, we had dinner – no more uncooked ramen, but everything fried at one of these kopitam-style-places.

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A cold day in Burma – hanging around in Dawei

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One of Daweis tourists attractions – I recommend the pancakes sold in front of it for 300Kyat.

There was some time in Dawei. My car was driving a monk around to do some errands so we didn’t go directly but delivered some letters and devotionals so I reached my hotel at 5pm – and met the other two foreign tourists that passed us in an ute a life time two days ago along the dirt road.

I went to the Beauty Salon II to get my hair washed – so awesome! In Asia you don’t sit with your head backwards in an angle that hurts your neck and they quickly wash your hair.

You are in very comfortable position (this time, lying stretched out on my back) and she was washing and massaging with very strong hands my head, my face, my neck – and massaging my back. For a while even three people worked on my – left arm, right arm and the one on the top. Heaven!

I walked out in a daze! And feeling like a giant as I am about a head taller than the women at the beauty salon – or most women in Burma.
There are a few wats to see in Dawei – I just went to one of them. Apart from that I did some shop-front-shopping and was really amazed when I saw one store that had glass doors and windows. Went to a coffee-place. They seem a bit like the kopitans in Malaysia and Hainan. Everyone sits there, sips coffee or tea, smokes, nibbles on cakes or has some hearty meal all the while chatting and catching up.

On my second day I was wearing long pants and I really recommend women to cover their knees. It’s not that anyone was rude before but I had the impression I was less strange for everyone. Walking a back alley a woman came out of her yard and invited me to share her umbrella as long as we were walking the same way. So nice but considering our size difference I felt a bit uncomfortable.

School kids were looking at me in astonishment. Needless to say I smiled a lot and waved a ton of hellos.

Bangkok to Dawei (almost) by bike

(Bangkok – Ban Pong – Kanchanaburi- Phunamrong – 9km past Sinbyudaing – Myitta – Dawei) (biked distance: 275km)

So, we decided to cycle into Burma. Map as well as the stories of backpackers taking cars or buses let us expect hills as well as dirt roads once close to the border.

packed touring bike leaning on a brige, empty street and blue sky
Blue sky, paved road. Yes, this is still in Thailand

Little did we know. Cycling out of Bangkok was awesome – parts were so idyllic Yan got even attacked by a butterfly. We included some WWII-sightseeing in Kanchanaburi (the railway-museum is very good, impressive and gives you some insight of the hardship the PoWs had to endure when they were forced by the Japanese to build the railway track). We walked the Bridge over the River Kwai, ate nice and good, stayed in a posh room at the river (Aa Jam guesthouse) and treated ourselves to thai massage. Oh my, was I looking forward to that!

Day after that, we reached the border but had to camp as it was too late. We already stocked up on food 50km back as we were expecting a long stretch of wIMG_5662ilderness. No need for that. Villages, restaurants and stores were all over the place. Crossing into Myanmar happened without any major issues. They have a hen nesting at the Burmese immigration office and the officers struggled with our foreign passports but managed helping each other out and copying everything that seemed important (Yans fullname and nationality, my first names) into their border book and off
we were.

And this is where it started. Road was a dirt road ever since we past the Thai border check point. So, dirt road, poor dirt road. And no flats what-so-ever. We were either pushing our bikes uphill or breaking downhill, hoping to ditch all the major holes and rocks not to break our bones. Or we weren’t even riding the down hills as they were too steep.

On the bright side – it was bright. Sun was blasting and the dirt road was dry most of the time. We really appreciated that when the rain started (at least some freshness), making it all slippery. For us and cars passing. The landscape was beautiful – even though you shouldn’t appreciate it while moving. You either need all the energy to move uphill or you need all your concentration going downhill.

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Road to Dawei

So dirt road, left and right dense tropical jungle, giant butterflies and fields. Once in a while a bamboo hut. Sometimes without, sometimes with up to four walls. Eventually a building which used some concrete.

We were miserable. Miserable and exhausted enough that we celebrated one of the hills by feesting on 1/2l of coconut milk, all our peanut bars and an uncocked bag of noodles…

Afternoon led us to yet another restaurant in Sinbyudaing (so really no 100-miles of wilderness) where we chatted with the owner. Where we were going to stay? A resort? Only 7km? At the river? Immediately, we started dreaming – bamboo hut, beach, air-con, shower! A shower! And a bed, privacy… all this stuff. Hope gave us new energy – surely we could do 7k to get to this resort. Who cares its late and the road shi… unpaved and a titsy-bit hilly?

So true – exactly 7ks after leaving the restaurant there was a big building out of stone, lights, everything. No sign but the first building in more than one k. It wasn’t it. A small truck came past and they pointed further up the road when we said “resort”.

I was beaten. I was tired. My body told me it hurt and tried to persuade me into stopping. We decided it’s either in one km or we use the next clearing/empty hut/whatever. When we were about to ask people if we can camp underneath their house the truck catched up with us and gave us light until we reached the resort. Yeah. No air-con. No room. No privacy at the Mountain Coffee Inn. But a toilet, a place to wash and space in the restaurant to set up our tent with everyone gawking at these weird strangers. Heaven. And food. Dinner and breakfast.

The night came and went and back we were on our saddles and riding. Suffering. Me more than Yan. Being determined. Me less than Yan. So we rode – and stopped a car. We played a charade mimicking cycling, pointing at the car, pointing at me, pointing at Yan, the road, saying “Dawei”and “Mietta” all over. Minutes later I was in heaven – sharing the open space of the ute with my bags and a bicycle, trying not to forget the rendezvous-point in Dawei. Yan remained in hell. Cycled all day, slept under a hut and arrived a few hours early at my hotel in Dawei just as I came buy to drop off some stuff.