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 – 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.
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 wilderness. 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
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.
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.