We planned this as a short ride in the late afternoon, so we had one more day to roam around Yangshuo and it’s tourist attractions. We opted for the bus to Xingpingzhen and once there, realized we wouldn’t have to debate whether or not we pay the shocking fee of 238 Yuan per person to go down the river on a motor-driven plastic-bamboo-raft as we didn’t bring enough cash anyway.
Getting my beloved mantou and some baozi for the way, we set off along the river, past the very beautiful view that’s pictured on the 20-Yuan-Bill.
There’s a pathway just along the river almost all the way to Mashan. It’s an enjoyable and easy hike past impressive, big and green bamboo.
A bit like the fried-frozen-icecream in Hainan. But not as good as the original.
It really turned out to be a beautiful, short night-ride – about two hours for 30k. We had some steep hills, but thanks to the rest, shortness off the ride and time spent off-bicycle we tackled them easily and were able to do the downhills before dark.
We spent the night in a hotel just across the street from the bigger Hawaii-Hotel with a panoramic view onto the river and the hills – which we didn’t see too much off since our arrival at dusk.
“To your right… to your right… just a bit higher, yes there…. Very good. Keep going. Move your left feet a bit up… That’s it. Now – get up… Very good- and now reach up. Yes. There. Keep going. You can do it….. Up up up, there, yes…” That’s Lilly, Mike and me, calling out to Niklas who is just accomplishing his first ever outdoor climb at the butterfly spring. And he made it. All the way to the top and was glowing with adrenalin-fueled happiness when we greated him back on the ground.
Just around lunch-time the day before I called Lilly – “Hey Lilly, we just arrived at your hostel!” – We found it without any hassle thanks to a lucky guess to turn right when we didn’t know which way to turn on West Street and then discovering the small sign which lead us down the alley right in front of her hostel. We checked in and once we were showered Lilly welcomed us downstairs.
It almost felt a bit like coming home and being in a bustling tourist hub like Yangshuo we were really glad to have Lilly to go to. She and here place were recommended to us by Hywel – a couchsurfer from Australia who I recently hosted and climbed with – who was just a few months before in Yangshuo for climbing. Even though he really had to struggle with the fact that our trip wasn’t based around climbing but cycling and that we would be happy with a day or two at the wall.
Lilly is awesome and a real power woman running her hostel, climbing and looking after her guests just the right way – she walked us to nice places for lunch and dinner, she also organized climbing gear for us and came with us as our guide. Oh and she recommended us nice places for our daytrip.
For climbing, she showed us a place and cracks where even people with our low climbing skills had a good time and success. So if you go to Yangshuo for climbing that’s a very good place to go and maybe even get in touch with other climbers (we were not sooo lucky, as we just missed a group and August is too hot to be main season for climbing in Yangshuo).
For the bicycle related stuff – the road from Gongcheng to Yangshuo is pretty good and we don’t remember any major climbs or downhills. The pavement was okay – not smooth, but no major potholes and not covered in split.
Fisher at work in front of the picturesque hills of Yangshuo
This day made up for the hard work the day before. The roads were paved, even though the pavement was worn and we had headwind – but hey, we had a road. All the time.
Brown tourist signs led us to Shanggangtang – an ancient village. Actually the most ancient village of Hunan Province and not so commercialized. Too bad we are totally illiterate around here and that place doesn’t cater for foreigners yet. But see for yourselves – it’s very picturesque to look at.
Sunset with bicycle
No clue about the rules for this game – but it’s played all over Hunan with eagerness, seriousness and involving quite a bit of money.
Uhm… no, google maps. This isn’t a road where we could cycle. These are train tracks. Fenced off for a reason. So, we took another way, hoping to get closer to the S-road, leaving the (back-)country roads. Slowest progress ever – 5 hours for 30kms.
One of the easier moments.
No bridge? No problem! We just go through the rice fields then.
Of course all this didn’t stop us from taking in some culture. We were in Jiangyong and therefore in Women-Script-Country. Nü-Shu is a phonetic script that’s been passed down in between women in this area for more than a thousands years – started in a time, where girls didn’t get an education. It was used to write each other letters or for decoration on fans and the like. Listening to Pride and Prejudice on the tour, where exchanging letters is a vital part of communication, the importance of this appears especially obvious.
At the museum: Nü-Shu and translation into simplified Chinese.
Mantou for breakfast! I was delighted when we left the hotel we scored steamed Chinese bread and fresh soy milk for breakfast. Which we enjoyed under a nearby bridge but outside the village as it was relaxing not to draw a crowd when we stopped. The roads were hilly but okay-ish until Dao. We debated whether or not to call it a day if we found a nice hotel.
Following the directions of a shop owner just before crossing the river we found an okay-ish place but she asked a pretty high price – more than double of what I paid elsewhere for a similar room. Across the street was a 7-days-inn for less and very nice, comfy and clean. Just… I communicated my wish for a room and even though I was understood, I wasn’t sure of the answer. The lady wanted to help me very much, that was obvious. But we were lost. I couldn’t understand what she said nor read what she wrote. And she couldn’t use my smartphone. But somehow we worked it all out, I guessed the correct questions and answers, we paid, got our room card and the staff helped us get our bikes into the elevator.
Walking around the city we found a Giant bicycle store (just next to the river close to the island with the temple on it, or follow the road down to the river from the 7-days-inn and follow it, when it bends to the right). Again, I was delighted as my brakes were starting to wear. I was prepared to use my few words of Chinese and a lot of pointing and playing sharade as usual. But we were greated in English! Wow. We agreed to come back with our bikes the next day. We were even offered an earlier opening time but 9am was just fine. You think that were enough highlights for a day? We had two more. A really nice hair wash and one of my favorite dishes – these dumplings with peanut butter sauce just at Xiao Jiang Zhong Lu.
As determined as Niklas was, he got his shower and air-con. The hotel was so…. not-clean I would have preferred tent and no-shower or air-con. I stayed at a lot of places so far – and I dare say, this was like the grossest.
Anyways – the day started lovely, we passed by a hotel within the first three k and had breakfast-soup in town. And a bit later some fried stuff and soy-milk. That’s bike touring for me. This kind of food.
Heat-protection for our saddle during lunch
We were quiet an attraction again. Niklas as expected way more than I was. Niklas being taller than pretty much everyone, having a beard and being blond… really fascinates people. For size-relation, I am 20cm shorter than him and about the size of the taller men, I reckon.
As we were meddling with our bikes a small group of people gathered and a woman tried to buy my multi-tool… I got it back off her and we decided to get going and see for our bikes later.
The day was supposed to be easy, not-so-far, so we would find a hotel soon, enjoy the village, update the blog for me… It wasn’t. Even though we only went the planned 75k, it felt like we would never get there. It started easy enough, but after a while the road subsided to dirt, and we were getting slower and slower. So we ended up in the one and only place we found in that city, sleeping with the light on, to distract the night-active cockroaches.
Leaving the rent in front of the TV we left as early as 6am. Hurray for our early start – too bad, we started before the breakfast places did. Of course that didn’t stop us from riding 35k before food, did it?
The ‘coolness’ of the morning was awesome. We made good progress but weren’t sure about hotels along the way and as the roads got smaller, the hills hillier, the sun less sunny, the strength in our legs less strong… we called it a day behind an old building just outside of Yingchunzhen (where there would have been a hotel). It was a nice spot, very well hidden. Only bugger was our shortness on water as well as dinner.
So, after having some snacks we were lying there, trying to sleep, trying not to touch each other and sweating like no-one ever sweated before.
Somehow we made it through the night and Niklas was very determined, to have a shower as well as an air-con for the next night.
Nanling was a bit bigger than expected. The gate was only two k from the hotel and we were expecting the hikes to start there. Somewhere. But nope… So we biked and biked and biked. And biked a bit more. And then we locked them at the first parking lot and got a taxi which drove us another ten k to the start of the waterfall hike. Which was very Chinese aka steps all the way to the parking lot where our bikes waited. But it was beautiful! Scenic. Quiet. Relaxed. And we got a swim underneath one of the waterfalls.
This was a tough one. We had a not-to-late-start and the part until Ruyuan isn’t really woth mentioning. Little hills, sucking your energy.
In Ruyuan we had a lunch break, cooled down and hit the road again. And that’s where the real pain started. Up, up, up. In the merciless heat. Thunderrolling and threatining in the distance but no relief by rain or clouds.
So this was Niklas first day of cycling. Bloody, merciless, energy-sucking uphill. Slow, slower… The villages where I wanted to stop for a cold drink didn’t exist. Not good. And we were slow. Exhausted. Especially Niklas. It was his first ever day of bike touring. I tried to figure out the map but couldn’t tell if and when there would be a downhill today or if Nanling National Forest park was just up somewhere in the mountains.
I started to worry. Camping? In this heat? With a thunderstorm rolling in the distance? And with the little water supply and very little food supply weh ad? Didn’t feel good. Not at all. I felt ever so reliefed when I saw a hotel and a restaurant on google maps just a few k ahead. I told Niklas.
The hotel came. All fenced up. The restaurant. All fenced up. The whole village. All fenced up. Deserted. Maybe in high season? Maybe not at all any more? Whatever. Not for us. Every place we came past I scanned for a hotel. But to no avail.
At least, we came past a store. Stocked up on food and fluid supply, drank salted cold coke and went on. Niklas became mono-syllabic and I got fits of laughter. Our individual reactions to exhaustion. I was still able to talk, so I poor Niklas had to listen to me. We stayed close, so I told him, how good he was doing (remember – his first ever day of bike touring!), told him to keep going, told him, he didn’t get a cramp (he did get one but I wasn’t having anymore stopping at that point), to stop worry about his heart rate, he wasn’t going to have an attack and that we really were doing great progress (which was true. For some reason, we regained some energy and were making progress). I didn’t tell him when I decided that we were going to make it to the first hotels as I was a bit worried, he would have a fit and tell me, I was crazy and he was going to camp right there and then.
Then it came. Finally. The DOWNHILL we were working for all afternoon. Sweet joy! The last 20k were easy and we lived to see another air-conditioned hotel room and have dinner at a restaurant.
It’s hot. Even at ten am. And hilly. There were more long climbs that weren’t too steep and a really nice downhill towards the end.
Between 12.30 and 3pm I spent about one hour getting my hair washed and one hour eating. No idea how much time I spent at gas stations for the air-con. No idea how many times I put water onto my armcovers to cool down a bit while riding. I actually started reading up about mild and severe dehydration while enjoying water with salt and salted ice tea and salted coke.
I really do have a weird idea of a nice holiday… My bicycle computer informed me about the fact that it was 55°C in the sun. In the afternoon I started cycling on the wrong side of the road as that’s where the occasional shadow was. Which was needed as I was climbing again.
The downhill was awesome and long – but the air temperature was above body temperature most of the time so no coolness from the wind.
I had an awesome breakfast which included peanut sauce.
Landscape was beautiful, the sun fierce. I planed on a very short trip, only 10k to Fogang. But since that didn’t feel right I went on. And regretted it. I had to go another 40k before I found a hotel. Which was rather weird. The owner didn’t want to show me the room because it was on the third (second) floor. I insisted. Holy… I can deal with many levels of cleanliness, but this felt almost over the top with cigarettes over the floor. But no bugs. So it was an option. But next door was the next hotel – cleaner, newer and 20quai more. I was going to spoil myself. I shouldered my bags and staggered upstairs where I slept off my heat exhaustion.
The next day held everything in store that cycling has to offer. Apart from rain and headwind. But emotionally. I felt everything from joy to despair to relief and exhaustion.
I enjoyed getting lost in beautiful landscapes along the Guangdong greenway.
I did not enjoy missing the turn off on the highway.
I was not to surprised when a road I was supposed to take did not exist.
I did enjoy a beautiful sunset over a river in the mountains.
I started to worry when pushing my bike uphill in the middle of nowhere after dark. What if this wasn’t a through road after all? What if I am stuck here in the mountains? Everyone was in their houses, I didn’t see a store in ages, I didn’t have proper lunch and no dinner at all yet. So I wasn’t to keen on camping.
Shaking with exhaustion I felt relieved when a motor cyclist came my way. We tried an failed communication so we both went on.* A few k later a shopowner in a small village was able to tell me that I am three k from the next hotel.
And true – a city came up, including a hotel
It’s so fascinating how you can feel like you are in the middle of nowhere in China and BAM – there’s a city, big buildings, everything…
Weather: hot hot hot. Sunny. No rain.
*at this point I put on my really really bright headlight that the … (heavy breathing. Counting to 10…) person in the store didn’t want to sell to me, telling me that I would never ever need that and it’s too bright for cycling. I decide how much light I need. No-one else. It was not to bright. It was sufficient.
I swear I had intentions of leaving early but the hotel was so lovely and then I really had to eat before I started. So it was about 11pm when my wheels touched the road.
Riding out of the city was quiet okay. I was surprised how natural it felt and how easy I got back into cycling Chinese streets.
I followed big to small to tiny roads and just when it started to rain really bad with little warning – the smell of air changed seconds beforehand – I was literally right next to a bench with a sun-rain cover where I dunked under.
And just when I was really tired, really wanted to have a bed, i came past a lovely hotel, with a cheap, reasonable sized (sometimes these rooms are just huge and it feels like this hotel used to have seen some better times), clean (!!!) hotel with awfully nice owners.
Dinner was next door and so would be breakfast.
Wenn deine Klappen sich sanft bewegen.
Wenn du einen kühlen Windhauch über mich gleiten lässt.
Wenn du – Energieeffizienzklasse 3 – meinen ökologischen Fußabdruck auf dieser Reise vergrößerst.
Wenn du die Luft in diesem Raucherhotelzimmer erträglich machst.
Dann will ich dich nie wieder verlassen.
I was greeted with the words a starving cyclist wants to hear: you must be starving. Let’s go eat!
Afterwards we arranged for a diving trip the next day. I had a good time but at the start I was so nervous I could have been diving at a kids pool and it would have been exciting. Plus the visabiliy was 3-5m. I was so scared of losing them I could have gone picky bag diving to meet my desire of safety. But soon I started to enjoy the reefs, crabs and fishes.
That seemed to be the best strategy to get to Stefan in Longgang. Crossing the border to Shenzhen went okay but not smoothly. No one wanted to check my bags or complained about my bicycle. They just looked at me forever.
Once I had a sim card the trouble my bicycle tour was off for a start. I was a bit shy of Chinese roads at first and tried to follow the rules by using the bicycle lane. I forgot how bad this decision was but was quickly reminded. Chinese bike lanes get interrupted every so often. The pavements quality in only so-so and with every road you are crossing you have to get off… Not to mention the times where you need to cross but can’t as the bicycle lane and sidewalk are fenced off the road….
So I finally decided I either get to Stefans now or die trying. Exhausted and annoyed I set off to cycle a really nasty road with huge trucks. And there it was. A really nice pathway for walking and cycling.
This trip is thought to be a round trip around Guangdong province. It might end up one way bike and bus back. I’ll see what happens. The pplan is to cycle from Shenzhen via Nanling National Forest Park, Guilin and Yangshuo back towards Guangzhou.
Yan shortly expressed his opinion of the road conditions and the current weather before he sped off down the mountain, when I realized there is something weird about my bike. Of course, a flat. In pouring rainy season rain. No way to fix that outside.
I pushed my bike to the next pool-hall, frustrated on missing out on the down-hill. While pushing my bike in, I smilingly played a sharade in favor of the head of the house so she knows whats going on. My tools slowly travelled to the bottom of my pannier so I unpacked on a table and made myself comfortable on the dry, stomped-earth floor.
The pinch had to be huge – there was no way I could get air into the tire. At least it would be easy to find. But… no. I circled with my hands and imitated pouring something, the international expression for
“I am sorry. I seem not to be able to find the pinch in my tire by the methods I have used so far. Therefore, could you possibly do me the favor of handing me a bowl of water, so I can use that to check? Thank you very much. That is very kind of you!”
Long before I had the water, I was sourrounded by three young men who were starting to take over. Finally the tiny pinch was discovered – right next to the valve! So, it was pitched! Great! And the rain had stopped! I praised everyone for helping me, had a picture taken and off I went.
Rain started soon – and the eerie feeling returned as well… So, again – pushing. I stopped at a garage – in the hope of a spare tube. But they were only for motorbikes. The patch had started to leak and soon – I had three young men taking everything out of my hands. Even though their methods irritated me I let them do. Too annoyed and tired by all this.
I don’t have to mention that all this took like – forever? Even patching the tyres of a student I met on the road in China didn’t take that long. And he had like 7 holes as he was riding with the flat tire for a while – they didn’t know how to fix it and it took a while to communicate that I had the tools as well as the skills.
Yan started to wonder and later to worry so he came to look for me. Lucky, we didn’t miss each other. The road was two lanes each way, with a median strip and I had been “indoors” for a while…
Yangons traffic is heavy and chaotic. I don’t have to mention it was dark by the time we arrived? And raining? And the road conditions? It felt a bit suicidal playing a part in that on a bicycle specially since it was pretty h<rd to judge the wet road in the dark. Going the small streets wasn’t nice either due to the even poorer condition of these roads
We were so exhausted, that we limited talking to “8 more km”, “down this road, then left.” and then “It should be here.” But… it wasn’t. It? the Bike World Explores Myanmar Inn, where we planned to stay and hoped to be able store the bikes for the time of our trip to Mandalay – by bus due to lack of time.
We were tired. Exhausted. Hungry. Wet for hours. There was another address of the place on MapsMe.
About 30 minutes later, we were checked in, showered, asked for bike-storage and were waiting for pizza.
The rain didn’t start until 11:15 this day. So that coud have been a nice couple of hours of riding. Well, we started – to the total bewilderment of the staff – at 11:23. Just after it slowed down a titsy-bit. Our heads were down, rain was pouring, as we crossed the bridge. Lucky we had a look at it the night before.
It was flat – but we got a headwind. Traffic was a bit to heavy, trucks a bit too close to enjoy cycling.
Getting lunch was straightforward. We stopped after only 10k at a roadside restaurant and the owner grapsed immediately that we would like to eat. She showed some rice to make sure and led me to her curries. I pointed to one that seemed to be free of fish and still steaming hot.
We got cold fish-curry.
The most exciting thing that happened after that, were the traintracks. We crossed them an impressive number of times. And once – even a train came past!
Road-conditions changed from almost-ok to so-so to rather bad. Riding throuh Bago was stress – specially when we had to cross the bridge…
Exploring Bago the next day, was a lot of work and expensive (10.000kyat). The roads are in aweful conditions. The palace was impressive – Yan was very dissappointed as it’s only rebuild. The other sights are tempels, pagodas and reclining Buddahs. I dare say, we could have seen similar by just stopping along the road at different stupas and monastries.
What a dissappointment! We got onto one of the trucks with benches, paid 2500 kyat for transport and life insurance – and off we went. Luckely it was almost full when we arrived so we didn’t have to wait. Everyone – apart from Yan and a Canadian dude – was wearing a rain coat. Just bought a few moments ago by one of the many street vendors.
The way up is really steep, nothing that could be done with a loaded touring bike – and even an empty one would have to be pushed. Amazing that the truck was able to do it.
It was wet – raining, then we were in the clouds. At the top, it was so foggy we actually worried if we were able to see the Golden Rock or just walk past it. At times you could hardly see what’s 10 meters ahead. Yan was so cold and wet by now, that he happily bought a rain coat.
The whole area was almost deserted, most shops were closed, hardly any pilgrims where there, a handful praying in a glass pavillon where you would see the Golden Rock if there was less fog… So it wasn’t impressive, nice or anything.
I dare say the best part was the food, hot tea and coffee we got while waiting for the truck to fill up to go down…
I was sure – never again will I be dry or warm. We already checked out of the hotel so we would load the bikes and go… Riding back to the mainroad and towards Bago -no matter how weak we were or how late it was. Or how wet.
Amazingly, I found some energy, we resisted the temptation of hotels twice and did 40km up to the Sittang River – quickly checking in to an unsuspected an very nice hotel so we could see the bridge and a nearby Stupa at sunset.
Leaving Tathon was pretty straight forward – of course we tried to wait off the morning rain without much success and gave up on that at half past ten. At least riding was fast. But wet and uneventful – at first.
In hope for food we stopped at something that looked like a small restaurant – after playing charade we were understood and let down the mudroad along another dirt road to a hut with a very deep hanging leaf-roof. The village restaurants – which served each of us first a very yummy, vegetarian soup and then one with chicken.
Even though we had two servings, we weren’t full. So after 50kof cycling we wanted to take a rest, look at the pictures and eat. We were starving. Exactly 50k after Thaton you are climbing a hill, roadwork being done and no village, no bamboo hut in sight… Luckely at km 53 there are a couple of roadside places – that differ from the ones we’ve seen so far in terms of furnishing and set-up. No plastic chairs and not these big teakwood-chairs but rattan chairs that probably are comfy if you are not 1.85m tall and trying to nap in them. Next to us, three guys, probably in their early 20s, got drunk on rum with a little bit of water. I got a bit edgy as you never know how drunk people behave but they were fine, just having after-work-fun.
We biked on to Kyaihtiyo where we decided on turning off the road for 14km to Kinpun where we would get on a ‘bus’ the next day to see one of Myanmars highlights. The Golden Rock Pagoda.
But – I promised an elephant, didn’t I? There they were – coming our way. Between all this trucks and cars and motorcycles… An elephant with his keeper. They crossed the road and I dare say we stared at each other with mutual astonishment.
… Hpa-An Thaton
Of course the rain was pouring down as we were ready to go. It was still pouring when we had to check out. Our plan was set – have lunch at the ‘Chinese’ place before cycling towards Hpa-An and stopping at the most recommended cave, walk through there, go for a swim. All sounded perfectly as it waslaid out in the Yans book.
We did a reality check. On arriving at the cave we would be dripping wet. We would take our shoes off to stumble around a mediocre clean cave and most-likely not care at all about the opportunity to swim.
We checked the map and opted for Thaton and guesthouse. Getting out of town was straight-forward across Burmas longest brigde.
The ride was – albeit wet – beautiful and easy along the mountains on the flat or slight down-hills. We followed Myanmars main-highway, sharing it not only with trucks, cars, trishaws, motorcyclists and local cyclists but also with all kinds off kettle as well as the occasional horse.
Thaton is a quiet little town for all that we could tell.
We fell asleep without dinner – Yan enjoyed the complementary strawberry milk drinks while I could have had the coconut milk – so it can’t have been that bad, hey?
Maylamyaing is a rather large city, so after exploring the market on foot and exchanging money at a really bad rate, we continued on our bikes. I feel especially sorry for the Spanish tourists we met while looking for a certain temple. We were on a very wrong path but for us it was just a matter of minutes to get to the right place after all. Yan was a bit confused when a guy approached him asking for a photo. He didn’t wanted us to take it for him but for me to be in the photo of his friend.
The market was impressive and a bit overwhelming. You can get anything you could possible need for your daily life, as usual with certain areas offering certain things; like a toiletry area (no big bottles, only sachets with shampoo for one washing as hardly anyone could afford a big bottle), fruit area, fabrics or a (small) Chinese toys area.
Breakfast was awesome and a bit overwhelming. More service and fuss then I was expecting. An employee led me through the hotel garden to the breakfast area. I chose some Asian style rice dish from the menu (no pointing to real food and nodding and headshaking as usual), ordered tea and became some fruit, Burmese sweets, orange juice (and asked if I wished more when my glass was almost empty), Burmese tea and of course the ordered food and tea and then another tea… The egg was heart shaped, the fried rice like a star fish. The service here is awesome but feels like a bit too much sometimes. When everyone of the staff – and there are many – jumps to their feet just because we are walking past…
After breakfast I treated myself to a visit at a beauty saloon. I would have preferred a simple hairdresser but I wasn’t able to communicate that to the staff as it wasn’t what they would expect and I didn’t find one on the way. She did a good job, I enjoyed the hairwash and massage – but I had the impression they are a bit used to foreigners as she was kind of gentle and soft.
This time we had dinner – yummy and delicious, with river view AND doing a good deed at the same time – at the Help Grandfather and Grandmother restaurant.
At our set departure point Yan wasn’t ready yet. Shortly after, rain set in. Hoping to sit it, we had another very late start at about 1pm so we didn’t make it to Thanbyuzayat that day.
Even though the road was paved, everyone was smiling, waving, nodding or yelling hello or mulambar yar at us. We even scored food at the restaurants. Salad at a pretty run down roadside place and chicken-noodle-soup later. After a lot of pointing at uncooked noodles, hopeful “aain”s and “yes yes”, we were so amazed by the chicken soup that we even ordered a second one each.
We found an awesome campside at sunset in a rice-paddy some 20km out of Thanbyuzayat. Cycling in the dark didn’t really feel like an option due to the poor quality of the pavement. We would either have to go slow or risk falling.
I slept a lot better – we were further away from the road and the night was colder. For ages, we heard monks chanting in the woods but couldn’t make out any visual sign of them.
Dinner was an uncooked bag of noodles each – saving one to share for breakfast. What a feast! At least for the ants that managed to find the realms as well as the hole in the mesh.
Next day was Yans earliest start ever – for me, it was rather late. We were packed and ready to go at 7:30. Only to stop after about 1km. At a hut, opposite to a school, were some women selling all kinds of fried things and cut up fruits with spicy salt. We happily pointed to get a variety and weren’t disappointed. The fruit was to spicy but that was anticipated.
The rain started soon after – seriously after Thanbyuzayat all I cared about was getting to a hotel so I would be dry. We had ‘lunch’ at ten a.m. at a Chinese restaurant up the road from the memorial graveyard. So delicious and appropriate portions for cyclists. Heaven. Ordering became very easy once the owner and Yan discovered they speak the same language. She is from a villiage closer to the Chinese border, her grandparents came from Yunnan and she moved to Thanbyuzayat when she got married.
The visit to the Thanbyuzyat war memorial graveyard was very touching (even though I opted to mainly stay in the entrance area where I had a roof). It is very well maintained, 6 people were working on it while we were there and the visitor book showed that it’s only visited a couple of times in a month.
Later that day, we came past a Giant Sitting Buddha right by the road. Yan managed to miss it – he had his head down and wanted to get the k’s down. We didn’t miss the world largest Giant Reclining Buddha even though it wasn’t right by the road. We visited the insides where they have many diorames about Buddha – and are struggeling to keep it dry. It was rather uncomfortable to walk around bare-foot especially since there are dogs living there as well…
The landscape changed slowly, becoming more and more urban and wealthier. Bamboo-huts were replaced by buildings of wood, concrete and even a brick one. The road became wider, flatter and the pavement smoother so we finally started to enjoy cycling. The rain subsided and there was eventually enough sun around for me to get a slight burn before remembering reapplying sunscreen.
We opted for the most amazing hotel – Cinderella hotel – with the utmost service, really really clean and big rooms and did I mention the outstanding service yet?
Yan finally got a rest day after cycling non-stop from Bangkok. I explored the city. It’s a cute place, even though it’s run down in many places. The market at the river is awesome, I scored some yummy fruit
Sophia – a tour guide and English teacher – found me as I was roaming the streets. We chatted a bit and I was tempted to go on a swim in the river outside town with her. But, to be honest, her English wasn’t that good so I had to put some effort into the conversation. So after a vegetarian salad of something I really, really couldn’t identify we said our good-byes and I declined in this very Asian way by saying “maybe”.
Instead I went to the hairdresser (awesome, but a very simple place this time. Ye isn’t the place for Beauty Salon II), enjoyed the lake, looked around the temple and caught people sneaking photos of me.
We managed to avoid the cold curry by having Thai Food at the lake. Everything was in easy-walking distance, even though it felt very, very far when we arrived and looked around for a hotel.
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.
So 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.
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.
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 should 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 what 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.