December 2016 / January 2017
Although we wanted to reach the West Coast of Myanmar rather sooner than later we still chose to cycle at least a little bit before taking buses. Cycling just lets you see very different sides of places and get a good feeling for them.
And as soon as we had reached Kawkareik we didn’t regret that one bit. When we were settling into our guest house SuSu found us and gave us a perfect Welcome to Myanmar. SuSu is one of the few members on Warmshowers, the cyclist’s hospitality platform, in Myanmar. The government still doesn’t allow locals to host foreigners though, so we met up, talked over dinner and went to see a big festival for the Karen New Year.
The next morning SuSu invited us for breakfast and told us more about her ideas for the small town she lives in. She wants to educate people about the increasing trash problem, starting with talking about plastic bags.
She is an amazing person and we are so grateful for that perfect introduction to Myanmar.
Not so early the next morning we got on on our bicycles and pedaled towards Hpa An. We took a small road that started out with perfect asphalt and led over rolling hills ever closer to our destination.
On this first full day of cycling we found out that getting water wouldn’t ever be a problem. In more or less regular intervals you can find clay water pots by the side of the road. They get refilled by locals from nearby wells etc. and are an amazing thing for the passing traveler. The water in the pots even stays relatively cold as the clay cools it down.
The road eventually deteriorated into a dirt track of the rather bad kind which I’m still don’t enjoy riding fully loaded. Oh well, at least there was almost no traffic…
When we got to the outskirts of Hpa An we made a rather spontaneous decision of asking for buses to Yangon, found one and took it immediately. Sweaty and dirty we settled into the overnight bus, together with a few other people and lots of wares. Comfortable? Not so much.
When we arrived in Yangon in the middle of the night we – again spontaneously – decided on a night ride to the other side of the city and took another bus to Panthein.
On the breakfast break we had some 3 in 1 coffee and watched locals plant rice in the warm morning light.
Once in Panthein we cycled around for a bit and found one of the nicest accommodations. Simple and affordable, quiet and with this view:
All we were looking for! Panthein also ticked a lot of other boxes. We really liked the lively but relaxed small town and decided to spend a day of rest after our not so relaxed night spent in buses.
Lots of walking around town, a few errands and a bit of doing nothing did wonders for us after the constant moving of the last weeks.
The small night market was a particular enjoyable experience for us: Lots of delicious food to try and many curious locals wanting to talk to us. We met one vendor who told us about the difficulties of earning money here and his work on big freight ships. Not easy on his family but at least a possibility for work in his eyes.
And then the day was here, the 31st of December and the day were we would celebrate New Year’s together with my sister and her husband! We had planned on cycling the last 50k towards Ngwe Saung Beach in a leisurely manner and then relax for a few days together.
Well, as always, you shouldn’t plan too much… The first 20k were really nice, flat enough and we made distance fast.
But then the hills started. Oh well, some hills you might think. Shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well it was the kind of hills that rise up so steep that you almost want to push but somehow you make it standing up in your saddle. To be followed by an equally steep downhill. And then up again. And… You get the picture.
The scenery around us was stunningly beautiful but I reached my limit quite soon. My mental limit actually. Yes it was exhausting but that’s nothing new. But I just wanted to be done with cycling for the day. I wanted to get to the beach already, to be done with the stress of having to be somewhere in time. And most of all to hug my sister and celebrate a New Year together.
Of course we eventually did get there. Not without a little freakout from my side but what can you do.
The sun set was all the more beautiful and the fireworks at the beach really nice as well.
The next week we spent relaxing at the beach. Between the fancy honeymoon resort and our more humble tent, the nice food, the language lessons at our guest house…
… the walks / cycles along the beach and foremost time with Vroni and Alex we couldn’t have had a better start to the New Year. Thanks you two and may this one be a good one!