We need a guide to escort us through Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party wins the elections. But the rules and regulations of the Qwasi-Military Regime are still in place. A government accredited agency will accompany foreigners that travel with their own vehicles.
Harry scouts around on the internet long before we leave home. He finds an agency that offers a government compliant service. Our original group, of 5, swells to 13. And the per person ‘guide’ cost comes down nicely.
So we have ‘company’ in Myanmar …. And ‘fantastic company’ it is!
Eleven people on 9 motorbikes. And a man and his dog Fido, in a camper van. We hail from the USA, Spain, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, and Australia and of course South Africa. Our guides are AK and Win and Choy and they do everything!
We ride along only ‘authorised roads’ to see only ‘authorised sites’ and stay in only ‘authorised hotels’. A government official rides along. This official changes as we enter difference provinces. Our AK and Win register us in and out of every overnight stop. There are 7 different authorities in every town. Realms of paperwork, follows us. Tourist police escort us out of some towns. At intermittent road checkpoints, they count down our 13 persons and 10 vehicles.
So we lose a little on the roundabouts but we gain a lot on the swings. We see only what are allowed to see. But we see it with a great bunch of people. And our guide, AK, gives deep insight in subtle ways.
Also, Harry and I, dumb down totally. With not a thought, for 3 weeks, to … How we will ride? What we will eat? Where we will sleep?
! It was Myanmarvellous !
Here is Myanmar; as Authorised!
Here is our group. Laura, Brennan, Jaime & Kenny in the forefront.
And here are Michelle & Jamie from the UK, Martin from Austria & Peter from the Netherlands.
And Rein and Fido travelling together for a year in this campervan. Fido comes from a rescue centre in Serbia.
This is our guide Win. This lovely smile is permanently stuck to his face.
And this is AK. He is our age and shares with us his not-always-easy life in Myanmar. Here he enjoys tea with the customary assortment of nuts and seeds and spices.
And this is Nan, one of the government officials that accompany our convoy. I didnt expect to like her so much. The other officials were very reserved.
And yes …. here we found a fun loving tourist policeman! And yes again … it is never what it seems.
We eat together. This is a typical Myanmar meal. Rice with a wide surprise of little dishes.
Stall food along the Irrawaddy River. Shrimp cakes and crab.
Breakfast – a bean and egg pancake.
In this restaurant …
… this kitchen cooks up a storm.
…. we choose from one of four meat dishes (mutton, pork, chicken, deer) with dish after dish of tart and spicy Myanmar salads.
Eight bikes on the road are bound to need fixing. Luckily many hands make light work.
Our chain jumps off …. but this is luckily easily repaired. An hour later the bike starts spluttering & bucking like a bronco. We limp into the next town and strip the fuel injector system. The culprit was a soot black idle sensor, probably from poor fuel
The spring of the shock absorber on Brennan’s GS 1150 shears & collapses. It is fixed temporarily with old tyre and cable ties (psst – Harry idea). Later the same day Pieters rear tyre disintegrates and a gator is fitted which gets him to the next town 80 kms away
And in single file, sometimes with a bit of a squeeze, we see amazing places in Myamnar!
Near Monywa we visit this 21 storey Buddha. The first storeys depict hell and the upper storeys Nirvana.
At the feet of the Standing Buddha there is the slightly smaller, but still enormous, Reclining Buddha. And a temple.
In Mandalay, the iconic wooden footbridge – U Bein Bridge. Built in early 1800s with 1060 poles … and only a few have been replaced since.
And crossed all the time, by monks …
… and girls, linked in and holding hands, beautifully, ….
… and, at last, by us.
In Bagan we all hire small electric scooters to visit the most amazing temple complex.
Bagan, the first capital of Burmese Kings. Here there are more than 4000 Buddhist temples.
King Anawrahta converts to Buddhism and this leads to a 230 year building frenzy up until 1287. There are no traces of palaces or mansions …. just temples!
Some temples are grand …
… and coated in gold leaf.
Other temples afford a maze of corridors ….
… for meditation.
Another houses the 37 Nats (spirit beings) of Animism. These nats are very much alive in the lives of Myamnar people.
And we get to watch the sunset over the plains of Bagan from this temple.
And here, far off to the west, another dynasty, builds in the 16th century a temple complex at Mrauk U.
The amazing thing about Mrauk U is that the community still lives in and around the temples.
Here rice dries in the sun.
We find beautiful spiritual insides …
… some that feel old …
… and some that feel new.
And we spend a few lazy days at Ngapali Beach. This is the Bay of Bengal.
During the day, women dry fish caught the previous night.
Men wait their turn …
… and as the sun sets …
… the men head out …
…. to fish all night long.
We get to do some snorkelling too, from reef at sea.
And we look back at Ngapali Beach … with a Buddhist Stupa that from a rocky outcrop provides protection.
Far in the east we join the queues to visit the Golden Rock, called Mount Kyaiktiyo locally.
We board these open trucks, 50 a piece …
… and after 45 minutes of fast winding bends up and up and up …
… with others whizzing past us on the way down ….
We reach the top and it is chock-a-block full.
A matter of devotion for most.
And an important pilgrimage for many.
A Pagoda on a Balancing Boulder!
When the boulder is rocked a thread can pass between it and the rock bed. It has been like this for centuries despite many violent earthquakes.
The Pagoda is built on a hair relic of the Buddha. Yes – miraculous.