DAY 13 and DAY 14. THE END.
Arrived back in Bangkok! The last two days brought us trough central Thailand, spending some time sightseeing the cultural city of Ayutthaya, capital of Thailand for over 400 years. You can guess the amount of grand temples that have been erected during the empire of 30 kings...
Good bye Valdon, Alon, Gideon and Hugo! It has been a great trip, very intense for sure!
And as last image... the famous Buddha head embraced by the root of the Bodhi tree in Mahathat temple, an emblematic image of the two main component of Southeast Asian tours: overwhelming vegetation and spiritual belief. Sawadee!
Our last day in Myanmar has already come! Quite an intense tour so far, loaded with natural wonders, unique sightseeing, emotional moments and plenty of sincere smiles from some of the nicest people you can ever meet in your travels...
Ready for the challenge? The mountain rough road to Myawaddy is waiting for us! And we won't be alone in our climb...
Well earned moment of rest Gideon...
Dear Myanmar team, thank you very much for your great support! Without you this trip could have not been possible! You took really good care of us... see you soon!
DAY 10 and DAY 11
Continuing towards south (Mandalay was the northernmost point we could reach in our tour since several mountain regions are not open to tourists yet, due to safety concerns) we follow the Ayarwaddy river, the "mother river" of Myanmar.
Pyay is another golden surprise! These stupas seen at night are even more spectacular!
Every time we stop we gather a spontaneous crowd. "Big bikes" are extremely rare here... and we foreigners riding them look almost like alien to a population that has lives for generations completely isolated from the rest of the world.
Trough very remote rural villages where electricity has only recently arrived to some households...
His bicycle is surely more clean and shiny than our bikes!
In Bago there are two big reclined Buddhas, one of them very holy and visited by many pilgrims also from Thailand...
And one newer and a bit less holy. As you can see we can have him all for ourselves!
Good day!!! Today is Christmas Eve and we are celebrating in style, surrounded by golden stupas!
Bagan is for Myanmar what Angkor Wat is for Cambodia. Over 2000 temples were counted here a century ago. Then a terrible earthquake has destroyed half of them, leaving although a good thousand pagodas and stupas.
DAY 7 and DAY 8
Leaving Inle lake we continue trough backroads trough the mountains, meeting a wide array of vehicles, which have all three things in common: they are very loud, overloaded either with goods or with people, and are driven by mad rally pilots!
After roller coaster roads a bit of relax is well deserved...
We spend the night in Mandalay, the town with a glorious past of kings and palaces that was source of inspiration for Kipling and Orwell. The day after we continue our discovery journey towards Bagan, the most important temple area of entire Myanmar.
Before reaching our destination we go on a scenic detour to see Mount Popa, a holy place for every Myanmar person. This sacred mountain capped by a big temple is where the nat (spirits) resides. They derive from the animistic tradition (before the advent of Buddhism) and have been incorporated into the religious life. There is even a gay (in the sense of joyful) festival where some men dressed as women personify the nats and with special dances and ceremonies try to please them in order to obtain their favors. The "dancing nats" are helped by copious amount of alcohol, which makes the festival even more cheerful...
Good morning everyone! In the romantic myst of the lake we get a late start (it's a rest day, after all)...
Ready to board this motorized gondola? It looks soooo comfy!
Yes it's cold! Inle is at 800m of altitude and even if we are near the tropics is still the cool season... that's why they provide us these warm blankets, right Mr Bounmee (our great driver of the support van, from Laos)
Fishermen becoming actors... posing for us and showing their fishing gear...
Hand made lotus silk.. avery long process that requires skilled women.
Tea anyone? Or do you prefer some hand rolled local cigars?
Reaching this Wat (temple) is like arriving onto an Asian version of San Marco square. The canals even have some "Ponte di Rialto" bridges, but made out of wood.
Inndein is our last stop of this incrediblty spectacular day on the lake. Most of these stupas are a thousand years old!
Going north, today it's time to go up again to some mountains. We will reach Inle lake, the second biggest lake of the country but the most famous, by far! Tomorrow is our rest day and we are going to rent a couple of boats to sail around the mellow canals and floating gardens.
Children are everywhere, and always extremely cheerful and keen to meet us foreigners.
Literally in every corner, in every village, there are some golden stupas. Choosing where to stop and which to miss is a very difficult challenge. We could easily spend an entire day and ride only 50km if we want to see them all!
Inle Lake is getting closer and we pass trough the mountain town of Kalaw, the hiking hub of Myanmar. Since we crossed the border we have not seen any other westerner... and here, sipping a tea for 10 minutes, we can see plenty! More tourists seen in these few minutes then in the past 3 days! Riding on motorcycles permits us to get really into rural areas and become more acquainted with Myanmar "real life".
Now it's time to rest at the Viewpoint Lodge, in these finely decorated eco lodge, built only using local materials and avoiding concrete. A stunning result! And for those happy to go local in the room even the thanaka can be found. This "beauty powder" with a scent of sandalwood comes from a plant and it's widely used across Myanmar to keep the skin smooth as silk. Looking at the pretty ladies around here we can surely believe in the magic of this remedy!
DAY 3 and DAY 4
Big day for us, time to set a new milestone and enter for the first Myanmar on an Edelweiss motorcycle convoy! We are all electrified and can't wait to get there, but some formalities at the Thai/Myanmar border in Mae Sot/Myawaddy are still restraining us.
As soon as we clear immigration and custom on the Thai side we cross the Friendship bridge... and here we are, Myanmar!
Warmly welcomed by our Myanmar team: Mrs Soe Soe, Mr Win, Mr Chit and all the others will show us great hospitality in a fantastic and still pristine country!
The road after the border is very very rough, and the traffic is supposed to go only one way on alternate days... but this seems not to be really enforced, so many scooters are popping up just around blind corners! We need to ride carefully guys!
We reach Hpa An in the evening, and in the next morning we marvel with awe these thousands of Buddha images carved in the rock a thousand years ago...
Later on more and more Buddha sculptures have been added, making this cave famous among Myanmar people, which come here as a form of pilgrimage.
The second day in Myanmar ends in Toungoo, a quiet town along the river, where some beautifully decorated royal villas are waiting for us to take a good rest.
The sun is rising up, time to have breakfast and to chat with some fellow motorcyclists from Malaysia (on shiny Multistrada), then we head towards Wat Phra That Cho Hae (yes it takes a while to memorize the name). How relaxing is to begin a ride walking barefoot trough the silence of this awe inspiring temple complex...
Just a few steps to stretch our legs...
The golden chedi and all the other Buddhas are really worth the small effort of the climb!
The Buddha giving the first sermon...
And after 360km trough a combination of fast sweeping roads and some rural roads along the Wang river here we are, on a scenic resting area sipping an excellent espresso just before reaching Mae Sot, at the border with Myanmar...
A very intimate group of only four tour members from Chile (Hugo), US (Valdon) and Israel (Alon and Gideon) is gathered in Chiang Mai, excited to start this epic journey to discover Myanmar. They will be guided by Manuel (Italy), together with our Thai guide Mr. Mo and our superspeedy support car driver Mr. Bounmee from Laos. Three staff for four customers, you could think. Not really, even more actually! As soon as we reach the burmese border we will be welcomed by our Myanmar team, composed by Ms. Soe Soe (the Myanmar agent), a local guide (Chit), a driver for the leading vehicle and even a governmental officer from Ministry of Tourism and Hotel. What a service eh? Shall we call it VIP or rock star service?
Are you ready to follow us in this motorcycle tour?
Coffee beans along a twisty mountain road...
What a grand view!
A quite peculiar temple made out of teak wood, relatively young: it is only 150 years old!
Evening town overlook in Phrae...
Myanmar, "it is quite unlike any other place you know about", wrote Kipling more than 100 years ago. And tomorrow a small group of adventure motorcyclists will start a very unique tour towards the secrets of the old (and the new) Burma... Check the blog for the next days! It will be quite a challenge to keep it up to date since internet is still a (very slow) novelty in Myanmar, but we will do our best to write a few lines and send a photo across the globe from time to time.
Please enjoy the serenity of this Thai musician, delighting us with oriental tunes in the tropical lush of our resort in Chiang Mai...