180km approx.

All of us – Karen & myself, Aad & Mike – were a bit sad at the thought of leaving Myanmar today, but our fourteen day tour of this beautiful country has come to an end and it’s time for us to move into Thailand for the next part of our adventures.

Up around 6:00am, we wandered around the corner and collected our bikes from the courtyard of the concierge’s home and packed them before quickly dispensing with another uninspiring breakfast. We were ready to ride at 8:00am as planned, already sweltering inside our riding gear.

We had another rider with us this morning – a man from Portugal riding his GS650 to East Timor. He was riding to a very tight timeframe – he had left Portugal two months ago and needed to arrive in East Timor on 28th November as part of some anniversary celebrations. He had crossed India in five days and Myanmar in four days.

We refuelled on the outskirts of Hpaan and hooked up with the four wheel drives again as we were supposed to travel in convoy today, but it wasn’t long before our tour leader waved us ahead and we opened up a lot of road between us and the cars, trailing far behind us as they struggled with the congestion in some of the villages we passed through, and the bumpy conditions on the open road.

Just out of Hpaan we turned east and could see the steep limestone karsts rising up from the paddy fields, wrapped in low-level clouds whilst their peaks poked out above. The road condition deteriorated and it became quite a bumpy ride, and as the road narrowed in width it became more challenging as we tried to overtake slow cars and trucks whilst also dodging the oncoming traffic.

The riders stopped for a cold Coke at a small shop along the way, before heading off and catching up again to the tour bus that saw us quickly through a ‘Tourist Police’ checkpoint on the road before again waving at us to go on ahead.

About 20km west of Myawaddy the crappy road gave way to a beautifully designed and constructed highway – smooth and perfectly cambered as it climbed from the plain up into the hills. After the bouncing and jostling we’d experienced all morning this road was an absolute blast to ride. We switched the ride mode to ‘dynamic’ and played a bit on the twisty road, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Too quickly however the highway ran out as we started to enter Myawaddy, grinding to a halt a bit back from the Myanmar border control post.

A helmeted policeman waved us forwards, around the line of stationary cars queuing to be processed, and then gave us a big thumbs up and a hand-shake as we jumped the queue and rode up past the front of the line. We quickly filled out a departure questionnaire, had our passports stamped and photos taken, retrieved our spare tyres from the back of the tour bus, and changed the last of our local currency into Thai baht. All up exiting Myanmar took us about 30 – 45 minutes.

We rode across the Friendship Bridge, switching back to the left-hand side of the road, and descended into the confusing quagmire of the Thai border control area. A policeman waved our three bikes forward and we parked on the wrong side of the road then crossed back over the road and front up at one of the booths to wait for an immigration officer to issue our Visas On Arrival. We quickly completed the arrival cards we were given, and advanced one by one, handing over our passports and then forlornly looking at the 15-day visa stamp when they were handed back – we had heard rumours that we could be issued with 30-day visas.

We were getting ready to ride away when a uniformed customs officer wearing a surgical mask over his mouth and nose told us that we needed to go see the people at the customs office, along with passports and vehicle registration papers. The clerk behind the window was struggling to locate key information on our BMW rego papers, and through an interpreter we pointed out the parts she needed to see – model of motorcycle and colour, for example. Eventually she printed off in triplicate our ‘Simplified Customs Declaration Form’, and then stamped it in red with a big warning that I’d be fined 1,000THB/day if I didn’t return the form or export the motorcycle by the required date.

Aad had two bikes to have processed by the customs people – his and Mike’s – and he got bogged down so badly in the process he was getting ready to explode. Meanwhile – I’d been alerted to the fact that we had inadvertently skipped an interim process when the customs officer called us forwards, and now I had to go back and complete and register our ‘Information of Conveyance’ form. The form itself was better suited to aircraft or boats as it requested crew and passenger details, and the process to have it completed was quite madcap. One officer handed out the blank forms – in between dealing with a constant stream of local people crossing the border and submitting another form – and then when the form had been completed she would stamp every page, then leave her booth – cross the road in front of all the traffic to the other side and enter another office where she would photocopy the original form, then return to her booth, stamp the photocopy, and then return the original form and the passport. Paperwork madness !!!

Karen – angel that she is – skipped across the border to a shop and bought four cokes and then waltzed back to us and gave us all a cold drink as we continued to deal with the various bits of paperwork and bureaucracy before us.

When we all finally had our papers sorted we were still unsure if we were really free to go, so Aad collared a senior officer – waved his sheaf of papers in front of him and got the ‘OK’ for us to leave. Without waiting for anyone to change their minds – we’d already been told that we needed insurance but then subsequently this requirement had wavered and then vanished – we were back into our hot riding gear and squeezing between the lines of incoming and outgoing traffic filtering slowly through the control point. The last we saw of the three 4×4’s we’d travelled through Myanmar with was of the cars still stuck in the line as they waited to be processed.

In to Thailand and out on the road we had a short ride to the hotel we had booked for the night – the Hop Inn in Mae Sot, about 5km from the border post. The distance was short but the degree of change from Myanmar, India and beyond was huge. A lot of the cars looked very new – a lot of them single or dual cab SUV’s. We passed the equivalent of a Bunnings hardware superstore, and then passed a Tesco’s store that was advertising KFC and The Pizza Company, along with ‘Spectre’ – the latest James Bond movie, just released last week.

We checked into our hotel – new, fresh, clean, Spartan but practical and comfortable, and then after a shower we walked the two km’s back to Tesco’s for a pizza dinner at The Pizza Company, stopping enroute for Karen to throw a leg over the first motorbike she’s been easily able to reach the ground on – a GO-125 by NKT (see Much discussion ensued about buying this little pearler – about AU$2,000 – for Karen – so she could live the dream to the max and ride along with us, but comfort prevailed and she opted to stay on the back of our GS Adventure.

Pizza for dinner was great, and afterwards we almost bought tickets to see 007 in ‘Spectre’ – but the English version wasn’t on til 8:30pm and we were all knackered after a long day so it was a hot and humid walk back to the Hop Inn where we said goodnight to Aad and Mike and then worked on our computers til about midnight, enjoying the first high-speed internet we’ve had in ages 🙂


FOOTNOTE: Karen has now added and/or updated the photo galleries from Shillong – Darjeeling all the way through to Inle Lake, Myanmar – so feel free to go back and check those posts again to see her photographs !!!  Fingers crossed she will add the remaining galleries tomorrow so then we’ll be all caught up with ourselves. And I take my hat off to her as it’s a big chore, made much harder when the internet is slow (which is almost all the time….) … plus the power cuts etc etc etc 🙂

9th November. 100-odd km via a southerly sightseeing diversion.

Bit hard getting up this morning at 06:20am as our bed was so comfortable and we’re both a bit weary from moving on every day after weeks on the go, but nevertheless we got up and got sorted, meeting Aad & Mike for a lacklustre breakfast at 07:00am in the restaurant – the one saving grace for me was the percolated coffee. Karen spoke to a lady who said she was Yangoon and that whilst the official result of the general election was going to be announced at 3:00pm today, social media reports suggested that the opposition had secured the win. Let’s see what happens this afternoon.

Aad and Mike said that today’s itinerary called for local sightseeing on foot so after breakfast Karen and I changed out of our riding gear into casual clothes as we were already sweltering, but when we saw Win at 8:00am he said that first we had a 30km ride south to the sightseeing place, so it was back into our sticky gear and a quick pack of the bikes before we were all ready to leave at 8:20am, twenty minutes later than planned but no one had told us that the plan had changed so you get that on big jobs.

The 3 x four wheel drives departed about 10 minutes before the 3 x bikes and the tour bus, but somehow we managed to pass them and arrive at the sighting destination first, 30 minutes before the fourbies arrived.

An archway over the entrance road leading off the main road gave way to a long line of tall statues of monks – perhaps a hundred or more statues of monks – walking down the side of the road, before the statues walked over a footbridge that cross the road, and disappeared down a long gravel track. It was an amazing display that heralded our arrival at a hilly area festooned with gigantic statues of Buddha – standing statues, a huge reclining statue, another huge statue still under construction – the head completed and the core of the body assembled – perhaps three or four stories high of poured concrete floors and pillars. We rode around this Disneyland of statues for a while, before stopping at a small stall and sitting down to a cold Coke and stale potato crisps – surrounded by a dozen or more playful kittens that had been rescued by the shop owner, some as young as just four days old.

We back-tracked north in the direction of Maylamyine, then turned NE to bypass the town and head in a bit of a curve towards Hpaan, 73km or so north of the sighting place (name to be discovered when I can check with Win).

The road crossed two large bridges spanning the rivers below – the road surface was made from metal slats running lengthways with a 2-inch gap between each slat – wide enough to catch your front tyre and spit you off the bike. A narrow track on either side of the bridge was fully-surfaced with the metal slats – the track wide enough for the small scooters that pedal these roads, but it took all of my concentration to ride carefully over the bridge without clipping the bridge railings or weaving into the gap at the edge of the track.

The road veered NW and the countryside was beautiful to ride through – jagged limestone karsts on our right rose up vertically from the green fields under cultivation. Once again the roadway was shielded in most places from the sun by an avenue of trees on either side of us – this is a common feature of the country roads here in Myanmar and is always welcome as the shade from the trees helps keep us cool from the harsh sun overhead.

Aad had been having big troubles with his Garmin 62 GPS last night, and the route he’d imported into our GPS wasn’t working properly either – just 5km out of Hpaan it wanted us to turn around and return to Hpaan via Mawlamyine – a detour of about 99km – but we ignored the GPS and followed Mike to the Hotel Angels Land – our last hotel on our tour through Myanmar. The concierge pointed to the concrete apron out the front of the hotel as the ‘secure bike parking’ location but Aad and Karen pounced on him and he instead arranged for us to park the bikes at his house nearby where they will safer inside a secure compound, so we unloaded the bikes at the hotel and then moved them to his house.

After a cooling shower – I was melting inside my riding gear – the tour bus picked us up and drove us into town to a lacklustre restaurant for lunch. Karen & I and Aad & Mike sat down to dubious chicken curry, with an assortment of accompanying dishes of indeterminable origin. Lunch finished with, and after collecting cameras from our hotel rooms, we again boarded the tour bus – this time for a short trip to the number #1 sightseeing venue in this area – the Kaw Goon Cave.

The Kaw Goon Cave dates back to the seventh century and is a above-ground cave nestled in the side of a limestone karst that has been decorated with over 10,000 images of Buddha, ranging in size from minute to massive. Our guide explained that many of the images had been carved into the rock wall – but to Aad and myself it looked more like they had applied a plaster to the rock wall and then carved or moulded the plaster. Either way the cave – both the high rock wall approaching the cave mouth and the cave itself was covered in images of Buddha. The cave mouth faced east so our visit was made cooler in the afternoon shade, and the whole place had a very tranquil and serene feeling to it.

We returned to the hotel – Karen went for a shower and Aad & I went in search for some cold Coke and crisps. I took the opportunity to recover the 1/2 bottle of red wine from my pannier that Karen hadn’t finished off last night at dinner – she deserves a celebratory drink this evening to mark our last night in Myanmar.

Whilst our first two days in Myanmar were quite frenetic with long distances and night-time riding that was both dangerous and fraying upon nerves, our remaining journey through this beautiful country has been very enjoyable and insightful. The people are very shy and reserved, but also hardworking and always keen to render assistance to travellers. The countryside is picturesque – though we would have liked to have explored the north-west where we entered Myanmar from India even more as that mountainous area was especially breathtaking.

Myanmar is a country undergoing change – a quick check of the ABC news website this afternoon suggests that the opposition party has indeed secured a historical win in the general election. Hopefully future change won’t be achieved at the cost of the balanced and gentle way of life we’ve come to observe and appreciate over the past two weeks.

We had a very basic breakfast at 6.00am ….one single egg on bread (you couldn’t really call it toast) with only coffee (no tea) which I don’t drink.

At around 7.00am we had a walk to the local “Truck Bus” Station….it was basically a tipper truck fitted out with 7 rows of narrow benches, 5 or 6 people per row. It cost 5000 Kyet each return. The driver was like a madman ascending the 15km track up the mountain and it was sometimes more like a roller coaster ride. It made me feel a bit woozy in the stomach and I was glad to see the end of it….Vince loved it…in fact it was the highlight for him.

At the top of Mount Kkyaiktiyo there were people with bamboo carry chairs who offered to carry us the rest of the way (for a fee of course)….Vince and I decided we must look really old and decrepit, as several times we were offered a ride…. but refused.

At a certain point we had to remove our shoes….and whilst I have no wish to be disrespectful….I am getting sick of having to walk along dirty areas in my bare feet….not hygienic to say the least….and my injured toe (from the Inle Lake Sinking Incident) just starts to heal up and when I have to walk around without shoes it flares up and pains me again! We passed by where the Foreigners have to pay and get a pass….6000 Kyet each….it sounds a lot but is really only about US$6

The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Myanmar (Burma). It is a small pagoda built on the top of a granite boulder which is covered with 24ct gold leaf pasted on by devotees. The “Golden Rock” itself was pretty impressive… some say just a glimpse is enough of an inspiration for any person to become Buddhist….hmmmm…no change yet! I really liked the bells pilgrims attach to the fences around it….it reminded me of the locks on the bridges in Paris, France. I am unable to read Burmese so I don’t know what the inscriptions said….I am assuming prayers or mantras of some kind. There were also little alcoves with candles being lit….very beautiful and tranquil. Women are not allowed in certain areas….only men….this has been a recurrent theme at several of the Pagodas we have visited in Myanmar…..where men are the only ones who can get close to things and apply the gold leaf….not sure why? According to legend, the Golden Rock is precariously perched on a strand of Buddha’s hair, and it does appear to defy gravity by not rolling down the mountain. It is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Myanmar (Burma) after the Shwedagon Pagoda (Golden Pagoda) in Yangon and the Maharani Buddha Pagoda south west of Mandalay.

On the walk back down to where we needed to catch the Truck Bus we passed many interesting stalls….one of which was selling some kind of apothecary medications……there was a bowl out front with a brown disgusting looking liquid and at the top all sorts of animal parts….including a foreleg and hoof of what I think was a goat or deer, a hedgehog of sorts, a heart shaped headed snake, centipedes and bugs of all shapes, colours and sizes….along with roots of plants….I would not be game to drink it!

After and equally hair raising descent in the Truck Bus we were soon back to our hotel and changing into our riding gear. A quick stop at the little place where we had dinner last night, but for lunch this time….again delicious…..and we were ready to tackle the 142Km ride to Mawlamyine. We arrived at the Attran Hotel around 3.45pm, an hour ahead of the 4×4’s. We were shown to our river view bungalow…that the staff told us had twin beds….but it fact I got a nice surprise….a double bed for a change… my mind there is something wrong with being on your honeymoon and sleeping in single beds! Anyway, not tonight Josephine……we can snuggle up together in one bed for a change. The bungalow was just gorgeous….we even had a lounge room….huge bedroom and a magnificent bathroom…..I never wanted to leave!

After doing some washing….we are just so sweaty in this tropical heat…….we went to the decking of the outdoor restaurant where we sat and had a drink and some food and watched the magnificent sunset. I didn’t have my glasses with me so when I ordered what I though was a glass of red wine at 1500 Kyet…..I was surprised to be given a bottle of french merlot, and a bill of 15,000 Kyet….luckily my husband loves me…..and in reality its only around US15…..not a big deal! Aad (Art) and Mike joined us for dinner and we had an early night….we had been hoping to watch the Moto GP on the Sky Channel tonight ….but this hotel doesn’t have it! Bugger!

We were supposed to have a later start, up at 6.00am, breakfast (absolutely uninspiring) at 7.00am and sightseeing at 8.00am….but when we discovered that we had to go in our bike gear and ride slowly through the congestion of town just to see another Pagoda and Buddha Images…..we decided to give it a miss and stay at the hotel for the 2 and a half hours catching up on some housekeeping chores (photos, blogs, emails, maps etc).

We eventually headed off around 11.00am for the 100k trip to Kyaikto…..the bikes were allowed to go on ahead but instructed to stop at the “big junction” ….which never came! We did stop just outside of Kyaikto….and were joined after about half an hour by the Mercedes Sprinter…..they had been in last position and didn’t know where the others were……we were confused as there is really only one major road……after about another half an hour the tour bus and two other 4×4’s eventually arrived….they had gotten lost somehow… was all a bit of a fiasco….especially in the searing heat as the riders sweated it out in our adventure riding gear and helmets.

In Kyaikto we were directed down an alleyway to park in an unfinished underground car park….with a mud floor and we were worried the ANIMAL would sink! Back up on the street we were shown to a “restaurant”….I use the term loosely as it was nothing more than a big room, clearly unfinished with a few chairs and tables and no resemblance of a kitchen……I didn’t want to eat there. After some discussion we moved across the road to something that at least looked a little more decent…..but sad to say the food was inedible! The boys moved the bikes from the underground area to out the front of the restaurant. Lunch cost 5500 Kyet for Vince and I and it was crap!

We moved onto our hotel just a few minutes down the road…..the Shwe Hirthar Hotel…..again single beds…..again basic….but at least it had toilet paper! Again no food available at the hotel….we had a shower and did some washing….our clothes were so sweaty! After a little afternoon nap we went for a walk to find a local place to eat….not easy as many places are not very hygienic. We did eventually find a place with limited offerings but the food was really good….5500 Kyet for Vince and I. Mike is feeling better, still has a temp, but keen to go on an “ice cream” hunt! Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful finding ice cream or chocolate….but Vince and I did buy a small papier mache Brahman Bull….whom we have named “Marmalade” who will now be our trip mascot (Vince has been wanting a mascot since London)…Vince and the boys are still going on about this Ox Cart thing…..I really, really hope they are just winding me up!

The day started off early… packed, breakfast and ready to go by 7.00am. Mike was not feeling too well… so it was touch and go if he could ride today….after he couldn’t eat breakfast and vomited in the hotel garden. He thought he was up to it….and when the tour guides arrived around 7.15am the bikes were ready to go!

We followed Mike….but his GPS took us on an off road, ox cart track …..that miraculously took us past the World Heritage Ancient Pyu City Sri Ksetra … that was an unexpected benefit. The track was a bit hairy in places, with lots of deep sand to negotiate…..but Vince took it in his stride and the ANIMAL did what she was built for. It was only 13 km before we joined the bitumen again…..but believe me it seemed much longer!

Most of the riding was in the country side with the usual array of people working in the fields and the oxen and carts everywhere. Along the way we passed numerous temples and stupas. We stopped at a roadside stall for a drink and some dry biscuits and the local children were quite fascinated with the strangely dressed westerners. Back on the road we stopped after a few minutes as Mike had to throw up. This happened a couple more times……and eventually he agreed to let me give him some medication (Ondansetron) to help.

Further along, about 24km north of Taikkyi, we had to stop as Mike was so ill, he was loosing feeling in his arms and legs. We laid him down and set to work cooling him down with cool cloths, as he was tachycardic and running a temperature. I gave him some analgesia with a muscle relaxant to stop the cramping in his stomach. Before too long he said he felt more comfortable ….and wanted to ride. But we all agreed that was not a good idea. The local shop owner and people from homes nearby were all eager to help…..bringing him some tablets and a mat to lay on……but there was little anyone could really do.

We spent about 3 hours there in total…..the decision was made that Mike could not ride, so I called our tour guide, Win, to get the tour van to come back for Mike and take us to a nearby town to see a doctor. A local woman (wearing a helmet that she never removed the whole time) came with us to show us where the Dr was… was a strange, dingy little place, at the back of a small roadside shop. The Dr spoke limited English but he seemed to know what he was talking about and checked Mike pretty out thoroughly. He said that he had gastro and a common cold…..Mike said he was hoping for something more exotic as he felt like crap!. The Dr gave him the all clear to ride. After some further medication we went back to where Vince and Aad (Art) were guarding the bikes and we got ready to ride again….with Aad (Art) in the lead and Vince and I shadowing Mike from behind. We arrived in Bago around 5.30pm, just as the sun had gone down…..our hotel, the Shwe War Tun,
was supposed to be 4 star…..but it was very basic to say the least…..twenty million bugs of all shapes, sizes and descriptions in our room…..I spent most of the night killing them with my shoe as the crawled and flew onto my sheets and into my bed…very annoying…..single beds ….seems no one in Myanmar wants to share a bed….there is a distinct lack of double beds……..we had to carry our gear for miles and up three flights of stairs…..why do they alway give bikers the rooms furthest away?

There was nowhere to get any food in the hotel… so we went for a walk to find a local place. Vince said it reminded him of the red light district in Kalgoorlie with the seedy lighting and dinginess. The atmosphere and surroundings have definitely changed over the past few days……the noise and bustle has returned, the crazy driving on the roads and the lack of sanitation we saw in India is evident for the first time in Myanmar. Our guide tells us we are passing through mostly Hindu areas rather than Buddist areas…..HMMMMMMM…interesting observation….do’t know if there is any direct correlation between the two.

After breakfast we headed off to get some fuel before tackling the day’s ride to Pyay. We soon found ourselves back in the beautiful countryside, with shady tree lined roads for our riding pleasure. We saw workers in the fields and the multitude of oxen and carts we passed was inspiring for Vince, (already smitten with “Marmalade” (his pet name) the Brahman Bull we met yesterday at the Palm Oil place) who has now decided it would be a good idea to buy 3……Barry, Bruce and Bob….and maybe a baby one… we can travel by Ox and Cart and see more……..this was quickly taken on board by Aad (Art) and Mike….who kept feeding ideas to help the dream grow……give me strength…..I really hope he is just joking!

Along the way Aad (Art) and Mike stopped for a drink and we passed them….thinking they would catch us up…..but after a while we stopped when they had not done so…..only to discover we had missed a turn some 10km back… we turned back and caught them up…..they were stopped at a local shop for a drink. The locals spoke no English but were very friendly.

Our hotel was lovely, the Manglar Resort Hotel, set around a lake filled with large fish. After a delicious lunch, I asked at reception if there was anyone who could mend my boot (my attempt with superglue last night proved unsuccessful today)….and they organised a local “Taxi” (really just a tray back ute with a cover and two bench seats) for 6000 Kyet return to take me to a bootmaker. One of the staff came with us to interpret….we tipped her 1000 Kyet which she tried not to take. The bookmaker indicted that my boot was beyond glue but he could sew it… about half an hour… we watched him do it and it only cost us 3000 Kyet. Whilst we were waiting we saw a parade come along….we are not sure what they were celebrating but it did not appear to be political….Vince counted 45 girls all dressed up and carrying money……and I saw a buddah statue on one of the trucks.

Back at the resort we had single beds ….which we tried to push together and found some money under my bed and a whole load of termites under Vince’s. At 5.00pm we all piled into the Tour Bus (11 of us squashed in like sardines) to got to see the sunset by the river and taste some local food. After that we walked to the Night Market, and on the way we were invited into a wedding…. we were asked to stay and eat, but be politely declined…..not wanting to intrude. The Night Market was interesting with all sorts of foods available….we tried something that was a bit light a muffin/donut ….delicious. After that we went to see a Pagoda…..but I can’t remember the name of it.

It was a relatively early night …..we are just so very very tired! We think we need to find a nice place and spend a week or so down time to recharge….we have been on the go really since the middle of India….and as wonderful as it is to be travelling… is really hard work at times.

We set off around 7.30pm, after breakfast. Along the way we stopped off at a palm oil and sugar production area. It was very interesting watching how they collect the palm sap, which they do twice a day (sweet in the morning na detour in the evening). We got to taste some fresh sap along with the cane sugar and a special sweet treat that I can’t remember the name off… was all delicious! Some brave souls also tried the alcohol they produce but it was way too early in the morning for me.

We also saw how they apply the traditional make-up/sunscreen and the young girl beckoned me to come and try it…..I was a bit reluctant as I never know how my skin will react to things (I have chronic dermatitis) and I didn’t want to mess up my helmet….but the boys encouraged me to give it a go….so I did…..she drew some leaf shapes on my cheeks… it’s official….Karen has finally gone beyond feral now …..she’s gone Tribal!

We also met a friendly Brahman Bull ….who mills the peanuts (I never knew they grew underground….very cool!) into peanut oil. He played the show pony for photos, let us pat him and gave Vince and I a rasping lick each with his tongue….he even took Aad (Art) for a ride on the mill wheel!

It wasn’t long before we were back on the road and headed for Mt Popa. This is an extinct volcano 1518 metres above sea level, and located in central Burma about 50 km southeast of Bagan in the Pegu Range. At the top is the Monestary known as Taung Kalat with its shrines dedicated to spirits known as “Nats”. We climbed up the 777 (actually 914 counted by Mike) steps to the shrine at the top of the volcanic plug……it was so not worth the climb and having to complete most of it in bare feet (shoes not allowed) surrounded by monkey poo everywhere from the thousands of monkeys who guard the temple, was really not much fun!

It was a pleasant drive through agricultural land towards our destination of Magway, around 170km in total.

We arrived at the Nan Htike Thu Hotel around 4.30pm and after freshening up and having a bit of a relax watching “What Women Want” (the only English program on TV)….we went for a walk with Aad (Art) and Mike, around 6.30pm to find a waterside restaurant and enjoy the lovely colours of the Myanmar sunset. Unfortunately, the food was pretty inedible ….maybe the worst we have had in Myanmar so far….so we basically only ate steamed rice! We were again tired so we’re in bed by 9.00pm……you just can’t hold these Aussies back!!!!

Breakfast at our hotel, Yar Kine Thar Hotel, was around 6.30am ready for our 8.00am sight seeing departure in the tour company’s minibus….a bit swishy but we managed. Bagan is one of the most impressive sites anywhere in Asia…..Vince had seen images of the Bagan Plain Temples in a DVD and was really looking forward to seeing the real thing.

We drove to the small village of Wetkyi- in to see the wonderful Htilomin Lo Pagoda, which houses four Buddha figures on the ground floor and four more on the first floor. Then we visited the magnificent Ananda Phaya temple, one of the most reserved monuments in Bagan, with its amazing architecture and courtyard.

We stopped at U Ba Nyein, a bamboo and lacquerware factory,….where each of the ladies was given a gift of a small bamboo bracelet made in front of us….and the extensive and lengthy process of how they make and decorate the items was explained … takes a year to make just one bowl! The artisans were simply amazing and I was particularly impressed with a man who was hand carving the most intricate and beautiful water lily design by hand and eye…..unbelievable…..I am still gobsmacked at his skill! The showroom was filled with exquisite things…..luckily for Vince none had the water lily design… I bought nothing …..even though they do offer shipping home… really was out of this world what they can do.

We also saw the Dhamayangyi Temple, the most massive structure in Bagan which has a similar architectural plan to Ananda Temple. It was built by King Narathu (1167-70), who was also known as Kalagya Min, the ‘king killed by Indians’. After murdering his own father in order to become King, Narathu ascended the throne of Bagan and he built this temple to atone for his sins but he never saw it completed as he was assassinated.

At the Dhamayangyi temple (were I had trouble finding a toilet), Nyi, our guide, explained that depending on the day of the week you were born you get a certain animal totem…….he said most of his clients are all BIG Ainimals…… Stefan, Aad (Art) and I are Lions, Vince, Mike and Annett, are Garudas, Claire is a Tiger…….but Emiel is a Guinea Pig!

We ended the morning at a restaurant near our hotel….where Vince and I had the hottest green curry chicken we have ever tasted! (Lunch 19,400 Kyet for both).

By 1.00pm we were back at the hotel for a rest before being collected st 3.00pm to head off to catch a sunset view of the Bagan Plain Temples.

We stopped off at the Thatbyinnyu Phaya enroute to Shwezigon San Daw Pagoda, and whilst there we spoke with a local sand painting artist…….so talented!

At the Shwezigon San Daw Pagoda it was a long, steep, hot climb to the top and we had a long wait for sunset at 5.30pm…..but the group held our position to ensure we could try to get the best photos! The view was breathtaking and very special for Vince and I to share as part of our honeymoon……I really do have the best husband in the world….he takes me to the coolest places on earth!

Back at our hotel around 6.00pm we freshened up and went back to the same restaurant we had been to the night before……this time we ordered “beef burgers” and they were the most delicious home made burgers we have ever eaten… much so Vince and I ordered a second one to share. Desert was had ….along with some alcoholic drinks….beer for Vince and Pina Colada Cocktail for me…..yum! (30,700 Kyet for both)

We did a few routine chores back at the hotel and were asleep in bed by 8.30pm……what can I say …… we are such party animals!

We were up at 5.00am, bike packed……although some clothing we still damp so we bagged it up……breakfast at 6.00am in the Inle Apex out the door and on road by 7.00am. It was already raining …..guess my off bike “landals” (they are really just a pair of Keen Sandals but I call mine Landles (ladies sandals) and Vince calls his Mandals (man sandals) …….just to entertain ourselves!) were not going to dry off strapped between my dry bag and pack safe mesh as I rode along afterall!

After getting fuel we found ourselves coming back the way we had been previously, over the mountains, we were engulfed by the cloud and mist and along parts of the road it enshrouded us so we could hardly see in front of us…..quite dangerous and spooky! We were allowed to ride ahead of the 4x4s and we made good time arriving at the suggested lunch stop around 11.00am….we decided to just keep going until noon and would stop somewhere along the way. The boys all had a toilet break and I had to use my She Pee……and just like clockwork another 5 bikes (4 BMW GSAs and 1 KTM)…. we had met at the hotel over breakfast, who were travelling from Vietnam all pulled up ……Vince says I’m like a magnet for this ……but he managed to protect my privacy!

Back on the road time passed quickly and the rain had eased off….with only intermittent sprinkles now…..we pulled up at a small roadside store where we could see locals eating…..they looked a bit shocked but curious as the three big bikes pulled up and we descended. I struck up a conversation of sorts (via mime and sign language) with a small boy who was eating …..the elderly matriarch watched me carefully and I then approached her asking about food……she and another women offered me taste of a small and indescribable morsel……which was simply delicious I smiled and nodded and she smiled back……she then showed me a bowl of noodles and I smiled and nodded ……we understood……I beckoned to the others to join me…..before we knew it the group of boys had vacated the wooden bench seats and table for the new customers. We sat down and a small crowed gathered around us as well as out bikes……but everyone was very respectful. Vince alerts me to the existence of an elderly gentleman who was behind me and fascinated with my camera…..I got up and went to show it to him…..a serious of photos with he, myself and the matriarch ensued… much laughter and cuddles!

When lunch arrived we were personally served and shown what to do with what and how to eat it…….Aad (Art) was given s personal lesson in how to use chopsticks as clearly the local group had decided his skills were lacking and in need of remediation……much laughter and fun was had by all……I think we provided good entertainment! Showing my appreciation by smacking my lips, rubbing my tummy and blowing a kiss…..the faces beamed back at me with pride. I asked the price and the Matriarch said clearly “1200” ….I asked if that was each or all……..ALL! What a bargain…..lunch for 4 for about 25 cents each! I was using some hand sanitiser before and after my meal ( as there was nowhere to wash up) and I could see the group of women watching me and nudging each other to look ……completely mesmerised……so I got up and offered some to one of them. She quickly thrust out her hand and as I poured some of the clear liquid onto her palm she began to rub her hands together mimicking my earlier movements….before I knew it I was walking along the line squirting each held out palm to give it a go……hygiene lessons on the road in Myanmar!

We bade farewell to our new found friends and hit the road again……we arrived at the Bagan Zone Fee Check Point around 2.15pm, because we didn’t have sufficient local currency, where we parted with 40 Euro instead of the US$20 fee each…as we were not carrying any UD$ ….. which seems to be the preferred foreign currency here. We for over an hour for the 4×4’s and when they still hadn’t arrived Aad (Art) asked the ladies in the zone fee office to call Win…..we discovered the Sprinter had broken down (2 flat tyres)…..and they would be held up….so we to proceed to the Yar Kine Thar Hotel, we arrived around 3.45pm. We parked the ANIMAL, and the other two bikes, across the road in a compound…..joining the 5 Vietnamese Tour bikes. We could see them from our room and whilst I was unpacking Vince shot out the door in his underwear muttering profanities……I looked out the window and a local was sitting on a “double” take of our ANIMAL……of course it wasn’t her…..I could still see her safely tucked under her tarp……I followed Vince into the hallway but he was long gone and Aad (Art) was just standing there looking confused ….I think the whirlwind that was Vince must have flashed past him…..I quickly explained and he shot off after Vince… all got shorted with the local and his photographer friends being left in no doubt that you don’t sit on! or touch, someone else’s property!

I hung up the remaining damp things from our dunking in the lake yesterday to dry in our room whilst Aad (Art), Mike, Vince and I went out for dinner (19,000 Kyet for Vince and I ) at 6.30pm ……thankfully the rain had let up enough to that there was no further pannier leakage today ….and if fact, with the wind flow, even my Landals had dried!

Unfortunately, I had to ditch my favourite Icebreaker V Neck T-Shirt (had it since Jan 2007) as it has now become so threadbare that it keeps getting holes faster than I can mend……time to say good by my old friend…..snif, sniff!

We had breakfast in our hotel before taking a short walk down to the river to catch our boat for the day on the lake (4000 Kyet each plus a 2000 expected tip). We were in a boat with Mike and Aad (Art) so I ensured all 4 of us had taken some Ondansetron as we all suffer from sea sickness……it worked really well ….no casualties!

Before we knew it we were skimming along the shallow waterways of the 35km Lake in a traditional long-tail boat, noisy motor with a spray of water out the rear! Along the way we saw fisherman propelling their boats with one leg wrapped around the oar…..very unusual! We also saw them using their nets and standing on one leg……not really sure what that was about….but one fellow brought his boat up alongside and showed me a fish….he then asked for money….as we had taken advantage of his poses for our photos Vince gave him 1000 Kyet …..he seemed quite pleased with that.

The Inth people live on the lake, building their houses on stilts. We weaved our way through the watery streets between the many houses on stilts (Nampan and Innpawkhone villages) before stopping at a house where local families produce Shan (Mullberry) paper and parasols. It was fascinating to watch…..very interesting. Unfortunately, my camera battery had failed to charge and so ran out… spare was also flat ( since our multiple point charger broke in India we can only charge a few things at a time and it means some things take priority over others).

Back in our boat we move on to another cottage industry….silversmithing. Again we saw a demonstration of how they pour the silver….mixing it with copper to harden it…and the artisans showed us some of the traditional designs they make….such as the “full moon” …..I ended up buying a small one (US15) which they adapted in minutes to a larger bale so it could fit my Pandora bracelet that I am collecting as a souvenir…..very special!

Again, back in our boat we were quickly on our way to see how they weave traditional fabric designs from cotton, lotus (water lily) and silk……amazing! Some of th women working there were from the Kayan People….or Giraffe Women of Eastern Burma ….they wear brass rings around their necks from age 9 in order to provide a visual illusion that elongates them. I had a feel of the rings…..they are extremely heavy …a full set can weigh as much as 10kg. The women I saw also had them on their legs as well. I bought a cotton “longee” (US15) and they sewed some cords onto it to make it easier for “westerners to tie”. I wanted to get one for Vince but he refused, despite my encouragement I could not convince him. I also bought a beautiful red silk and lotus scarf (US65)……I know space is an issue but we need to post some stuff home soon so I yielded to the temptation……it was just so soft and beautiful!

We stopped off at the floating market….which was very touristy……but Vince and I managed to escape the hordes and sit in a little tea place and try some local food….delicious. Next it was off to lunch in the Royal Palace Restaurant…..our meals were very tasty (10,000 Kyat). As we went downstairs to the jetty to meet our boat ( we had three in total for the 10 tourists and their guides)….we were all busy chatting when I heard a loud “crack”…. It took me a moment or two to identify the noise when there were another two in quick succession…….still trying to process what was going on I realised my feet and legs were getting wet and before I knew it more and more of me was sinking and tilting to the left as the jetty collapsed below us……Vince and I wee at the end of the jetty so we took the brunt of the dunking down there…along with Aad (Art) and Mike and Claire and Emiel. It was quite alarming on the one had but on the other hand I felt strangely calm as Vince put his arms around me to hold me up telling me “l’ve got you and I won’t let you Go!” I did hurt my little toe on my left foot and Vince hurt his finger on his left hand…..but otherwise no drama. Before I knew it Vince and Aad were pushing me up onto the remaining wooden platform out of the water. I then turned to help pull Vince out! I’d had this weird feeling all day that one of us was going to end up wet …..I thought the boat may tip over or the water flood in… they are quite rickety and low in the water…..but I hadn’t considered that sinking feeling! The staff were all very helpful and got us a longee each to change into and some flimsy white T shirts……so Vince had to get into a longee afterall…….he looked very fetching I must say! Firstly they gave me a lovely blue cotton one….but it was for a man and the two girls who were helping us insisted that I must have a girls one… I changed again into a rayon brown and green one…….I must say as grateful as I was for the change…..I think the men’s ones are more comfortable……hmmmmmm they get all the good stuff! Vince said his was very comfortable! Who would have thought this would happen…..time stood still and then proceeded in slow motion, even though it actually all happened pretty quickly……. all part of the Adventure!

Resplendent in our newly knitted out local attire……needless to say we still failed dismally to blend in …not even little bit…….as we finished the day finished with a visit to the famous Phaung Daw U Pagoda, which enshrines five Buddha images believed to have been carried to this area by the widely-traveled 12thcentury King Alaungsithu then Nga Phe Chaung Monastery (Jumping Cat Monastery). Each year they are carried around on a special gold barge….vey impressive. On the way back we passed through the floating gardens where they grow tomatoes (for export), potatoes, chillies and all kinds of vegetables…….very ingenious!

Back at the dock we tried to pay for the boat and it was a bit of a process as all our money was wet and stuck together. In our hotel Vince spent the evening drying it out with a hairdryer whilst I hand washed all our wet things and added them to “Chung Whas Chinese Laundry (aka our hotel room) that had been set up to dry out the contents of our leaking panniers and the soaking we took yesterday in the rain.

The only saving grace was I had managed to sent out some washing (basically my riding jacket and pants, some T-shirts/shirts and some underwear and socks…..but when I went to enquirer at reception they tried to give me a pack of clothes (Room 305 which was correct) of other men’s clothes…..they had lost ours! It took a little time but eventually they delivered the correct ….and thankfully dry clothes to our room!

We were both exhausted …so an early dinner at local restaurant 68 (Vince and I cost 12,000 Kyet) with Aad (Art) and Mike….then off to the pancake place (Vince and I cost 5,5000 Kyet) for desert and bed…….Vince was asleep before his head hit the pillow!