Day 20 – Yangon to Bago

  • Distance cycled – 110km
  • Elevation – flat
  • Terrain – paths, broken and dirt roads
  • Difficulty – moderate / challenging without suspension

Waking early, refreshed after a fine night’s sleep, it felt a shame not to meet Rachel and Steve last night.

Some more repairs.  Then, at 10am, I dragged the bike down the slim hostel staircase for the final time and cycled the short distance to Rachel’s handsome apartment.  I’m so glad I did – what a lovely pair!  An hour or two fly by and our brief encounter feels far too short.  We take photos, exchange details and hope to meet again.

Frustratingly, my largest water bottle (1 litre) went missing in action; most likely still tucked away in the back of the late night cab from the bus station.  Even here in Yangon, such things are tough to come by; far from a simple ‘nip down the shops’ back home.

Late for 110kms over tricky terrain, I take a 5km detour to a sports shop to the North of the city.  Success – albeit in the form of a 700ml bottle, unnecessarily insulated, garish green and guaranteed to leak.  I snap it up nonetheless, grateful to find something to get me through the day.

Rachel had kindly made me a rather monster sandwich and minutes later, I arrived at Kandawgyi Lake to tackle it with gusto.  Made from Steve’s freshly made bread and containing my first cheese since leaving the UK, this truly was a happy moment.

Finally, at 12.30pm, I hit the road, weaving through traffic, down potential short cuts and the occasional dead end.

The route out of Yangon can be a maze to navigate, with heavy traffic amidst a thick diesel haze.  Whilst is a useful guide it should not be used in solitude.  The city roads are in poor condition and dogs line the backstreets eying tasty cyclist snacks.

On the plus side, those on 2 wheels pass Hindu temples, a crocodile farm, traditional tea houses, the National Races Village, intriguing suburbs and gardens.  You could easily spend a day exploring these lesser known parts of Yangon.

Time short, I followed to an impassable track through industrial land at the river’s edge.  With c.100k to cover in 5 hours over unknown terrain, I turned back, crossing over the Bago River some 15km later.  Then, an immediate left onto a well laid single lane, meandering through a small village.   Don’t be mislead.  Beyond lies a network of broken roads, deep sandy pathways and roughly laid tracks.

Despite the lunar terrain, this was some of the best riding experienced to date in Myanmar.  With a little discomfort and the constant juggling of equipment, comes the constant pleasure of an agricultural wilderness untouched by tourism.  If not for the occasional motorbike, you’d believe this Burma was as Orwell left it in the late 1920s.

Almost exactly 70km into the journey sat a solitary watermelon stall. 100kyat buys a healthy chunk, sliced, diced and ready to eat.  I sat with the owners, competing for each mouthful with an army of flies; the bamboo shelter providing welcome shade.

Through villages, farmland, past temples under construction, over foot bridges, across narrow planks spanning streams, down dusty bumpy single track.  As the sun began to dip, I sought a hand pulled boat, navigating runabout kids and rogue pigs in the village of Tawa.  Aboard is the driver, a lady of pensionable age and rather grumpy looking monk.  One shake of the head and it became clear my route back to the main road was a no go.  Turning back, I had just 20 minutes to make 17kms down rough unsurfaced roads.  First, the walk of shame – past the kids, pigs and parents who had followed my every move moments before.

Darkness soon fell, though thankfully the road improved 10km from Bago.  Here, the towering Shwe Maw Daw Paya greeted my arrival.  Shortly after pausing for a quick picture, I was ushered down a blocked road, over a stack of sand and rubble.  Climbing back onto the The the other side wasn’t so easy.  Here, my bike knocked a bamboo pole, which hilariously (I thought) send a shop awning crashing down onto my helmet.  The shop owner was not so impressed.

Budget accommodation options are limited in Bag.  Main road motels South of the city; a cluster of shabby hotels on the main road in the centre of town.

Whilst Bago is well worth exploring for a day, the lack of bypass means through traffic is amongst the busiest and unrelenting you’ll experience.  The Emperor and San Francisco hotels are both reasonable, if a little shabby.  I chose the Emperor, where a single room with no WiFi or breakfast cost c.$5.  The owners were friendly and secure bike storage is available in a locked garage below.  Food options in central Bago are very limited, though there is a bit to explore on San Taw Tywin street coming into Bago in the route above.  Next door to The Emporer Hotel, Three Five Restaurant offers reasonable prices ($1 – $2 per dish) for reasonable food.

An ice cold Myanmar beer marks the end to the day’s festivities.  I return to bed and sleep a good night’s sleep.

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