After the luxury of a day and a half of little cycling, I decided my cycling karma might get the better of me should I not put in tough miles and experience the true tradition of Myanmar’s road system. Absolute carnage.
After a pleasant breakfast and less pleasant wranglings over a lost hotel keycard, I departed Mandalay via flower markets, cattle herded down the Mandalay equivalent of the A48, an ostentatious duck boat, a monastery, a former palace and the world’s longest bridge made entirely from teak.
The palace, adjacent to a large monastery was keeper to the first true tale of the day. There awaited 2 monks, one highly introvert, one highly extrovert and extremely camp. He’d been learning English from tourists and was delighted to engage in pleasant conversation. We quickly bonded over bicycles and his wonderful translation of ‘oh my god’. ‘Oh my Buddha’. We chortled.
After my 3rd experience of locals eager for me to pose with them for photographs (this particular encounter turned into a full on on multi-angle photo session), I was bound for my true destination. 45 miles and 1300m uphill in the wrong direction, lay Pyin Oo Lwin; or Myamo as the Brits first called it.
After an extensive ‘short’ cut courtesy of me winging it, a few confused farmers and my first real experience of what I would come to deem ‘the rocky horror show’, I was back on route 3. A busy, nay bonkers truck route from Mandalay to the Chinese border.
800m of elevation later, I met a true Myanmar legend, Mr Zhin. Owner of a Strawberry farm 3/4 the way up the mountain. Many photos later, I departed. At 1000m elevation, it became clear that the only sensible way forward, was to consume my own body weight in the legendary ‘Adam’s raw chocolate’, courtesy of the good folk back in Bris.
Scrapping every last calorie out the barrel, I rocked up to a fantastic old Colonial hostel just outside Pyin Oo Lwin at the moment of darkness.
Moments later, I was cycling again. This time aboard the shoddiest contraption immigrating a method of transport ever ridden by an Englishman. One night market, much inbound staring, pointing and gesturing amongst locals later, I was battered. 4 miles back up the road and I collapsed into bed. Then chatted shit for 2 hours to an American.