I went to sleep to the sound of a gently snoring monk. I woke up to the sound of a monk lighting a candle in front of a golden Buddha statue at one end of the large prayer room I was in. It was still dark but the sun would very soon be up, so I decided I may as well be too. I started packing up my stuff and cleaning myself up in the toilet room. Having got myself ready to face the day, I was greeted with a humungous plate of fried rice and egg that was delivered by Saw Dine (having been prepared by his mum). I only just managed to eat it all.
I finished getting ready and said bye to the monks. I then went to the family’s house to deliver a gift (my drawing of Perth city) to say thanks for their magical hospitality. The whole extended family emerged for my farewell and another series of photos. Then all of a sudden I was by myself again in a strange new place. My mind was distracted for a while as I relived the events since I crossed the border from Thailand. Mind blowing stuff!
On the other side of the bridge leading away from the village, the cement road gave way to gravel. I passed rice fields and rubber tree plantations on my way to the edge of Kayin State. The State border was marked by an open bamboo bollard and a shirtless guy sitting in a little bamboo hut. He waved me in and gave me a cup of coffee. It was then that I learned I was at the State border – he pointed the way I’d come and said Kayin and then pointed the way I was heading and said Mon. A flag with a yellow bird was the symbol of Mon. As I drank the coffee a pair of guys (a man and a boy) passed on a scooter. I recognised them from earlier in the morning when they passed me and called out something that didn’t feel particularly friendly. At the border the guy in the hut called the man over. The man made a show of pretending to run away. The border guard asked to see what he had under his shirt and after a not-too-serious tussle, the man pulled out a mobile phone from the bumbag around his waist. The border guard insisted on seeing what else he had. The man pulled out some money to hand to the border man, who shooed it away – clearly it was an attempt at a bribe. In the end the man and boy rode on and the contents of the pouch remained a mystery.
I rode on too and had fun passing through small villages and asking the way to Mawlamyine. The scenery was very beautiful: rice fields with the occasional sharp rocky outcrops. The gravel road eventually became bitumen again. When I saw a huge (five metres tall) mound of what I thought was corn, I stopped to investigate and discovered it was the husks from rice spat out by the adjacent little wooden building, which was a mini factory where white rice was extracted from raw grain. Very cool.
A series of monk statues lining a driveway caught my attention so I followed the muddy drive until it led me to the base of some rocky cliffs, where a couple of monks were pottering around. A sign told me this was the site of Sadan Sin Min Cave. I followed the steps up the cliff face and spent some time exploring a series of caves and overhangs containing Buddhist relics.
Back on the road I decided I would bypass the main road into Mawlamyine. I took a minor road that led me though a small settlement where both Muslims and Buddhists were hanging out together. I was struck by how different the situation was from the religious segregation I saw in southern Thailand. I passed a field where some kids were playing football. I stopped to watch for a moment and ended up joining in. By the time our match ended, I was tired, filthy and sore, and the sun was starting to set. I really had to get into Mawlamyine and find a place to sleep.
I reached a river, which I crossed on a little boat, sitting beside a monk and old lady. Reaching the other side felt like I was re-emerging from the beautiful wonderland I had found myself in after crossing the river on a raft yesterday. Suddenly, the roads were again busy and dusty. I wasted money buying a coke at a place that said they had WIFI, which didn’t end up working. I rode on until I came across OK Hotel, where I had success in finding WIFI. I quickly told my family I was fine and then started researching places to stay. In the end I just decided to stay at OK Hotel. I was exhausted and the price was competitive (not the cheapest in town, but not bad either). My gear and I are now squeezed into a room that is about 1.5m wide and 3m long (or I should say, short).
|Distance ridden today||52.67km|
|Average cycling speed||13.8kph|
|Total distance ridden||13,768km|