– The adventures of a solo round the world cyclist –

Day 516 (Myanmar Day 4)

I had a rough night’s sleep, being kept awake by animals rummaging around directly under the wooden boards on which I was sleeping. Just as there was a hint of light in the sky, my hosts got moving, so I did too. I saw my lady host putting on the yellow paste that all Burmese woman (and a lot of guys) wear as skin protection. After being treated to a cooked breakfast, I tended to the mess of my bike. This brought me outside and I was finally able to learn where I was. Around me were homes with thatched roofs, wooden boards for floors and woven plant material for walls. A communal toilet was located past a pig pen and chickens ran about everywhere. Once my bike was packed I said bye to my hosts and the audience of villagers that had gathered.

Day 516 (pic1)

My hosts

Twelve kilometres down the road I came across a series of fields dotted with golden stupas. I stopped to get some footage of me riding past. Before I’d finished setting up my camera a man called Suma, who I learned takes care of the fields, brought me a coffee from his wooden house. Rather than just shoot a quick video and leave, I decided to hang around and go for a proper walk through the fields. On finishing my coffee I was delivered a tea, so it was a little while before I got moving again.

Ten kilometres down the road I stopped to take photo of an interesting blue building covered in swastikas. A couple of monks were around so it was obviously some kind of Buddhist centre. Next door was a little kiosk attached to a home, with a small group of men and woman around. They were clearly wondering where the hell I’d come from, so I decided to buy a drink and try to have a chat. I was quickly invited into the home for lunch. A beautiful girl sat me down and tended to my every need as I ate a delicious meal. Not even my loudest protestations was enough to get her to stop waving a fan to cool me down as I ate.

Day 516 (pic2)

Kiosk chat before being invited in

I had discovered at breakfast that the roads I was on were not marked on Maps.me, so I had to rely on advice from locals to head the right way. When I emerged onto the main road that runs east from Thaton, I rode straight across it to continue down another back road. Eventually, I reached an intersection northwest of Theinzeik and on consulting with a guy on a scooter, I decided to continue north on a minor road that ended in a dead-end on the map. I hoped I would be able to find a way past the dead-end and on to a town called Bilin. The small road took me through forest, rice fields and rubber plantations dotted with tiny settlements. I passed the dead end and continued on until the bitumen gave way to gravel.

I soon realised the road was taking me a way I didn’t really want to go. Bilin was behind me in south-westerly direction and I had nearly reached Bilin River. I came across some locals and learned from them that the way to Bilin was back where I had come. I tried to find out where a road was that turned off from this minor road and headed to Bilin, but I was met with confusion. Keen to help despite our language barrier, a young guy led me on his scooter until we reached a dirt track leading away from the minor road. Saved. The dirt track took wounds its way onto a bitumen road that wound its way to the main road, placing me just southeast of Bilin. I rode into town and turned right off the main road to again take myself away from the main road and into more rural Myanmar. The road was single lane but bituminised. I began to pass through rolling hills that were more jungle-like than the vegetation of further south. I am not sure if it was my imagination but it could be that the locals I passed in this area were more suspicious of my presence than those people I’d come across thus far. My greetings were still returned with a smile by a lot of people, but I was often confronted by a grim, wary stare.

Day 516 (pic3)

Beautiful sights everywhere

It turned into a massive day out. I reached such a point of exhaustion that when I looked at my phone, I failed to notice the map’s orientation had flipped 180 degrees. Consequently, I thought I had gone too far past a turn. Determined to react placidly and not let my exhaustion get the better of me, I worked hard to deal with my ‘mistake’ calmly. ‘Okay, don’t think about it. Just turn around and get it done’. Keen to rectify my situation without thinking too much about it, I failed to realise that I hadn’t even passed a turnoff. And so I began to make a real mistake as I headed back the way I’d come on a search for a non-existent road. Luck was on my side and I had only backtracked about 3km when a friendly local passing on a scooter stopped me and asked where I was going. I have learned not to entirely trust the directions offered by local people and so I politely explained that it was okay, I knew where I was and where I was going. Fortunately, he pushed the issue and continued to tell me I was going the wrong way. I pulled out my phone to show him I knew what I was doing, then became red-faced and apologetic when I discovered my error. Now I really had to just turn about and not think.

I rolled into Kinpun around 5.15pm and sussed out a few sleeping options before choosing the nicest one when they dropped the price by about 35%, which brought it in line with the filthy alternatives. I met Liam and Michaela (English and Quebecois) friends working at the guesthouse but are leaving tomorrow and I think I talked their ear off because it was my first chance to speak English fluently for a while.

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 103.22km
Average cycling speed 16.7kph
Total distance ridden 13,939km

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