Someday, March 2015 – Myanmar aka Burma.
We set off half past four in the morning in Rayong, south of Bangkok and the day was already long. The lush gardens of Thailand could not be more different than this. Landing to Mandalay in Myanmar was spectacular – the light brown flying sand of the dry season in mid-March covered everything. Where the rivers used to be resembled the recent images from Mars. Only no ice here, but scorching hot dryness. The trip was organised by Severi Virolainen of Mad.Bike with the help of Zach Benoy of Mandalay Motorbike who organised the local bookings, dealt with the authorities, sorted bikes, etc. With these two experienced organisers and riders, things really run smoothly. We also had Zach’s support truck to secure the ride. Our driver was called James. (Yes, really!) Have a look at Severi’s video below and read his blog at Mad.Bike pages. Our group of riders was also a hoot. It is always amazing how bikers, perhaps otherwise very different and who may never have met before, somehow just are united by the shared experience and love of the sport. Severi has written the blog about the tour, so I will just make a few observations. Myanmar is a beautiful country with a very unique feel. We were lucky enough to travel in the cities (Mandalay, Yangon) as well as river beds, mountains, jungle, small villages and untouched beaches. When was the last time you rode a motorcycle next to water on a several miles long empty sandy beach! The influence of religion is very strong and we were fortunate to come across a few buddhist confirmation rituals with beautifully dressed children and adults alike with beautiful make up in a colorfully decorated gatherings. The children go to a temple for a week or so as part of the confirmation ritual. Their heads are shaved in a village feast, which everyone joins. And LOUD!! music. Yes, the music is VERY LOUD! I am surprised they do not all suffer from tinnitus. (Again, they might. I never asked!). Parties, processions and different type of money collection was organized for buddhist pagodas or Buddha images and it was always with LOUD! music pouring from the tannoy. Often people came from really modest wooden huts, which were either on stilts or often with dirt floors in large parts. But they seemed clean and well dressed with nice make up. A very unique make up is the Thanaka powder made from tree bark and cream made from it. Most women, children and mainly young men use it. Due to thanaka, the burmese claim to have the softest and the most beautiful skin of all people. Everyone we met were very friendly and helpful. Even when met with some unsure looks, a smile and a hello would bring the most wonderful smiles on the peoples faces. In some parts of our route, I assume us westerners were quite rarely seen and suddenly we had a larger audience witnessing our beers and crisps. Well, this worked both ways. It is not every day we see young boys coming to a village shop for an ice cream with an elephant on a leash. Or women with traditional tattooed faces. Also Myanmar is quickly developing the trappings of modern life and western influences are visible at places. We stayed in some really nice western style resorts as well as places like our hotel in the Gwa village, where one of the group had to change room due to rats fighting by his ear. I think we covered the spectrum of hotels well. Usually the electricity would be out around 9 or 10 pm when also lights would go out. A torch is good to have at hand. With the torch it was easy to see how the air was thick with dust and particles from coal fires in the houses and wild forest fires. The overwhelming feeling after the tour in Myanmar was that we westerners perhaps got it wrong in one turn. Facing all the adversity, these people certainly did not have a lot of money but they seemed rich in many other ways. People do survive. One peculiarity with Yangon, which is the former capital of Burma, is that one is not allowed to ride a motorcycle in the city. Every other Asian city seems to be packed with motorcycles but not Yangon. Allegedly an army general had had an accident involving a motorcycle and he decided to ban them from the city. Fittingly, we would leave our bikes outside Yangon and end our tour here. Mojitos cost around 75 cents, so we did not need the bikes anyway…
Burma cities, beaches and mountains. Video by Severi Virolainen Mad.Bike