Last day in Bagan, rest! In the afternoon we finally find the energy necessary to play the Tche Tche, this super spectacular sport practiced throughout Southeast Asia. It is a mixture of football and volleyball in the manner of Brazilian futevolei, except that the ball is made of braided plant material (bamboo?). It is very aerial, difficult for beginners but fun. We finally bathe in the Irrawaddy River in the late afternoon. The locals do not recommend it because the water is probably very dirty especially in this season! But it’s refreshing so we take it. In the evening we take a sleeper train to join Mandalay and gain some time. It shakes in all directions and we arrive at 5 in the morning, having not slept too badly though!
The day begins very early and we decide to visit the old royal cities outside Mandalay. All day we pass by a multitude of craft districts: the jade market invaded by its Chinese buyers, Buddhas sculpture workshops, tanneries, silk weavers … The visit of the great monastery of Amarapura is very beautiful. Thousands of monks queue at mealtime under the cameras of Chinese tourists who are quite unbearable for their Myanmar guides who can not stand it anymore: D. Outside, we walk in the calm of the monastery to see the monks studying and doing their daily chores. After the midday meal we fall tired and find a small hotel in Saigang. Siesta extended then visit of the beautiful old city. There are many pretty corners with peaceful monasteries and pagodas. We climb to the highest point to enjoy the 360 degree view. Some monks take selfies with us, because yes, they also live in 2019!
On April 8, we head southeast to finally get to the mountains! Fifty kilometers of highway where we see elephants on trucks, motorcycles that carry … Motorcycles! This kind of motorcycleception! After all this stress we can finally turn full east towards the countryside. What a contrast with the west of the country, here is everything much greener. We follow the bed of a river with clear water and find a great place to swim in the afternoon. We are tired but the locals do not let go at nap time, some selfies and voila! As there is no hotel, we begin the climb in the late afternoon and manage to hide on a ridge to finally sleep in wild camping. View of the mountains, the first puny trees crack when laying hammocks! We ended up being settled and we made a small rice with the fish of the river, delicious. The storm passes and leaves us be. Steph has some new belly problems so the night is not easy, but we do survive!
The next day is expected to be a hard climb. The road quickly becomes a crushed and difficult dirt track and it is quite steep. After the first passes, the landscapes become green and beautiful. It’s hard enough for the legs and Steph gets a flat tyre after about 60 kilometers. After the repair, light descent into a kind of Burmese Switzerland, very peaceful. Here there is no garbage, small trash cans in the villages. We arrived in the town of Ywangan (1300 meters above sea level) after a grueling day. The area is very nice but obviously not yet known at all by foreign tourists. Great hotel at an affordable price 🙂
On April 10, we drive about 90 km on the plateau of « Shan state highlands », made of agricultural landscapes and rugged mountains. On the way we pass by chance in front of a mountain where was built a monument consisting of 7 huge Buddhas of gold. Funny that we did not even see them on purpose! In the evening we are in Kalaw, 1400 meters above sea level and enjoy the cool pine forests. It changes. There is a small bar to go drinking rum with some tourists and Myanmar people from Yangon mastering English, they give lessons to children from surrounding villages. The bartender, Ye Ye, does some mind-blowing tricks, usually seen only on TV: Steph opens his clenched fist and a handkerchief pops in, unbelievable… Time to go to bed!
« Today quiet day » is what we were thinking before starting from Kalaw to the Inle Lake, only 60 km by road. We decide to cut through the mountain, which shortens the path, thinking that it will be funnier. After two hours we are already pushing in the onion fields and this is only the beginning. The Maps.me application plays tricks and invents paths, so here we are lost all morning on tiny hiking trails, where there is an intersection every 100 meters. It’s mountain biking, it rises strong, it is often necessary to go down and push. For the first time in a month Leo wonders what he’s doing here! Fortunately we end up falling on a remote village, and that’s all the beauty of this adventure! These people do not even have a decent path to connect them to civilization, but they are always so smiling and curious, except for the children who seem frightened enough to see two extraterrestrials like us. At the top we finally arrive in sight of Inle Lake and can begin to descend on the trails, a pleasure, except that we get lost again a few times. In the end this was a very big day, not for beginners! On arrival, surprise, there are traditional massage boxes, one hour for about 5 euros we will not deprive ourselves. Night in a bamboo hotel, tomorrow it will be rest. We even exchange our bikes for a scooter in the late afternoon to see the villages on stilts that line the lake, the houses are rather impressive in their size we believe in the Venice of Asia, with the Myanmar mom driving our traditional dugout around.
On Saturday, April 14 we head south to leave the lake and follow a river to a second lake (Samkar) located 100 km below. Very beautiful colorful landscapes in an agricultural valley, the road is not on Google maps and we quickly understand why, because it turns into a bumpy track, watch out for the buttocks! We still make 20 km of track before stopping in a restaurant at the lake for the break, it’s hot and we really have a communication problem with the owner, obviously people do not really understand our accent. This day is also the first of the famous water festival, the 4 days celebration announcing the coming monsoon. Young people especially take the opportunity to drink booze and party, watering themselves all day. We are in the middle of nowhere and the people of the village have installed a big sound system, we hallucinate seeing this, and while we were preparing to leave, we’re having a party with them for an hour, very fun. In the evening we hide to camp in front of the lake with a beautiful sunset. Pure happiness.
We are leaving early to begin the crossing of the massif that will take us back to the central plain, the program, about 250km including 180 of mountain, it looks hard! The first 40 are marked by religious processions on the Sunday of the twigs, because yes it is surprising but the region suddenly becomes very Catholic! There are many churches and crosses are gradually replacing the pagodas at the top of the mountains. That said, the two religions seem to cohabit very well. On the way we also get plenty of water because the water festival is in full swing. So it starts to rise and the landscapes are made of beautiful mountains again. At the break we stop up near a village with stalls of “long neck women” like the ones who can be seen in Africa, another surprise! A young man from the top works in Thailand where he is an elephant rider, contact made, we will try to see each other! Small wild camping on a beautiful ridge where we make a good ratatouille after a 25km session in the late afternoon 🙂
The next day we ride only in the mountains, about 2000 meters of positive elevation, our record so far! Always beautiful, very quiet and back again, we appreciate this places and huge valleys so deserted by tourists because we have them just for us. Once again, people are hallucinating to see us around. At noon we are at the edge of a small river in a valley, where we eat with our fingers, Moroccan style. Another wild camping in the evening, no choice, there is no place where you can sleep (it’s still the same problem in this country). Providence offers us a nice, discreet shelter in a former Catholic cemetery. The same evening in Paris, the cathedral is in flames …
It’s the last day of mountain to reach the city of Taungû. Another difficult day because the legs are heavy and we have another 50km of ups and downs! We try to finish fast to go to the station and try not to miss the first train to the south. Huge descent, to arrive in the heat of the plain. Halfway there is a beautiful oasis with a great variety of fruits (pineapple, durian, leetchi, mangoes and other delicious that do not exist at home) and we throw ourselves on it! Towards the last kilometers the road gets bigger and it’s quite incredible because the water festival is in full swing and all the young people of the region are on the road to party, processions of scooters and party trucks with sound systems. The playboys are out and we get watered with the fire hose and receive large seals of water! It also allows us to finish the last kilometers in the heat! Arrived in town it is the big party, sonos everywhere, well drunk people, carnavalesque atmosphere guaranteed! On the other hand, everything is closed so it’s not easy to eat. We are rinsed in every sense of the word so we will go out only in the evening to go party under the fountains, a very good moment of fun, thank you in Myanmar and it’s people! The train leaves only the next day so it’s night at the hotel, it’s good we were very dirty after those last 3 days. We will soon be in Thailand for new adventure, Myanmar has feasted us by its diversity and the attitude of his people for now, we could stay!