|We were the first guests to have breakfast downstairs. We got the usual, fruit, tang juice, coffee, and fried rice with beans and egg. It was all quite tasty. They were very nice at the guesthouse, as we were leaving they gave us each an orange and saw us off. The sun was already up as we were leaving. We passed a row of monks collecting donations in the alley before we got on the major road out of town. We had to backtrack to Aungban before heading onto Ywa Ngan, adding about 6 miles to our distance. There were no cars on the road out of town, just people walking and riding their bikes. It was beautiful, as the road was very quiet. We also passed many dogs on the street, slowly waking up, and stretching out. The air stayed cool until we passed Aungban.
We continued on past Aungban, passing many tractors carrying massive loads of potatoes and people. There were some beautiful views of farms and gentle rolling hills. There was a row of about 30 women in the distance, working a rice field side by side. Myles went down to check it out. One of the women did a little dance for him, and she set the tone for the entire interaction. She even jokingly asked for money, and laughed when she heard Myles say; "no money, no honey".
When we got to the Pindaya-Ywa Ngan junction we were disappointed to see very little food possibilities. We got some chips, as we hoped to eat some with the avocados we bought earlier in case there was nothing else up ahead. We were already getting hungry, and there was still a tonne of miles to cover ahead. With the steep climbs and rough roads we knew we were on a rather tight schedule. Luckily, we didn't have to go far before we hit the village of Kyong. There, we stopped at a cute little restaurant. A few locals were enjoying a very tasty looking meal on the deck outside, sitting on little stools by a little table. We left our bikes outside and sat inside. The restaurant was very small and dark. It had bare cement and brick walls, and wooden tables inside - very cute. We ordered rice and veggies and got rice, chicken curry, spicy greens and soup (similar to szczawiowej zupy back in Poland). It all tasted so good, and we ate it up. They brought us more soup. We had some tea with our meal and relaxed while watching school kids outside check out our bikes, without them seeing us. We caught a few, and laughed jokingly. One of the guys did a little dance which simulated the process of adjusting a longyi. It was quite funny. The meal, plus two waters came out to 3000kyat, which is not a local price by any stretch of the imagination, but a fair price for all the food we consumed.
We carried on through Kyong, on a very rough dirt road, and stopped to watch a woman make little pancakes on the side of the road, just on the edge of the village. We bought a few for later, and watched her make them for a while. As soon as we did that, most of the village congregated around us, and they didn't mind having their pictures taken. They were all, in fact, curious to see their images in the viewfinder afterwards. We were the talk of the village for the day. This place must rarely see foreigners, and if they do it's in a passing vehicle.
As soon as we started to head out of the village the brightly coloured patchwork of farms over rolling hills became stunning. We started to see mountains in the background. The road continued to be very rough, with many hills to climb. At one point a local tried to keep up with us on his rusty single-speed. He was more cautious coming down, as his breaks were shot. Myles exchanged bikes with him for a while. He looked quite stoked, however wobbly, not used to having panniers.
It is definitely cabbage and potato season in this part of the world. We passed a tonne of trucks carrying massive amounts of stacked cabbages. We also stopped a few times to watch locals unload cabbages off of carts onto large trucks, blocking traffic in both directions.
The road continued to be rutty, and we were grateful for having our knobby tires on the entire way. The road condition was surprisingly poor, appearing as a rather major one on the map. However, such is the state of roads in Myanmar, in general - as we're finding out.
Our next stop was in a village, for some more tea. There was a tractor/bus parked outside. The bus driver came out to greet us. He checked Myles' legs to see how hard they were, and apparently jokingly touched his crutch as well, but I didn't see that. There was a number of older, local men hanging out at the shop/café. They all got excited when Myles pulled out the map, and virtually surrounded him. Men do that sort of thing. It was quite neat. A few Pa-O women were sitting on the bus. Myles chatted with them. They were quite funny. We took a bunch of photos of the locals, including photos of mothers with their babies. We took the café' address, in hopes of being able to send them some prints from Yangon or Bangkok. Many locals would love to have photos of themselves. Most never get the chance, as they can scarcely afford it. Our only worry was whether the address was complete, as there we had many communication difficulties.
From there we continued downhill for a ways. The road continued being rutty, and rough. We could see the mountains off to the right, and there was a row of massive trees on either side of the road. It was quite beautiful, with all the different patches of farms running all the way towards the mountainous horizon.
We passed another small village along the road, and asked for directions and distances. A number of locals congregated around us, and we took many photos of the children. Again, we got them to write down their address. They said that there was no place for us to stay, and that we should continue on towards Ywa Ngan. We still had 25 miles of rough road with undulating hills ahead of us, and it was beginning to get dark.
We kept riding, hoping to cover as much distance as possible while we could still see a few feet ahead of us. Eventually we were forced to put on our headlamps, and navigate through the potholes in the dark. We had no idea how far we had to go. There was no signs on the road, only a few in Burmese, which didn't help. We stopped several times in the middle of the road, turned off our headlamps to look up at the sky, with millions of stars. There was no lights, except for a few faint points off in the far distance. Complete silence for the most part, with the occasional local singing while walking up the road, or some music playing in the distance. A vehicle, usually a scooter passed us hourly, if that. There were mostly people walking, and bikes on the road. Some folks carried candles. Since there are very few lights, even in the towns and cities at night, there was no way to tell whether we were getting close. We passed several villages, but all the homes appeared dark, and we did not feel like asking anyone to let us stay, fearing that there may be consequences for them in the future. We kept asking each local to ensure we were still on the way to Ywa Ngan, which wasn't easy as we had a lot of difficulties pronouncing the name. We continued like that, riding side by side, while checking out possibilities to crash on the side of the road for the night. Few such opportunities presented themselves, and we often wished we had a tent with us. We also recalled, with fondness, the countless, covered bus stops in Malaysia. The ride seemed endless, but eventually we made it to Ywa Ngan. A very small place, with just a few buildings on either side of the road, all dark. There was one restaurant open, with candles lighting the inside. There, we met the local police officers. What followed was a series of rather intimidating moments over dinner. One of the police dudes (off duty at the time), seemed rather worried about us having to stay there for the night. He kept asking where we came from, and whether we would leave the next morning. Myles left to check out the only place in the village that supposedly accepted foreigners, however, unwillingly. I stayed behind. Another cop showed up out of nowhere. He sat down at our table, and demanded: "passport". I looked up at him and asked: "who are you to demand my passport?". To which he gave me a one word reply of: "guesthouse". I love it how they just show up, without introducing themselves, demanding your personal documents without an explanation as to why. He appeared slightly taken aback by my boldness. He looked over my passport very carefully. He kept asking me what my nation was, yes, while holding my Canadian passport. He asked me three times for my visa into Myanmar, and I pointed it out to him each time. He must have had trouble understanding our situation, as the next few words out of his mouth were: "you go, now", and pointed in the direction out of town, towards Kyaukse, some 50 miles away. He had a very serious look on his face, as he listened to the first cop trying to explain the situation in terms he could comprehend. Of course, this was happening in Burmese, so it is pure speculation on my part. However, after a little while he said: "OK", and told us to go to the guesthouse. Afterwards, I as much as promised to be out of his jurisdiction by morning, on my merry way to Kyaukse. Myles came back at that point, looking a bit confused. We paid for our dinner, collected our things and headed across the way to the supposed guesthouse. There, we parked our bikes outside, everyone looked as if they just got up. They made us coffee and offered us some sweet buns. Meanwhile another official graced our presence. He went on to study each of our passports, asking the same questions as the guy before, while taking notes on a piece of paper in front of him. The owner of the guesthouse, an older man, stood over us, not saying anything. Eventually, they asked if US$5 was ok, to which the guesthouse owner responded with a curious look at the official. He then clarified that it was per person. We had no energy to argue the ridiculous price, and didn't say a word after they led us to what looked like storage space with a bed. The room was locked on the outside with a padlock, which resembled a holding cell. The guesthouse owner pointed out the bathrooms outside, and informed us that lights will be out at 9:30pm, and we looked at our watch to see that it was 9:30pm. Lights were off on cue. They did provide us with a lantern for the night. We had quick washes, as there was no running water, just cement barrels with rain water outside, covered by a thin skin of skunge on top. The bed was really hard, but we had a mattress beneath us. The mattress had what felt like a two by four right at out backs, which made it difficult to relax into sleep. However, knowing we had a long day ahead of us, we made ourselves catch some much needed sleep, a difficult task with our heads full of exciting events of the day.