Woke up early. Had breakfast of Shan noodles in peanut soup, and fruit. Discovered a flat. Couldn't find the hole, even with the help of a bucket-full of water. Fiddled, hammed and hawed. At one point Myles thought there was a hole at the valve, but it turned out to be the wrong assumption. We replaced the tube, packed up, said our goodbyes and finally were on our way. Silo gave us each a bamboo basket, used by locals to hold knives - it was unexpected, but very nice. We graciously accepted the gifts. They were all very nice, and we had a really pleasant stay. If I was to change anything it would be to let the two girls that work here have some more time off, instead of having them serve us on hand and foot all day long.
The road past the bridge towards the junction was rougher than last time due to recent rains. We were on the road by 9 am, and stopped to buy a couple of large rice/sesame crackers on the way. Just as we were about to take a right at the junction, we were greeted by the eager café owner from before. He didn't recognize us at first, and invited us to sit down and have some food. We were strong, and politely declined. We are not sure if he remembered us at that point.
The road was pretty good, with the occasional rough section and ruts here and there. Very few vehicles on this stretch of road, we were thankful that Silo recommended it to us as an alternate route to the one that goes through Shewnayaung. We passed just a few loud trucks, some water buffalo - drawn carts, and some locals going about their daily lives. We also passed a couple of young women collecting tamarind high up in the trees, as well as a young boy of 7 or 8 walking cows on the road.
The climb towards Heho from there, was winding and not very steep. Many people honked, said hello, and waved. We got some awesome smiles in response to our 'Mingalaba' greetings. At one point the road split into left and right side traffic. There was a no entry sign at the left, but that didn't stop many trucks and cars from heading up that side. It was quite funny.
We stopped at the ShwePanKhing Shan paper and umbrella workshop. The guy working there waved us in. With incredible amount of enthusiasm he showed us the process of making paper out of mulberry tree bark, and than a step by step umbrella making process. He moved very quickly and tried to answer all of Myles' questions with his limited English. He had the most amazing energy about him. He understood that we couldn't buy any of the umbrellas because we were on bikes. He was glad when we purchased some paper. He was a genuine person. We met his wife and daughter outside just as we were about to take off. They were both a little shy, but smiled at us as we were leaving.
We carried on towards Kalaw, stopping for lunch at Heho. Heho is a very small town. There is no guesthouse to stay in, and just a handful of local shops. We stopped at a family-owned restaurant. The girl that served us was the owners' daughter. She spoke a few words in English. We ordered some food, mainly rice, hoping the rest would just show up. We sat at one of their tiny green tables in the shade of a large tree, and watched people go by. Rice with some orange sauce showed up first, then a bowl of clear soup with onions and pepper, then a lovely dish of fried tomatoes, onions and some dough, then some wheat noodles, and then some vegetables - we had no idea what to expect, but the food was really tasty and filling, and cheap at 1500Kyat, including our coffees. As we sat there a couple of Pa-O women sat on steps across the street. It turns out they were a mother and daughter. They had with them a parasol and some neat woven baskets with what looked like thread spools holding the shoulder straps. Myles went over to talk to them. The older woman was quite funny, and had a beautiful laugh. The younger woman had the same laugh. I hung out with the family from the restaurant. They were trying to ask questions, but I couldn't understand them. I took a family photo of them and promised to send them prints. They got quite excited about that. They wrote out their address after consulting a local man that spoke some English. Many more were willing to pose later, and were very excited to see their photos through the viewfinder. Myles took photos of the two Pa-O women as well, and in the end they joined us at the restaurant, and the guy who spoke pretty good English did a pretty good job of translating between us and everyone else. They asked whether we were married, had children, as well as how old we were. The Pa-O women were joined by two others later on, and all four touched my skin to see how it felt, I'm guessing. We were invited to their home, but decided to keep going, as we had some more climbing to do and Myles was feeling sick all day. We took our leave, feeling really good about spending some time with the locals - an unexpected turn of events.
The rest of the way to Kalaw followed some hilly terrain, and some rough roads. Many tractors on the road, some buses, small truck carrying like a 100 people - all clinging to whatever was available, and quite a few scooters. The road was followed a number of switchbacks and we got some neat views of the patchworks of farms in the valley bottom, dotted with stupas and pagodas. We stopped for some oranges on the way, but other than that pretty much kept going the entire way. We did stop at Aungban. We sat at the side of the road, watching the traffic and taking some photos in the late afternoon light. Myles got roped into buying some chips from of three cute, young girls, all selling the same product. Later a woman sold him all of her remaining samosas for the day, at 200Kyat. These were not so tasty, but Myles consumed several. We left after purchasing 3 ripe avocados from a man, he was happy.
There was still 6 miles ahead of us. We carried on, stopping to take some photos of Pa-O people heading home on the back of a tractor truck. We ended up chatting with a young guy working at his family gas station. He spoke English fairly well, but didn't really listen. He took quite a liking to Myles. In the end we took photos of his entire family, and promised we would send them prints. They gladly gave us their address. The road to Kalaw was up and down, and pretty rough. A local guy rode beside us for a while, he too was heading to Kalaw. We parted once we hit town. It was around 6pm, and was already getting dark outside, and the fog was rolling in. We had some trouble locating the Eastern Paradise Inn. Took a few wrong turns, while following a local's directions. Eventually, a woman led us right to the door, as we rode beside her. Myles went in to check the place out. The place was clean, with private bathroom, and very friendly staff. It was too late to look elsewhere. Breakfast was included in the price, and they didn't mind putting our muddy bikes inside.
Showers, and we were off to check out the town. We sat at a small café with lots of people sitting at tiny green tables. We ordered a couple of coffees. As soon as the 3in1 packets showed up we wished we ordered teas instead. Myles had some doughy tasting treats, which later turned out to be made out of soya beans and sugar. I didn't get to enjoy them, thinking they were made out of wheat. A young boy of about 10 served us. He had an air of a much older person about him. He sung, and danced to the music as he cleaned tables, served drinks and took orders. We wondered if he attends school during the day, and whether he is being robbed of his childhood like so many other children in Asia.
A handsome, older man, and a Muslim, chatted with us for a while. It was difficult to understand him. He was drinking hot milk with sugar. We ordered the same to try it. The milk had some insoluble bits in it, but tasted quite yummy, and sweet.
Later we found out that yesterday was the last day of the Ramadhan, and that the next three days are all about eating - a type of festival. We talked to an Indian Muslim man, an owner of a vegetarian restaurant, over some curry. There seems to be quite a number of Muslims in Kalaw, a higher concentration than we've seen so far in Myanmar. Myles expressed desire to stay here another day, so I am not quite sure if we are taking off tomorrow for Ywa Ngan.