We arrived at Mae Sot, the Thai-Myanmar border town, on Friday evening after spending time off the beaten track in a failed search for a waterfall. Mae Sot seems like a pretty happening place for a border town; busy, with a lot going on.
There were two dirt bikes in the hotel car park with Australian plates on them and we assumed we we’d see them at the border crossing the following morning to join the mandatory tour. It’s not possible to bring your own vehicle into Myanmar without a government registered tour guide and government ministry representative. In order to do this, budget conscious overlanders such as ourselves get together with other like minded travellers to keep the costs as low as possible. It turns out there were a total of 10 motorcyclists at the border that morning, 6 others travelling in our tour (including the Aussie registered dirt bikes). It just goes to show how ‘common’ what we’re doing is! After a bit of confusion crossing to the other side of the road (they drive on the right in Myanmar) we road into Myanmar on the newly built “Friendship Highway”.
The first days were spent mostly riding with a little sightseeing along the way – a real eye opener was spending a night in the nation’s new capital of Naypyitaw. This city was purpose built 11 years ago, and almost no people moved to the city when the government moved here – for over two hundred kilometres we road on a 4 lane highway with literally no traffic on it. In the city itself we rode on a 16 lane road, and ours were the only vehicles!
It wasn’t until we reached the ancient city of Bagan that we had a full day off the bikes. Instead we had a full program of sightseeing; from sunup to sundown we zipped backwards and forwards across town with our tour guide, seeing all the stuff that all the tourists are supposed to see. After nearly a month of doing everything at our own pace we felt like we’d been thrown back to a school excursion, in the sense that we’ve been doing everything to somebody else’s agenda. Thankfully it’s a good group of people and we all seem to be getting along.
Purely by coincidence there was a motorcycle expo on in Bagan at the time we were there – thankfully our tour guide appreciated our interest and took us to the expo. There were a lot of old English bikes on display, probably from bygone days when the British had a lot more influence here.
Another day on the road saw us arrive in Mandalay, where we’ll have another day of sightseeing. I wonder where the tour bus will take us tomorrow…
Enough rambling – pictures speak louder than words, so enjoy the photographic story as a substitute