Two Aussie blokes riding their BMW R1150GSs from Australia to Europe

Category: Myanmar

Burma for Buddha – 8152kms

54 million people live in Myanmar and 95% of the population are Buddhist which means most people have their own Buddha. There are Buddha images in Pagodas and temples,  Buddhas in parks, on top of hills, in shops and anywhere else you can find space for one.

Buddhas. Lots of them

Buddhas. Lots of them

There are sitting, standing and lying Buddhas. Assuming one person has 2 Buddha images each that would put the current amount of Buddha images in Myanmar at 108 Million and I think we have seen most of them!

Yep, this Buddha's a big one

Yep, this Buddha’s a big one

This should be no surprise to us – we knew we needed to take a tour across Myanmar and our guide Pure is doing a fantastic job of ticking the highlights off the list. We are staying in 5 star hotels and being led across the country with easy and trouble-free travel. But we are adventure motorcyclists and we left our comfortable country to explore the world for its soul and really get an insight into other people’s lives.

I am not a religious man and neither is Jimmy so we have no interest in Buddhism; what we are interested in is the people of Myanmar and how they live and interact and simply survive.

Passing the passers by

Passing the passers by

The best experience of Myanmar has been out on the road with the people – it is one of the reasons we love motorcycling so much. We get to see mother and father on small scooters holding their newborn babies without helmets enduring traffic of overloaded lorries, buses and cars. We see many people riding on roofs of buses and trucks ducking to avoid low branches and bridges, women walking with oversized dishes upon their heads to sell on the roadside, men riding old bikes with corn cooking on the rear by coals. Young boy Novice Monks walk in line accepting donated lunch along the roadside.

Novice monks receiving their food donations

Novice monks receiving their food donations

This is the real Myanmar. The women are shy and dress in traditional wear often blushing when making eye contact with us. The men are strong but gentle and they love our bikes; it is often the first thing that draws their attention.

Notice where his feet are

Notice where his feet are

Small children stare at us, older children wave from roadside stalls. We have seen small children working with their parents carting water in tanks, young ladies serving food and others herding cattle along a roadside. Hard men in ditches digging up concrete in thongs with bare hands. The land is barren  and sections of the country seem almost unlivable – but life exists.

Hard at work

Hard at work

The people of Myanmar have had it tough over the years, war and military rule has restricted and stalled their prospects but their recent move to a democratic society has lifted the cloud from overhead and they’re smiling all over, working hard at whatever it takes to improve the country and life. This is why we are travelling across the land, we will cross the border into india in 2 days time free ourselves from a restricted tour and be away in search of more of the world in front of us.

Myanmar: the tag along tour – 7385kms

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.

Sunrise over Mae Sot, the morning we were to cross into Burma

Sunrise over Mae Sot, the morning we were to cross into Burma

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”.

Our first taste of Burmese roads on the "Friendship Highway"

Our first taste of Burmese roads on the “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!

This highway led to a purpose built capital city with nearly no inhabitants, which meant the was nearly no traffic on the roads. A great place to practise your 'look mum no hands' riding technique

This highway led to a purpose built capital city with nearly no inhabitants, which meant the was nearly no traffic on the roads. A great place to practise your ‘look mum no hands’ riding technique

Just trying to blend in in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's new capitol

Just trying to blend in in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s new capital

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.

Sunrise in Bagan

Sunrise in Bagan

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.

Really old girls

Really old girls

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…

Mandalay's wooden bridge

Mandalay’s wooden bridge

Enough rambling – pictures speak louder than words, so enjoy the photographic story as a substitute

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