Singapore

SINGAPORE!!! 33000kms and 6 months later I made it, OMG I think I’m going to cry, what a ride. Zurich to Singapore via Siberia and I made it, I really and truly DID IT!!!

On one hand I wish there was someone here to share this moment with me but on the other I wanted and needed to finish this on my own :) Words cannot express the feelings I have I am so sad and so depressed that my awesome journey is over, I have never crossed a border so depressed. I am not ready for this I just want to get back on my bike and ride around the world, I still have the stamina, energy, motivation but sadly not the time and money to carry on. I just cannot believe it’s done finished. On the other hand I am so unbelievably happy and excited I want to scream and shout and dance around like a wild thing.  I DID it I really and truly MADE IT!!! I want to run outside and just tell everyone in the streets about my 6 months but I think I might get locked up, so have to keep this feeling to myself and think I might just explode. Thanks goodness for Face book at least I’ve managed to virtually share this moment with my friends and family.

After finding my hostel and dumping my bag the first thing  I did was rush out and take a taxi to the Merlion, one of the most recognisable landmarks in Singapore. Taking pictures here was where I felt like this is it, the journey is done. I may still have 10 days in SE Asia and 5 days in the UK before returning to Switzerland but here the journey has ended successfully :)

I spent the rest of the afternoon traipsing around Singapore seeing the business district and china town. Eating the most expensive waffle and chocolate milkshake ever at $7 (US) each. Singapore is defiantly a really expensive place. My hostel is $40 a night for a pod , that is 4 nights’ accommodation in Thailand, good thing I am only staying two days. I do however like the place and it reminds me of Seoul but just doesn’t have as much soul haa haa sorry :)

On my day in Singapore I was not sure exactly what to do. Originally I wanted to go to Universal studios and just go crazy on the roller coasters, but since it was raining on and off and REALLY hard, I was here alone (universals is far more fun with someone else) and it was school holidays, I just couldn’t stomach the crowds I had to find something to do. Well this tough independent metal head biker chick went to the botanical gardens…yup I know so girly isn’t it :) since I have just fallen in love with orchids (I have never been into flowers since they just die so I can’t be bothered this really  surprises me) Anyway I decided to go to the national orchid garden in the botanical gardens as I thought they would be a fitting end to my trip. Well I was not wrong stunning absolutely stunning. I love purple it is my favourite colour and every second orchid in the garden is purple and the rare such a variety I really enjoyed my time in the garden. I also went sightseeing in China town and just generally enjoyed seeing  Singapore.

I will leave Singapore tomorrow and head to a resort just south of KL for 4 days and just read a book and relax. I think I need and will enjoy that. Then I fly back to Europe and reality.

That’s all folks :) The End

Melaka

I felt elated to be back on Dozer and riding down to Singapore. I decided to make the short 360km journey last 2 days and I wanted to stop in Melaka. I wanted to go visit mini Malaysia a world heritage site and was really looking forward to it. So after finding a hotel and having a much needed shower after my ride in the Malaysian heat I asked at reception what the best way was to get to Mini malaise a bus or taxi, only to be told that it is currently closed due to reservations NO WAY that is so not fair damn I was gutted. Well next best thing was to go exploring Melaka’s old town / china town and canals.  The building in Melaka need a good lick of paint and a little tender loving care but looking beneath this one can see some stunning little places. Taking a canal ride at night was great because everything looks so pretty all lit up.

My favour thing in Melaka are the ‘pimp my rickshaw’ rickshaws. Well a picture paints a thousand words so say no more. The best thing  about this rickshaw was that he was blaring out the most hard core death metal I have heard in a long time, so figure :)

The heat in Melaka is almost unbearable and unlike most cleaver Malaysians like Khairul family who wail until it cools down to go to at night there I was traipsing around the town with a handful of other tourists. Since it is school holidays the place should be very busy, but there are only a few people out in this heat which is the best thing about braving the daylight hours. At night the place teams like an overcrowded ant farm with hundreds of holiday goers but the atmosphere is quite electric.

I have become as addicted to Mango smoothies as I am with 3 in 1 creamy coffee. the main difference is that in this heat if I had a creamy coffee I would certainly spontaneously combust. SO mango smoothy after mango smoothy I managed to survive a couple of hours before heading back to the safety of my air conditioned room to wait until dark to take a canal cruise.

After Melaka I continued down to Johor Bahru which is just outside Singapore. Since Singapore is so expensive I was originally going to stay in JB and just go to sing for a daytrip. However I decided against that as I really wanted to stay in Singapore. It is however extremely complicated to take a bike into Singapore and one needs a Carnet. This is the only country in Asia what asks for one and I was sure as hell not going to get one just for Singapore as they cost loads and for a 2 day trip decided against it. So Dozer had to stay in JB while I  went to sing.

However riding down on the motorway while trying to find a roadside that said Singapore to take a photo of I missed the turn off to JB. There is not a single road sign that says Singapore on the motorway, only signs for woodlands, whish the entry point. Next minute I was at the border crossing…damn I am so gutted that there is no Singapore sign I can put Dozer in front of for a picture. Well I went through the Malaysia border crossing and customs (since there was no way to turn around on the motorway, and I had missed the 2 exits) I didn’t stop at the drive through passport and customs controls as I had no intention of leaving Malaysia, and no one stopped me…crazy, all I wanted was a place to turn around and hopefully a sign that says Singapore, but no luck. Well I realised that I needed to do something as I was now in mans lands and I had had enough of mucking around with immigration officials and did not want to push my luck, like in Russia.  SO I pulled over and told an office looking person that my GPS was not working (I had turned it off) and I was lost and missed my highway turnoff and had no intention of leaving Malaysia how do I go back. He freaked out, demanding my passport, I said I did not have it on me it was back in the hotel (it was safely tucked away in my pocket, but I knew if I produced it I would need to go through passport control as I was just not bothered to do all that right now)  hmmm now he was a bit stuck and had no idea what to do with me, and kept asking why I was not stamped out of Malaysia. I told him no one stopped me and I do not want to leave Malaysia so do not want to get stamped out I just need to turn around and go back. He demanded my passport again and demanded I remove my helmet.  I shrugged kept my helmet firmly  on my head (I am now bored, tired, fed up that there is no Singapore sign and just want to turn around and go back and find my hotel in JB) and said I have no passport. I am genuinely shocked at how calm I stay at times  like this. At work I am a TOTAL stress monkey, make me do a presentation and I almost have a meltdown, but while travelling, police ,  officials, customs, immigration etc just don’t bother me at all.

Well this poor little immigration guy was stumped I was as calm as a cucumber, making myself look as innocent and lost as I could, not getting upset raising my voice or giving in to his passport demand or demand to take of my helmet. He turns around and calls his superior officer on the radio. I explain the situation to this guy, smile sweetly. He says no problem you see that man in a blue uniform standing on the curb, you drive up to him and behind him there is a little alleyway you go down there and it will get you back on the road, good luck, THANKS sir goodbye. I like nice people in uniforms, so easy so simple no fuss.

Turning my GPS back on I find  my hotel. Using the Agoda website  online I had booked a myself into an inexpensive Boutique hotel for the first time . I thought Boutique hotel  a pseudonym for funky very expensive guest house. Well it isn’t I now know (or maybe it was just this one) that it means cute funky little hotel and this one was really cheap and lovely.  The only downside was the street side parking. However Khairul had a friend working at the Johor bahru specialist hospital and called him and arranged that I store Dozer in the staff car park while I am in Singapore.

So off I go to the hospital and at the reception they tell me that Ahmin is not in and will be back in an hour. No problem I go have some lunch. When I returned I am told that he is delayed and will be another hour. No problem I say I’ll wait. The receptionist asked me if it is important and must she call him. I explain about the parking and she does not quite understand so calls the hospital liaison officer. I explain the situation to the nice lady and she says oh no problem we can help you there is no need for you to wait around for Ahmin. WOW so nice. So she calls the head of security (for someone who hate sot put people out or cause a fuss, seriously if you ever met me you would know I hate more than anything imposing on people and like things simple, well on this trip I sure as hell have not done simple and once again caused quite a stir, but in a good way … I think ) anyway this lovely lady and the head of security come out and take a look at my bike in the parking lot and decide the safest place for it would be right in front of the hospital, where there are 20 signs saying no parking no parking. This is the drop of place where cars drive through. I try put Dozer as out of the way as possible, am assured by the head of security and hospital liaison officer that he will be fine and I must go off to Singapore and have a good time. WOW once again blown away by peoples generosity and kindness.

… tomorrow Singapore

N E 1 4 Crab – Malaysia

My friend Khairul who lives in Malaysia collected me at the Kuala Lumpur airport and the first thing we did was go eat. This is now my theme for Malaysia food, and like all SE Asian countries it is good. I spent 3 days with Khairul and his fantastic family, his wife Raja, son Amin and 3 daughters Aisha, Afrina and Zara. These kids are some of the nicest kids I have met and are so good and so polite. The call me Auntie Lorrain which even my own nieces and nephews don’t call me so it’s taken a bit of getting used to but since they all have these quiet voices and the cutest Malaysian accents I just love it, especially when Zara says Aaauuuntie Lorraineeeeeeeeee, which she must do about 10 times a day and since she is 6 and very quiet with a small voice it is so cute. She speaks the best English of all the kids and as well as Malay speaks Mandarin as she goes to a Chinese school.

It has been so nice to just spend 3 days in a home where I could literally feel at home and just relax, eat, watch TV, chat to the kids, and get my blog up to date. The first night I was there Khairul took us all out to one of the best Chinese restaurants in the area for crab. Now strangely enough I have never eaten crab, no reason just never had it. Well this was what one would call a huge slap up meal, and I mean huge 4 courses and two of the biggest crabs I have ever seen in some kind of delicious sauce. We rolled out of the restaurant and that night I slept like a baby. I think my whole body just needed a rest and spending those days with Raja and Khairul did just that. The whole family is laid back so it’s easy to just chill in their house.

The second night I was there we took the kids to Pizza hut and i-city which is a light theme park. I literary mean light not lite as it is all about lights, but really pretty and the girls loved it. These kinds of things really need to be experienced with kids to be enjoyed.

After 3 days I got back on Dozer and headed south towards Singapore

Myanmar – My fellow riders

I am lucky to have two great fellow bikers on Eric’s Myanmar trip. The four of us had an absolute ball.

Eric ‘Awesome’ Wasson: our guides and owner of Ride LARA based in Laos. Eric’s favourite word Dude…Eric is from the states, Texas, but living in Laos married to a very nice Lao lady, Parn, who I met when I was in Vientiane. I nicknamed Eric awesome because he was going to send me his DRZ piston, rings and valves when Dizzy died in order to get Dizzy back on the road. Sadly the logistics of getting them to Irkutsk or Almaty just would not work due to cost, time and therefore the risk was just too great. However I can now say that Eric is rightly call awesome because he runs Awesome tours. He is a real people person, a great guy to be around and thinks of everything, I genuinely cannot criticize a single thing he did and he made my tour to Myanmar one of, if not, the highlight of my trip. http://www.ride-lara.com/  http://www.myanmar-motorcycle-tours.com/

Maurice ‘Same Same but different’:  the words on Murices t-shirts, of which he had 3 or 4 the same words but different colours. One of the quietest Irishmen I have ever met. I like Maurice he is a nice guy with a good sence of humour. His nickname is butterfly became he falls in love with every pretty woman he sees and I could imagine him as a butterfly landing on a flower and in mid air spotting another one and flying after that one. The only thing that got to me about Maurice is the fact that kept on harassing (for want of a better word) every woman he met, hugging them or holding their hands uugghh drove me nuts he’s 74 and I can only image what these poor shy young Burmese ladies thought of this touchy feely foreigner.

David ‘chatterbox’ Gould: I have never met a man who can talk so much or in fact talk more than me, quite a verbal feat ;) David and I hit it off like a house on fire and he quickly became a friend. I am a land person and have less than no interest in sailing, harbouring even a small fear of water. I am usually instantly bored to tears with anyone who tells me sailing stories, however David has a sailors way of spinning a yarn and kept me entertained for hours with all his tales of the high seas, as well as his many interesting tales of his many years as a rally driver.

Back to Mandalay

So after a couple of incredible days in Bagan, I certainly did not see enough and would just love to go back, we headed back to the starting point of our bike trip in Mandalay. Knowing that this fantastic trip was about to end meant I was a little sad but hey who can stay sad when you are travelling in Myanmar with so much to see even on a not particularly interesting road. Well clearly I had got to a point where I am taking Myanmar for granted as every road is interesting in its own way. We hit the usual road works, small road side cafes (the one where we had the best Samousas), Brahman bull carts kicking up copious amounts of dust and more friendly smiling people in one village than you could meet at a pep rally in a lifetime.

After a full day on the small quiet country roads we hit the Mandalay traffic, OMG I have not experience such traffic since Ulaanbaatar. Fortunately Mandalay has no potholes, whereas Ulaanbaatar is one big pot hole with  a few bits of tarmac littered around in between. But trying to navigate the traffic in the Mandalay heat was a different story I was frying and literally soaking in sweat. But we finally made it to our hotel. I hoped off Big Red just long enough to check in and then hoped back on and raced to the Mandalay royal palace which I really wanted to see.

You must understand that this was extremely brave of me as it meant navigating the traffic again, and in record time as the palace closes at 5pm and it was already 4pm. However this time I seemed to find it easier as I was not following another bike but was on my own just following the very easy directions given to me. Copious horns blasts and near misses later I arrive at the Army base which surrounds the palace. Ok let me explain. The centre of Mandalay  where one finds the place in huge walled area surrounded by a very large moat, inside which is the local army base and in the centre of this is the ancient palace. On arriving at the gate, there are 4 gates but visitors  can only use one, I just needed to show my passport and paid usd10 which allowed me into the base and the palace. The surreal experience was that I had to get off my motorbike and push it through the gate erm well okey dokey. Then hop back on and ride the about 1km to the palace. Which I then discovered actually closed at 4:30 so I had 20 minutes to see it.

Bagan golden palace

The palace itself is not as ornate as the golden palace in Bagan, which is lovely but very very small. This palace is really big with stacks of small buildings and rooms dotted all over. I literally ran through it as I find these types of places very interesting. It is sad that the government doesn’t’ spend some money on the upkeep / renovations of this palace as it could almost (but not quite) rival the forbidden city in China. However like most places in Myanmar it is just showing its age and is a bit worn down, still well worth seeing though and I also found the fact that it is on an army base quite interesting.

Mandalay palace

Well after that whirl wind solo tour of Mandalay and the palace I had to say goodbye to Big Red my the little Honda CRF250, I was quite sad as it really meant the end of my 2 weeks in Myanmar. The following day we flew to Yangon had our last dinner together, and said out goodbyes. I had had such a fantastic time with the guys I was quite sad to say goodbye but was also looking forward to getting back on Dozer and riding alone again.

Bagan

After reaching Bagan I was given the biggest complement by Eric. He has asked me to guide one of his Myanmar tours next year.  Jeeeze for someone to have that much faith and confidence in me as a person and my riding ability to ask me to guide for him and represent his company, I am gobsmacked and HELL YEAH where do I sign… already excited about reaching Bagan this news made my day

Bagan is probably the most well know city in Myanmar because of the temples which have been said to come close to rivalling Angkor (but not quite) Scattered throughout the city are over 2000 temples and pagodas. Some just tiny and not big enough to walk into while others are huge with extremely large Buddha statues and corridors inside. We were schedule dot have a sunrise balloon trip  over the city which was very disappointingly cancelled due to high wind. I can only image how awesome it would have been to see the city and all the temples from the air. Just climbing up onto a single high temple gave one a stunning panoramic view across the area WOW this is certainly a place a worth seeing.

Like most touristy areas like this in most countries each temple is surrounded by a number of hawkers. Mostly they are great fun and not nearly as aggressive as those found in Egypt but you do soon get tired of being harassed.  Our funniest encounter was when David started looking at the sand paintings wanting one for his flat. He did not find what he wanted so we left. We were riding in the back of our support vehicle for the day from temple to temple, taking a break from the bikes and hot riding gear in the extreme Bagan heat (the hottest city in Myanmar)  Happily bouncing along a dirt track a scooter pulls up behind the truck and the rider shouts that he has  sand paintings for David. While still driving he rides alongside and handing the paintings to us. Sadly they were not quite what David wanted, who wanted a red one with Buddhist monks. Not deterred the hawker rider turns up 30 minutes later at one of the temples with a few paintings of monks, just what David wanted …now that is service well ok determination. Anyway this guy proceed to spend the day following us and trying to sell us paintings, he was a great young entrepreneur and certainly knew his sales pitch. Maurice ended up buying a painting too. Sadly the ones I wanted from him were WAY over priced and no matter how he tried he couldn’t get usd50 out of me for a painting. But is’ funny how things happen….

At the end of one day we were just about to leave when a young girl came up to me selling the Bagan famous lacquer wooden bowls. She wanted 3000 kyats about usd3, for 2 bowls and would not sell only 1. I knew that in my purse I had 4 x 500 kyat bills. So said no I did not have 3000 anyway she carried on  harassing me and bargaining and eventually I said ok I have 2000 and will take them. By this time we were in the back of the van and I opened my purse to see 3 x 500 bill damn, I apologised profusely saying I did not have 2000 only 1500 so could not buy the bowls. She snatched the money saying ok ok give me give me. Ok I agreed and took the bowls actually feeling bad now and apologising again. She said no it’s ok give me your hat. I love my hat and no way was I parting with it for all the tea in China I have had this hat for years and it’s my lucky mechanics hat. (i.e. the one I use to keep my hair out of the way when I fix bikes) so nope I said you are not getting my hat. I was going to borrow the 500 from David and it’s a pity I didn’t, because I would have noticed the bill. But by then the cacophony of the hawkers had got enough for us all and we drove off, me feeling guilty for short changing the little hawker girl…..erm HANG On DAMN it hit me they were not 500kyat notes but 5000. OMG the little cheating…well what can I say I went nuts kicking myself for being so stupid, I hate it when I do such stupid things. (15000 kyat is about  usd16, but a night accommodation on my trip) I could not blame the little kid for a second. If some stupid foreign woman can’t tell a 500 from a 5000 note that I totally her fault, good on ya kid you got one over on me and I learnt a valuable lesson. That was NOT the first time that happened to me with foreign currency and I am sure will not be the last. Ah well temples hawkers and stupid foreigners the name of the game in Bagan

As well as sand paintings and lacquered bowls Bagan is also, well actually the whole of
Myanmar, is also famous for its wooden carvings, just stunning examples of workmanship.
However my favourite carvings were the coconuts carved into Monkeys just so cute

Naypyidaw

Riding into the new Myanmar capital Naypyidaw was an enormous surprise. In the middle of nowhere the government decided to build a new Capital, so there is no slum, no traffic, no downtown, no litter and oh no people. It’s kind a weird there are huge beautiful new hotels, suburbs, apartment buildings but seriously few people. I am guessing it is still being developed. The houses around the main movement buildings are mansions…well that was expected. The roads are pristine clearly NOT made by hand huge 8 lane (I kid you not 8 lane) concrete highways filtering into 4 and 6 lane roads. Well I take my hat off to the town planner this is truly forward thinking, more towns should be built with these road systems. They may take time to fill up though. Being the ONLY vehicles on an 8 lane at 5pm was the most fun ever..drag racing anyone :)

After staying in another luxury hotel, oh yes this is the best thing about Myanmar. Other than the old capital Yangon where the hotels are hugely expensive and not that good unless you pay a fortune. The hotels are expensive but fantastic the 2 and 3 star hotels are genuinely like 5 star hotels and honestly better than the 4 star hotels I get to stay in for work. So we’ve had a great time staying in 2 and 3 star hotels which are like hmmm I don’t know how to describe them just superb. Naypyidaw was no exception the hotel we stayed in was fantastic. Many of the buildings especially the old colonial ones  in Myanmar especially in Yangon are really beautiful but totally worn down and in need of a good cleanup and paint. If any money was spent on that the cities would be 100 times nicer.

I had a really interesting encounter after breakfast while I was waiting for the guys. I was sitting in the hotel reception and military general sat opposite me. He asked me where I was from and how I was enjoying Myanmar. He was the director of the military research department in Myanmar and was at the hotel to meet some Israeli Drs for a big medical conference that was happening in  Naypyidaw. We only spoke for a few minutes and I had no idea just what kind of question were acceptable to ask. But we spoke about the tropical diseases the conference was about, and where (well lets call him Dr T, as I am not sure a Burmese general would want his name printed by some strange biker tourist women) Dr T studied and what I thought of Myanmar. He gave me his business card and was a really nice friendly man who seemed really happy to talk about the level of medical care in his country

The following day we went to see the new Parliament buildings. We managed to get as close as the gate. We were stopped about 250m at a police stop but Eric is a charmer and they let us leave out bikes there and walk up to the gate. The parliament building complex is like a mini city, it is HUGE and totally flamboyant but extremely beautiful. Cleary someone was making a statement. It must have cost millions and millions a start contrast to the poverty in the country.  But then again what country isn’t like this. I am not quite sure what to make of the Myanmar government there certainly seems to be a level of corruption I just cannot make out how bad it is.  The Burmese people seriously do not have the same  fear / caution as the Chinese people and will quite freely voice their opinion to us about the political situation. For example one of our guides mentioned that people used to make way for any official vehicles on the road but now he knows he does not need to anymore so doesn’t.  One of the things you see all over Myanmar in cities and rural areas and on every street are bottles of clean drinking water. Even in the smallest villages clay pots are put out on  a designated table by  a designated water bearer every day. The clean bottled water is supplied by the government so that everyone in the whole country has clean water. One will not find anything like this in China or in fact in any country I have travelled through.

We were stopped only twice in on the Myanmar roads at police road blocks. The police were very friendly and just took our passports and made us write our names and passport numbers in a logbook, no one asked for money and non was given. So the police and either genuinely not corrupt or have just not leered to ask for bribes like their Russian counterparts.

Roads and Things

Like any of the countries I have travelled through there are many things to see along the road while travelling, one reason travelling by bike is so good. However unlike any other country Myanmar has more to see per km than any other I have ever been to hence the idea that I took over 700 pictures during this 2 week trip, more than in any other country. Ther are an uncountable number of temples and pogodas in Myanmar some perche din th emost precarious places. One of the most fascinating things were the roadwork’s. Burmese build their roads by hand (except in the new capital Naypyidaw, but I’ll get to that in another post) Every time we came across road works we got to see more of the process unfolding. First the old tarmac is dug up, leaving a square ditch of varying sizes, rocks the size of a large fists are carried in baskets mostly by women and young adults (I am guessing varying ages from 12 to 20) and laid down in the ditches. A steam roller then squashed them down. Smaller stones and gravel are then carried and thrown into the ditches, tar is poured also by hand from tins with holes in them across the stones. This part of the process was fascinating to see as the men carrying the tins would run with the tar pouring out of the holes at the bottom on the tin and trying , I assume, to get an even layer. At some point, I am not exactly sure when but I think, once the tar has solidified / dried, fine sand is laid over it. Give or take a step or two this is generally what we saw all along the roads throughout Myanmar. Seemingly a back breaking, EXTREMELY hot task. Yet every time I raised my camera I still received that touching beautiful Burmese smile and more often than not a little laugh or two.

The other road related thing we saw, were the street side beggars (beggars is not the right description, but is the right word) Since Myanmar is an extremely poor country one sees the poorest grass huts dotted along the way. Where people, I assume, are not farming or doing something to make money they sweep the roads. Clearing them of stones, sand and any other debris along the way. Motorists then throw money down for them. We did not see this very often but it was pointed out as I had no clue what these people doing. Other people will stand on the side of the road with silver bowls asking for money for their Wat (local Buddhist monastery) or school etc. I did find it interesting to see the different practices along the roads. In the lush mountain areas the villages are bigger and the areas are covered with farms. Families usually farm together and all financial decisions are family decisions. It was only in the lower dryer but more populated areas that we saw very poor families. I am busy reading a book on Myanmar as I find this demographic interest and am wondering if I have understood it correctly.

All along the rout we found tiny villages all with a small roadside stall. It was easy to see the difference in the village ‘wealth’ by the size of the village, the local sore and the grass huts. I loved these roadside stops as we got to interact with the people and every stop was an event. We must have seemed like Aliens as the villages would all come out and simply stare at us. No one spoke English but with a little sign langue, laughter and big smiles we managed to communicate in some ways and have an enjoyable time. Some villages do not like their photos taken so when asked just look away, but most are quite happy and always want to see their pictures. This is when I really wished I had an instamatic so that I could give the people a picture of themselves. One or two pictures we took to me truly captured the Burmese, the pride and love they have for their children, the shyness found in most of the women and the joy in the children. The Burmese certainly have a great sense of humour and often laugh at a little trick or expression. At one stop I was offered a chair by one of the young villages, as was most always the case, and this young boy (maybe 13) sat on his haunches and just stared at me, just brazenly starred. He was so sweet and I am thinking that maybe it is my red hair or perhaps the fact that I ride a bike which was so fascinating.

Shaking hands is completely alien Burmese, and of course something we did every time we came to one of these villages as it is our way to say, hello, thank you, goodbye. Unlike the Thai the Burmese in rural villages don’t put their hands in front of themselves as a thank you, there is no hand expression for this. It was hard for us not to do anything to show our appreciation/ friendliness so we shook hands and boy did this bring a lot of laughter and smiles. I would LOVE to know just what the people were thinking I can only image something along the likes of ‘Dad, what the hell was that, are these people crazy or what’ The tiny children who had clearly never seen a white person just pulled their hands away and hid them behind their backs before these ‘white ghosts’ could touch them, making the adults laugh like crazy at them. Maybe you had to be there but if you were you would have enjoyed the moment as much as all of us did, foreigners and Burmese alike.

Even thought the poverty in this country is palatable the people are clean. Now it does not look like it as first sight since it is very dusty, but looking closely one can clearly see pride in the women’s dress and eyes. The roadside café glasses are clean and the food absolutely delicious, not one of us got sick from eating in these grass huts. As well as the cleanliness, friendliness and inquisitiveness of the Burmese people one thing that struck me was just how elegant the woman are. All stick thin and wearing the traditional sarong and top, in the mountains the women wear black with vividly coloured head dresses that indicate which tribe they are from. One of my favourite road side stops was just outside Mandalay where we were fed very delicious samousas and doughnut like pies sweet and filled with coconut the lad who ran the roadside restaurant was so elegant and photogenic. David took one of my all time best Myanmar picture of her in the kitchen, it never ceased to amaze me how such good and delicious food comes out of these very rustic kitchens.

Of course one must not forget the roadside delicacies like deep fried duck, pigeon, sparrow and cricket. The crickets I saw in a market in Yangon and when I was taking the picture a man walked passed me and said you need  to try one, I said no I didn’t have the courage to which he answered but they are deliscious and laughed. One of my best food related sighting was the post Eric pointed out to us ‘’educating’’ people about what food they cannot mix together or they will get sick or die….strange but true, so don’t forget you will die if you eat pumpkin and pigeon.

I have become completely addicted to 3 in 1 coffee especially the rich and creamy kind, which one will also find at every little road side stop. I know the addiction stems from the fact that it is 47% sugar buy man I cannot get enough of this stuff :)

Bikes on a boat

After our great stay off-road days and home stay we reached our river destination where we had to put our bikes on a couple of boats. fortunately the little Hondas are very light so 4 guys could lift them into the boat, not that it was easy but it was certainly doable. Two bikes per boat and off we went through the water canals to the like and across to a floating hotel. Wow this place was stunning my dream accommodation, a little bungalow on the water. I wish I could find a place like this in Malaysia to relax in for a few days before I head back to Europe. Although I know there are places like this in Malaysia they cost an arm and a leg, ah well I made the most of my time in this floating hotel.

Back on the bikes and off to see more countryside and wow we were surely not disappointed. Winding our way through the hills up to 1600m over narrow but well kept tar road with breathtaking views and drops, so no mistakes and there are no helicopters here to come rescue you. This was the longest day at 280km but winding our way on these roads took hours. I cannot believe how long it can take to get from A to B in SE Asia, but don’t get me wrong I am not complaining I am enjoying every minute of it, and half the time was taken up by stopping for pictures.

Eric spotted a group of people with an elephant in one of the villages, and although he knew there are elephants in Myanmar he had never seen one. So we pulled into the village to take a look. This beautiful bull elephant, a working elephant had an abscess on its side and the vet was there operating on it. We could not believe how calm this huge animal was patiently standing for his mahout while the vet worked on his side and dug out handfuls of puss. It looked very painful. The mahout was sitting on his neck stroking his big head and talking to him, and another guy was feeding him some mushy stuff which he seemed to like. On the odd occasion he would raise his back leg and push the vet and assist aside obviously in pain, but still so gentle. An amazing thing to see and I managed to have a brief chat to the vet, a Burmese gentleman who had studied in Thailand and the UK. He told me there were around 50 working elephants in that area. This was the only one we got to see.