This country has stolen my heart

I could not be happier or luckier that my trip to Myanmar is right at the end of my trans Asia. Every country that I travel to seems to get better in every way, the food, the people, the scenery, the sights. However Myanmar is by far the cherry on the top, this country has blown my mind and stolen my heart. The only way I can describe how I feel at the risk of sounding contrived is that I feel privileged to experience this country the way I have and to see what I have seen. I have travelled to over 60 different counties on 5 continents and can honestly say this is the best of the best. I usually don’t make plans to visit a country again because there are so many places I still want to see, but I can guarantee that I will return to Myanmar.

The Burmese people are just lovely in every way. We travelled to remote villages as only you can do on a motorcycle where people very seldom if ever see tourists. They stared at us like we were aliens but the minute you smile, your smile will be returned in such a deep and open way you can see it in their eyes. I am not an eloquent person and as I read this I can see that it sounds over emotional but of all the genuine smiles I have received from various people as I travelled none have I actually felt in my heart. Why is it that the poorest people in the world have the warmest smiles? The children as always fascinate me, the tiny ones never having seen a white person before would look at me with huge doe like eyes and pull their fingers away if I tried to touch them squealing with laugher. I saw the tiniest of little boys sitting atop the biggest water buffalo starting at me probably with the same expression as I was staring at them in total bewilderment. One of my favourite sights were the group of children we saw tobogganing down a hillside on planks of wood, the laugher and joy in those faces will be a fond memory for me. Stopping I one of the remote villages we came across a group of men playing a game similar to bole / bowels. They had small wooden disks which they placed out on their sides in a specific pattern 6 on each side of a flat sand area and using rounded but flat on one side cones about the size of a small fist the spun these to hit the disks on the opponents side of the ‘court’ The game had drawn quite a few spectators and we had a great time watching it and the skills of the players. While everyone was watching I quickly took the opportunity to find a toilet. We had a local guide with us Tonti and he pointed me in the right direction. Like most toilets in the area it was just a long drop, although the Burmese toilets are extremely clean nothing like the long drops you find in Russia. So off I walked down the path only to find the entrance covered in spider webs and spiders, BIG one. I am seriously arachnophobia and just could not make myself bend under the webs to get through the door, no way in hell man. I hurried back to the game and told Tonti and he thought it was quite funny and said we can just have ea pit stop on the way. I however managed to make it all the way to the village where we were having a home stay. The first thing I did was rush to the ladies (a long drop out the back), but Tonti was way ahead of me and had rush on ahead of me to check for Spiders, 🙂 what a guide above and beyond duty I think.

I loved the home stay, we slept upstairs on the floor of the stilted rattan house. I was given the mozzi net, sometimes it pays to be a the only girl. Although the mozzies are really not bad at this time of year at all.  We all just got a few bites here and there and used a lot of spray. Our guide Tonti who is the son of the Burmese man Sam, who was the first Brumes to start taking tourists on treks in this area of Myanmar and now known as the father of trekking is a great guide. He speaks good English and if very knowledgeable and such a nice man. He has a cook with him who prepared our meal for the night and wow we ate like kings. It constantly surprises me the quality of meals that come out of these little remote kitchens. Tonti explained that the meals we ate was traditional Burmese food although a family wouldn’t eat the same variety in one meal, we for example had three different vegetables but Tonti said in one meal they would usually have one type, and meat was only for a very special occasion, rice and or potatoes would be ore he staple. Our cook is a young guy Tuto, about 16 years old and trained as a cook by Tontis wife. The family are well respected for the boarding school they run for local children which has done a lot for the education in the area and many of the children become cooks of guides for Tontis family, or go on to further their education in one of the larger cities. I found it all very interesting and was disappointed that we were in the area during school holidays so did not get to see the school. At the moment there is a huge Buddhist festival going on for a few days so the children are all on holiday but there is a lot of activity around the monasteries.

I could never in a thousand words describe the breathtaking beauty of this country. I have never on my entire 6 month trip taken so many photographs in so few days, in my first three days on the bike I took over 300 pictures. It takes us hours to get anywhere as we are constantly stopping for the picture I just have to take. Now I often get stuck in the saddle and so often want to kick myself for not stopping to take that picture, but here in Myanmar I just cannot ride past that scene, that water buffalo, that person without stopping.

After the good no great roads in Thailand and Malaysia I was genuinely stoked to be back off-roading in Myanmar, the perfect country to get off the beaten track. However this tour may have been off-road but it is about experiencing Myanmar not about riding off-road. Now don’t get me wrong the off-road was great and I had a lot of fun, but you don’t come to Myanmar to trail ride you come here to see the country and just do it on an off-road bike so as to get way way WAY off the beaten track, and boy we were. And as David said to me ‘the harder the road the sweeter the arrival’ and that was a good thing for us to remember when we hit the infamous Myanmar mud. When Eric told us we could not ride the goat trails due to the rains and had to take the better route, I was so disappointed hmmmm famous last words am I GLAD we did not take the goat path or we may just still be stuck in the mud. I had assumed the better route would be a well graded dirt road, well in parts it was but no it is an extremely bad dirt road and in parts just a single track… fun fun fun for us off-road enthusiasts. AND fortunately  I like mud, after all my dirt bike motto is if you aren’t dirty you aren’t having fun. Or as I usually sing to myself when off-roading ‘mud glorious mud what more could we ask for’ I’m not sure David agreed with me when he got stuck up to his axel in black buffalo dungy smelling  mud 🙂

I did have a real good laugh at myself at one point. There I was doing the whole off-road bit, pushing  on the right footrest to turn right, dipping my right hand down bringing my left elbow up, wearing my adventure riding trousers with knee guards, and jacket with elbow, shoulder and back protector, gloves, helmet, goggles and MX boots. Riding my heart out through the mud, and over ruts and roots and loose sand and feeling like the queen of the road thinking “ this road aren’t gonna get the better of me I’m nailing this shit”, only to look up and see a Burmese guy on a 100cc scooter bouncing along on the same road, wife on the back with baby in arms whistling Dixie (well ok maybe whistling something else) oh boy sometimes I just take myself too seriously 🙂

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