Week 4 ish I’ve already lost track of time (Thaton – Yangon)

Thaton – Kinpun (81km)

Fortunately Olga and Ramlan were healed and so we were all able to cycle to the next destination of the pilgrimage site of   ‘Golden Rock’ up a bloody big hill at Kyaiktiyo. However we would aim for where the cheaper accomodation is at the bottom in a tourist den called Kinpun. Think ‘I’ve been to Kinpun’ t-shirts. I have no recollection of the first 70m of this journey at all but I know I cycled it as here are some pictures of some things.

Wicker materials (?) drying in the sun
A lot of grass on a lorry.

This was lunch. Traditional Myanmar chicken curry and picked tea leaf salad (not a salad)
I do remember being very tired and exhausted by the sun when we pulled over for lunch at the turn off for Kinpun in Kyaikto (not to be mistaken for Kyaiktiyo).It is riotously hot between 12-2 and it sucks the energy right out of you.

The last 14m of the journey to Kinpun were frankly unwelcomed in their hillyness. When our prebooked hotel was not where we’d marked it on the map I almost had my first cycling induced hissy fit and refused to pedal a step further without triple checking with passers by in case I may glide down a hill only to have to go back up it again. After about ten minutes of trying to pronounce the word ‘Lotus’ in a comedic range of accents and facial expressions we eventually found our hotel. Which was awesome.

Went for dinner and saw the double sights of some very cute cats and a confusing tourist strategy of putting a big wheel that nobody wants to ride because they’ve mostly come on a spiritual pilgrimage and not the fair.

What are you looking at???

Whoever paid for this funfair is a donut
Kinpun (for Kyaikthiyo) rest day

So the story with the ‘Golden Rock’ is that there is…a golden (not gold) rock high up on a hill that is said to contain one of the hairs of Buddha. Buddha gave one of his hairs to a hermit, who gave the hair to the King and asked for the hair to be enshrined in a rock shaped like the hermit’s head. The King had supernatural powers and found this specific rock that was indeed shaped like the hermit’s head and raised it out of the waters and found this cracking spot for it on the hillside. The rock looks like it’s going to fall off any minute, but it won’t. The site is one of the most special pilgrimage destinations in the nation and the vast majority of visitors are Myanmar Buddhists coming to pay their respects. And Chinese tourists.

You can get a really overpriced and seriously fun 40min truck ride up a very, very steep windy hillside or hike for like four hours. It’s windy, wiggly and the drivers go rlly, rlly fast. It was wicked. Someone was sick on Olga’s bus. Up top I went for a wander first before checking out the rock as I was more bothered about the views and than the hermit’s head. There are quite a few hillside villages and it got me really thinking about practical things like sewage and how much of a pain in the ass it must be to transport things you need bac and forth. Guessing the majority of people don’t travel down the hillside that often and work/school in the hills.

Forget the big wheel at base camp, this truck ride was better than Alton Towers
Local chaps from hillside villages play massively popular volleyball in stunning surroundings (women don’t play sport apparently)
Stunning views of the mountains and hillside villages

Back to the rock. Actually, before the rock please remember to remove your feet before entering and say hello to that famous Buddhist figure Santa.

 

Ankles up only please
Thumbs up for Buddhist Christmas

 

Santa’s been to Specsavers and become a waiter. Hard times.

The rock! Is not really shaped like a (hermit’s) head but it is pretty neat. It’s not solid gold but covered in gold leaf. There are thousands of people who make the pilgrimage to the rock, including very many who bring sleeping kit and stacks of food and their families to sleep overnight for the double purpose of maximum sunrise/sunset views (spectacular) and more praying time. It’s kind of a weird thing being at such a special site for many people but it also being pretty touristy.


  

Not much to say about the rock, it looks cool. I’d like to have gotten closer but I wasn’t permitted because I am a woman. My womanly wiles and different body shape obviously mean I, and other women, are not suitable candidates to pray and place gold leaf upon the rock in the same way as chaps. Ramlan did not find this amusing either, despite his glee below.

 

Don’t step close to the rock lady!

Kinpun – Bago (about 80km of 103km)
Okay and back on the bike again (can you tell I’m writing up several weeks in one go? get me a beer pls) the next day for a long one of 100km. This was Christmas Eve! The first 40km or so were undulating but smooth. The stretch afterwards is straight, boring and with quite a lot of trucks, a headwind and few snack stops. Once you turn a sharp bend to head left with about 40km to go the wind eases up a bit and you have more, but not many places to stop.

This day was the day of the cycle tourists however, in which we cycled past FIVE other tourers heading in the other direction within 10km of each other. First an English couple on a TANDEM with an Austrian guy who are cycling the entire globe, followed by a German couple who cycle for one month a year come hell or high water.

 

Stopped off for some dried eel. I didn’t really

English couple and Austrian guy cycling the world

Gernman couple crossed paths on the way to Bago

This day was the day of the cycle tourists however, in which we cycled past FIVE other tourers heading in the other direction within 10km of each other. First an English couple on a TANDEM with an Austrian guy who are cycling the entire globe, followed by a German couple who cycle for one month a year come hell or water.

Myself and Ramlan there in the towel at about 80km I thin and got a pick up and put our bikes on top. It’s hard going carrying all your stuff in the heat and as we keep stopping to see cool stuff I don’t think my legs are up to the grade of pumping out 100km or so yet. That will come I’m sure.  Plus I wanted to get to Bago and ring my mom as it was her birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DIANNE.

Bago – Yangon (bus)

Christmas Day! To celebrate Christmas I went to visit the ‘world’s biggest SNAKE’ (liars) in a temple and put my bike on another bus into the capital city Yangon to avoid mega skanky traffic that we were warned of. So this is a quick update as actually very uneventful, apart from the snake below which seemed drunk. CLOSE YOUR EYES IF YOU DONT LIKE SNAKES.

  

Got my bike off the bus at one of Yangon’s out of city bus depots and made the cycle approx 18km into its throngs. I was warned that Yangon traffic is evil and initially I was like, what’s the fuss about, and then realised what the fuss is about. It’s not just that there’s a lot of cars, but that often they seem to stop exactly where they are for twenty minutes at a time. The traffic lights seem to change at very long intervals and if this is on purpose I’m not sure it works. 

  
But actually I was quite happy and liked what I saw of the city so far. It’s immediately obvious that you’ve hit a big city as less people wear the traditional ‘longyi’ (wrap around skirt type clothing) and some women wear skirts and even sometimes shorts above the knee.  Checked into Agga hostel in Yangon which was brilliant. Didn’t do much apart from call home and have some ropey street food for Christmas dinner. 

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