I crossed Myanmar border just before the sunset from Thailand. To find a hotel was quite hard as it was twice or triple more expensive than Thailand but it was not good. Camping or sleeping at local people’s house were forbidden by the law that I would spend lots of money in Myanmar.
When I looked for a hotel on the street around the dark, local guys were shouting at me. I was worried about cycling in Myanmar. Although I’ve never been India, I felt like I just entered into India cause it has similar atmosphere.
There were so many street dogs and they were barking from far. Some of them were following me. Later I found the hotel. It was just chaotic night for me.
I was bitten by bed bugs at the hotel. Usually they bite all over the body. But this time only my hand was bitten luckily. Bed bugs are worst creature in the world. Some of travelers gave up traveling and going back home after being bitten all body cause it can be crazy itchy and painful.
At the first night, I was scared and nervous. But once I started cycling, I realized it was not like other countries where I got too much street flirts. People were kind. And moreover, people were smiling lot. I couldn’t remember when was the last time I could see people’s smiling on the street at every eye contact. I would say this was most smiling country in my world trip.
It was only 50 km (31 mi) to the next town that I arrived at the afternoon. Myanmar’s culture and economy looked different from other southeast Asian countries I’v been.
I met other cyclists at the hostel. They were about to meet the local girl that they invited me as well. Her name was Susu and she invited cyclists traveler when they passed at her town. It was more like B&B that people donated at her for the food. But to stay at local people’s house was illegal that none of us stayed at her house. It was the chance to learn the culture at local people’s house.
She showed us the noodle factory on the way to go back to the hostel. Mohinga was Myanmar national dish and served as breakfast usually. It was made of a rice noodle and fish soup. They let us to taste Mohinga with the noodle which they just made!
Vlog of cycling and meeting local girl
At the next day, we went to her house and she was busy to prepare the breakfast.
She made lots of amazing food, which was so good for cyclists. Homemade food was always better than restaurant’s one.
Myanmarese used Thanaka as sunblock and skincare. She watered a few dropped on the stone, grained the wood, and then spread it on the face. I was amazed that most of Myanmarese used natural cosmetic product when all over the world used chemical cosmetics from factories.
Thank to her, I could learn her country deeply. By the way, she showed me her collection of Korean dramas that she had a lot of Korean drama CD. Some Myanmar people greeted to me in Korean which they learnt from Korean drama.
Cyclists I had met at the hostel traveled with bike packing. It was more simple way to travel. But actually it needed more money to make everything small such as sleeping bag, pad, tent, and so on. These days bike packing was really popular for short trip. Cyclists on the picture were traveling longer but they said it was okay to travel with bike packing. When I started traveling several years ago, everyone had big heavy panniers. But now days bike packing is trend. Unlike bike travelers, there is still same trend that back packers carry heavy tall big back pack until now. By the way, I like old fashion that I like to carry everything I want.
The next town was far and the road condition was really bad because of the construction. It was bumpy, dusty, and narrow that I arrived at a city around the dark.
There was a few attractions around the city, Hpa-An but I couldn’t reach by transportation. I rented scooter for the first time in my trip. But it was really easy to ride that I had wished to try it in Thailand and Vietnam earlier.
It was a bit dusty but I really enjoyed quiet road and seeing local people on the way.
Sadan Cave was a sacred place that everyone had to leave the shoes at the entrance. It was really busy with lots of local people.
The scenery from the cave
I came out from the cave and took the boat. It was a bit similar tour I had in Vietnam.
Also scenery was similar that it was beautiful. I had to walk with barefoot to go back and it was a bit hurt.
I arrived another beautiful religious place by scooter. People could climb up on the rocks and meet monks to listen to their word on the top .
Vlog of cycling and touring around Hpa-An
It was one of local transportations. The road condition was not good and drivers didn’t drive carefully that it looked a bit dangerous. In the big city, there was a big bus though.
The scenery of the road in Myanmar. The ox with cart looked similar as the one I saw in Paraguy.
I never imagined this scenery that I was surprised. I didn’t expect to see elehpants in Southeast Asia even. I didn’t like to treat elephants as pet that I didn’t have any tour such as riding elephant or giving it a bath.
It was totally new experience that I was cycling next to elephatns.
When I was checking in at the hotel, I saw elephants was there too. It seemed like it was surprising thing to local people as well that everyone was busy to take the picture with their smartphone.
I also took the picture together.
In Kyaikto where I stayed after cycling with elephants, there was Golden Rock, the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. It was said that there was buddha’s hair at Golden Rock.
Local males were wishing after putting gold leave on Golden Rock. It was said that if women put gold leave, the rock will fall down by bad luck. If women wants, the monk would do for them.
The sunset made all around as the gold. I was hurry to catch the last bus. But many local people were staying with their family on the mat they brought there. It looked like they would stay there all night.
Vlog of cycling next to elephants and visiting Golden Rock
My heart was melting everyday by local people’s smiling. The most favorite thing on a bike was to exchange the smile with local people. Myanmar was perfect for it as they were kind to smile at strangers.
There were much traffic on the way to Yangon which was former capital. Since 2005, Myanmar had changed the capital from Yangon to Naypyitaw. But still Yangon had the biggest population in Myanmar.
Myanmar was the hottest country in Southeast Asia on my trip that it was really hot to cycle. Actually, I was visiting at the hottest time of the year as well. At every village and city, there was pot for water just like the picture. I could have funny stomach easily that I just bought water always.
I had local snack on the way to Yangon.
I was stress out to cycle into Yangon because of bad traffic. Since 2003, the government banned motorcycle in Yangon. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if there were full of motorbike with cars. These bad traffic was not only Yangon’s problem. I was always suffering from entering big cities everywhere in the world included Europe because of the traffic. But to leave the city was so easy always.
Yangon had many big old and new buildings compared to other cities.
At the next day, I went tour with two other girls I had met at the hostel.
There were beautiful couple with their traditional clothes at the park that they were kind to let me take the picture of them.
What I liked about Myanmar was people keeping their own culture such as using Thanaka. But they also used the twenty-first century’s technology such as smartphone. It was interesting to see people using smartphone while having Thanaka on their face.
I didn’t see local girls wearing shorts that I always wore long jeans which was too hot. So I bought typical backpacker’s pants having elephants drawing. It was not beautiful at all, but so comfortable.
I visited Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar.
When I entered, my jaw dropped. This was the most incredible religious place I’ve ever visited. It was really big complex and so bright with full of gold color. We hired tour guide to learn more about it. But soon we realized that he lied to us. He didn’t have real tour guide license and we couldn’t understand his accent well.
But we didn’t give up that we kept asking him about Pagoda. It was built 2500 years ago. At the beginning, it was not big. But kings kept making it bigger to win the hearts of the people
It is covered in real gold plates. At the top, the pagoda is covered in 2,317 rubies and 5,448 diamonds, including a gigantic 76 carat diamond. Some website said it is worth as US$3 billion. Some said US$60 billion. But 60 sounds too much that I would follow US$3 billion. It sounded the most expensive place, but I didn’t see guards with arms. Maybe they were watching at the hidden place.
I had one question sine I visited there. ‘Did Buddha want all this jewelry? Was this one what Buddha taught to do?’
We were thinking where to watch the sunset. At Shadagon Pagoda or rooftop bar? We decided to go to the rooftop bar of the hotel by Uber taxi.
We had beer while watching the sunset. Everything was golden in this country.
Vlog of cycling to Yangon and visiting Shwedagon Pagoda
At the next day, I took the video of street food tour. It was like homework that it needed studying and hard working. But I had fun to do and it was really good chance to learn their culture through their food.
Myanmar Street Food Tour Video
I made the video of Myanmar Fried Chicken which was the best in the world. I couldn’t believe how come it was so crunchy and tasty. Some foreigners visiting South Korea told me Fried Chicken in South Korea was the best in the world. But for me, Myanmar chicken was the best as I didn’t go to South Korea for a long time that I couldn’t remember it. In some Asian country, they sold chicken as Korean Fried Chicken. But for me the best one was Myanmar’s one!! I had it at different cities but always it was awesome.
I really liked Myanmar’s sunset. I went back to the hostel after having lots of sweat while having food tour on the street.
I had to cycle back after visiting Yangon. I didn’t like to cycle come and go with full of bags. But to visit Yangon was really worth.
When I cycled to Yangon, I didn’t find this restaurant. So I was happy to have meals here.
The best thing was I could get the rice as much as I want. They gave a few side dish like South Korea. I enjoyed Myanmar food always. There was one surprising thing that they used both hands when they give or receive something to be polite. It was the exactly same thing as Korea. I couldn’t believe how come Myanmar had the same culture as Korea which was really far. I didn’t feel this culture in China or other country. So it was more shocking thing how come far country has similar culture than neighbor country such as China.
I heard the reason Korean drama was popular was that they had similar culture as Korean. By the way, Korean people don’t smile at stranger usually. It means some are similar and some aren’t.
I had passed same town and villages while going back to anothe main road. Then I saw elephants. I thought it was the same one I saw before. But actually I just found the other elephants didn’t have ivory.
I was wondering what’s purpose of using it. When I looked at the picture, I realized that there was water around eyes while holding an apple with trunk. I was wondering it was crying. So I researched it but Scientists studied that only animal who cries emotionally was human.
I wanted to understand the picture I took. So I searched with different keywords ‘Myanmar + Elephants, Elephants tear, Elephants holding apple while walking, Myanmar people using elephants for farming, Elephants war in the history, and so on’. But I couldn’t find anything.
I hoped elephants used as like cow helping farmers.
$1 was 1,130 Kyat Myanmar money. Usually when currency number was high, I tried to spend the money carefully at the beginning.
In Myanmar, I could find the gold color everywhere.
And here my favorite animal, Asian water buffalo. They looked dumb when their head was up that I loved it so much.
I was wondering what kind of advertising this was.
When I passed one small village, I could see they were having ceremony.
I asked them what they were doing, but I couldn’t understand because of language barrier. They were so kind that they gave me ice cream and invited me at their house to show ceremony. They played local instrumant loudly and made horse jump their legs. I was thinking it would be related to Buddhism ceremony.
Picture with the railway…
It was so hot that I had to stop every hour. When I stopped to buy cold drinks and have the rest at the small grocery store, kids were giggling and hiding behind the pot. I was always happy to share smile with people in Myanmar. But on the other hand, I was sad sometimes. When I traveled there, all over the world, medias were talking about genocide in Myanmar. But none of them told why it had happened.
When the UK colonized Myanmar, they brought people from Bangladesh and let them have higher position than Myanmar people. After Myanmar independent, Myanmar government tried to kick them out as like French government kick people out who helped Nazi to clean up their society. But it was complicating and it turned to genocide unfortunately in Myanmar. There were more than 130 tribes in Myanmar and the genocide happened only to one tribe which the UK brought. So basically this genocide was caused by the UK just like most of countries having conflicts by the UK. There were only 22 countries in the world which was not invaded by the UK. When I experienced of conflicts in the country I traveled, there was the UK involved usually. What the saddest thing was most people from UK didn’t know it. For example, there was criticism going on Whatsapp group chat of world tour cyclist. Some European cyclists were criticizing “People who tour Myanmar is supporting genocide just like people in Myanmar” without knowing real fact. And some UK cyclists exactly said what other European said.
I had wished how it would be good if BBC and UK government educated true history. The UK became rich after invading other countries that they should be responsible to all of those conflicts than watching and criticizing at behind.
After the rest, I cycled again and passed many small villages. Some of them had a bit different atmosphere.
At the first day in Myanmar, I found the blood on the street that I was scared. But I realized that it was from Kwunya, Myanmar’s chewing tobacco. It is combining betel leaf with areca nut and slacked lime. After chewing it, there was red water coming and people spit on the street which made look like blood. It has psychoactive effects. I saw a few people look high. I tried to avoid them. But normally it was fine.
Many people had red teeth because of Kyunya. It made teeth bad. The worst thing was people having oral cancer from it. So Myanmar government had campaign to stop it, but still it was very popular that I could see Kyunya everywhere. I liked to have the new experience usually but this time I was not brave enough. I just had chat with them while having the rest.
There was big unique welcoming gate at some village.
On my way, there was big statue of Buddha and I could go inside.
It looked like neon sign was popular in Myanmar that I could see people used it behind of Buddha sometimes.
At the inside, I could read the life of Buddha. Long time ago, I read the book about the history of religions. But I always forgot. So this was good time to remind.
Jesus is god, but Buddha is human. Jesus showed 2000 years ago and Buddha was born 2500 years ago. So it is different thing that people shouldn’t think Buddha as god. Buddha was born as the member of royal family. But he decided to leave all wealth behind. He was studying and teaching other people. He reached Nirvana before dying.
When I tried to understand it, I found the answer to the question I had at Shwedagon pagoda. Many people wished their dream at their god or religion such as ‘Let me be rich, let me pass exam, let me have job, and so on.’ But as I understood, the religions exist to teach how to improve our mind, love ourselves and each other. So the wish should be like ‘Let me be merciful’. At the inside of the big Buddha’s statute, I found the answer of ‘Did Buddha want US $3 billion Pagoda?’ and I started cycling again.
Everyday it was fighting against the heat that whenever I found the shade, I tried to stop.
I had the picture with pagoda.
I was used to eating Myanmar’s food.
I had met local cycling group through Facebook page. They were kind that they cycled with me for an hour to welcome me. We had dinner together. I was expecting Myanmar food, but it was Thai food. I realized that Thai food was popular when they go out for dinner.
At the next day I had breakfast with them and they cycled with me again to the next town.
I had the picture with local girls while having the rest at the checkpoint.
Then other local people joined, too. When I tried to pet a dog, she was growling. She was only loyal to the owner holding the dog on the picture.
When I passed some school, kids greeted at me. One big girl waved hands to call me.
I was curious that I went there. It was school and kids were learning the letters. There was a boy entering the Buddhist priesthood. He could speak a bit English that he explained about the school.
It was good to have little chat with them.
I always just stayed at the hotel or hostel in Myanmar. But the next town was too far to reach that I didn’t have any choice. I heard from other cyclists that local people called the police if they found cyclists camping at the forest. Someone told me they could stay at the temple. So I went to the temple, but I was denied. So I just asked local people and they let me sleep at their place.
It was little village jus right next to the road that they didn’t have electricity. They were cutting areca nut which was used for Kyunya. They let me taste. But as soon as I chew, my mouth became very dry and bitter that I spit quickly and they laughed at it. When I was chatting with them with the body language, the police officer came. It seemed like it’s mandatory to call the police if stranger came to sleep. They took the picture of my passport and suggested to sleep at police station. But I didn’t want to move after setting tent. They understood me and let me sleep at local people’s place.
There was one thing I learned that the local peopel’s house was the coolest place to sleep without air condition because the house was on the second floor and the lower floor was empty. So the wind could go through it. The material of the house didn’t hold the heat as well. Many people started living at cement house which hold the heat all day and it was like sauna without air condition. The more we develop, the more we need things.
Kind local people who let me sleep at their coolest house.
It was really peaceful road at sunrise.
It was the biggest horn I’ve ever seen. The owner of water buffalo must be proud of it.
I had breakfast at the small grocery store and they were preparing some food.
There were many rubber trees and they dried it next to the road.
Sometimes I watched local people played foot volleyball next to the road.
My dear friends were crossing the river.
At Dawei, I had met another cyclist club and had Thai food again. They were so generous that they showed me the town and helped me to fix my bicycle.
I wanted to have the tour at the peninsular which as a bit far from Dawei but there was no any public transportation. So I rented the scooter again. It was so convenient.
Before going back to the town by scooter, I had coconut.
I printed out pictures before leaving the country. When I went to the post office, they told me the form of the address local gave me at small village was wrong. I just asked them let’s try like this. Who knows delivery guy can find it by just their name.
I thought Myanmar was culturally most richest country I’ve visited in Southeast Asia that it was really unique experience for me. I thanked so much to local people for giving me smiling.
Days in Myanmar = 35Days
Distance of cycling in Myanmar = 1,149 km (718 mi)
Expenditure in Myanmar = US$1,340
Video of Cycling in Myanmar