Mandalay and Day 51 – Mandalay to Meiktila

Burma has been good so far. The first half day was pretty much spent fighting off tiredness from a night flight but we did manage to put the bike together and get a bit of a feel for the country. It’s drier than expected; I assume that will change as I move south but it’s nice not having to deal with humidity yet. It’s also a lot more western than I expected. Granted inbetween the cities there’s very little, but Burma does show glimpses of a first world country… more than India anyway. Having said this, in some ways, it’s actually quite similar to India.

Our second day in Mandalay was spent sorting out a couple of bits and this included renting a couple of local bikes and heading into town. They were quite different to what I’ve got used to riding and the brakes weren’t exactly responsive, but they served a purpose. I also need to take this opportunity to thank Mr K-C at the hotel who gave a lot of his time to us, and Anne at Grasshopper Adventures. She gave me a lot of advice, particularly regarding accommodation and really helped settle a few nerves.

I have now finished the first day of Leg 3 so it’s probably worth mentioning a slight change of plan. Due to matters of greater importance than my trip, I have had to take out Cambodia and Vietnam. Admittedly it is a bit of a shame, but gives me something to come back to (perhaps without a bike though). Either way, this means Leg 3 will now end at Bangkok – or around there anyway.

Now, to come to today, apart from leaving my Dad, I was eager to get going. Cycling out of Mandalay offered no problems and it was a welcome change from an Indian city. After about an hour I was flagged down by an English guy who had stopped for a quick chat. Not sure what his name was, but he wished me luck, gave me some biscuits and then left as he was late for work. This wasn’t something I’d expected and it really left me in high spirits.

Now when I say Burma is similar to India; it’s not really. But in terms of cycling across it, my routine is similar (at least it was today). The drivers aren’t great, but they’re a lot better than in India and there are also a lot fewer of them. The people are still extremely friendly but they don’t force themselves on you. They’re all pretty much satisfied with a ‘hello’ rather than a full interview – so that’s quite nice. The tap water is still undrinkable, but the locals pretty much all drink bottled water anyway so there’s much less of an issue when trying to get it. My food whilst cycling still comes from roadside stalls and it’s still bloody hot. Basically, to me – it’s like a cleaner, quieter India.. And it’s been really good so far.

Another similarity is that the distance I ride each day is slightly dictated by where I can find accommodation. So today was slightly shorter and a short Day 3 looks like the only option as well. Even so, the ride today passed extremely easily and I can only think of a few occasions where six hours on the bike has gone so fast.  Especially as not much happened and the wind wasn’t exactly being helpful.

Anyway I arrived early, I’ve had two meals, neither of which were spicy so I’m feeling pretty good, although I think my legs are going to be feeling it tomorrow and I’m currently struggling to stay awake.

Just one last thing, for those that haven’t already seen, the photos from my India stint are up on website so feel free to browse through them.

Start of a slightly shorter leg:
Distance: 96 miles / 155 km
Riding Time: 6:37:34
Av. Speed: 14.6 mph / 23.5 kph

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