(55km - 6days)
12/09 - 17/09/2018)
12 September – Bangkok
Linda reached Bangkok, jet-lagged after a 27-hour long haul flight from Fort Lauderdale. After much chatting over a beer, it was straight to bed for her.
13 September – Bangkok
There were loads to talk about since Linda left in January and after a few cups of coffee, it was off to the familiar Gecko Bar for breakfast. The canal ferry was a fun way to get around Bangkok, and we hopped on one to pick up my new laptop at the Pantip Plaza. There was much to see and do in Bangkok, and the river ferry made easy exploring, as well as easy access to the Temple of Dawn. One last job remained, which was to hail a taxi to the Myanmar embassy to collect my visa. With the hectic Bangkok traffic, the cab made it to the Embassy in the nick of time.
That evening we strolled along the backstreets of Banglamphu and in the process met up with Edward (Ted) Jones Whitehead, the author of the book Down Below. At 95, he was remarkably energetic and still with a twinkle in the eye. Typical of a real old seadog, he soon hauled out his packet of fags while enjoying a beer. A truly remarkable man and an honour to meet him.
14 September – Bangkok
Breakfast was a bowl of noodle soup, and then it was off to the supermarket to stock up on bits and bobs needed for the road. After collecting the laundry, Linda went exploring, and I headed for China Town looking for a cup water heater. China Town was a remarkable place with massive and busy markets where one could find just about anything. The trick was to locate the right market. I, eventually, and after much directing from the locals, came upon the electrical appliance market. I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to locate the market again and bought two.
My bicycle was still at the bike shop, and a walk to the shop revealed a broken spoke that needed replacing, meaning it would only be ready the following day. A motorbike taxi took us back to Khao San road. It was a tight squeeze being three up on a small motorbike, and, helmet-less, we hung on for dear life. The bike sped through the traffic, making it to our destination just as it started raining.
15 September – Bangkok
Plans of catching a bus to the Myanmar border went by the wayside as my bicycle wasn't going to be ready until 11 a.m. After a leisurely start, it was back to the Gecko Bar for breakfast. While Linda took a walk to the famous Golden Mount, I returned to the guesthouse to wait for the bicycle to be delivered.
With all done, it was time to explore more of old Bangkok. The old man selling the second-hand false teeth and bridges were still there. I was surprised to notice the teeth were steadily getting less (I kid you not!). Equally fascinating was the amulet market - they sold more ominous items than just innocent Buddha necklaces. In fact, it looked downright voodoo-ish!
That evening, we drank our Chang beers on the roof terrace of the guesthouse, but the approaching storm made for a quick escape to a nearby restaurant. No sooner seated, the rain arrived with one almighty bang! It bucketed down while we sat watching the thunder and lightning. By the time the meal was finished, the rain was over, and one could stroll back without as much as feeling a drop.
16 September – Bangkok to Mae Sot (by bus)
After leaving behind the things we wouldn't need in the next month, it was on the bikes and off to the bus stop. Fortunately, it was Sunday morning and traffic light, and once at the bus station it was a pleasant surprise to find the bus more comfortable than expected. However, it was still a 7-hour ride to Mae Sot, a scruffy border town with a questionable border trade.
The First Hotel was a great choice as it was a remarkable building with an imposing Burmese teak staircase and intricate ceiling carvings. Our minds boggled at what all could be done with such an impressive building.
Then, it was off to the by-then famous, Khrua Canadian restaurant. Dave, the Canadian owner, had at the time of our visit been living in Thailand for the past 20 years and, together with his wife, ran a very successful restaurant serving western cuisine to the farangs craving food from home. With full bellies, it was back to our accommodation to get ready for crossing the border into Myanmar the following morning.
17 September - Mae Sot, Thailand – Kawkareik, Myanmar – 55 km
It was a short cycle to the Thai/Myanmar border via the Friendship Bridge, that spanned the Moei River. Once in Myawaddy, located on the Myanmar side of the river, we found ourselves in a more chaotic area. Amidst the dust, tuk-tuks, bicycle rickshaws and trucks, we managed to obtain new SIM cards and changed a few dollars. Quite a feat, taking that we had no command of the local language. Together with minivans, busses and what seemed like an endless procession of motorbikes, we cycled out of Myawaddy.
The ride over the mountain was a steep climb but came with spectacular views; fortunately, it was a cloudy day. Once over the high point, we sped down to the small town of Kawkareik, where a room at the Smile World Guest House came at the exorbitant rate of $20! It was a dump, but there was nothing better in town, and the only one smiling was the owner.
A walk into town revealed a beautiful Hindu temple as well as a lovely Buddhist one, but hardly any food stalls. After being seated at the only open restaurant, we were asked in a quizzical manner, "Myanmar?" and after indicating "Yes", waited to see what "Myanmar" meant. The food arrived and consisted of rice and a large number of small bowls and plates filled with exotic dishes. So much was served that even after trying our level best it was impossible to finish it.
n all made it an exciting place in which to linger. The Sakura Tower with a rooftop bar and restaurant was a great place to have a drink and to snap a few pics of the city. Then, it was off to the Vista Bar for supper and a drink from where there was a magnificent view of the impressive and beautifully lit Shwedagon Pagoda.