Cold. Oh, I was so cold. I thought I had been cold a few days previous, up in Kalaw, but this was a kind of coldness I had not experienced since leaving America. I should point out that the town I was leaving, Pinlaung, has an elevation of 4800 feet (1460m). The temperature on the thermometer was all of 55F (13C), but I was moving on my motorbike, the air was thick with fog, and the sun had not yet risen over the ridge of the mountains. And I was wearing shorts. I didn't bring pants with me on the journey. Now, Pinlaung to Loikaw was another short stage, only 90km (55 miles); I could have just holed up in a tea house or someplace and waited it out until the air got warmer. No, with the help of some cold weather gear I bought along the way, I kept going.
The Land a Green Ghosts, a remarkable and award-winning memoir by Pascal Khoo Thwe about growing up as a hill tribesman and the political upheaval in Myanmar in the late 80's and 90's. Much of the book is set in Pekon, and it was a real thrill for me to be visiting the town that had fascinated me so much in print. Literary tourism is a real thing, but it hasn't come to Pekon as of yet. There were no big signs saying "FORMER HOME OF PASCAL KHOO THWE THIS WAY!", but I did find one building mentioned quite a bit in the book, the town's main Catholic Church; most of the Padaung tribe are Catholic, not Buddhist.
Soon after leaving Pekon, I found myself in Loikaw, the capital of the state of Kayah. I found Loikaw to be a town of two halves. The north part of town had big, wide streets, sidewalks, landscaping, smooth flowing traffic and lots of beautiful buildings and monuments. Cross a one-lane bridge to the south part of town and you're in a crowded, chaotic, dusty Myanmar city.
As you'll see in the video, my activities in Loikaw included finding a hotel, visiting the amazing Taung Kwel Zaydi pagodas and having a dinner I'll never forget. Continuing the theme of my favorite ukulele music in the background, enjoy!
Distance: 89 km
Travel time: 3 hours
Road conditions (see the key): Excellent 2%, Good 83%, Fair 15%