Monday, April 10, 2017

Wrapping Up The Myanmar Motorcycle Epic

Rush hour for monk statues
Whew! Made it. Just in time. I present to you the last two episodes of the Myanmar Motorcycle Journey. 

After a month on the road, I was very happy to spend the last couple of days of my holiday on a tropical beach, a westward facing beach at that with the spectacular sunsets that includes.  

Downtown Thanbyuzayat
It was time for the final leg of the journey, south out of Malawmyine, a short distance to a town called Thanbyuzayat where the sister of a friend lives. She had graciously agreed to allow me to park my motorcycle at her homestead as I am not allowed to bring the motorbike into Yangon. 

From Setse. It was a holiday, and there were parades going on. The dancer on
top of the truck - that's a transgendered person.
Fortunately, Thanbyuzayat is only about 15 kilometers from a place I had heard of on my previous visit to Mon State, but had yet to check out, Setse Beach. 

Setse was nearly deserted, but there were still services to be had...
on the edge of the waves, even.
I had no hotel booking as I rolled into Setse. I had the name of a hotel that had been recommended, and when I checked it out, once again I was a bit perturbed by the blatant double-pricing thing that happens regularly here in Myanmar. There were two prices listed on their rate sheet: local and foreigner. For a beach-facing bungalow, locals pay $30, foreigners $45. There just something in my equal-treatment-to-all American upbringing that rankles me about this system, ubiquitous as it is here. Well, there were more than one hotel in Setse, so I went to go check out the other ones. 

Sorry, no foreigners allowed!
Arriving at the Sunset Beach Hotel, the place seemed a little more downscale. The rooms weren't right on the beach, so they had to be cheaper. I got turned away before even being able to look at one. See, here in Myanmar, not just any hotel can accept foreign tourists. They need a special license for that priviledge, given out by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. Alas, perhaps due to the lack of demand (I was the only foreigner I saw in the whole town), this hotel had no such permit. A quick stop at the Setse Beach Resort, where they wanted $95 a night, I was back to where I started, the Paradise 21 Hotel.

Setse Beach

I thought I was the only foreigner at the beach, but as I was strumming my ukulele, relaxing after the dhort morning drive, along came a friendly Russian guy, also traveling solo. As we were sharing stories on how we'd happened to be there, an amazing coincidence was discovered. 

"Joko! I know you!" Igor (yes, that was his name) exclaimed, "Do you know Matt Harris?" 

During the first week of my journey, I had received an e-mail from Matt, a former colleague of mine, who was asking if we Yangonites could welcome an old firend of his who was coming from Shanghai to Myanmar for a 3 week holiday. As I was already on the road, there wasn't much I could do, and I responded thusly. Fast forward three weeks, and here this Russian guy was that very same friend-of-a-friend who I'd received the e-mail about! What are the chances?! 

Anyways, Igor and I had fun visiting the local points of interest, hitting on a gaggle of Chinese-Myanmar tourist girls and playing chess. I'm an okay chess player, but I hadn't played in years. Anytime someone asks you if you want to play chess, you're probably going to lose, as happened in our first game. In the second game, I actually beat a Russian at chess, my Bobby Fischer moment

On my last full day of the vacation, I drove Igor to the bus station in Thabyuzayat, and then went exploring Wargayu, an authentic Mon village with an old history. 2000 years ago, it was the site of an ancient city. See, the Mon people ruled what is now southern Myanmar for centuries before the Burmese came, and we still see remnants of their reign today. 
The ancient city walls of Wagayu

I noted at the start of this blog that I had finished up the recap of my recent voyage just in time. That's because the next one is about to begin. Today is my first day off for the 3-week Buddhist New Year break, and tomorrow morning, I am flying to Singapore and then to Manado, Indonesia, to begin another motorcycle journey. 

The adventure continues. 


1 comment:

  1. Yes, I absolutely enjoyed seeing your trip, but especially this video of the last portion. It was so nice seeing you had a good location at a hotel, by the beach, enjoyed the water, etc. and met up with the Russian fellow you had been messaged about. Wow! Thank you. I'll look forward to seeing your future entries and videos! Blessings, Lynn


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