The journey to the border with Myanmar was really exhausting, hundreds of kilometers all covered in the rain along roads that are extremely difficult to travel. My bike and I were put to the test in different situations but with firmness and cold blooded determination we overcame them all.
At the border, the “escort” that by law I am obliged to have to cross the country is waiting for me. Let’s say the guide is totally different from the escort I had in Pakistan, this one is mostly a sort of “tourist guide” that follows you and guides you from the entrance to the exit border and was very professional and good company throughout.
What strikes me most about the first kilometers of the Myanmar I have just traveled is the tranquility of the roads and the environment that surrounds me, not even comparable to the chaotic traffic in India, two nations which are so close but totally different.
The scenery is enchanting, streams and forests surround the streets and generate a feeling of inner happiness. The warmth of the locals makes you feel at home. Alas the roads are not really the best, with piles of stones and you find yourself travelling through long stretches of dirt, but this is all part of the true and pure spirit of adventure.
The first place I was accompanied to was The Valley of the Temples of Bagan. It is a fascinating place where you can admire dozens and dozens of Pagodas and Buddhist temples, the sun rays that are just rising brighten the buildings with a golden colour, the contrast it creates with the green of the surrounding vegetation is pleasant. Also, the hilly profile acting as the backdrop to this scenario completes the beautiful picture of unspoiled “nature” of a distant past… believe me, it really leaves you speechless.
While we were talking about the majesty of the place, the tour guide tells me that the site has problems with being named a UNESCO heritage site because unfortunately, some of the buildings were recently renovated but not in line with the original version and it was a real pity. The Valley of the Temples of Bagan is certainly the most impressive place I have visited in Myanmar, the location alone is worth the entire trip.
I stopover in Naypyidaw in good company, the locals are really nice and make me feel welcome, the simplicity of everyday life is reassuring and the peace generated by a non-frenetic “rhythm of life” puts me in a constant good mood. Naypyidaw is the capital of Myanmar and is a truly majestic city, even though “solitary” being that it is not congested, to an almost disproportionate level when thinking of the size of some of its roads which can have as many as ten lanes. From the hotel, I admire the Uppatasanti pagoda which is in the distance. It is a replica of the Shwedagon Paya of Yangon, a sacred Buddhist building for the Burmese people. I was advised to visit it in the evening, so I did; after the ascent along a majestic stairway I finally arrive in front of the Pagoda, the latter is brightly illuminated and its golden reflection captures the view, the weather was not the best and the afternoon rain, still present on the shiny pavement outside, accentuated the warm golden glow of light even more, the exterior architecture of the spires and main entrance decorations, so rich in detail, contrast beautifully with the smooth, rounded surface of the Pagoda itself. Unlike the Shwedagon, you can enter inside to admire the magnificent and luxurious interior, providing you do so barefoot.
The final powerful emotion that I leave behind before arriving in Thailand was to see the white elephants up close, animals which are venerated here in Myanmar and it is possible to “meet” four of these specimens at the base of the Uppatasanti pagoda. In itself, their skin colour is not really white, but tends towards a much lighter shade of brown, certainly very different from the usual greyish colour that we are used to seeing.
The border is close by and I will soon be entering Thailand where I will find the next escort ready to accompany me. I am sure of one thing though, the beauty of Myanmar and the hospitality of its people will stay with me.