Why bicycle across Mynamar? Because now you can do it, although very few people have. The government is now promoting tourism. You can now get an E-visa for $50 with only a few days wait. I did, and it was hassle free. But certain general restrictions apply:
1. Don’t talk politics,
2. Do not visit the prohibited zones,
3. Do NOT say that you are a journalist,
4. Be careful about what you post on-line while you are there, for they are sometimes watching.
5. Do NOTHING to offend Buddhist sensibilities
6. No camping out
7. You must stay every night in government -approved housing
I could live with all of the above. So I flew into Bangkok on 1/3/17, after a 20-hour, grueling flight. Arriving at 3 am, I cleared customs in 15 minutes. Thailand has also eliminated the $30 visa fee. Few countries in the world are more tourist friendly than Thailand.
In Bangkok, I met my bicycling buddy, Jeff Mease, and we purchased on-line our one-way flight tickets to Yangon (the capital of Miramar) without a hassle. On 1/7/17, we took the one-hour flight into Myanmar. Again, we cleared customs without any problems. From the airport we took a taxi to Bikeworld-Miramar. The fee was exactly $8, as stated in Lonely Planet. I wondered how the driver could make any money at that rate. I tipped him, and he was surprised. Myanmar-ese are simply not used to tips, and they often return the money.
On the same day we arrived, we bought 2 Trek 3500 mountain bikes, with luggage racks and other accessories for road-touring. The price? $380 per bike, purchased from Jeff Parry at Bikeworld in Yangon. Jeff Parry agreed to buy back our bikes when we were done for ½ price. We thought we had a good deal. In effect, we were renting a bike for 28 days for less than $200.
Our bicycling plans for Myanmar were bigger than 28 days. We quickly heard that we could extend our visas for an additional $5 @ day. SOLD! But we will have to confirm that when we return to the capital, Yangon. With the possibilities of a 6-7 week visit here, we expanded the scope of our ride.
Next morning I hopped on my bike to ride into downtown Yangon. A few immediate observations:
1. motorcycles ae banned. None of them
2. very few bicyclists
3. Terrible traffic with a `12`-hour gridlock. Well, for a bicyclist, gridlocks can be good news. No traffic is moving, so I just ride between the blocked lanes of cars. In my few days of pe3daling in Yangon, I am confident that most of the I got to locations in ½ the time that it would have taken a taxi.
My first goal was the Mineral and Gem Museum. It so happens that Myanmar has perhaps the richest reserves of precious stones of any country in the world. Rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and for the Chinese, jade, jade, and more jade. They also mine another 15 semi-precious stones here. There are wonderful exhibits of these gems in both raw and cut, finished form. But unfortunately, all photography is banned in the museum.
Then I was off to the Shwedagan Paya, the best of the Buddhist ‘pagodas’ (they call them payas here) in Miramar. Built over 3 centuries, it is an immense structure in the heat of old Yangon. Most notibly, the top is crowned with 60 tons of gold. It is the holiest Buddhist site in Miramar.
For refreshments, I always opt for coconuts, NOT coca-cola