No big roads today! We can take the smaller one parallel on the train tracks, just in between road nr. 8 and the coastline. This option is a real treat: lovely scenery, quiet stretches, deserted beaches, small village life and lots of ‘mingalabar!’
The town of Lamaing is our destination for today, though we’re not sure there will be accommodation for us. We’ve read about a guesthouse close to the train station and there should be a monastery that might want to host us. We’ll see, for the time being we have the greatest time enjoying the absence of heavy traffic, many short coffee mix breaks, a beautiful empty beach, small village life and very, very bumpy gravel roads. The latter is quite tiresome and slowing our pace significantly, but it’s all great fun!
While passing passing the small villages, there’s always a flock of elated boys cheering and trying to ride along with us. Close to Lamaing, we’re accompanied by a somewhat older kid, that is talking in quite good English to me – telling about his life and asking about ours and our plans, driving his moped right and tight next to me. Though it is great to have the chance to talk to a Burmese youngster, it is not so easy to hold a conversation and simultaneously dodge potholes, boulders and small tree trunks. In addition, it is starting to get late and not knowing if there will be accommodation in Lamaing, we want to get along. All and all these are many tasks to execute at one time!
He -Chan Minn Ko is his name- offers us to stay overnight with his family in the small village we just passed and at this time we politely dismiss the offer – also realising letting go a wonderful and generous chance to experience Myanmar village life. But, somehow after this day full of greetings, shouting, cheering, bumps, boulders and dust, we’re longing for a private quiet space and, cycling all the way back to the village feels like a giant hurdle to take. Chan Minn Ko tells us there is no hotel in Lamaing, and that his parents are perfectly ok with us staying over – but we’re still in doubt. Then Juul gets a flat tyre that takes some time to get repaired, and its getting later and later. Chan Minn Ko repeats his offer and we are finally getting aware of the greatness of it. So, back we go, bumping and swaying towards the tiny village.
And then an evening to remember unfolds itself. I am offered a shower at the neighbour’s house, but Juul has to take his bath at the water well outside the house – watched by yet another flock of curious kids. Chan Minn Ko organises a meal for us, and we’re having it in the company of his parents, all the neighbours and his brothers and sisters. We’re communicating with hands and feet, and the female neighbours are plucking at my skin and hair, while we’re comparing colour and structure. It is all great fun and we’re touched and grateful for this welcoming, hospitable and cheerful experience.
A sleeping accommodation including mosquito net is set up for us in the living room – at night this is a communal sleeping place for the kids, without furniture, just a vast space with teak wooden floors and a hifi stereo set. We make conversation with Chan Minn Ko about his studies in Mawlamyine, watch photo’s and movies of surroundings with his parents on their smart phones. Around 9 o’clock we’re exhausted and everyone goes to sleep early. We sleep reasonably well and are awakened by the sharp sounds of Burmese pop-music, turning out te be some kind of donation ceremony at the adjacent monastery that starts around 5am.
A great breakfast is served, and we’re just quiet, impressed and happy with all this. After that, everyone is leaving the house for the daily obligations – the kids go to school, Chan Minn Ko is off to Mawlamyine, mother and father go to their jobs and we step back on our bikes. In good spirits and full of gratitude we bump, swing and sway our way to Lamaing, to head further to Ye – our destination for today.