If there is one thing the 6,786 kms ride across 8 Indian states, 2 international border crossings and 3 countries on the 110cc TVS Star City plus taught me, it was this – All that planning, those timelines, those meticulously drawn up charts will come to naught once rubber hits the tarmac. Once you are on the road, you can discount all prior strategies.
You hear about how Myanmar has a right hand driving system. Hearing about something and watching a truck hurtle towards you when you are seemingly on the “right” side of the road is an entirely different experience. That, and an unwavering faith in the capabilities of your machine and you could probably ride to Mars. The last week of the ride started off with quite a few shocks: The first being the immediate transition to a right hand driving system in Myanmar the moment I crossed over. The dirty looks I received on the first 2 days from the people were hilarious. I rode on the center of the road much to my amusement and attracted more disgusting looks from my guide Tin, who was worried sick that I was up for an imminent accident. Better senses creeped in by Day 3 and the currency in Myanmar bowled me over. I guess When Tin asked me to recharge my number for 10000 kyats (I kyat = 0.05 INR), roughly INR 500 is when I realized I was a millionaire here!
The third and most lasting shock were the roads. Silchar and Malda could learn a thing or two from Myanmar. Absolutely stellar. Smooth and pot-hole free, I could land a jet on those roads, let alone ride a bike. Extremely impressed! The number of places to visit in Myanmar is a staggering figure. (And I thought I could do it all in a week! Ignorant bliss is never a good thing people…). Bagan: The world heritage UNESCO site is the Hampi of Myanmar. With 2,200 pagodas each of exquisite beauty spending anything less than a week here should be illegal! The historic sunset in top of the Shwedagon Pagoda shouldn’t be missed!
After the Kerala Backwaters (Which personally got a bit redundant after a couple of hours, the Inle Lake odyssey was a fast paced one.) With a monastery actually named as “the monastery of the Jumping cat!” , keeping a tab of the monasteries and the pagodas became a full time job. Myanmar turned out to be the bike’s best loved place yet. Good roads, less traffic, what can I say….We didn’t ride….we flew! I still recall the smug smile I had on my face the day I conquered Guwahati to Silchar – a particular 40 km stretch of road fit enough to qualify for the preliminary stages of the Dakar Rally over 4 hours and emerged brown, but ecstatic. I was the only biker there, let alone being the only 110cc bike.
The smug smile was carried all the way till Moreh. And then the right hand driving system happened. If I had a penny for every time people came up to me and displayed surprise, and subsequent shock at the fact that I had ridden this all the way from India and the fact that the bike had actually traversed a healthy 4000 km without a single puncture or an engine stall, I could probably buy a Maruti. And I thought people were obsessed with selfies in India. Welcome to Myanmar! People were more inclined to take selfies with the bike and gently nudged me out of the frame! By the time I hit Bagan, I had folks coming up to me asking me if the bike was available in Myanmar. 9 days and 1800 kms later, the familiar left Handed system of Thailand took the 110cc to new heights. I hit new records on the odo. Cops pulled me over multiple times (not once to check my documents, but instead to have a closer look at the “foreign” bike). The bow at the finish line wasn’t a photo gimmick. It was sheer Reverence!