Thursday, 9 November 2017

Weds 8th November: Mandalay – Myinmu – Monywa

Today was an amazing long day - jam packed with all the Cycle Expedition ingredients!

We arrived in Mandalay at the crack of dawn via our chosen means of sustainable transportation: the overnight sleeper train from Yangon. It was an incredibly noisy and bumpy 15 hours journey - which meant little or no sleep for any of us - but it was a very memorable trip too full of local people, sights and sounds. The restaurant car with its smoky cooker, school tables and chairs, frilly curtains, and loud pop music was our favourite carriage!

We hurried down a traditional Burmese breakfast of Shan Noodle soup at a street cafe and then visited our first Rural Health Centre near Sagaing.  It was a very simple new building serving 5,000 people in a rural farming area. Some of the group interviewed the nursing staff to understand the medical issues whilst others of us recorded the building itself through sketches and photographs.

After a short bus transfer to the small town of Myinmu, our cycle challenge began! Here I got acquainted with my bike for the trip: a red Trek mountain bike with suspension super fat knobbly tyres (so it's definitely going to be a lot tougher than my carbon road bike then!).

We cycled on and off road through the Chindwin Valley which gave us a real glimpse of rural life: oxen pulling farm carts, and many different crops growing alongside lots of rice!  Before dark we made it just in time to visit the world’s largest standing Buddha Laykyun Setkyar, in the village of Khatakan Taung. It stands an incredible 116m tall and standing behind one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the country - a truly remarkable sight. Our last stop of the day was the magnificent temple Thanboddhay Pagoda, covered with over 500,000 images of Buddha. 

Tonight we are staying in the tiny town of Monywa. Resting up in quieter, comfier beds and getting plenty of carbs on board before a much longer (and hotter) full day on the bikes tomorrow. 

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