The first thought: it feels like India! A huge chaos on the road, cows wandering around, lots of stray dogs, it’s dirty, the rubbish is absolutely everywhere, darker faces, bigger religious diversity, guys are wearing traditional “dresses”. After three months in south-east Asia we are happy this country feels a bit different.
The road from the border to Mawlamyine wasn’t the nicest. The first part was OK (around 70km on a new road), but the rest was terrible. Narrow streets with thousands of holes, lots of trucks and scooters trying to overtake us all the time. It think in Myanmar you can drive with everything that has two and more wheels. There are bikes, bikes with a sidecar to transport things and bikes with sidecars for people, motorbikes, motorbikes with sidecars, trucks, engines with a trailer in the back, horse carriages, mini vans and buses. There are no divisions between lines on the roads, so if you can you just drive in the middle, if you need to you will overtake other vehicles as the third one, pushing the smallest one on a side. I guess it helps to this fact that the cars all have the stearing wheel on the right side, despite driving on the right side of the road.
You just have to beep your horn and nobody can blame you that you are trying to push yourself into the traffic. Also, every step of the way there are some kind of gates or road blockages with a barbed wire and some dodgy guys are collecting small bills from the drivers. During a 5 hour trip our driver had to stop more than 10 times. At the beginning he was stopping politely, but in the end started just to slow down and stretching a hand to pass the money without stopping the car.
Landscape? Wonderful! Wild hills with dense jungle and flat bottle green rice fields. Intense red earth contrasting with the green of the plants. In the distance many animals, mainly cows, buffaloes, goats, not to mention chickens that are omnipresent.
In the city there is constant chaos, commotion, dust and rubbish. There are huts made of whatever you can find around and elegant post colonial villas. The life is bustling since early morning until sunset. The people are sitting in front of their houses not bothered with clouds of dust that hover in the air or the piles of rubbish and rotten vegetables.
If somebody tells me Mawlamyine is beautiful, I will laugh. It’s not. It’s gray, dirty, stinky and dusty. Yet, these couple of temples, thousands of monks in maroon clothes and the unusual hospitality of the people makes it really special and that’s why I will stop writing and go out to explore!