Ride: Gyobingauk to Pyay
Terrain: The road to Pyay is the same Highway 2 (aka Yangon-Pyay Highway) as the previous two days. Relatively smooth with a rougher concrete shoulder lane if you want to ride out of traffic for a bit.
Eat: This is the main road to Bagan, so we found bus stop restaurants aplenty and had tons to eat. You won't starve during this long day. But note that depending on which way you go (there are two potential paths after Paungde), you may not see a town for about 30 kilometers until Shwedaung, so eat and plan accordingly.
Sleep: The Pan Ga Ba Guest House is terrific value for money in a city more and more tourists are discovering.
To read more about the town of Pyay, click here.
After breakfast cake at the Wei Wei Sar Sar Cafe (at this point, we were practically locals), we set off for our 90+k ride to Pyay.
Weather conditions were great, we felt full of beans, and the first 30k were an absolute breeze. We settled in for a beautiful rest of the day.
Then the bike started to play up.
First, there was a very loud creaking noise that we at first thought was the frame couplings playing up again. But eventually we worked out that it was in fact the front bottom bracket. We had tightened it up to prevent the chain coming off, but now it was so tight that it was causing the frame to bend and strain instead. So our choice was keep it tight and deal with the creaks, or loosen it and risk the chain coming off every so often. Joy.
On top of this, the increasingly annoying front brake was giving us problems all day. The noise was like water torture, a rhythmic squeak just loud enough to drive you insane. And of course, if it's rubbing, it's slowing us down too, which can really sap your strength over the course of a long, hot day. Speaking of rubbing, Neil's backside was getting severely chafed and he couldn't get comfortable. To top it off, there was a strong headwind most of the day.
But this all ebbed away with each person who stopped us on the road and pulled us over to take selfies. We knew that we were anomalies here, even within the cycling community, but this was on a whole other level. Still, it gave us an excuse to meet people and laugh together. The world needs more of that.
When we were about 15 kilometers away from Pyay, we came face to face with our old friend, the mighty Ayarwaddy River. It was cathartic and soothing to see something so familiar, like a childhood blanket.
Yet amidst this splendour lay a more sinister tone, for there were many soldiers and military bases along the route. It was unusual because we thought we'd left all that behind in Kayin State. Pyay served as a battlefield for fighting during WWII between British and Japanese forces, and it seems that the current government has taken advantage of existing infrastructure to assert their presence.
In the centre of town sits the gilded statue of Aung San at the intersection of Bogyoke and Main Roads and the Yangon Highway. It was an appropriate place to mark the end of the day.