Burma 13-15 Popa to Kalaw

P1120756It was three days ride East from Popa to Shan State and Kalaw
Trip planning
The difficulty of riding in Burma is that you can only stay at designated “foreigner hotels” Consequently between Bagan and Inle lake there are only 6 towns with hotels. Popa ~50km, Meiktila ~110km, Thazi, ~25km, Kalaw ~95km, Aungban ~10km and Inle Lake(Nyaungshwe) ~50km. We were lucky to find out from Jeff in Yangon that there was a cheaper Hotel in Popa (next to the Yangon Restaurant) “Zar Yar Thein Gi (ph(2220615). It probably would have been possible to do Popa to Kalaw in 2 days but we broke it with a short day from Meiktila to Thazi. One of the reasons was there was a big climb of over 1000m over the last 25km into Kalaw. From Kalaw we arranged to take backroads with a guide on a motorbike and did the trip to Inle lake over 2 days.

Our trip
From Popa we rode up to the Mt Popa resort, which took about half an hour of up hill. At the top was a great view of the Pagoda built on a volcanic plug. We had an expensive drink ($6 for coffee and a cold drink) at the Popa Mountain Resort. Our GPS map indicated a short cut via the Pagoda so we turned left to the Pagoda and down a steep hill. At he Pagoda we were advised by a bus driver and then a local that we could not get through on the short cut. Finally we decided to give it a go anyway and luckily this saved us about 15 km going back via Popa village where we had stayed.
The trip was described as undulating and sure enough it was a pleasant enough 120km ride to Meiktila, not too hot. We were advised by a local to stay at a cheaper hotel on the main road but they were full and not too friendly. We headed around the the Lonely Planet suggestion of Honey Hotel which proved very comfortable for US$35. We rode down to a busy street sand found a street stall where we ate a tasty dinner for the princely sum of 2200 kyat (about $3 for both of us) with lunch, a steamed dumpling snack and the expensive drinks at Popa resort we had spent less than $20 on food and drink for the whole day.

With only 25 km to Thazi we rode around Meiktila looking at the lake, some men fishing maybe stunning the fish with an electric shock or something?. The trip to Thazi was short and easy and we settled in to the central hotel which for a shared bathroom was a modest $15 a double. We met first one dutch cycle tourist (Veo) and about an hour later two more, a very interesting couple who had cycled a lot in Asia. We chatted over a long lunch and then met again for dinner,

We were away just after 7am for what would be our hardest day to date as it was quite hot and after about 70km the road started climbing at maybe 7 or 8% for the newt 25km. Check out the Strava graph below.