Shan Highlands - Burma by Bike

Crossing the Shan Highlands via Pindaya takes two days and they are the toughest of the whole trip. 
An easy stretch through the Shen Highlands

After an easy 18km (along the same road as Day 2), the Day 4 route climbs for about 350m up a hillside and the ‘king of the mountains’ is identified.  Needless to say it wasn’t me (I nearly killed myself coming third) but the guy who came second was 75 and later told me that he regretted the fact that he had only recently started cycling!

It's a man's world

After the climb the rest of the 64km ride is through rolling countryside, long steady climbs but with long steady descents to compensate.  It’s an interesting landscape, intensely farmed, clearly involving lots of physical labour but curiously empty.  Also nearly all the ‘manual’ work in the fields seems to be carried out by young women and the only men we see are playing a strange board game under a tree in the middle of a village.

Pindaya which sits on the side of a lake is reached after a long descent into a valley.  It’s the best hotel on the whole trip with accommodation in a series of chalets set in beautiful gardens.
Spider killer
After checking into the hotel we visit the Pindaya caves home to some 8,000 Buddha statues.  The statues started to arrive in the late 18th century and donors from around the world continued to place them in various parts of the cave until recently when it was finally decided that the cave was full.  The cave is also the location for a legendary rescue of six princesses by a handsome prince who saved them from a giant spider.  Could have been the same spider that was in my shower later that evening.
An all women road repair gang
Although its not supposed to rain in Burma in January there was a huge storm which persisted from early evening through to just before breakfast.  Cycling in it would have been impossible but by the time we got to the start of the next part of the trip (an hour on the coach from Pindaya) the weather was fine.
School children at the start of Day 2

The ride started just outside a school and the assembled bikes and cyclists drew a huge crowd of schoolchildren.  The ride itself was excellent - more rolling hills - and the only day on the whole trip devoid of Buddha statues and stuppas. 
Wide load
After lunch in a roadside cafe we completed the journey across the Shen Highlands to Mandalay by bus, a transfer which took about 5 hours.  It sounds grim but it wasn’t, there was just so much to see.  Road works here are particularly interesting as nearly all the walk is done by hand and, like all the other manual labour, by young women.

On the road to Mandalay 

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