Willie Weir : November 21st, 2012
I had to go to Bangkok’s central train station to get tickets for our journey east to Ubon. I was trying to find the baggage department where we will take our bikes to be weighed, and I stumbled upon this Buddha all packed up for travel. At least I think it is a Buddha. Could be a bag of interestingly stacked bowling balls … but my money’s on the Buddha. -w
What a difference a month makes. We return to Bangkok and it now feels so clean and orderly! In true Willie Weir-fashion, we boarded a city bus to get across town instead of resorting to the taxis available on any street. The bus was surprisingly efficient, clean, air conditioned, and of course super cheap. I can not say the same for our local bus in Seattle. -k.
Willie Weir : November 20th, 2012
A quick flight and we were back in Bangkok. Back to our familiar neighborhood near the National Stadium sky train station. This group of women construction workers were lined up at a street side stall for dinner. They have been busy building a new highrise hotel around the corner. -w
It’s already beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Like so many cities in American, Bangkok can’t wait to put out the holiday spread. This Christmas tree is going up outside the posh hotel next door to our lovely, but much less posh hotel. -w
Willie Weir : November 19th, 2012
By good luck and happenstance we are staying a short walk away from the motorcade route from the Yangon airport to the sites President Obama and Hilary Clinton will visit. With a tip from the policemen, we arrive in the morning and join the crowd lining the street as far as the eye could see. The sprinkling of American flags caught my eye and people warming returned my smiles. The collective energy fueled my last day in Myanmar like no other. -k.
After watching President Obama and Hilary Clinton zoom into town, we got on our bikes and pedaled over to Kyaukhtatgyi Paya to see the enormous reclining Buddha. (see the big picture) It was peaceful and reverent. I wondered why on earth not a single tourist was there? Then came the realization that the tourists physically couldn’t get there. Two of the city’s huge arterials were closed because of the President’s visit. Rack up another one for BIKES!
Willie Weir : November 18th, 2012
Capitalism at work on the streets on Yangon as entrepreneurs quickly embrace the excitement of Obama’s pending visit. I turned this t-shirt on the sidewalk by Bogyoke Market towards the light, only to reveal the begger sitting on the sidewalk just beyond. The great hope and great hardship side-by-side. It’s a hard life in Myanmar for the masses. Poverty and disability magnifies that difficulty beyond imagination. May all countries, including my own, take care of those who need it most. -k.
Walking the backstreets of downtown Yangon, I came upon this bicycle. Such a classic for Myanmar. A single speed with bamboo polls lashed to the frame and rack, with an old tire tube used as a long bungee chord. With this setup you can deliver boxes, furniture, chickens, construction materials, and just about anything else. A workhorse of a vehicle that doesn’t run on expensive petrol, and can weave in and out of city traffic. -w
Willie Weir : November 17th, 2012
All that glitters is not gold. Shwedagon Paya in Yangon is revered as the most holy site in Myanmar and so naturally we headed there our first evening in the city. It certainly rivals the great cathedrals of Europe and it’s a great privilege to be able to visit the site that many of the Myanmar people only dream to go. Surrounding the great pyramid of gold is a spectacle of lights and mirrors, pagodas with intricate carving, rituals of bathing your birthday-Buddha, and people watching of all shapes and flavors. I long to feel the holiness of the place, to know the deep connection, but my holy place is in the quiet sanctuary of nature. I have not mastered, or is it have not embraced, reverence with the masses and bright chaser lights. -k.
The broom brigade. Shwedegon Pagoda is a vast comples, and one with a lot of floor space. We were told that groups sign-up to be part of these broom crews, and they are directed by broom-sweeping professionals to keep Shwedegon well swept. And that it is! -w
Willie Weir : November 16th, 2012
From atop our hotel rooftop garden Mandalay is beautiful. From the ground, it is a dirty, gritty city. There are pockets of tremendous beauty amongst a vast tangle of muddy streets, open sewers, piles of construction waste with well-aged bits of litter woven through it all. I snapped this photo of an advertisement for beauty cream, or shampoo, or skin whitener on the side of a truck. Beyond is where I’ll be walking to get back to our hotel. -w
Mandalay, like nearly every other city we visited, has a garbage problem. They also have a sidewalk problem since many sidewalks are really covered sewage channels. Clearly few people walk the sidewalks since we were often the only people walking, and many of the concrete plates covering the sewage are broken or missing. It’s walker beware! -k
Willie Weir : November 15th, 2012
Cycling down from the mountain highlands into Mandalay, we passed the roadside flower market. Bushels of chyrsanthemums lined the streets. This driver is getting a giant bundle of flowers strapped to her scooter. She would later pass us, likely en route to a sell outside a temple. -k
From a distance, I was confused. The thing ahead, depending on the angle, looked like a giant roly-poly bug making its way to Mandalay. As I pedaled closer, and finally passed, it turned out to be a gentleman using a bamboo pole and an efficient packing method to transport his stock of woven baskets. -w
Willie Weir : November 14th, 2012
We spent hours at the Kandawgyi National Gardens – a series of gardens wound through an enormous space – an orchid garden, a swamp walk, pine forest, rock garden, tea garden, euphorbia garden, etc. But it was the bamboo that dazzled. Wow! I wanted to wait for a wind storm to brew up, just so I could hear the melodious clatter. -w
Finally acknowledging the bug in my gut wasn’t going away on it’s own, we took a rest day in the cooler highlands of Pyin Oo Lwin. A stroll in Myanmar’s 435-acre national botanical garden was the only item on the agenda. The lovely manicured lawns and gardens also had an aviary where we could see hornbills and peacocks up close. The intricate design of these pheasant feathers captured my fancy. -k
Willie Weir : November 13th, 2012
The mechanical thesher is quite a bit more efficient than the method pictured on 11-11. But a hell of a lot nosier. This group was threshing rice just off the main highway headed north to Mandalay. -w
We’ve enjoyed a good, cold drought beer as often as possible, so we had to try the “anti-aging beer” made from spirulina, a microalgea that is most commonly is used as a dietary supplement. The juxtaposition of these guys sitting around drinking their anti-aging beer and smoking like chimneys made me laugh. -k.
Willie Weir : November 12th, 2012
Chewing betel in Myanmar is as common as chewing gum in the states. Boys do it, girls do it, old ladies do it, but nobody packs a wad of rolled leaf into their cheek, then spews the resulting red-stained saliva quite like the guys who run the pickup/transport business. Stalls for rolling betel, smeared with lime paste and topped with an areca nut, spices and perhaps some tobacco, are on every street corner. It’s grossly fascinating and I’m curious about the mildly stimulating effect, but it’s one nasty habit. This man’s hands had the skill of a craftsman and the betel table in the corner caught the morning light so beautifully. -k.
Sometimes downhills are a breeze. Sometimes they are a lot of work. But one of the bonuses of a crappy road is none of the vehicles can go fast. Here is a shout out to the truck drivers of Myanmar … the most pleasant truckers we’ve met on the planet. -w