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
Willie Weir : November 11th, 2012
We’d been watching grain being threshed out in the fields for several days. It was time to get up close and personal. We cycled up to this group, parked our bikes, and I grabbed a big pile of grain (wheat, rice, other?) and hauled it over. Everyone laughed and soon I was being given a lesson on how to thresh. I’m not very good. But it sure was fun. -w
The ride through farm-country continues, but the mountains draw near. It seems every hilltop we see in the distance has a pagoda or stupa, but nothing tops this karst mountain rising dramatically above the fields. -k.
Willie Weir : November 10th, 2012
The back road from Heho to Pindaya winds and bounces through farmland—a tapestray of greens and browns and yellows. This little boy is watching after his younger sibling, who is in a cradle underneath the blanket, while his mother is out working in the fields. -w
Thanks to a hand-drawn map, we take a dirt road from Inley lake to Pindaya and find ourselves in the cabbage-belt of Myanmar. Cart after cart of cabbage is loaded on to big trucks. What road there once was is often chewed to bits, but if oxen don’t mind, we don’t either. -k.
Willie Weir : November 9th, 2012
We’ve seen kids all over flying kites. The kites are light and made with the same plastic as those grocery bags we are banning. But the spools that kite string wind around are duarable and quite beautiful. -w
We picked a good day for a lazy day just hanging around Nyaung Shwe. It was our good fortune to step into an internet cafe just as the first raindrops fell. And they fell, and they fell. Buckets of water poured from the sky and this pour bike rider was not as lucky to be under cover. We took a chance coming to Myanmar in October, the tail end of the rainy season. We’ve seen rain twice, and both times from an internet cafe. A good sign that we should stay connected. -k.
Willie Weir : November 8th, 2012
Inley Lake is much more than a lake, it’s multiple scattered villages built over the water where life carries on just like on land. The boat loaded with goods (on the right) is like a convenience store and the lady in the boat on the left is doing some drive-by shopping. I watched her pick out her goods and go through the “checkout” cashier, all while remaining in her vehicle. She paddled away with a few veggies and dried goods, toothpaste and Family Planning brand soap. -k
If you take a boat tour of Inley, your guide will make sure to stop near a group of fishermen who are using the incredibly unique style of rowing their boats, using one paddle and their leg. But these folks look a little too perfect. Their outfits don’t show wear. And where’s their fish? So, although I have some nice photos of the paid performers, I prefer this one of a local going about his daily business. -w