January has been kind to us so far ... knock on wood. We haven't seen a single snowflake and have had plenty of sunny days. It's cold, yes, but not often below zero and I am managing to get out on my bike often. This year my goal is not only to ride as often as possible but to increase my mileage. Nuff said. I won't commit myself here to what my km goal is. But I have one.
This is not the end-of-the-month post, that is yet to come with more pictures, stats - kilometers.
Famous Last Words
"we haven't seen a single snowflake"
That was yesterday. Today we got some snowflakes.
The Polar Bear Club
It was an abrupt transition from +30°C at 10 pm in Bangkok to 0°C at midday a day later. But we aren’t letting that deter us! Our local bicycle club as of this winter has introduced winter rides. We were away for the first three, but on this frosty but sunny January day we decided to join them. Actually, I felt obliged since on a warm afternoon last summer I had asked if the club also rode in the winter. It was an innocent question but Sebastian, our group leader, took it seriously and initiated the "Eisbärtouren".
Yesterday when we met it was -2°C and Sebastian had planned a 35 km ride. So far my winter rides have been at the most 15 km, usually more like six or seven, nothing to brag about but just enough to make me feel good about being out. I was surprised to see that 12 hardy cyclists turned up! We rode a good 25 km before we stopped for lunch at a Greek restaurant for warmth and energy. The remaining ten were then no problem.
On our way home from a walk on dusty tracks leading to the temples, we got a chance to observe first hand how roads are constructed today, probably not only in Bagan but in all of Myanmar. I usually don't like to take pictures of people without asking, but for these shots I found a good spot where I could unobtrusively capture the scene with my zoom lens.
A Simple Meal
For lunch we went to the closest restaurant, the one right next door that we visited on our first day here. They only serve curry, to foreigners at least, although it looks like the Burmese at the other tables have different things on their plates. But four kinds of curry - beef, fish, lamb and chicken - is easily understood. The curry itself is a small dish with three modest sized pieces of meat or fish in a puddle of oily sauce. This is then accompanied by side-dishes of stewed eggplant, fermented bamboo, spicy tomato puree, dried fish fried with onions, green beans and a bowl of broth. A pot of rice is placed on the table, you help yourself. Perhaps the fermented bamboo shoots are an acquired taste and probably the smell of a stinky French cheese is just as unappetizing to a Burmese as the smell of the fermented bamboo shoots is to us. All the little dishes make a nice array to look at, perhaps not my favorite Asian food but good enough and it all seems to be very authentic.
So perhaps if we haven't seen as many temples and pagodas as we wished, I feel the lethargy imposed on us by my illness has given us time to take in the flavor of our surroundings.
Temples and Dusty Roads
For today we choose a different group of temples to investigate. We are again lucky that it is cloudy and cool for our walk. A blue sky might be nicer for pictures but being exposed to the baking sun not so nice for us.
The paths leading to the sights are a mixture of red dust and sand, sometimes loose and deep. I wouldn't want to have to ride any kind of two-wheeled vehicle here, with or without a motor. But these paths or minor roads don't just lead to the historic sites but also to villages and there is light traffic.