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.
A Stroll to Nearby Temples
It rained all morning, strange for this time of year. In the afternoon the sky remained overcast and the air cool. It was good weather for walking. These pictures are all of scenes closeby, places we walked to and probably nothing on a tourist's itinerary.
Although we have been close to this legendary river since we arrived in Myanmar, today was the first time we saw it. That was at sundown, but let's start the narrative at the beginning of the day.
Yesterday I finished my prescribed antibiotic, but I wasn't well yet, not by a long shot. Time for a doctor. We trotted off to Bagan's Global Care International Clinic, its name grander than the building itself. But I got to see a doctor who spoke good English, took his time to listen to me and made a very competent impression altogether. I left with a bagfull of medications, including antibiotics. I don't know what's in all those little yellow, white and blue pills they gave me, but I'm taking them all, no questions asked.
Both Janos and I were relieved to have things under control and in the evening I felt up to a walk to the banks of the Irrawaddy. We got there at dusk, as the sun was setting. When the river came into view, we gasped. It was a splendid sight.
We flew out of Mandalay yesteray and now are in Bagan. This should be a highlight of our trip.
Also known as the Land of a Thousand Temples, the ancient kingdom of Bagan in Myanmar is symbol of Burmese religion, history and culture. Towering above the plains of Mandalay and cradled by the Irrawaddy River, the treasures of the ancient kingdom of Bagan have survived for centuries. Once a major power in Southeast Asia, Bagan is home to over two thousand Buddhist temples standing as symbols of Burmese history and culture.
That's a lot of temples. We'll be happy looking at a few. For our first day and to get acquainted with the lay of the land, we got in a tuktuk and had him drive us to some of the major sights. There were lots of people at the temeples we visited, mostly locals it seemed, we didn't see a lot of foreigners. They livened up the scenes of old stones.
Niether Janos nor I has ever been to Myanmar. There would be so much to discover and explore, and we have so little time. Our decision was to limit ourselves to Mandalay and Bagan for the time we have left.
To quote W. Somerset Maugham: "Mandalay has its name; the falling cadence of the lovely word has gathered about itself the chiaroscuro of romance." The same would apply to the Irrawaddy. The names have drawn us here.
To make a long story short, when we arrived I was fighting a severe respiratory infection which the flight here hadn't helped. Since our arrival I have been confined to our room for the most part, fortunately in a comfortable hotel. I went out with Janos twice for meals, otherwise I have rested in bed. And since my health is even more important to me than all the pagodas of Mandalay, I shall not do much sightseeing here, if any at all.
Our flight to Bagan is tomorrow and I am hoping to be in good enough shape for the continuing journey.
The two times I went out I snapped a few pictures.
Another Day at the Temples of Angkor
There will be no history, no background information on the temples of Angkor here, just a few pictures from the many that I took this morning. The visual impact of these temple ruins is powerful and that's what I tried to capture. Of course the history is fascinating as well, but I would have only been able to scratch the surface.
What my blog doesn't show from my experience of the temples are the many tourists taking selfies at every photo-worthy spot, nor do you feel the heat or the fatigue from the bone rattling one-hour tuktuk ride to the more distant temple in the last two pictures. We thought that the distance would keep the mass of visitors away, but when we arrived we saw many big buses in the parking lot...
We often hear ourselves saying, glad we were here eleven years ago.