Tuesday, 30 December 2014


We did a day of tourism in Yangon. It doesn't feel Christmassy. It's 34C and humid. I don't recall the last time I felt this heat, but it isn't in recent memory. I also don't know if that's recorded somewhere natural or on the crowded downtown blacktop with air conditioners concentrating heat outside all day.  It was basically intervals in and out of shadows for us.  

City hall. 

I missed the name, but the Hudson Bay equivalent from the British Empire originally.  Now something else. Pointy to right is a Christian church. 

Supreme Court. Our guy showing us stuff today is on a limited time scale (by us) as we're recovering from being sick. But he says the police and courts don't do much. In two weeks here, we saw one police car on the road and its two associates police men. We saw zero guns or army guys, but did see a few army barracks type places. It looked to me more like make work/basic army corps of engineers type civil work for teenage boys. 

Protest outside Supreme Court.  

Independence monument. Couple side notes: in two weeks of being here I haven't heard or seen in print the word Burma once. People seem to identify as Myanmar people. There are 135 ethnic groups, but 8 major ones. Apparently Myanmar derives from myan and ma, which either in the past or maybe still, were the Chinese descriptors of these people to the south. Myan is strong, ma is fast. We didn't see anyone moving too fast, but they sure are strong, especially for how small they are. Median body weight must be 2/3 of me for men, if not less. Life expectancy is shorter, 65 years. We were told that it used to be common for farmers to live long, but not so much anymore. I don't know if smoking was historic or introduced (ie they have indigenous stuff they smoke before tobacco) and I can't imagine lifelong exposure to absolutely belching black diesel smoke in your face helps. If previous generations farmed with buffalo work and didn't smoke I could see how it'd be a very healthy life. Let's just say that working in the fields and eating fresh food every day leaves skin cancer as probably a higher risk than obesity. 

Couple standing in nice park. 

This is but a tiny sliver of what is vended on the streets. The one thing that is apparent is men and women are equal, and everyone who can make conversation wants their country to be better. They think they did their part by electing Aung San Suu Kyi. She's one of only 4 people to be bestowed honorary Canadian citizenship too. They stress education desires for the whole population (sounds like it's now basically free or nominal cost to public for primary), are concerned about the prevalence of smoking and the lack of awareness of large scale social health ills. On a daily basis there appears to be a lot of freedom to do as one pleases. I can google seemingly any topic and can blog, which I can't do in China. They want visitors to like Myamar, to realize that it has a long history as being a gem of a country, and wish to get back. 

Apparently some Jewish guy who migrated from Bhagdad early in the century owns this, and is a vibrant figure in the local economy. 

We visited Shwedagon Pagoda, thankfully as shade was coming to Yangon.  It's the most significant one in Myanmar, and significant beyond that as other Bhuddist country people come to pilgrimage.  It's busy - we called it pagoda town as there's so much to the complex. It was partially covered for maintenance while we were there, but the whole thing is actual gold and the top is all rubies and diamonds. 

Bhodi tree at entrance. 

Main pagoda (covered with stuff). 

That thing is really all covered in plate gold. Those who perpetuate the urban myth that all the gold mankind has ever extracted is less than a swimming pool may wish to contemplate. 

Bhuddist principles don't appear in any way combative or incompatible with the modern world.  It's refreshing to be in a climate where people can be devout without being archaic at best or idiotic at worst.  I asked someone about the monks using cell phones and scooters and such, and they said Bhudda didn't have those things then so couldn't make rules about them, following old rules would be silly. But he told people principles for a good life and to think for themselves. Well, that sure seems smarter than some religious bickering in the world. 

I hope Myanmar sorts itself out. It should be rich in a way that all citizens have better lives. It has an abundance of resources. Given adequate transport, nobody should be hungry. People are educated decently, with some having access to more. More is better in this phase. It's also hopeful to see how equal men and women are in their daily routines. It all comes down to politics, which has unfortunately stifled many countries and peoples of high potential. 

Unwound by pool then New Year dinner for 2. The Russians gave this hotel to Myanmar in 1958. Rumor has it Nikita Kruschev had a hand in designing this very pool.  It was a very modern hotel at the time and has been renovated since. I would say it holds its own in the Asian hotel market, especially being on 37 acres on the lake. 

Bakke tracked down a balloon to make New Year dinner for 2 a bit festive. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Rare Footage

This is time lapse action photography of the uncommon event of a pregnant wife cyclocross mounting a moving tandem.

Full speed ahead!

Post bike tour

We did probably 500km together and I got in about 600km by virtue of one longer day on the individual bike before tandem showed up, then the riding when Cindy was overheating.  It's not stage race intense, but we were both working hard. Me pedalling harder and Cindy making a bike touring baby. 

It was shut down time. Beauty temps, beauty flowers, busy hummingbirds. 

We packed up the bike nice, cleaned it, ready for the next trip.  I got a hole in my jeans along the way so got that patched/sewed for the standard white guy price of 50 cents.  

Unfortunately the food gremlins for both of us later that day. Ugh. 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Cindy's Birthday

We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant on the Irrawaddy River.  No wind, no bugs, slow moving water, just tranquil.

Nice dinner, nice view.  Then presents!

Baby aka Mini Cinny Myanmar jersey!

Sunset at dinner time lapse!


I'm no archeological expert, but I'm going to go out on a limb and call this the pagoda capital of earth. Apparently there were 10,000 built between around 1,000 and 1,300 when this place was the capital of the area that now approximates Myanmar. Almost 3,000 are left standing or have been renovated enough to visit.  It's really amazing. And very beautiful. 

Bhudda is in the entries. 

Small staircase. 

Cindy not feeling so well but toughing it out. 

2nd level. 

View of top. 

Pagodas as far as the eye can see. 


Sunset video!

Next morning we visited more.


Steep stairs.

Sunlight hall. 

Tandem team tourism. 

Dry but beautiful farming areas. 

This is the largest one. 

Cindy way down there. 

Cindy named this hair the "Burmese Breeze". 

No wind. Nice temp. It's peaceful just to sit. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Bike touring Myanmar

Bike touring Myanmar, or at least the open areas of the country, is a total win. Great people, food, weather and terrain. 

I'll bike tour in a Bhuddist country any day. People are happy and peaceful. They are like that on the roads, in restaurants, in hotels, and amongst themselves. They treat animals well. Our driver is so peaceful it hurts at times, so patient and courteous. I'm not aware of much Bhuddist self promotion, but they are the rightful owners of the "religion of peace" slogan in my books. 

We've been in the agriculturally rich areas. I haven't seen refrigeration yet, but I presume it exists as beers are cold in at least some places. But produce goes from soil to plate in under a day, and only minutes at times. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilis, soy, more beans than I can identify, corn, carrots, cabbage, leafy salad bases like gourd leaves and tamarind leaves grow. Rice of course, many different varieties. Melons, limes, avocados, strawberries, coconuts, dragon fruit, tamarind, papaya, all grow easily. Fish, pork, beef, chicken is on every menu. Cindy got one night of bad food, I ended up being fine. Flavours are amazing, they don't to bland. Animals tend to be skinny, but I think it's not for lack of food or withholding food from them - I think they stay thin because of/ to deal with heat. It's hot and we're here at coldest time of year.  

The weather in the "winter" is lovely. Not a drop of rain. Maybe 15-25 day low/hi at lower elevations and take 5 degrees off that when we were up high. People wear puffy jackets, toques, and suggest we dress warmly to be cautious. We followed that a few mornings then realized we should just leave our jackets as we take them off in 10 minutes and carry them all day. 

The terrain was varied, which made it interesting. Mountains, jungles, arid areas, flats. No real wind. Not many bugs at all. 

Bike touring on a tandem is awesome. People love it. It brings smiles to so many faces besides our own. We never split up. It's quite a workout. We got in just short of 600km. With heat, growing body weight, and a pregnant wife, we'll just say there was more than ample opportunity to work hard. I feel like I built torque and base fitness, it's not really power you build. Cindy has extremes. Extremely hot or cold, hungry or full, buzzing with energy or passed out sleeping. It's actually pretty comical. But on seperate bikes it just wouldn't really work. I'm surprised at how much she did want to do each day.  She says she gave me the gift I've always wanted by being weight on the back - more training. "I might be a sack of potatoes Bakke, but I'm your favourite sack of potatoes."

Inle Lake fisherman skills

That's a lot of balance; impressive way to free up two hands to fish.

Random Snacks

Highest glycemic index known to man?  Dried gourd that bleeds white sugar as it dries. 

This is how you make a snack tray. Pickled tea leaves in center. Peanuts. Some beans. Sliced dried ginger. Roasted garlic. Toasted sesame. 

This dish is called "small fish". 

I like this one. Black salty soy paste with onions. 
The one closest to Cindy's plate was tamarind leave salad. That was excellent. Egg curry was good. Chicken, beef, fish, gourds, peas, etc all made appearances. If you didn't like onions, garlic and tomatoes it would be hard to eat here.

I tried this today. Good. 

In the "make do" world, this bottle opener is a bolt in a scooter part.  Like most Asian countries, I'm continually amused that it appears anyone over the age of 8 can disassemble and reassemble a scooter at the side of the road with one wrench and some flip flops on. 

Tomato onion sesame salad. 

I like these beans. Fried broad beans apparently.