Cocoons into butterflies - Both Sides of Paradise - CycleBlaze

November 6, 2014

Cocoons into butterflies

The bikes are released into the world

Dear little friends,

I've found myself taking photos of the bike boxes. This is supposed to be a bicycle travel blog and we ARE traveling WITH bicycles, so maybe that is close enough but I am feeling a little like we're cheating at this bike touring journal thing. I have this vision of people with very strong leg muscles sighing impatiently at their computer screens like moviegoers waiting for the coming attractions to end and the movie to start.

But first, a word from our sponsor, the wonderful world of Burma, which has in its catalogue of wonders a national product called The Burmese Diet Plan. Our old friend Ma Cho, the guesthouse owner here in Bagan, yesterday looked at me and chirped happily, "Oh! You have become so FAT!" She meant not a word of insult to that remark, here in Burma it was always the chubby girls with white skin featured in ads, but the ideal beauty is now becoming a little lankier and slightly morose, still with white skin of course. I laughed and admitted it was true, and didn't really mind because of this miraculous product that I had come halfway around the world to obtain. It's cheap too, you just walk down a 90-degree F street in 98% humidity, throw your eat-time clock off by 13.5 hours, add some really glorious smells, such as fish paste and open sewer, and then top it off with a wee bit o' food poisoning. I feel five pounds lighter already, and I'll keep you updated on how TBDP is working next time I am near a baggage scale.

Okay, back to the boxes.

Ticket novella in hand, we had our stuff loaded into a wagon at the Yangon train station and waited under a ceiling fan. All the things I had read about Indian train stations jumped into my paranoid little mind but then I remembered we are not in India and I saw five little Buddhist nuns in their pink robes watching a subtitled "My Friend Flicka" and a bunch of teenagers and a monk standing near the one outlet taking turns charging their cell phones. Bruce had jumped the gun and gotten food poisoning before me and before a train ride, never a good idea, and was looking a little pale but very brave. It was also his birthday.

The train station in Yangon.
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I strolled off to the toilets, you pay 100 kyat and go into a long room of stalls with wooden doors and squatty potties and you splash yourself off with water and dry yourself with toilet paper and toss the paper into the bin because you will seriously screw up the plumbing if you flush it down. I washed my hands, bought the birthday boy a packet of chocolate biscuits from a sweet vendor, and wondered about our upper class sleeper.

Would I do the upper class sleeper again? I think I would. Despite the ridiculously bumpy, long, and uncomfortable ride, it was still absolutely amazing, like a dream, really. The train is leftover from the British era which means it is at least 57 years old and probably older. The windows are permanently left up, the light permanently left off, and a steady drip of water fell right onto the head of the hapless toilet user, said toilet opening right onto the tracks, natch.

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Our palatial sleeper was a four-bedder and we shared it with a great lass from North Carolina who was teaching English in Taiwan and an experienced, fun traveler. We all agreed that despite our misgivings about bouncy uncomfortable train rides in Myanmar, we were thrilled not to have taken the night bus with its icy air conditioning and manic driver. The train route takes a leisurely clippety-clop pace north from Yangon, out into the rice fields and night lightning and moonlight, hugging small villages where folks stay up late to celebrate the upcoming full moon with pre-festival entertainment. Even after we all fell asleep we passed villages where the circle drums played and a man sang into a microphone those melodies that are almost completely inaccessible to Western ears. At least at first. Maybe it's because I associate this music with good times and good travel, I have developed a fondness for it, in small doses, anyway, about the length of time it takes for a slow train to roll by.

Waitin' for a train.
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I say "fell asleep" with some misgivings because while there was some sleep, it was actually mostly "fell" since we spent a good bit of time airborne over our bunks.

In the morning the sun rose over toddy palms and we spent hours hanging out the window waving at people and taking photos. We don't recommend buying food from the train, it was unnecessarily expensive, although the mugs of tea bouncing off our table did serve as a vehicle for the noxious birthday biscuits. I'm afraid my train breakfast probably induced my food poisoning so it was my turn last night to wonder why I was feeling weird. That was not just "train wooze" motion I felt, if you get my drift.

Nearing the plain of Bagan you start to see a lot of toddy palms, a source of palm sugar, harvested by tapping the fruits near the top much like you would a maple tree.
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We finally opened up the boxes at the guest house in the afternoon, and the staff made innocent lingering passes through that room to check on our progress and other guests joked about missing pieces and so forth but after a couple of hours the bikes were out and shining on their wheels, all necessary greasing and tightening had happened, and they were ready to take their Shakedown Cruise v. 1.0 Unloaded in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

At the Bagan railway station.
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Let's get this party started.
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So now, from photos of boxes, to photos of our cute wheels.

Released into the wild.
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Andrea BrownAnd that's how we like it.
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1 year ago
Ron GrumbyClick stands!!!
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1 year ago
Andrea BrownTo Ron GrumbyI told Bruce that if I lose my Click Stand the trip is over.
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1 year ago
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