Sunday cycling in Quito

On Sunday mornings in Quito, a long stretch of road is closed to cars, and cyclists get to rule. Last Sunday we headed out in search of bikes to join in. However, we had forgotten there was a big fun run on, ending at Parque Carolina, so the usual Sunday bike trail was not available. We decided to walk on to Carolina to see what was happening anyway, and discovered that Ave Amazonas was closed and cyclists were out in force, along with roller bladers and a few walkers. We hired some rattlers ($3 p/h) after leaving a passport as insurance. The price turned out to be a bit high as M’s bike blew a tire (as well as getting  a tube puncture) about 40 minutes into our ride. A nearby bike mechanic fixed the tube (3 minutes, $1.25) but kindly pointed out that the tire itself was stuffed.  A short while later as predicted the tire popped again so we were back with our feet on the ground a little sooner than we had hoped. It was great being on a bike though and seeing so many others getting into it. And being offered bike pumps by helpful locals. Hopefully we will get to try the Quito riding experience again someday.

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Perfect day for a fun run
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Perfect day for a bike ride
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We finally found a bike shop with jerseys!

Nagoya by bike

Nagoya is not only a good location for day trips to surrounding areas, but a cool town that has a lot to offer. We were able to hire bikes from a drugstore near Nagoya station (just ask at the wonderful info desk inside the railway terminal for details – around $6 for a day’s hire, no bond) which was a great way to see more of the city. By bike we checked out Nagoya Castle, Central Park, Tsurumai Koen Park, the amazing covered shopping streets of Osu, the park behind the Science Museum (Shirakawa) and then back to near Nagoya station to return the bikes and find somewhere for dinner.

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Food trucks at Nagoya Castle
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Sakura at Nagoya Castle
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Yes, Nagoya Castle. Burnt to the ground (almost) in an air raid in 1945, lovingly rebuilt
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Tsurama Park – picnic time
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Window shopping by bike in Osu
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Back of the Science Museum/ Shirakawa Park
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Drugstore to look for for bike rental
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Cycle friendly Nagoya

On to Chiang Mai

From Mandalay it’s an easy flight to Chiang Mai – just over an hour. Not a lot of leg room on the Bangkok Air ATR72500 (little plane), but luckily there was no one sitting in front of us so no danger of reclining seats causing knee incapacitation.

For our first few nights on this return visit to CM we stayed on the Thapae Gate side of the city – which which just happens to be the right side for some craft beer venues. We enjoyed good food, beer and people viewing at Riverside Bar and it’s sister venue across the road, Craft Beer Factory. And riding and wandering around the streets of the Old Town.

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Mandalay sights

We took things very easy in Mandalay – sightseeing by bike in the morning and staying out for lunch, then a couple of hours rest in the afternoon – and out again late afternoon.

Inspired by the postcard above, we went along to see the famous Mahamuni Buddha – the paya was packed! Very much a working temple. And this was the only place that M’s long shorts did not cut it – he had to hire a longyi to cover his knees.

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Only men are allowed to apply gold leaf to the image to make merit – shown on video screens as it’s hard to get near the front to see what’s going on
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One of the entrances to Mahamuni Paya
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On our self guided bike tour (with a route suggested by the guide book) we stopped at the Arrawaddy River View Hotel Sky Bar. M was aghast we paid $3 US for an Americano. But it was great coffee and a good view. And a biscuit.
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One of the highlights of our bike tour was the flower market.

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Mandalay, Tidy Town

We stayed at the Smart Hotel, which was a great location – close to the palace and a moderate bike ride away from the World’s Biggest Book and Mandalay Hill. And good food also within easy walking distance. We rode step through rattlers provided free from the hotel every day – it was a wonderful way to experience the city. Compared to the other locations in Myanmar where we stayed, Mandalay (0r at least this part) seemed very house proud – no rubbish in the streets, and people regularly sweeping and watering their patch to keep it clean and not so dusty.

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The royal sandals – that’s real gold inset with rubies. Not your average thongs.
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Mandalay Palace
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Kuthodaw Paya – aka the World’s Biggest Book. A wonderful sight. 
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Kuthodaw Paya
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Wood carving at the Shwenadaw Paya – aka Golden Palace
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View from our balcony, level 6, Smart Hotel

 

Temples of Bagan

Apparently there are over 2,000 monuments in Bagan, in various states of repair/disrepair. Earthquakes have caused major damage, the most recent in August 2016. Some temples were closed due to the latest shakeup.

There are plenty of ‘must see’ monument lists but the two places I most enjoyed were not described in anything we read – it was more happy accident. Get your own transport, bring your headlamp and go for it. We travelled by mountain bike (A$4 per bike per day), small e-scooter ($10 from the hotel, but on the street $7) and large e-scooter ($10 on the street – and the most comfortable ride for this passenger). Taxis offer tours, but can’t get to many of the more interesting places – or you could also try horse and cart. Many of the roads are narrow, bumpy and sandy. You can’t hire motorbikes and we heard it was because foreigners were having too many accidents.

Favourite spot no.1 was the Wi-ni-do Group. We were looking at the stupas behind the main temple when a guy came out of a nearby dwelling and asked us if we wanted to look in the main building. Turns out he was the key holder, and gave us (and some other passing tourists) a look inside. It was remarkable – the interior paintings were extremely well preserved – and strictly no photographs allowed.

The second was building no. 1401. The staircase was unlocked and we climbed up onto the top for fantastic afternoon views of the area. No one else was around.

Bikes, and a boat across Inle

Due to a shaky Internet there has been no blogging of late – but hopefully now service has resumed. Back in Nyaungu Shwe we hired bikes – on the first day, some old rattlers which were fine for getting around town for the total princely sum of around A$2 for both. Our second day had us checking out something built for a longer journey. For around $15 from MMK we hired 2 mountain bikes, 2 helmets, a lock, 2 bottles of water, a map showing various routes and some advice on the best one ( a round trip including a boating section).

Ride

Back on the bike, one belonging to Uncharted Horizons . Our excellent guide Michael led us on the Wild West Tour. I love a boat trip and this half day tour promised three, as well as a ride in the country – so how could we say no? After checking out a local market and negotiating early morning traffic, we stopped at a teahouse for breakfast before heading to the port. The ride took us across the river from Yangon, through the countryside and various villages, with a couple of rest stops at a monastery and a roadside palm wine stall. It was somewhat quieter than the city, although a few of the pagodas we passed had chanting being broadcast across the paddocks – our guide said it was to prevent accidents – and in the villages, we passed a wedding being set up, and a couple of karaoke houses, that had the volume cranked up.

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