Yangon by bike – hair raising!

This morning, Sunday 30th September, a colleague had suggested going for an early morning bike ride.  The advantage of going early is that there are few cars on the road which is important as you are taking your life in your hands on Yangon roads at normal hours.  Lindsey and I don’t have bikes but were able to easily borrow some as lots of people have bikes here and not everyone is an early riser.  We actually got them a day early and I used one to nip out to the shops (for wine).  What would have taken 45 minutes to an hour took about 15 minutes.  I have never been much of a fan of bikes as my back has never really got on with them but I think we will both buy bikes.  My dream would be to own one of the electric bikes which are common here but Lindsey is being mean about it.  Watch this space….

The plan was to meet at 4:00 am at the school.  11 of us met and duly cycled off at a nice easy pace.  Although there are a few hills in Yangon they are pretty tame and it’s mostly flat so it wasn’t very strenuous.  First we headed down to the Shwedagon which is beautifully lit up at night.  There were hardly any cars around which was nice and the breeze from cycling made for a reasonable temperature.  The rain is really slowing down now and has gone from everyday to once every couple of days.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t hot though because it really is.  Definitely reaches the 30’s most days, (30 degrees Celsius is 86 degrees Fahrenheit).  Looking at the temperature back home in London and the other places our family live makes you really realise that you live in a hot climate.

After having a look at the Shwedagon, we cycled downtown to look at some of the sites there including the secretariat which is one of those old red brick colonial buildings.  It isn’t used as a Government building anymore but they are slowly renovating it and use it for art exhibitions quite often.  We also went past the zoo.  I had heard that it was pretty terrible so wasn’t planning on going but the people I spoke to said it wasn’t that bad with options for elephant feeding and hippo stroking so we’re definitely going to go.

After cycling around for a while downtown we headed back to the Shwedagon to see the sunrise (just before 6am).  We were treated to a large number of house swifts flying in and out of their nests just as we arrived.  At this time in the morning the Shwedagon was even more peaceful than last time and even more obviously a place of worship.  While we were there we witnessed a procession of monks coming out of one shrine and walking to the next shrine.  Not only did they have a gong and a big drum but also two people with what looked like Conch Shells actually playing them (if that’s the right word) quite competently.  We stayed to watch the sun rise which was lovely and then headed back home for some breakfast.

As we were up anyway we then decided to take Nell for her normal walk to the old race course.  I think Nell is starting to get used to the weather.  Even though she gets really hot on the walk and we have to giver her water several times, when we come home, she immediately wants to sit outside in the blazing heat only occasionally coming in to the shade.  For the last few weeks we have stopped off at an eatery of some kind on the way back from the walk where they are making some kind of donutty type things and frying the hell out of them.  The smell reminds me of donuts from fair grounds when I was little or possibly when we were in America.   They now know us and Nell which is really nice.  Just after that bit we have to walk down a road with market streets off of them.  It’s running the gauntlet as there are lots of street dogs which are more aggressive than the usual ones although we haven’t really had any incidents as yet.  What we really want to do is to explore the market but we don’t really want to do that with Nell as there are bound to be loads of other street dogs.

The bike ride earlier was not the ‘hair raising’ part.  That was actually getting my haircut for the first time which I did later.  I had a tip from a colleague that a place called ‘Tony Tun Tun’s’ would do men’s hair.  (Sounds like a character from a British gangster movie to my mind.)  The salon was in the western mall nearby and looked quite fancy.  I got 200,000 Kyats (about £100 GBP) out of the cash machine beforehand to make sure I was fully loaded.  I was seen by a young man who didn’t speak much English but somehow he understood what I wanted and had obviously worked with Westerners before.  At first to do my sides and back he only used electric clippers and a comb which was worrying but nevertheless he seemed very competent.  Thankfully the scissors came out for the rest of my hair. Before I tell you the price try to think of the lowest price you have ever paid to have your haircut (maybe even when you were a kid).


Well, it cost 5,000 Kyats which is £2.50 GBP or $3.22!  Frankly not a bad cut.  His name is Nyi Nyi if anyone is interested….

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