Yangon by bike…

That should be ‘Yangon by e-bike’.  Last year in October we rented e-bikes at Ankor Wat in Cambodia.  They were fairly low powered and ideally had to be charged during the day to keep them going well.  We both loved riding around on them and Cambodian driving though seemingly nuts is actually quite calm so it was a great experience.

Later that year, last Christmas, we went to Bagan which is Myanmar’s ancient temple complex and also hired e-bikes then too.  These ones were definitely more powerful and didn’t need to be charged during the day.  We also had great fun with these e-bikes.  Fast forward to the start of this school year and some colleagues who live near us bought an e-bike and we jealously see them riding back and forth to school.  Hilariously, they pick up their dog from a day-sitter and instead of walking it back, it sits on the bike, by their feet.

We bought a push bike last year but only have one.  Often we walk it in to school in the morning and then whoever is later (usually me) gets to ride it back but after repeatedly seeing our friend’s e-bike the bicycle just wasn’t cutting it.  Eventually, we decided we would go and ‘investigate’ e-bikes and went to this bike street out near the airport where there are loads of bike shops.  Fortunately, as it was a public holiday only about 2 of the shops were open so there wasn’t that much choice which was actually a good thing as I think we might have been overwhelmed otherwise.  One enterprising salesman saw us coming and on hearing we were interested in e-bikes showed us a new e-bike looking a bit like a Vespa.  He also showed us a second hand one which was a bit more powerful.  We drove them both around to get the feel of them and then I suggested Linz and I chat about it.  The lucky thing, was that someone had told us how much he thought they cost at the top end (750,000 Ks, $494, £385).  To us this seemed way too cheap so we brought about 1.2 m Ks with us.  That meant that we had a load more cash with us than we needed.  I cheekily suggested we buy two never expecting Lindsey to go for it but amazingly she did!  We offered 1.2 m Ks for the both of them and he agreed, throwing in helmets and a pump, for good measure.

The next challenge would be getting them back.  It was too far out, too dangerous and possibly illegal to drive them back so we asked if they would deliver them.  Anything is possible in Myanmar and a truck was soon employed to get them back.  There was no ramp so the e-bikes were manhandled on to the truck by about 6 people.  Worryingly, only four of us accompanied the bikes back which meant we had to help with the disembarkation process.  Somehow we managed it and then we were the proud possessors of two e-bikes – Wilma (the white one) and Fred (the red one).



Our road and in fact all the nearby roads are in the process of being relaid which means that in general we have fairly smooth journeys when travelling around our neighbourhood.  So far we are mainly taking the bikes to work and sometimes we go together on one although it doesn’t feel nearly as safe or comfortable.  Last weekend we attempted a journey to a nearby bar which is halfway from our house to downtown.  There was one dodgy moment when I nipped in between a bus (which are super dangerous here) and a cement mixer (only slightly less dangerous) and Lindsey wasn’t brave enough.  She patiently waited behind the cement mixer until he kindly waved her past him – very Burmese!  Once we got close to the restaurant we realised that we would need to traverse a particularly bad roundabout.  Once the traffic builds up the roundabouts become free for alls with every man, woman or e-bike for themselves.  We decided to abandon the trip and head home rather than risk it.

This morning we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda on the bikes for sunrise and then went to the same restaurant via the same deadly roundabout for breakfast.  At that time in the morning the traffic was fairly minimal as was the risk so we had no problem.  As time goes by we are getting more confident with the e-bikes but don’t worry, we won’t be heading downtown on them anytime soon!

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