At 3 am in Mandalay, I ride my loaded bicycle to the train station. The streets are finally empty. At the train station, I board the cutest little ‘baby train’, on one-meter track. For the next 12 hours we will average 13 mph as we climb switchbacks up the mountain, go thru long tunnels, and finally over a spectacular bridge.
I arrive in the afternoon in Hsipaw (correct spelling). I am now in SHAN territory, so the few words in Burmese that I have struggled to remember no longer apply. Foreigners are not allowed to go much further up the road here because of ‘conflicts’. So this is the end of the northern line for me.
I stay in a truly luxury hotel for $20 @ night. Service is extraordinary. I am simply not comfortable with all their attentiveness. I really do not need small women carrying my heavy gear from my bike to my room. But they are insistent. At sunrise, I go to the morning market, which is always a great joy while traveling. I see a few new vegetables. Hmmmm? I watch the river boats are arriving on the clean, fast flowing Dot Hta Waddy river, loaded with large fresh water fish.
Then I pedal north of town to visit some temples dedicated to ‘local spirits’. I find active temples where people are lighting candles, asking the local spirits for protection for their animals and family.
POLYTHEISM! I thought it was extinct, but it isn’t. Just an endangered deism-species. YEAAAAY! Dios-diversity continues. Long live many spirits. I look at the circular Burmese, or Shan print. Sure, I’ll light a candle to that, anything that protects animals. And I do. I see many people staring at this bizarre alien in a bicycle helmet, who is making offerings to their local spirits. But they smile at me, and wave as I pedal off.
But I must get ready for tomorrow. I figure I have 10+ days of pedaling to catch up with my riding partner, Jeff Mease, on the beach on the Andaman Sea. From there, we plan to ride to Thailand. We both have some business to do in Thailand.