Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Slower Modes of Burmese Transport

In this excerpt from the book, we pick up an entry from our "You've Arrived" chapter. Following is a short excerpt from the section on slower modes of transport:
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Bicycle Rickshaws: These can be found in quiet corners of cities and in every village. They won’t be able to take you very far (especially in Yangon), because they can’t traverse some of the busier thoroughfares. But they are immensely enjoyable, and sometimes know peaceful shortcuts and side-streets that the bigger cars can’t or don’t follow. Most are also equipped with a front and back seat, so you can sit back to back with your travel companion.

Ox or Horse Carts: This how many farmers get around. If one is out in a village, it’s possible to get a ride on these. They are not usually used to ferry people, except in Pyin Oo Lwin and Bagan, where they are done up for tourists. Patricia Elliott, in her biography of the Yawnghwe Mahadevi Sao Hearn Hkam, recounts in The White Umbrella that, “to survive the jolts of a bullock car ride you had to sit just so in the center, swaying lightly to the cart’s movements, outstretched hands resting on the cart’s high sides.” Yogis can try this technique and compare the results as they travel across rural Shan country roads leading to their monastery of practice. Sao Sanda adds to this description in Moon Princess, writing that in older times such transport were only for those that could afford it, and most just walked from village to village, avoiding the tigers and panthers that roamed just off-trail.

Tractors: noisier than a rock concert, bouncier than a trampoline, dirtier than a smoggy day, and slower than a light jog. But, for the adventuresome…why not? Like ox-carts they do not generally travel further than the next village, although many may be willing to provide a short lift.

Bicycles: Bikes can be rented in several towns by the day, including Mandalay, Bagan, and around the outskirts of Inle. Information about extended bike tours can be found in standard Myanmar guidebooks, or by looking online.

On Foot: There are many places in Myanmar where the best way to get around is by foot, from hillside trails carved into the Sagaing Hills, to backstreet paths that cut across Yangon congestions and noise, to the joy of following on an alms round. If one is planning for extended walking tours, plan to bring comfortable footwear with you. You’ll also want to make sure to have protection against the harsher climates you may encounter, particularly the rains and sun.

A local villager direct his ox-cart in Upper Burma