One year and one week ago, I bought a brand new Kenbo semi-automatic motorbike. Semi-automatic means that there isn’t a clutch but there is a gear shift pedal which is operated by the left foot. The right foot does the foot break and the hand break is operated by the right hand. The left hand also has an important job: the horn!
I knew I wanted to get a motorbike as soon as I considered the job in Mandalay. I only hoped it would be a good place for a motorbike! And it certainly is!
I arrived in Mandalay on a Sunday and bought my bike the following Saturday. You don’t need insurance or a license to purchase. I do have a local license now though, after 3 trips to the DMV in which I failed every driving test. In Myanmar, they drive on the right but many cars have the steering wheel on the right too (including the one I had my test in)! That boggled my mind. Additionally, there were 2 written tests, which I was more successful in- one on rules of the road and one on “psychology,” which basically assesses whether or not you are likely to have road rage.
I’ve been on lots of adventures with my motorbike! One time, I met 3 kids while I was hiking a nearby hill. When it started raining, I offered them a ride home. I knew it was going to be tough to have 3 passengers, but I still underestimated the challenge. As it turned out, they lived FAR away! It was at least half an hour’s ride in pouring rain! The weight of the 3 of them changed the balance of the bike. This made threading the needle between deep puddles and herds of cattle a difficult maneuver, especially on the rock-laden dirt road!
Also, I’ve been on a couple of roadtrips to nearby towns, like Pyin Oo Lwin (ပြင်ဦးလွင် a cute hill station formerly run by the British) and Monywa (မုံရွာမြို့ a small city famous for its 129 meter Buddha and ancient caves). I also rode on the back of that bigger red motorbike all of the way to Kalaw (ကလောမြု့; another nice hill station known for trekking) and Inle Lake (အင်းလေးကန် the infamous tourist destination)!
Many motorbikes have a basket on the front, but the manufacturers seem to think that won’t work with my model (we even asked about it at the dealership). Luckily for me, my boyfriend installed a sort of DIY version on the back. It can hold a lot of stuff, especially with the bungee cords. (The fresh local strawberries pictured were originally in the basket, but at least they made it home!)
It can be pretty amazing to see the things that people can put on the back of a motorbike. I decided to join in! When I bought this $8 wooden shelf, I had no doubt that the side-of-the-road vendor could successfully strap it to my bike. The motorbike was at least 3 times as wide that way and I had to continually remind myself to give some extra room as I passed bicyclists on my right and cars passed me on the left. The ride was a bit wobbley because of the weight too. I am glad I did it though. Who knows where my dishes would sit today without that trip!
All in all, I love having a motorbike. It really improves my independence and flexibility in and around Mandalay. I can’t imagine my life without it!