February 28, 2014
What makes pedaling across U Bein bridge near Amarapura in Myanmar such a magical experience? This bridge that spans Taungthaman Lake has a lot going for it. At three-quarters of a mile in length, it is considered to be the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in the world. It allows you a 360 degree view of life on the lake. But what really stands out is the peace and quiet.
Most bridges (new and old) carry huge volumes of traffic. Cars, buses, and trucks make a lot of noise. This kills the esthetic experience. Imagine what it would be like to travel across the Golden Gate bridge completely closed to traffic?
U Bein bridge carries only foot and bicycle traffic, so the serenity of this beautiful place is magnified. It was so quiet, we could hear the the sound of bait and hooks hit the water, as women wading out into the shallow lake fished with simple bamboo poles.
We could hear the paddle strokes.
And the sound of clattering teak boards as a bike crossed the bridge.
The peace and quiet allowed my mind to wander. How many feet have walked this span? How many monks have crossed in the predawn light? How many lovers have watched the sunset?
I wish I lived nearby, so I could visit it day after day through the span of the seasons. But it is half a world away, and I must be satisfied with the privilege of crossing it once in a lifetime.
Photos by Willie Weir and Kat Marriner
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His latest book Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist will inspire you to hit the road and just might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.