With ten days off from attempting to make Korean kids enjoy English, I sent myself off to the previously unknown hermit country of Burma (Myanmar) to see what the mysterious country had to offer. R & R was the idea but with treks and cycling planned, I knew there wasn’t going to be much chance of that.
I knew monsoon season was going to be in full swing whilst I was there, however from what I’d read, I was expecting sporadic heavy showers and sun in between; nothing a Brit couldn’t handle. What greeted me on arrival was the effects of a full category 2 cyclone, which stuck over the country the whole time I was there. I saw the sun a total of 3 hours over the ten days, however my decreased opportunities for a sun tan just a minor inconvenience, compared to the suffering of the locals, especially in the poorer rural areas, which saw some serious flooding.
Still able to get to many of the areas I’d planned to see, I began with a 2 day trek across the mountains in Shan State, to Inle Lake. The rain hammered down for both days and the mud was thick and flowing. However, I loved every minute of it, getting a very traditional experience, staying in villages in the mountains that were as close to Burmese rural life as could be, with a fantastic British couple I’d met along the way. By the time we reached the lake, we found bikes that at least had two wheels and pedals, and set off for a days cycle around part of the lake.
Onwards to Mandalay and another two days on the saddle, sporting a bright pink grandma style poncho, taking myself round every site the bustling city has to offer. I took myself from pagoda to pagoda and saw more monks and monasteries to last a life time. I embarrassed myself slightly at one such sport…where feeling a little peckish, I spotted a table of goodies. Picking up a particularly appetising piece of banana bread, I asked around all the locals close to me to see how much it cost. I couldn’t understand why the usually chirpy and cheerful locals weren’t throwing a typically cheap price my way. Looking past all the sheepish and uneasy glances heading my way, I quickly spotted a giant Buddah statue behind the table of ‘offerings’. I quickly realised I’d inadvertently tried to purchase the Buddah’s lunch. Feeling pretty embarrassed I slowly popped the bread back on the table and mumbled a little apology to Buddah statue, which by now, seemed to have developed a disapproving look on its face.
The last few days, after yet another night bus, I finally got the three hours of occasional sunshine I’d been waiting for. Still drenched from head to toe, I got another questionable bike, and cycled between the ancient capital of Began’s 3000 temples. These are littered like tiny lego blocks across the misty background of rural Burma. Such a beautiful place and a great opportunity to grab a bike and hit the muddy roads. Another sleepless night and I was back to Yangon, twiddling my thumbs for 8 hours until I flew out back to South Korea. The rain was still hammering down, however with the prospect of half a day at airports and sitting on planes, I took myself off for a run through the city, 15 km’s of attempting not to banana skin on the slippery, moss covered, pot hole ridden city paths.
Such a stunning country and nowhere near enough time to even make a dent into seeing what the country has to offer. If you are thinking of making a trip to Asia, make this country the top of your list. It’s only recently been opened up to the rest of the world, and has so much to offer. The people are it’s strongest pull; it’s so hard to believe they grew up in such a war torn, closed off society. They are the friendliest people I’ve ever come across, always sporting a huge smile and happy to help you in any way they can.
It’s been a week since I’ve been back and it’s back to reality and the final training push until I leave in less that two months time for the start of a huge journey. I’ve put plenty of miles onto the tarmac this week, which has the added difficulty of Korean summer now well and truly kicking in. Temperatures have hit into the mid 30’s and humidity is making life a lot more sticky and uncomfortable. On the plus side though, donations are £50 off reaching the £4000 ($6000) mark and there’s more to come soon. I wanted to be further along at this stage but that still is a great start and a huge sum of money already raised for an important cause.
I’ve asked so much from people these last couple of months and the responses I’ve had have been overwhelming. This is such a team effort and I cannot thank everyone enough for the help and support I’ve received and for supporting the charity. It means so much to me and I’m extremely grateful for everyones efforts. All the kind words and gestures keep spurring me on to train harder everyday and put as much effort in as possible to hitting this target. If you haven’t yet and would still like to, please push this number over the £4000 mark and sponsor a mile today.