Skip to content

Bring On Aussie Steaks!

September 15, 2010

I thought I should sign off from Asia. I’ve got five minutes, so it’s just a quickie.

In five days time a cattle ship called Finola will dock in Darwin harbour and, so long as my bike tyres pass the rigid Australian quarantine tests, I’ll lower my bike off the side and begin the 4,000 km journey south towards Alice Springs, and then east to Brisbane.

Dick Slaney, country head of Elders (on whose ship I’m travelling on) has put in a big performance in getting me a passage from Indonesia to Australia (a notoriously difficult journey for travellers to make these days), and my sincere thanks go to him for all his efforts. The final hurdle, dodgy Indonesian immigration officials, has been jumped in the past half hour, my bike is on board and I’m ready to go. But I’ll have to wait. There is just the small matter of unloading 2,000 head of cattle before the Danish captain, Icelandic First Mate, twenty-strong karaoke loving Philipino crew and me can set sail.

I’ll be out of contact for at least 5 days, possibly six. When I get to Darwin I’ll tell you all about a couple of fantastic mountain-top games of cricket I had outside Bogor, Indonesia. For now though, I’ll sign off by saying that I can’t quite believe the last leg of my bike ride is nearly upon me. If the steaks in Australia are anything like they are at Dick’s place, it’ll be happy pedalling.

See you in Aus!


My Alternative Guide To World Cricket

September 4, 2010

The past week has been a bad one for cricket and cricket fans, with words like ‘spot-fixing’ and ‘MazharMajeed’ entering popular vocabulary. Like others who love the game and cherish its traditions, I have been thoroughly depressed by the apparently blatant lack of respect shown for the game by some of its brightest stars, and subsequently by the Pakistan Cricket Board in their handling of the affair. (Surely a board can only back its players so far?). I look forward to the day when I can watch Pakistan, one of the great cricketing nations, and believe what I’m seeing. Instead, for now, I don’t think I’ll waste my money.

The scandal got me thinking about all the places that I’ve played cricket in since last October. No scandals, no betting, varying standards of cricket but always good sportsmanship. Here is my alternative guide to world cricket –  how to get a game of cricket anywhere:

1. A very cold 1st Century Fortress – Belgrade, Serbia

Wander into the (partly) 1st century AD Kalemegdan Fortress in the centre of Belgrade and you might spot opening bowler Slobodan, captain / self-appointed General Secretary Vladimir and other cricketers getting competitive far below on a path near the banks of the Danube. Former Rugby League player Vlad decided cricket was the game for him a couple of years back, and since then he has formed the Serbian Cricket Federation.

2. Blue Mosque – Isanbul, Turkey

Let’s face it, endless sight-seeing, even in one of the world’s great cities, can get tedious. Better to arrange a meeting with a local government minister, ask nicely for permission to have a game of cricket in a pedestrian zone between Istanbul’s two most famous monuments – the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia – and invite the local press. Find a few Aussie tourists, a couple of members of the Turkish national team and rope in some passers’ by and you’ve got a game of cricket, a fundraising event, and at the end of it you might have found a sofa to kip on for the next few nights.

3. Rubbish Dump – Damascus, Syria

In Damascus, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, cricket doesn’t get great exposure. You’ll struggle to get the press along, but nip into a travellers’ hostel, pick up some bored looking backpackers and scour the city for a suitable wicket. You’ll be lucky if you do better than a rubbish dump, but you might find the refugee workers are intrigued enough to want to wander over and have a bat and a bowl.

4. Nubian Desert – Wadi Halfa, Sudan

At least they wear (kind of) whites. Don’t try to play cricket with Sudanese merchants unless you count patience amongst your skills. Also, don’t introduce a football to the wicket half way through unless you want bat and cricket ball flung to the ground. The Sudanese are mad about football and I give the future of the game of cricket in the country very little chance.

5. Ol Pejeta Conservancy – Nanyuki, Kenya

Warning! Kenyan cricketers sometimes carry knives – well…if they are rhino experts in a game reserve they do. David and Moses played cricket at school. I didn’t ask Moses why he couldn’t hold the bat properly despite his experience. I’ve never seen such cricketing enthusiasm on the field of play / in a rhino enclosure.

6. Google HQ – Hi-Tech City, Hyderabad, India

If you find yourself posted to India with work, upon arrival at your office building, park your car in the basement and go looking for the cricket pitch. You won’t miss it. It’ll take up half the car park, will be netted, will have marked creases and a supply of bats / balls. You might to required to wait a while for a hit though – games are typically taken more seriously than Test Matches (This photo was taken at Google HQ in Hyderabad’s Hi-Tech City).

7. Corridor Cricket – Calcutta, India

Find some students in Calcutta and ask them if they fancy a game of cricket. When they tell you the Jadavpur Intra-Faculty Corridor Cricket Tournament only reached its conclusion last week and that there are still some scores to settle, suggest a game. You will never have seen a more competitive game of cricket involving both sexes. Fact.

Last Sunday I had a very normal game of cricket, with a leather ball, gloves, pads and even a few Australians. A week today I have another normal game, in the hills above Bogor, Indonesia. I will report on both next weekend, but for now, get back to worrying about where professional cricket goes in the wake of the Pakistan spot-fixing affair – it’s worth worrying about.

I am leaving Singapore tomorrow morning bound for Indonesia. Yesterday I received confirmation from Elders that they have an empty cattle boat leaving Indonesia on 15th September. It arrives in Darwin 6 days later. I’ll be on that boat – I’m quite excited about that little adventure. Please keep donating – the Cycling To The Ashes charity golf day that was held yesterday in England raised an awful lot for my chosen charities – thanks to all involved. But there is still a long way to go…..4,000 kms and £80,000!

The Road Goes No Further

August 28, 2010

Bear with me. I’m quite exhausted, and only semi-conscious. Some of what is to follow might make sense, but it might not.

In the past few minutes I have reached the end of mainland Asia. Last night, before nodding off in an industrial sized dormitory in the ancient little city of Melaka, I read the final words of my new favourite book (ranking alongside Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between and Bill Bryson’s Notes from A Small Island in case you were wondering). It’s called First Overland – London to Singapore by Land Rover and it is by Tim Slessor. The words went:

‘As an American journalist opined, “I guess you boys have run plumb outta road.” We guessed we had. And it was most satisfactory.’

Tim and his five companions, in their two Land Rovers lent to them by the Rover company, reached the southern tip of Singapore to a media storm in March 1956. Like Tim and his mates were all those years ago, I am satisfied at reaching the end of the road (almost). They called Singapore the end of mainland Asia, but I am calling the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru so – mainly because it is. Singapore is, after all, an island.

I managed 230 kms today – a record day by some 65 kms. I don’t really care that I managed to cycle that far. I’m not one for records. I didn’t think I would manage it. I only had a crack at a long day because I had a date to keep. Tomorrow I’m making my debut for the next in a growing list of cricket teams. The prestigious Singapore Cricket Club are kindly allowing me to take the field with them tomorrow against I don’t know who. The game is on a turf pitch here in Johor Bahru, a mere hop from the causeway that connects Malaysia with Singapore.

Right now I couldn’t lift a bat let alone use it to any reasonable effect. But hopefully when I wake up tomorrow I’ll be able to bat like Stuart Broad and bowl like Tuffers.

I know there hasn’t been a blog for a while. Malaysia has kept me busy. I was cycling at the start, then my friend Kate came out to visit. I got the distinct impression she wasn’t up for much cycling so we spent most of the time being tourists. I enjoyed the break, and I needed it too. The heat is affecting me at the moment. Perhaps it’s a hangover from Dengue Fever. I have found myself yearning for cold winds, snow, rain, an English summer.

When Kate left I was straight back on the bike and in the past few days I’ve made it down from Kuala Lumpur. Here is what I looked like on Friday morning after a sweaty night’s sleep – I kipped on this police station forecourt.

And here is where I’m heading after Indonesia….bring on Australia.

I’m too tired to stick links to my donate page in now. I will do it later. But please keep donating! Thanks, and bye from the bottom of Asia – almost.

Sleep of the Week: Thai Road-Block

August 2, 2010

I have had ten months to come up with a weekly blog theme, so after ten months of answering questions relating to my nightly search for a spot to lay my head, it seems obvious that this should be the theme.

When you’re on the move, rarely spending more than a night or two in the same valley, village, town or city, the search for a place to sleep becomes a regular ritual. Sometimes it’s fun and at other times it’s a bore, or even a chore. But it is always necessary. Mosques, churches, under the stars, roadside ditches, abandoned petrol stations, guest houses and friend’s houses – I’ve slept all over the place, so…..

First up, this week’s Sleep of the Week is a Thai Army Military Checkpoint. (More photos from my time there are on my photostream on my website homepage.)

I was cycling south from Ranong, a provincial capital that is only separated from Burma by a narrow stretch of water. It was 5.30pm and I had just started looking for a good camping spot when I came across a military checkpoint – there had been many that day, partly because of the proximity to Burma. I spotted buildings in a clearing in the forest (I call it ‘jungle’ – sounds cooler), and decided to pull over. They didn’t speak English, so once I had gauged their mood (it was good – they were all smiles and high 5’s), I gestured, using a series of universal hand signals, that I wanted to camp outside their buildings. Without further questioning one of the soldiers led me to a bed made of tree branches and told me I could sleep there.

The atmosphere was much friendlier than at the Turkish military base outside Adana, where I was questioned for an hour about my identity. The younger soldiers seemed delighted to have me there. They were moderately impressed that I had cycled from London, but all they really wanted to talk about was football. When I told them I was English, they all laughed and a few of them chirped up in unison’ “Michael Owen!” I told them he hadn’t been much cop for years and that Torres was now the man, but they wouldn’t have any of it. Happily they were all ardent Liverpool fans (as most Thais are), and they remembered his glory days. I spent the next hour with a soldier, who had a bullet around his neck, tattoos of guns all over his back, and too much time on his hands, getting thrashed at FIFA Soccer on the Nintendo.

Although I had picked up an extra portion of pad Thai in a cafe earlier in the day, and stuck it in a Tupperware, they refused to let me hit the sack without devouring a few corn on the cobs in front of a surprisingly enjoyable Thai war movie.

Frogs are causing me a problem at the moment. There are thousands of them, and the noise they make at night, especially on this night when it was coupled with the soliders’ constant movement as they rotated their 2 hour shifts on the road, isn’t conducive to a good night’s kip – not even after 120 kms on the bike. So I was up at just gone 5am the next  morning. I thanked the soldiers, bid them farewell and was on my way.

It turned out to be the third day of almost constant rain in succession. The monsoon has hit, and hard. Today it is raining too hard to move anywhere, so I’ve got myself a day off. The locals tell me it’ll rain for the next week though, so I guess I will just have to get back on the road tomorrow and try to keep moving. I’m hoping to hit Malaysia by the end of the week.

If you liked this blog you can receive the next one by email by clicking here. Please keep the donations rolling in. The Naked Cycling Campaign is still very much alive………

Snakes, Badgers, Bribes, Tribes, Wild Swims, Wild Hippos, Interviews and Great Views: Cycling To The Ashes By Numbers

July 29, 2010

Highways don’t mean highlights. The past couple of weeks haven’t been the most eventful of my journey so far. Plenty of ‘highway time,’ as I race south to make sure I have enough time to cycle across Australia, has meant long days in the saddle, long sleeps, late starts and late finishes. So I’ll just let you tuck into this feast of statistics as I approach 10 months on the road. Any more stats you’re after, post them in the comments section. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

* Approximate figure

Days since I left Lord’s on my bike: 292

Days until The Ashes get going at The Gabba in Brisbane: 119

Days I have spent solo on this journey: 268

Number of countries I have cycled through: 19

Number of countries still left to cross: 3 (Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia)

Most days spent in any one country: 64 (India, with Australia to come…..)

Most consecutive days cycling: 12 (Turkey)

Kms cycled on my longest day: 172 (Sudan)

Kms cycled on Saturday into Hua Hin: 164

Kms cycled today into Chumphon: 153

Kms I feel like cycling tomorrow: 0

Kms cycled: 13,000* (my odometer was broken for most of Turkey and Syria, so I don’t know exactly how far I have cycled)

Kms cycling until I reach Brisbane: 5,500* (4,000kms across Australia)

Number of cycling companions from France to Chumphon, Thailand: 8 (Happy, Kazu, the Cycle To The Cup team, Syd and Becca)

Highest Point of the tour: 1,600 metres (Taurus Mountains, Turkey)

Lowest Point of the Tour: 422 metres below sea level (Dead Sea, Jordan)

Longest Climb: 8 hours (Bulgaria)

Longest Descent: 1 hour (Thailand)

Top Recorded Speed: 65 kph

Highest Recorded Temperature: 56 Celsius, 133 Fahrenheit (India)

Lowest Recorded Temperature (celcius): -9 Celsius, 12 Fahrenheit (Turkey)

Longest stretch without a shower: 7 days

Number of punctures: 25

Number of days on which i have had a puncture: 10 (well not me, my tyres)

Number of punctures in Thailand: 6

Number of punctures I have repaired in Thailand: 0 (it’s called delegating)

Hair-raising episodes directly following an exploded tyre: 1

Heaviest bike: 68kgs (Europe)

Lightest bike: 47kgs (now)

Games of cricket on tour (not including India): 16

Games of cricket on tour (including India): 312*

Highest score of the tour: 32* (a surprisingly serious game of corridor cricket at Jadavpur University, Calcutta)

Wickets taken in an over against the American International School in Dhaka, Bangladesh: 3

Number of nations represented in my cricketing encounters to date: 26

Days until my next formal game of cricket, at ‘Baldy’s Ground’ in Bogor, Indonesia: 45

Number of internationally renowned body builders I have slept on a floor next to for a week: 1

Number of weird stares I have been on the receiving end of: 765,309*

Number of wild swims (not including the sea): 5

Number of days since I wore a pair of boxer shorts that weren’t my nice blue pair: 292

Mosquito bites inflicted on tour: 4,178*

Most mosquito bites on my left foot at any one time: 72

Tropical diseases caused by a mosquito bite: 1

Number of meals a day through Thailand: 6 (the portions are for ants)

Number of Thai people I have managed to get more than a passing “hello” from: 3

Days spent ill in bed: 11 (including Christmas Day!)

Number of times I have locked my bike since Africa: 0

Number of bribes requested: 0

Number of genuinely terrifying moments: 1

Emails I need to respond to: 278 (sorry)

Litres of water drunk since leaving London: 2,510*

Most litres of water carried on my bike at any one time: 13 (Sudan)

Number of beers it takes to get me drunk: 2

Number of beers since leaving Europe: 50*

Number of times I have been offered a straw for drinking beer in Thailand: 2

Number of badgers run over: 1

Number of snakes run over (alive): 1

Number of snakes run over (dead): 13

Number of flies eaten / swallowed: 35*

Number of monitor lizards run over: 1

Number of human roadkill seen: 1 (India)

Number of wild hippos fed: 1

Number of dead dogs seen on the road: 4,385*

Largest pack of wild dogs attacked by: 7 (Turkey)

Number of times I have wondered about roadkill, “What the hell was that animal?”: many

Number of songs on my MP3 player during 2,500kms cycling across India: 2 (Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’ and an unknown Hindi track that I didn’t like when I first heard, and that I now hate. Don’t ask.)

Number of MP3 albums I bought for $15 in Bangkok: 100 (The Smiths, Lou Reed, Josh Ritter, Chuck Berry, The Strokes, 12th Man, Devendra Banhart, Johnny Cash, King Creosote, Leonard Cohen, Manu Chao, Ryan Adams, Wolf Parade and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – they all keep me going these days!)

Number of interviews on alternative, and very funny (apart from when I’m on it) cricket radio commentary show Test Match Sofa: 1

Number of blazers being made by Cirencester tailor Tom Wharton for my ride into The Gabba: 1

And one final statistic:

Number of Naked Cycling Campaigns I have launched in the past couple of weeks: 1

It has been suggested that, alongside this campaign, I ask for donations from those who do not wish for me to cycle naked through part of Australia. Whichever group comes out on top, wins. So, if you want me to make a fool out of myself, get donating! And if you don’t want to see me look stupid, get donating too. Thank you  – remember, it’s not for me, it’s for charity…..!

One more thing – a number of you have asked who sings the songs in the Audio Slideshow I posted a few weeks back. I can tell you that the songs are:

“I Wish That I Could See You Soon” by Herman Dune and “For Emma” by Bon Iver.

If you liked this blog then sign up to receive the next one by email here.


Encounter With A Freedom Fighter

July 16, 2010

I had never heard of Mae Sot until I decided to cycle towards it about a week ago. I doubt if many foreigners have heard of it, and yet it’s one of the most interesting towns I’ve visited on my travels. It’s in Thailand, but 80% Burmese. Most inhabitants are refugees, and some are leading the fight against the oppressive and violent military junta that rule their country. This week I spent a fascinating evening in Mae Sot with one of the leaders of the Burmese Pro-Democracy Movement, and I thought, just for one blog, I’d veer from bicycle tales and tell you a little about an incredible man who had never heard of cricket, let alone The Ashes – until this week.

The waiters in the cafe all wore bright orange Burmese pro-democracy T-shirts, and Burmese refugees spoke in hushed tones at each table. As I sat outside having a beer with a serious, well-spoken refugee called Jo, he told me he had fled to Thailand fifteen years ago. Life under the ruling Military Junta in Burma had long been unbearable for ordinary Burmese, but, as an educated man, he had suffered desperately in recent years. He began crying as he told me about his life in Burma. He is now a refugee living less than 6kms from his homeland, and unable to return. As we chatted, he pointed to a middle-aged man drinking at the bar with friends.

“That is Thiha Yarzar. He will tell you his incredible story if you’d like to hear it.”

A few minutes later, and Thiha began recounting his story over a chilled Chang beer.

On 23 September 2008 Thiha was released from prison after serving eighteen years of a twenty year jail term. He was incarcerated in 1990 aged 23, after leading the pro-democracy movement the National Students’ Union for a number of years. In the same year Aung San Suu Kyi was democratically elected as the new Burmese leader. She has spent most of the last nineteen years under house arrest in Rangoon, and has become the face of pro-democracy in Burma.

In 1991, after a year in prison, Thiha was dragged to a miltary court where he stood face to face with three army colonels. There was no lawyer to present to act in his defence, and he was sentenced to death for High Treason. He was ready to die for democracy, but two years later the penalty was reduced to twenty years.

For eighteen years Thiha was moved from prison to prison. He suffered malaria thirty times in two years. He and fellow student activists were hooded, and hung upside down for hours on end without food and water. He was hooded, hands cuffed behind his back and beaten savagely for days at a time. His cockroach-infested room contained only two ceramic bowls as a toilet, and he slept on a concrete floor. For eighteen years.

It’s now two years since his release, and he cut a relaxed but determined figure as he remembered the events leading up to his release. I asked him if he liked Thailand, and he just looked at me. He didn’t need to say anything. From here he can continue his campaign against the military junta that have ruled his country with an iron fist for forty years, and he is hopeful for change.

Below is an extract from an article recounting his extraordinary story. It describes his reunion with his family two years ago:

But, now, barely a year later, Thiha Yarzar listened carefully as Burmese military and police officials told him he would soon be on a flight to Rangoon, where he would be reunited with his beloved daughter and the rest of his family, nearly 20 years after he left his parent’s home as an exiled freedom fighter.

“It was like a dream,” he remembers of the night he drove in a taxi to his sister’s house.

Was this that old prisoner’s dream, and would I be returned to prison just before waking up?

He got lost because the city streets and the neighborhood had changed so much while he was in prison. Two police cars followed the taxi as he tried to find the house he had spent so much time in as a youngster.

But, he didn’t wake up in his cell. Instead, he finally stood at his sister’s door.

When his sister, Daw Khin Mar Win, answered the door, they just stared at each other. They had not seen each other since she visited him in Insein Prison in 1992.

“She shouted, ‘Hey! This is Thiha!’ She came running to meet me, crying.”

“Mommy is here,” she told Thiha.

Thiha stared in amazement as he watched an old woman come out of the house.

“It was my mother. But, I didn’t recognize her at first,” he said.

Daw Tin Lay Myint was now 68. He remembers her hair had turned white. She was thin, but looked healthy.

“She just stared at me, as she moved slowly toward me,” he recalled.

“This is Thiha!” his sister shouted.

“They thought I was dead,” Thiha said, explaining that they had lost track of him since tracing his whereabouts to Kalay Prison.

“Mom touched me, my hair, my face, my shoulder,” he remembered vividly.

They told him the family made plans to make a contribution to a monastery in his memory just days before because they thought he was dead.

“Then, my sister asked me if I had escaped,” he remembered.

“What did you do?” she asked. “There will be a problem.”

But Thiha eased their concerns by showing them his release papers and plane ticket.

That evening, Thiha learned of his father’s death in 1996, the same year as his wife had died.

He also learned how his father lost his rank in the army and was forced to retire.

“I’m very sorry,” Thiha told his mother and sister. “It was because of me.”

But, they told him, “It’s not your fault.”

“Thiha, I’m very happy to see you alive again before I die,” his mother told him.”

They told him they didn’t hold out much hope to see him alive again because so many prisoners had died.

“I had seen so much death and so many families destroyed during my prison term,” Thiha said during the interview.

“And, I should have died in prison. Many others suffered so much loss on the outside and then died.”

The next day, Saturday, September 27, 2008, was the day Thiha feared might never come. He went to his wife’s parents home to meet the daughter who grew up without him.

He recalled it took him more than two hours to find the house.

When he finally arrived, his mother-in-law, Daw Shwe Yu, was sweeping leaves inside the family compound.

“Thiha is here!” she exclaimed when she saw him.

“Come and see who is here,” she called to his daughter.

Tone Tone came and stood in the doorway.

“She asked me, ‘Are you Dad?’” he remembered vividly.

“I said nothing. I had no strength to speak. I had no words.”

If you would like to read full story of Thiha’s extraordinary struggle, click here.

Big Ole’ Mountains Round Here

July 13, 2010

After two weeks in Chiang Mai, Dengue Fever had led to cabin fever. I needed to get out. Old friend Becca decided to join me for ten days of sweating on the hills of north west Thailand. She sacrificed two weeks tanning on a beach in Malaysia to do so. Blissful ignorance. That’s the spirit…!

Thailand’s heat doesn’t rival my experiences during the Indian pre-monsoonal onslaught, but it’s hot, and coupled with long, steep climbs, it takes it’s toll. Our smiles occasionally disappeared, beaten away by confusion and exhaustion.

“How can we have been climbing for seven hours and still not be at the top of this sodding mountain?”

“I don’t know, but my heart feels like it’s about to explode out of my temples.”

“Mine too.”

Depending on her perspective, Becca either timed her visit well or badly. I’ve scaled my fair share of mountains this year, but I’ve never encountered such gradient. On our third day climbing I conceded defeat for the first time since Kent, and pushed my bike up a few particularly evil inclines. Here, happily, I just managed to stay upright despite struggling to keep the front wheel grounded. Syd, an Australian cyclist we met in Mae Sariang on the Burmese border, took to his feet shortly before me. Syd didn’t like cricket so I’m not sure if he was really Australian, but he sounded it.

Despite the hills, we loved this lush, mountainous and almost uninhabited corner of Thailand. We felt lucky to experience silence in a country that has become over-run with beer-swilling Europeans. At the edge of Ob Luang National Park we found a canyon-side camping spot and pitched our tent. As the sun set we were joined by hundreds of fireflies. We heated up food bought from a cafe earlier in the day. I enjoyed the first mouthfull before spilling the remainder. I went hungry that night.

At the end of one tough day in the mountains we came across a Karen village. The wild province of Tak is populated largely by the Karen tribe, and we were delighted to be invited to spend the night in the local school. We hung out in the staff room and were brought dinner cooked by the children – rice and vegetables. When it got dark we opted for some breeze, so stuck the tent in the external corridor outside the classrooms. It was a government-run boarding school, and the next morning the kids were up and active by 5am, which meant an early start for us. Hundreds of them watched as we packed up our bikes and were given more food. Rice and vegetables for breakfast.

And then it was our turn to do the staring as we witnessed Assembly. The kids ran the show, singing the Thai National Anthem, praying, and then launching into a series of Karen tribal songs. It was a fascinating morning.

We were grateful for a huge 20 kms descent the next morning. As we neared the Burmese border, the landscape got wilder, but we did find a paddy field for a spot of gymnastics.

Along the border are a series of refugee camps, built for Burmese forced out of their country. 40,000 people live in the largest, in a narrow, lush river valley less than fifty metres from their homeland. When we reached Mae Sot, a small town occupied largely by Burmese and NGO workers, Becca and I ate noodles at a cafe. The waiter was Burmese. I asked if he liked Thailand. He said no. I asked if he had left family in Burma. He said no, that he was alone in life. He told us that he held onto the hope that he might be able to return next year. Elections take place in Burma in October, and change is possible, but unlikely. How terrible to be forced out of your country and unable to go back? How frustrating to have to cling to hope for change, however unlikely? Becca and I had a contemplative walk back to our hostel.

Becca flew onwards yesterday and I’m now in Mae Sot, ready to leave tomorrow morning to head south. I will miss this part of Thailand, an unexpected gem of the tour so far.

If you liked this blog then please subscribe to receive the next one by email here. You might have seen the blog I wrote yesterday too – please help me with my Naked Cycling Campaign! Thanks, and bye!