I've been meeting people. The main reasoning for coming to Yangon was to sort out my Permit for the border region between Myanmar and India. Seven Diamonds Travel Agency made that very easy, and they had done most of the work before I arrived. $US100 and it was all sorted.
I was extremely lucky to met Ben last weekend in Hpa-an. Earlier in the week he emailed me and offered me a bed. That was fantastic, as I'd had no luck with WarmShowers hosts in Yangon, and I'm yet to break into the Couch surfing circles ( seems I need some references....anyone keen to write one?), and I wasn't keen to pay city prices for a hotel. It's been amazing, having my own space, a home, for the few days I've been here. Thank you hugely Ben.
Ben is a young teacher from Virginia. He is teaching English here in Yangon at an International School. He is taking the opportunity to really get emmersed in the Burmese culture, learning the language, eating street food, and visiting various parts of the country. As always, I upset the apple cart, and have made him think about visiting NZ, and returning to working in the outdoors, he has done some raft guiding. His contract here is for two more years, so we may see him in NZ in 2017.
Then I went and visited Carlos. Carlos is a fellow cycle tourist. We have been following each others progress, as we were told that we were both planning to cross Myanmar at about the same time. Carlos was in Bago the same night as I was, although neither of us knew that at the time. The difference was that Carlos was stopped by two guys, who severely beat him with an iron bar. They smacked him on his head, and he sensibly grabbed his helmet and put it on. Then they proceeded to smash his arms, broke them both several times. Eventually, when he fell over, they smashed one of his legs, breaking that as well. Then they ran away.
Carlos crawled to a road, and eventually managed to flag down a car. It was dark, and he was covered in blood. Eventually he ending up in a hospital in Yangon, but that was not easy either. Carlos contacted a local Warmshowers guy, who came to the rescue. The problem is that Private hospitals here will not accept patients that have been injured in a crime. Something about Police work delaying payments. Eventually, the Warm showers folk got him into a hospital, by stretching the truth, but the locals have not got the resources to operate on such serious injuries. Carlos needs to go to Bangkok. More problems. He cannot go on a normal flight, and the Police are not keen for him to leave the country while a Criminal Case is current. Luckily, the Police found all his possessions, his bike, his laptop, his wallet, with all his cards and money still in it, and most importantly, his passport.
Carlos has been on the road for two and a half years, in 63 countries, and never had anything like this happen before. Like me, he has always been greeted by smiles, waves and friendly conversation. People I've spoken to here say an incident like this is "unheard of" in Myanmar. Certainly makes me really think about my own safety. Get well quickly Carlos. See you on the road somewhere soon.
Then I brightened up my stay in Yangon. I spent the rest of the day visiting the International School of Myanmar. Most of the students are from Myanmar, but the amazing thing is, that they all are taught in English. Over the day, I spoke to perhaps eight different classes, from five year old to eighteen year olds, and they all understood me. I got to talk about NZ, my adventure, CanTeen, Prostate Cancer, Drama, Music, Rugby, my family, Hanmer Springs, and following a dream. Thank you to all at the school for the opportunity. Truely a highlight of my time in Myanmar.
Tonight, I'm joining some of the staff at their monthly knees up at the Yangon Yacht Club. Promise I will behave Ju. Heading north towards India tomorrow, leaving the luxury of Ben's Yangon condo, for the excitement and challenges of small town hotels and guesthouses.