But if all is well, the time won’t be wasted. Before you set off, it’s good to get to grips with the food, culture, a few words of the language and as these trips often start in a city, you can visit one or two interesting spots.
While waiting to go on a Mountain Bike trip in Myanmar, I spent some alternative thumb-twiddling time visiting Shwedagon Pagoda.
Even a sit-on-the-fence agnostic like me couldn’t resist a visit to the oldest and most sacred site in Myanmar – thought to encase eight strands of hair from the holy man himself. I like to keep my options open when it comes to the afterlife, so I went to pay my respects.
Shewdagon Pagoda rises almost 110 metres from the city like a giant golden bell. It’s smothered in hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds; the largest is 72 carats.
There are thousands of temples across the country creating Burma’s apt nickname name; “The Golden Land”, but Shwedagon Pagoda is the grandest of all.
I was pleasantly surprised to pick up free, speedy WIFI in the pagoda’s public areas, flabbergasted to be able to upload to Facebook and caught like a rabbit in the headlights when a local man dressed in a traditional longyi asked me, “you want to bathe with Buddha?”
He handed me a wooden ladle, pointed to a statue of Buddha, then to a fountain and explained that I should pour water over the statue three times. I nervously went with the flow hoping Buddha wouldn’t mind being washed by the unworthy.
“All will be good now for your bike trip,” the man assured me. A dollar sealed the good karma deal.
Later that day, when I joined up with the rest of the bike trip crew, guide Julian delivered another surprise:
“An unusual cold snap is coming in. When we get to the mountains we could be experiencing minus temperatures.”
I had no idea why I had packed layers of merino wool for temperatures expected to be in the high 20s and 30s celsius.
I guess Buddha works in surprising ways.
Red Spokes specialise in riding remote and spectacular roads in secluded parts of the planet.
Manie Sithu Travel is a local Myanmar operator for all types of travel experiences.