A rest day in Chiang Mai after our Thailand ultramarathon and we were back in the saddle. Next country was Myanmar, also known as Burma. We cycled south to Mae Sot and crossed the border to Myawaddy. We got our passport departure stamps out of Thailand, crossed a bridge to a Myanmar checkpoint on the other side, got a stamp and a few pictures taken and we were in. A different language, different currency, different clothes, different features, different ways of life. All that separates them is a bridge.
It usually takes a day or two to familiarise ourselves with the ways and customs of a new country. Often times switching from cycling on the right side to the left side of the road or vice-versa. People drive different in each country, road rules differ. In Myanmar intersections are..... well let’s just say they are unique. No one stops, just blow the horn approaching and if no one is crossing you have the right of way, or at least that’s the conclusion we came to.
Our first day when without a glitch, we made it to the next guesthouse in a town called Hpa-An. After entering Laos 2 months ago Daithi started struggling with his health and had been since. He went to the hospital in Laos but tests didn’t show anything irregular. We had put it down to the physical exertion we had been putting ourselves through the last few months and were conscious about correct nutrition and focusing on hydrating ourselves correctly, something was not right though and on this night in Hpa-An a fever came on. As soon as that happened we knew we needed to seek medical attention straight away. We had cycled through some high risk areas for Malaria and Dengue fever, you get both from mosquitoes and there are lots and lots of mosquitoes in these humid countries. Mandalay was the best place for medical attention but we were still 700km away, 7 days cycling. We went to the bus station and they loaded the bikes in the bus and we took an overnight bus to Mandalay and directly to A & E.
We walked into the hospital not knowing what to expect, but the care there was absolutely top class. Daithí was designated a nurse which would bring him from room to room for different examinations. The doctor said “you will not leave this hospital until we know exactly what is wrong with you”. Within 2 hours, they had done blood tests, ultra sounds, x-rays and had the diagnosis. An amebic liver abscess picked up from a parasite. This must of happened in Cambodia as that was when the first symptoms showed. Daithi had been hosting this intruder with at least 2 months. We named his new friend Peter. All along we thought there was only 2 of us but there has been 3. Peter had hitched a ride through 3 countries and ran 2 ultramarathons and neither of us had invited him along for the ride, now the time had come, Pete had to go!
A CT scan was needed to see the exact location to decide what procedure was needed. Luckily it was in a good location where an aspiration procedure would be adequate. He was admitted to hospital and put on intravenous antibiotics. The next day he was in theatre and they performed the procedure. No physical activity for 3 weeks and then a follow up ultrasound to make sure the antibiotics were doing there job.
In the 3 weeks spent in Mandalay we really got to know the Burmese people. Absolutely beautiful and pure people. Their outlook and their values make Myanmar a very special country. It really is a paradise, completely different from any other country in South East Asia. The Burmese men wear what we would call a dress. The name of one is called a “Paso”. A paso is a cylinder of fabric that you step into or lower over your head. The men wear plain coloured and secured with a large knot tied at the front of the body and usually worn with a Western shirt. While the women wear more coloured ones called Longyi. When we were leaving the hotel we stayed in Mandalay (ironically called “Ned Kelly’s”) one of the women who worked their gifted us with a paso each. So I’m letting you all know now, do not be surprised if you see me walking around Rathgormack wearing a dress on in the future..... it was a gift from a place where men wear dresses.
Next stop India.
As always, thank you for the support.