Arts and Entertainment

Burma and Beyond

— image credit:
by Willie Weir

Having pedaled 60,000-plus miles through dozens of countries throughout the world, there were plenty of reasons to skip cycling in Burma/Myanmar:


• Although the country had made steps toward opening up to the outside world, travelers still were required to stay in registered hotels.
• Many regions still were off-limits to foreigners.
• The road network was rumored to be abysmal.
• Camping was prohibited. We even had heard reports of travelers’ tents being confiscated.
• Emergency health care was all but nonexistent.

• Human Rights Watch reported limited political change and ongoing abuses.


Why even bother?
If we had relied on major news media and reports, we would have just planned another trip to Europe.

But years of travel had taught us to rely on our gut feelings and the observations and experiences of others.


Fellow trusted travelers told us Burma (Myanmar) was a land of vibrant colors and cultures — a travel experience like no other on the planet — a journey through a country so welcoming that the collective embrace of the people of Burma could not be described, only experienced.


Burma wasn’t easy. We struggled to find ways to travel outside the tourist norm:
We were thrown out of a monastery.
We negotiated a room at a village police station.

We pedaled along roads so rough that only “riding a jack hammer” describes the experience.


It only took a day on the road to understand what other travelers were raving about. Cycling in Myanmar was like pedaling along an unending parade route … and we were the parade. Everyone greeted us along the road: children, grandparents, bus drivers and ox-cart drivers, goat herders, policemen, monks and soldiers.


And it wasn’t the “just in passing” greeting I’m used to as a traveler. It was a heart-felt, engaged greeting that made us smile from our souls.


After just one day of travel, we felt as if we had soaked up a month’s worth of sights and experiences. Other travelers had warned us that Burma was an intense assault on your senses. And they were right.

After 28 days in Burma, we would have been satisfied to head back home, but it was time for another adventure — this one along the mighty Mekong River.


About the presenter:

Willie Weir has played the fools of Shakespeare and the nerds of musical comedy. He has worked as an actor, columnist, commentator, photographer, truck driver, bike courier, public speaker and tour guide.
He’s broken a couple of world records and way too many dishes. He has lived in Seattle for 25 years and lived on a billboard for 32 days. He’s received a couple of awards, but has thrown away all of his trophies.
He’s written two books (“Spokesongs” and “Travels with Willie”) and read a few more than that.

He shares a birthday with President Obama but rarely shares dessert.


About the presentation:
Traveler’s Journal is a presentation of the Peninsula Trails Coalition. All of the money raised is used to buy project supplies and food to feed volunteers working on Olympic Discovery Trail projects.

Shows start at 7 p.m. in the Sequim High School cafeteria, 601 N. Sequim Ave. The cafeteria benches are hard and people should bring their own cushions. Suggested donation is $5 for adults. Attendees 18 and younger are welcome for free. One selected photo enlargement is given away each week as a door prize.


Call Dave Shreffler at 683-1734 for more information.
We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 20
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates