Episode 018: Arthur Desclaux | Cycling the World on a Bamboo Bike + How Not To End Up In A Myanmar Prison

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In 2018 Arthur decided to go on a bike tour of the world and to cycle 45,000km through 40 countries. However, rather than do the “normal” thing of buying a touring bike and all the necessary gear, Arthur decided that he would build himself a bike. As it happened, Arthur had previously studied and worked as a wood engineer and thus knew of the strength and flexibility of bamboo and what an amazing material it would be to build a bike with. With the help of some friends that were setting up a bamboo bike business.

Get on the road and you will learn from the road. And this is an amazing life. I call it the fast life because maybe what you will learn in 6 months, in a normal life you will learn it in, I don’t know, maybe 4-5 years.

Arthur is also not your typical bike tourer in that he doesn’t particularly care about spending time in big cities checking out the touristy stuff, but would rather immerse himself in local cultures, meeting the people and finding the best of humanity. When talking about his favourite country, he quickly answers that he doesn’t have one because he likes all the people, but does say that the people of Nepal and Myanmar were some of the most generous and kind people that he had met anywhere. 

 We see a country because [of] their politics, but a country is a country because [of] the people. We forget that.

After leaving Thailand and working as a kite surf instructor for three months, Arthur decided to cycle up to Myanmar and spend some time exploring the country, having heard that the people are extremely friendly, very similar in nature to those he had previously met in Nepal. Unfortunately for Arthur, after arriving in the capital city of Naypyidaw he was caught flying his drone and arrested. Only then did he learn that it was illegal to fly a drone in Myanmar without special permission and that it was also illegal to video governmental buildings. 

After the first night in jail, Arthur found out that he would be charged for committed the crime of flying a drone and also of recording government buildings, which carried a punishment of three years in prison. Although the experience of being in a Myanmar prison was pretty daunting, Arthur found that the people in the prison were wonderful  and shared their food with him, knowing full-well that he doesn’t have family to bring him food on a weekly basis. In Myanmar, the government doesn’t provide prisoners with food, but it is brought in by the family members of the prisoner on a weekly basis. Without this family support, prisoners are forced to rely on the kindness of their cellmates, otherwise starve to death. 

Luckily for Arthur, he was released from prison after 4 weeks, and after a few more days in jail waiting for deportation, he was finally able to fly to Thailand and start his trip again. Unfortunately, while in prison, many of his electronic devices and other stuff disappeared, and he suddenly became an ultra-light bike tourer

 I trust nature. You can expect their [animals] reaction if you respect them. With humans it’s a bit different, you can never expect a human reaction.

After finishing the rest of his tour in Asia, Arthur flew to Calgary, Canada, in order to get to the start of the Great Divide. After an amazing adventure through rural parts of the U.S.A. and realizing how wonderful the people were, he eventually reached Baja, California, Mexico, where he realized how difficult it would be to ride in a place such as this without much bigger tires.

Now, sitting in Mexico City, Arthur has found out that some skin cancer cells are growing on his body and has decided to fly back to France to get it taken care of. When asked about his plans after, he says that if he continues his tour, he will build a 29″ mid-fat bamboo bike for the S. America part of the trip. Alternatively, he is also considering that this might be a good time to give back all the love he has received around the world and start his own family.

 

If you enjoyed this write up, be sure to check out the podcast episode, as it contains so much more that I unfortunately could not fit in this small post.

Cheers Arthur. Keep on pedalling.

Chris

Follow Arthur on his adventures at:

Show Notes

Show Notes
~ 30 sec       Intro to episode and Arthur Desclaux
~ 2 min        The making of a bamboo bike, difficulty, cost, problems
~ 8m 30s     The bike route, using Numbeo to make a budget, kitesurfing
~ 14m 30s    The story of Myanmar and going to prison
~ 21 min      Arthur’s passion and reason for travel
~ 25m 30s    Cycling in N. America, the Great Divide, a grizzly encounter
~ 36 min       The Baja Divide
~ 41 min       Skin cancer diagnosis and treatment and what’s next
~ 44 min       End of episode and next time on Bike Tour Adventure

About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.

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