Running Tourism: Temples, confused locals and, perhaps, an internet celebrity!

Running Tourism: Temples, confused locals and, perhaps, an internet celebrity!

This is Melly, checking back in and aiming for the most-scenic-yet-most-obscure running tourism award for 2016...

Here is me after my run around the temple paths in Bagan, Myanmar!

The first two days of our trip we stayed in Yangon and the hotel was opposite a beautiful lake with a boardwalk right around the edge - perfect for a run I thought! Disappointingly, due to jetlag, a busy sightseeing schedule and the fact that there were no streetlights after dark and no railings next to the water I didn't get a chance to run there. Although disappointing, that was ok as the ancient temple city of Bagan was where I REALLY wanted to run.

Before getting to Bagan we opted to do a two day, off the grid trek across the hills with a night stay in a Buddhist monastery. Although incredible, the 36km hike across rice paddies, bamboo bridges, through rivers, mud and up seemingly never ending hills took its toll on my poor feet and left the hugest blisters I'd ever had all over my toes.

Was worried I might not recover in time to run in Bagan, however three days later on our last day in Bagan before moving on, I went for it! I went out at 4pm - as late as I could possible manage in order to get back and showered for a sunset visit to the temples (by then I had realised that streetlights are only a thing for cars on main roads in Myanmar - sometimes not even that - so my normal night time run was out of the question). If I was going to run I would have to do so in daylight and that meant in the heat. It was still pushing 30 degrees with 75% humidity which worried me a little. I had mapped a little path out in my head when we had wandered around temples earlier that day so my boyfriend knew where to come and look for me in case I keeled over and didn't return by 5pm.

Taking Laura with me for some familiar company (and because I didn't have internet to access my usual running playlist) I set out and do my warm up walk down the road which led away from the hotel. The security guard sat in his little hut slowly raises his hand and gives me a quizzical look which is the first indication that Bagan doesn't get too many running tourists. I pause Laura and do my stretches at a left turn onto a sandy little path and then I'm off. I begin ok, doing little checks with myself. Legs? Ok. Blisters (which were healing)? Not feeling them so that's good. Breathing? I still am so that's a decent start. Suddenly, only thirty seconds or so in, the first temple appears, looming out of the trees on my right. A moment later, another pokes over the treetops to my left. Although I'd spent three days looking at scores of the 3000 temples, I decide to head towards the one on my left for a closer look. Have to turn and double back when I see the path completely waterlogged in front of me (how there was a puddle when it had been blazing sunshine and 32 degrees all day, I don't know!). No problem, let's go to the end of the path, past the lonely football goal post made out of sticks and turn right at the end.

More temples begin appearing, right, left, two more to the right. Just me, no one around on these tiny, sand paths. I feel like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (albeit a shorter-legged, sweatier, more puffed out version) or like I'm playing Temple Run for real! Check my watch, five minutes gone. Do I feel ok? Yes, let's carry on! Turn right onto the dirt beside an actual road. Iza Gawna Pagoda and its monastery is to my right but there's no one around, not outside the temple wall at least. I see an old pick up truck coming towards me along the road. Three local men in the front, they honk and shout as I go by and one of them leans out of the window with his phone, taking a photo? Videoing perhaps? I smile and wave and they honk and drive past! Another sign that perhaps running is not a thing out here and any tourists who do it tend to do so in the air conditioned hotel gyms. Perhaps I'm currently a celebrity after they posted the video captioned 'crazy western tourist' on Myanmar facebook or instagram? Perhaps they were heckling or thinking I'm crazy? A few months ago I would have died at the thought but now I love that I've given some locals something to chat about over their congee tonight. I turn back down the road towards the hotel. I've hit 10 minutes which was my aim when I set out, taking account of the heat. I wipe my face and realised I'm completely drenched in sweat. I'm usually one to get clammy rather than drip but the climate must be taking it's toll. I'm starting to breathe a little bit harder but would like to push on for a bit longer if I can. Let's get to twelve minutes and see how I am then. Instead of going right back to the hotel I turn again up the path I started on and begin a little loop back towards those first temples. They distract me enough as they come into view to keep going. Nearly 12 minutes. Let's push on back to Iza Gawna at least, I think. 15 minutes and I'll stop. It's getting hard now and I remember Laura's advice and hear all you lovely people on here in my head reminding me of the C25k mantra, slow right down. Breathing hard, legs heavy but my what a view! How incredibly lucky I am to run on paths that, perhaps, no one has ever run on before! Bagan is a spread out place full of loads of paths around 3000 temples so there's a chance that no one else, at least in modern times, has run this part where I am. Keeping an eye on my watch, 15 minutes and I slow down to a walk. So very proud of myself as I am after all of my runs, particularly so given the heat, the trek, my recent recovery from injury. I take some proud photos of myself, guzzle some water and head back towards the hotel.

On checking my watch once home, the pace was very slow and the distance covered was minimal but it was amazing to see the map of my running route on a satellite image with the temples around it. Although completely incredible and surreal, I doubt I'll have an opportunity to return to Bagan so it really was a once in a lifetime run and my only run in Myanmar. I love that C25k gave me this. When travelling I like to try and find experiences that few others have had and I'm pretty sure that I managed one!

I've heard exercise is good for jetlag and holiday blues so perhaps I'll get out there tomorrow and reunite with my more usual but still lovely running routes... :)


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20 Replies

  • Oh Melly I really enjoyed reading that. It sounds such a memorable run and you shared it beautifully. A big well done to you for even attempting a run in that heat, but you look very composed in that photo so it looks as if you managed the heat well. Running tourism is just the best.

    Lovely post. Thank you for that 😊

  • Thanks your maj! I haven't described a run like this before but enjoyed remembering it! I certainly wasn't feeling composed, just happy that I managed it! :)

  • Wow Melly, what an adventure you had well done on the run, fabulous picture.

    Wonderful post, I was right there with you - thank you so much.

    The hiking sounded a wonderful experience too.

    I hope you were singing 'on the road to Mandalay! 😎😎😎😊

  • I absolutely was! My other half's surname is Herd so he had to deal with a lot of "the head of the herd was calling from far, far away, they met one night in the silver light on the road to Mandalay..." :D

    The hike was hard but definitely worth it! Amazing country.

  • 😂😂😂😂😂 there you go! Love it!

    The hike sounds sublime, always worth the effort though.

    How's the feet now?

  • They took those three days to feel less bruised and for the blisters to heal but I think, owing to the running, my muscles recovered pretty quickly! Surprising considering how much pain I was in at the end of the trek!!

  • Beautiful post..I really enjoyed reading it... well done you, in the heat as well. look like a celebrity... beautiful, a healthy glow and a smile that says it all! Makes me feel a really old Grey Snail :)

    Thanks for sharing... I am loving these travel photographs.. just like being there! I remember mfamilias post.. at Machu Picchu..I think it was.. well it was a photo of her trainers many great photos when we all head off to foreign climes and faraway places :)

  • Aww thanks Floss! Certainly didn't feel like a celebrity but the smile was plastered! Felt so lucky to be there. God knows where that photo/video ended up or what I looked like in it! I had to go straight to mfamilias' post about Machu Picchu to see that photo when you mentioned it. :)

  • What an amazing post! That was like a guided tour of the 'temple district'. I could almost feel the heat. Love the way you write Melly. And how come you look like Catherine Zeta-Jones on the red carpet after such exertion, while I resemble Ma Larkin in a sauna? 😁

  • Haha thanks McFitty! My first time trying to describe a whole run - it's interesting to put what's in your head down in words! I've had Catherine Zeta-Jones a couple of times before but not for a while!! Must be the Welsh blood I have in my ancestry. :) Certainly didn't feel like it in the photo, it was all I could do to remain standing at that point I think! The adrenaline of the whole experience was feeding the smile though. :)

  • Temple run :). Love it. Running on vacation is the absolute best. Well done.

  • The absolute best! :)

  • Oh Melly, what a fantastic experience, and you describe it so wonderfully !

    I hope you have had a brilliant time and you look absolutely amazing ! :-) xxx

  • Thanks Poppypug! It truly was amazing, I feel very lucky! xxx

  • Great post! I thought of Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider as well when I saw the photo. Exhausted from reading that long, very descriptive paragraph!

  • Ha, I certainly felt like her - not sure I looked the part though! Sweaty and shuffling, Lara Croft was definitely not!! Sorry about the long, descriptive paragraph, I do waffle!

  • Wow. Just wow. That sounds really good. One of the first posts I remember reading on here was a picture of the sea view from your treadmill when you were on holiday earlier in the year - you'd not yet ventured outside and look at you now! Lovely post.

  • There was no going back once I went outside! SO glad I did or I would have missed all of these experiences!

  • You're my hero. Maximum respect! Great post - a joy to read, and you've made me want to go to Myanmar. Please keep us posted about your amazing adventures!

  • Haha hardly a hero but thanks! :) You MUST go - I barely knew anything about it before I went and now I have no idea how it's not on everybody's bucket list! Simply beautiful.

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