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    Volume 9 Issue 33| August 13 , 2010|

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On the Road

Tamanna Khan

The spokes of the wheels go round and round on winding highways, by the green hillocks, past the border guards, the Great Walls by their side, whispering the tales of the ancient-- past the rows of wind energy plants, stretching to the distance, the long shadows of the arid lands, the plain of Mongolia, the clouds of Vietnam, the ruins of Cambodia, the high-rises of Singapore, the soft-scented smell of Thai food, the beaches of Malaysia and then the halts for a moment at a small green land in South Asia, Bangladesh.

Ahn Hyoill and Sangeun Ahn, two young travellers from South Korea, have set out on a journey across the world on bicycles. Six years back, Ahn Hyoill, a photographer of KBC, a Korean online TV channel, met short-film and documentary filmmaker Sangeun Ahn, who told him stories of India, Nepal and South East Asia after coming back from a short trip there. The stories stirred the quiescent traveller inside Hyoill and he wanted to join Sangeun in his next trips. Soon the two started to talk about a world tour but there was this age-old barrier of funding which the meagre savings from their current professions wouldn't meet. Sanguen then came up with the idea of cycling because it would eliminate transportation cost and the expense of a hotel. “That was the first time we talked about travelling the world by bicycle,” reflects Hyoill. So they started calling up different organisations for sponsorship, saying that they would make promotional videos for their products. Soon they started to receive responses from companies such as Adidas, Olympus, Columbia and Scott; some sponsoring their travelling equipment, some bicycles, video camera and other necessities. However, financially they were on their own; each friend contributing $10,000 towards the start-up amount with a plan to retain the expenditure, on an average, to $5 per day. Since the sum they gathered would not be enough to cover the entire trip, the two friends planned to earn the rest during their stay in Europe where friends and contacts might help them to find jobs.

The motto behind this tour is to explore the world, see the people and the different cultures. However they are also travelling for another very important cause. Sanguen, being a financial sponsor of Plan International Child, China, contacted the organisation with a proposal of promoting their activities in the different countries across the planet. “We hope to make a documentary on the difficulties children face in many places of the world, which will be uploaded on the Plan website,” says Hyoill.

“In Korea people do not know the outside reality. They have no idea of the difficulties children in Bangladesh, children in Cambodia face; they do not really know how these poor children live their life. It is a small thing, but we just want to help Plan's activities,” he adds. Sanguen and Hyoill intend to visit Plan International's regional office in Dinajpur during their stay in Bangladesh.

The motto of the tour is getting to know
different cultures.

On September 8, 2009, the two friends set out on their mission to travel the world, planning their routes through 80 countries and hoping to put a brake on the wheels sometimes in 2015. They have already been to Mongolia, China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and on June 25, 2010 they reached Bangladesh.

Difficulties in the road were mostly mechanical in nature like flat tires or loose chains. The people they met in the roads have always been helpful. Being Koreans, they did not need travelling documents or visas for travelling to Southeast Asia, and for China and Cambodia they easily obtained the necessary visa. However, problems occurred when they went to collect Bangladeshi visa at the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia.

“They required some papers, such as all invitation letters and savings account transactions of three months,” says Hyoill. Arranging for these documents by contacting with Korean banks and Plan Bangladesh for the invitation letter delayed their trip by two weeks,” reminisces Hyoill.

Nowadays, globe trotters connect through the internet travel blogs and help each other not only through knowledge sharing but also in accommodation and guiding. That is how the two Korean cyclists have become friends with Ashrafuz Zaman Uzzal, President of Bangladesh Adventure Club, who had travelled the world in a bicycle back in 1997. With Uzzal's help and hospitability the duo has toured around the capital Dhaka, spending only $14 in eight days. In fact, in most countries they have visited someone from the backpacker's community or a kindred soul has always come forward with the offer of accommodation, food and guidance. Throughout their journey they needed a hotel only for two to three months.

Sharing their experience of Dhaka, Hyoill says, “Frankly speaking, before coming here I did not know about Bangladesh's history and society. After staying here for eight days I find that the culture of Bangladesh is very different from that of Southeast Asia. People have different habits. Some are good; some are bad. The bad thing is the traffic jam, the congestion, the noise.” Sangeun too does not find much difference in the dust and pollution of the cities, be it in India or Bangladesh. However both of them are looking forward to their ride across the country to Dinajpur. They believe there is much more to see in Bangladesh than the hustle and bustle of the city. Even Dhaka seems to slowly grow on the two travellers, as Hyoill confesses, “In the first one or two days, I did not like this city's atmosphere. But now it is so good. Now we eat the food by hand. It is the first time I have used my bare hands to eat. I like the curiosity in people's eyes and their wide smiles.”

The wheels of Scott Company's cycle will take the visitors again on the road. After visiting Plan Bangladesh in Dinajpur they will cross the Burimari border to India and then to Nepal and Pakistan. And from there? Wherever the path leads them to -- may be through snow-capped mountains, by the blue waters of the oceans, across the mysteries of the desert, or the haze of the tall grass of the savannas or the unknown, which is yet to be discovered.

Ahn Hyoill and Sangeun Ahn on their way to Dinajpur.


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