DISABLED Nepalese monk Chitra Poudel is on a mission to become the first monk to cycle around the world, spreading a message of peace and love.
Passing through Phnom Penh this week on the latest leg of his 32-country tour, he had to leave his bicycle behind in Thailand, because of strict Buddhist laws preventing monks from riding it in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
However, he’s been getting around Phnom Penh by tuk- tuk, while staying at pagodas.
“I want to give a message to the whole world, of peace and love for the whole world,” said the 27-year-old monk. He was struck by polio as a five-year-old, leaving him with a withered leg that’s prone to seizing up in cold weather.
“But I want to show that disabled people have courage, so I’m cycling during the summer months when it’s easier for me to move,” Chitra Pudel said. “In winter it’s hard because my leg gets very stiff in the cold.”
So far in Cambodia, where he arrived on Saturday, monks have welcomed him warmly, he said. Today he’s due to return to Thailand to pick up his bike and continue his journey through Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.
From there he plans to fly to Kuwait in the Middle East and continue his arduous journey, helped only by his Nepalese companion Krishna Prasad Bhaharai.
“I’m also raising money to build a monastery and a home for older people in Nepal,” Chitra Poudel said. “At the end of my trip, I hope to hold an exhibition to show some photographs of the journey.”
This could take him until 2025, because in three years’ time he plans to train for an ascent of Mount Everest.
“I was the first disabled cyclist in Nepal in 2004, so I think I can climb Mount Everest if I do the proper training,” he said. He also hopes on his journey to promote next year’s Nepal Tourism Year.