Monday, December 31, 2012

The Land of Smiles

The saying that goes something like: ‘you don’t know how much you miss something until it’s gone’ certainly held true when we crossed into Cambodia.  After a few hours of cycling in the country we realized how bad we wanted back into Thailand.  No 7-11’s or Tesco’s in Cambodia, just little shops here and there.  And the selection was rather weak.  Oddly enough we did see more foreign cyclists in Cambodia versus Thailand.  That I didn’t quite understand as the roads and conveniences of Thailand are so much better.  Anyway, after two nights in Cambodia we were back into Thailand.

Not much excitement though since everything is going great.  Thailand is called the land of smiles and we can certainly attest that.  To emphasize the non-excitement factor I will explain a typical day in Thailand for you.  We start the day by going to a 7-11, then listen to tunes or podcasts while cycling at fast speeds on flat roads, then stop again at a 7-11, then cycle more, then stop at a Tesco and pick up reduced priced items, then cycle some more, then stop at a 7-11, then cycle, then stop at a town and find a place to stay.  In the evening we go out and grab some fruit or chocolate shakes and down some street food.  That pretty much sums it up. 

We are now in Wiang Sa which means we most likely have a few days left in Thailand.  You may think the good times will end for us but that shouldn’t be so.  Oh no.  I am confident that Malaysia will let the good times roll.

We cycled into Bangkok late in the afternoon and went straight to this bike shop Trevor had marked.  On the spot Trevor got a new Surly fork to replace his bent one and his bottom bracket replaced.  I had my cassette replaced.  All of this was done in an hour or so.  They get top marks for service that is for sure.

We took a day off in Bangkok to run some errands like shipping things back home.  Trevor sent back a lot of stuff so he was quite happy about lightening his load.  Later in the day we met up with Tomas for lunch.  He is a former work colleague of Trevor’s who now lives in Bangkok.  Quite nice of him to treat the both of us to lunch.  Thanks Tomas!    

A Thai statue.

Let’s play Where’s Waldo.  Except this time let’s replace Waldo with Trevor in the Cambodian town of Sisophon.  You may begin. 

To give some purpose of our detour to Cambodia in addition to refreshing our Thai stamps, we decided to cycle to Battambang and check out the bamboo train.  Got there and after a quick look decided a ride on it wouldn’t be all that great.  It is pretty much a tourist trap with foreigners taking rides.  I’ll pass. 

Apparently the area from Battambang to Pailin was very heavily land mined from the Khmer Rouge.  As such, we didn’t go off the beaten path and stuck to the main road all the way through. 

Shortly after getting through Bangkok for a second time we saw a few monitor lizards on the side of the road rummaging through a pile of trash.

We try to take side roads as much as we can as they are obviously more peaceful and there is less traffic.  One side road we took led us to this park where we saw quite a few monkeys and some scenic limestone cliffs.

It has been awhile since we have had the opportunity to jump in the water.  The last time we were next to a Sea was in Turkey!  So taking a dip in the Gulf of Thailand was pretty refreshing.     

Here is a rare picture for two reasons.  One: we are both in the shot.  And two which is even rarer: Trevor is not looking down at his GPS.  Wow.    

If you ever are interested in doing some cycle touring and don’t know where to go, I suggest Thailand as the conveniences are well, so convenient.  And when you enter that 7-11 for a drink or two, tell them Kevin sent you.  Chances are I probably have been.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In The Clear

Feeling great for obvious reasons… out of China and in Southeast Asia!  It was like night and day when we crossed into Laos.  And things got much better when we crossed the Mekong River into Thailand. It is warm, the roads are flat here in Thailand and it is just good times all around.  We don’t have strenuous days.  Huge change indeed.

One surprise though for us when entering Thailand was getting only 15 days.  When we cycled through back in 2008 we were given 30 days.  Apparently they reduced the land crossings by half late in 2008.  I think we could make it through in the time allotted but want to spend a bit more time in the region.  As such, the plan now is to detour over to Cambodia and re-enter Thailand later. 

We are now in Kanchanaburi and just checked out the Bridge on the River Kwai.  I watched the film a few weeks ago so I was interested in seeing the real deal.  Well, I guess it isn’t exactly the actual structure since it was bombed a couple of times back in the day but just neat being around history.  It was a little out of the way but we don’t mind given we are cycling in Thailand now.

Enter Laos.  To add to our elation that we were entering Southeast Asia, we also didn’t have to pay for a Lao visa.  Swiss citizens get 15 days visa-free.  That was a pleasant surprise. 

A piggy taking a nap under a Lao house.  Passed many structures like this en route.  

Laos had more than enough hills in the north with gradients a bit steep for my liking.  We were dripping in sweat going up 10% grades. 

Taking a breather from all the hills we climbed up and down in Laos.

Crossing the Mekong River from Laos into Thailand.  I will miss the delicious banana shakes Laos had on offer.  They went down so nicely in the hot sun.  Yum. 

All smiles in Thailand.  Trevor ecstatic as this was our first of many 7-11 stops.  We had dreamed of this day for some time.  We also hit up Tesco Lotus.  Pretty much every time we see either one we stop for a break. 

Trevor sampled a few critters in Laos and here in Thailand picked up a bag of grasshoppers for downing.  I’ll pass.  

This has to be the largest snake albeit dead we have seen thus far.  Sucks because that would have been cool to see if it were still alive.  Kind of disgusting to look at as bugs were having a field day on the carcass. 

Trevor at the Bridge on the River Kwai looking thrilled to be there.  As usual I explored and wandered around while he sat bored as ever.  This was his second time there though.    

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beat Up By China

Well there is good news and there is bad news.  The good news is we are done China!  Really pleased to have completed the country as it really threw a lot at us.  And it wasn’t good stuff being thrown our way.  The last province of Yunnan turned out to be quite hilly with crappy, bumpy roads.  Other good news is we are in the tropics so that cold feeling we had in most of China is no more. 

The bad news is I face planted the pavement again but this time I was riding my bike.  As a result I have a purple eye and a bloodied up face.  Knees are also torn up and my right shoulder is hurting.  I am down for the count.  Basically I was riding down a hill and went over some water when my back tire slid and next thing I know I am crashing to the ground.  Unfortunately I had to change my back Marathon Plus tire for Trevor’s old worn down with no traction Marathon tire since my Plus tire had a bulge in it.  Having no traction, going over water and turning at a high speed isn’t a good mix.  I learned that the hard way.  Each day though I am getting better so I am optimistic I will be fine.  Time heals all.  It was annoying though the next day my right eye was closed shut so I was riding with one eye pretty much.   

In other news we were camping on the side of the road early on in Yunnan when a light flashes on my tent late in the evening.  Then I hear voices and realize crap, we’ve been had.  I open up my tent pretty freaked out as it could be anyone out there and I am in a vulnerable position.  Then I see three policemen.  They said they wanted to help us as it was cold where we were and we should pack up in the shivering night and follow them to the police station to sleep.  I tried to politely decline over and over again but the officer didn’t quite get what I was saying.  Sometime later more people arrived by vehicle and it turned out they called over an English teacher to translate.  After examining my passport and asking if they could help in any way they all finally left.  It was sort of strange looking up from my tent and seeing about 6 or 7 people hovering around my tent.  I was really glad they didn’t make us leave from our spot because it was really freezing in the night. 

We are in Mohan which is the border town with Laos.  We enter Laos and one of my most favourite regions in the world, Southeast Asia, tomorrow! 

Oh and just to forewarn, there are a few pretty grotesque pictures below so if you do not like those types of pictures better stop reading.  Viewer discretion is advised… 

The delayering begins.  Real nice not to have to wear layers upon layers.  Now it is just shorts and a shirt.  

Me taking a breather in front of some nice scenery.

Me exhausted from a crappy day of cycling around Kunming.  We tried to get on the expressway but were caught by some police officers who told us to go back and take the side roads.  The side road G213 was complete crap.  Nonstop cracks and bumps everywhere.  Plus there were so many big dump trucks always driving by and polluting the air.  So I wasn’t having a good day as evidenced by this photo. 
Here is a stretch of crappy, muddy road on the G213.  It was literally a mud bath.  Had to walk this bit.  Seriously China needs to invest some money into their infrastructure and not just their highways.  They appeared to have built their side roads many years ago and then just leave them to rot with no proper maintenance whatsoever.  We do however see road workers at times jackhammering the roads and doing horrible patch work which in effect makes the roads worse off.  Good for nothing they are. 

A lot of mornings as of late started off in the foggy mist much like this.  I don’t mind it since it cools me down now. 

In a town called Ninger I stopped for a food and drink stock up and stumbled upon a huge, happening bazaar.  I enjoy bazaars and browsing what is on offer.  I have only seen dog for sale once in China but never like this.  So this was quite surprising to see.

Larvae and huge insects for sale.  Guess they are supposed to be a tasty treat.  I’ll pass.

The most grotesque photo of all… me after falling off my bike. 

We have seen many flattened, dead snakes on the road in Yunnan but no live ones until we passed this dirt mound.  Just cycling along when a cobra pops out from one of those holes.  It hissed at us and then expanded its hood.  It was pretty cool.  Then it went back inside its small hole.  My research tells me it could have very well been a Chinese cobra.  Given we are now seeing large spiders, poisonous snakes and just thick jungle with little camping opportunities; we are hitting up hotels and guesthouses.  Probably will do this the rest of the way in Asia.    

Progress picture.  Me the following day of my tumble.  Still looks like I was mauled by a tiger but things are getting better. 

Typical Trevor fixated on his GPS not caring or bothered to look that there is an elephant behind him.  

Haven’t seen many cycling tourists in China (probably because this country is crap to cycle in).  However, the past few days we have been cycling with Paul, a British man who has been on the road for about 18 months. 

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