There’s nothing like a rainy day to get a few things done. As the heavens opened, we realised cycling was going to be futile so instead we recorded our latest podcast. This time we share some of the highs and lows with you from our four months in Southeast Asia and a few tips for bike touring in the region. We also have two cycling stories from Adam, who we met in Bishkek. Adam, from Poland, was last spotted going up the Karakorum Highway with one gear so he’s quite the adventurer! We think you’ll enjoy hearing about his take on cycling in India and getting lost in Nepal.
You Are Viewing Thailand
We’re still in the border town Mae Sot. Our plans to leave after a couple nights were put on hold when Friedel’s ear infection refused to clear up (it’s been over two weeks now – don’t put a cotton bud in your ear, we know that now!) and we got some bad news about our boat to Seattle. Apparently there was a mistake with the cargo company in Germany that runs the boat and they confirmed a cabin for us when there actually wasn’t one. The ship we thought we were taking is full and we’re not on it. Darn!
That threw our perfectly formed plans into a bit of chaos so between runs to the hospital for more antibiotics we tried to figure out ‘Option B’ for leaving New Zealand. No other ships go to the west coast of North America so unless there’s a cancellation it looks like we’ll just get a flight to one of the big cities, most likely San Francisco or Los Angeles.
It’s disappointing but not all bad. We’ll save a fair bit of money over the cost of taking the ship and we’ll get a bit more time to explore a beautiful part of America. Whatever lies ahead, we’re happy to take it as it comes and have a great time.
Of course we’ve done a bit of walking around Mae Sot in this time. We discovered a great Canadian restaurant of all things here, run by a guy from Toronto who makes the best burgers we’ve ever tasted! He also has a large menu filled with things like bagels, cheddar cheese, back bacon and other delights we haven’t eaten in a long time. It’s safe to say we’ve been his most loyal customers the past few days.
We also rode down to the border with Myanmar. It was a very bizarre sight to see the ‘Friendship Bridge’ between the two countries with its official checkpoints and then locals crossing the river that runs beneath the bridge on inner tubes. As many as six people pile onto one inner tube, one fellow pedals and a few minutes later they emerge on the other side. Several armed guards look on and no one seems too bothered about the whole spectacle. In most other countries you’d probably be shot or arrested if you tried crossing this way and we haven’t yet figured out why the authorities permit it.
Now we’ve been in Mae Sot for four days and the ear infection is finally clearing up so we’ll be on our way tomorrow. Our destination is Kanchanaburi, just west of Bangkok and about a week away.
440km Chiang Mai to Mae Sot
A few nights ago, we sat at a picnic table outside our riverside cabin in the small town of Mae Salit Luang, soothing our muscles after a gruelling day cycling up impossibly steep hills. It was a lot more pushing than cycling, actually. As the sunset colours came out over the surrounding mountain peaks, a family slowly made their way down the mud-coloured river in a long, wooden fishing boat. We were in Thailand. They were in Myanmar. Just a river separated us, with no guards or border posts in sight. Through a crack in the trees, on the other bank we could just make out their simple home: a hut on stilts with a roof of dried leaves.
We won’t be going to Myanmar this trip – not for lack of desire but to really see the country we’d have to fly there. Land border crossings don’t allow you beyond the first district. And, as always, time is running short. But for this evening and the next one that followed we had our own tiny window on the life on one family in Myanmar. We watched them fish, walk to their fields and work by the river’s edge collecting various reeds and plants. At night their hut fell silent, no lights and certainly no satellite dish. It was hard to tell if there was even a dirt track from their home to the main road, although there must have been some way for them to reach the rest of the country. Just across the river in Thailand it was a totally different world with shops, a few restaurants, two schools and a health centre.
The next day we had another view of the shape Myanmar is in, thanks to the useless, brutal and greedy regime running the country. (more…)
Have we dropped off the face of the earth? You could be forgiven for wondering! It’s been over a week since we travelled the road to Chiang Mai, passing sulphuric hot springs and over a mountain pass on the way. The climb was challenging but not enough to tire us out for quite this long. So, what have we been up to? Well, now that’s a very long list…
We were fortunate to find the Wild Orchid Guesthouse in Chiang Mai. It’s one of those places that has a rare combination of friendly owners, clean and comfortable rooms, a reasonable price and free wireless internet with an excellent connection to the world. Result? A flurry of work going on behind the scenes on our site. Just check out the Resources section and you’ll see how much information we’ve added.
Friedel has also had an exciting breakthrough with her travel writing, getting an article published in an upcoming issue of Transitions Abroad, with the possibility of more to come. Paid work is always welcome but more than that it’s an honour to be included alongside big names in the industry like Rick Steeves and Tim Leffel. The article will be published in October. Watch this space!
When not attached to the computer, we’ve been getting medical tests done (nothing serious, just the usual yearly checkups), renewing our gear, cutting our hair, sorting paperwork, sending home stuff we don’t need and – most exciting of all – planning our trip to Australia and New Zealand! We now plan to be on our next continent by mid-December, which will leave us with at least five months to explore before we board a cargo ship to Seattle. Yes, a cargo ship! It’s hard to know which we’re more excited about, going ‘down under’ or sailing the seas.
And finally, you’ll notice that picture slideshow up there. We discovered a site called redbubble and decided to offer up some of our best photos for sale as cards, prints and posters. You can see them by clicking on the photos in this post or go to our redbubble gallery to browse our images.
Are we ever hitting the road again? Even with all our current comforts and the never ending list of work we could do, we are getting itchy feet. As soon as we can finalise our arrangements for the cargo ship, we’ll set a course west towards Burma and then south towards Bangkok. From there it’s on to Malaysia and soon afterwards Perth, Australia.
72km Houay Xai to Meng Rai
We returned to Thailand today by crossing the Mekong in yet another rickety boat. Dodgy water transport seems to be a theme running through our travels across Cambodia and Laos but this morning’s voyage, with our bikes wedged into a narrow and wobbling vessel, should be the last of our questionable boat trips for some time. Hooray for that because it’s not an event we put in the ‘fun’ category.
It took just a couple minutes for our driver to navigate across the Mekong, about twice as long for him to find a parking place (not unlike trying to get a landing slot at Heathrow Airport with all the boats ferrying tourists back and forth) and another pause was added on at the end as he grabbed a spare board to use as a hammer to pound the end of his boat back together. Some of the planks came loose when he rammed two other boats trying to squeeze into a docking place. The locals take this in their stride as just an everyday event, which it probably is. We, on the other hand, are always fearing the disappearance of our bikes and all our possessions into the water and a surprise swimming lesson. (more…)