Same same, but different 07/15/2011Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: bangkok, border, cambodia, khao san road, laos, thailand
Thailand is a lark.
Most Asian borders are decorated with barbed wire and machine guns. This one had an umbrella shading three guards sipping Pepsi. They smiled and waved when I breezed past, then smiled and waved when I biked back confused.
“Um . . . is this the border?”
“Yes. Thai border. Very hot.”
“Do you need to see my passport?”
“Okay.” They saw it.
“Check my bags?”
One of the men raised his sunglasses and squinted at my panniers. “Bags good.”
His companions motioned to a building further down the road. They decided I should fill my water bottles there.
“Get drink. Sign entry card. Very hot.”
They settled into their chairs, heads leaning back, and I pedalled away.
The relaxed mood didn’t surprise me. Cambodia was as languid as the river winding through it, and Laos was so laid back it barely had a pulse.
I just didn’t expect mellow to survive in a country as kinetic, as dizzying as this.
Even Bangkok has an odd serenity about it.
The streets are swimming with packed buses, neon tuk-tuks and death-wish cabbies. They whisk mobs in every direction, to temples and palaces, stadiums and museums, to throbbing discos and street-food villages that spring to life each night.
The faces are rapid-fire, never-ending: businessmen, beggars and buskers, lady boys, ex-pats and sex-pats.
Students in pleated whites skip past wrinkled ladies selling bracelets. Leering men hand out fliers for shows where women do terrible things to ping-pong balls.
And in the middle of it all, quiet in his thoughts, I see an orange-robed monk reading a newspaper.
He fits. The city belongs around him.
Bangkok is bedlam, but it isn’t urgent. People don’t bark or run through the streets. No one hangs out their car window to curse the driver ahead of them. Even the creeps are soft-spoken.
So far Thailand has everything but stress. I love it.
Cold flame 06/03/2011Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: china, dysentery, health, laos, new zealand, parasite, vietnam
I’ve been sick here. I’ve been sick since China.
That was dysentery. I laid in a hospital and got better. In Vietnam an infection burst my eardrum. I stayed in bed for eight days and got better. I don’t know what happened in Laos. I just didn’t get better.
Nothing stayed inside. I’d eat dinner and shit my guts out the next morning. I suspected bad food. Alcohol, sweets, fried meat, MSG, dairy – I cut them all out eventually. Then I couldn’t even keep down plain rice and water. I dropped too much weight. Bloated, aching and dizzy. Always dizzy.
But I biked.
Medical care in Laos barely exists. I was on my own. It took me two months to diagnose myself. Not bad for an Arts major.
I had a stomach parasite. The pills to kill it cost 60 cents. I was cured a day later.
Good riddance in a way. But that bug taught me something. Something I was afraid to admit.
Bike half dead and you’ll find there’s nowhere left to go. This trip doesn’t need my all anymore. I’ve outgrown the challenge.
Kilometres were never the point. I cycled for two years because I wanted to find my limit. I broke myself again and again, I cried and bled and screamed at the sky and I’m still not there. That’s fine. All I know is that I can’t get any closer on a bike.
I’m coming home, but not yet. A few short months separate me from New Zealand. I’m going with nothing to prove. I know exactly who I am now. I’ll pedal only because I love it and because I have a chance to do something special. That was the spirit in which this trip began. That’s how it should end.
This mountain needed a peak. Only a fool would climb forever.