Hurry on sundown 08/26/2011Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: malaysia, singapore, thailand
Happiness is my writer’s block. These days I just feel right – in my skin, on my bike – and there isn’t much else to say.
Thailand was paradise. I don’t remember the heat, only canopies of golden green flickering above as I pedalled the road south. It wound through salty fishing towns and seaside resorts, past rice fields, temples and beaming kids.
I’d set out before dawn with nowhere to be, nothing to see. I might ride for 12 hours or spend the day watching the monkeys watching me. It didn’t matter. I only wanted to be out.
When all was done I’d find a bed and some street food, then maybe a little spot to watch the sun go down.
Paradise. Just not mine.
Thailand is too easy. Its beauty and leisure are like quicksand and I hated to watch people sink. It seemed every guesthouse had a resident ex-pat who had come on vacation and stayed a lifetime.
They hiccuped into their drinks about the things they could have been – rugby star, teacher, family man. All I saw were sad eyes and bathrobes. Then they’d totter away to refill their stories and I’d be left wondering why Thailand is such a popular place to bury a dream.
Maybe it worried me a little. No doubt it lit a fire under my bike. I cycled most of Malaysia in less than a week and now I’m only a few hundred kilometres from Singapore. That’s the southern tip of the Asian mainland, the end of the line.
I guess it’s fitting I leave the continent the same way I came – by boat. When I crossed the Bosphorus in Turkey my head was swimming with doubt. I was sure of just one thing, and that was that I didn’t know anything. I was terrified.
It’s been more than a year and I still don’t have a lot of answers. No problem. These days I don’t ask so many questions.
All I want to know is what comes next.
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.
That old gutter grin 07/08/2011Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: cambodia, health, thailand
I’ve been healthy for a month. I’ve never biked better, never worried about it less.
So much of this trip has been loose change between the cushions of my brain. It never counted for much until Cambodia. It taught me everything I thought I knew.
Clarity was supposed to be a lightning bolt. It whispered in my ear instead.
I just thought I’d have more to say when it did.
Now Thailand . . .