We are off! After an extended stay in Phang Nga, Sophie’s teaching Princeton in Asia teaching post is over, and my obscure sort of career related obligation in Bangkok is taken care of. I am vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis, and we are both sharing in the mix of excitement and nerves that accompany the start of a trip like this. For me, it’s almost pure excitement because for two months I’ve been missing being on the road and the rush of endorphins that each day brings. I’ve missed the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-esque view of my body and bike as a combined machine needing to be continuously monitored and maintained in order to prevent physical and mental deterioration.
We have already found our routine will look very different from the one I so carefully developed in Patagonia. The usual elements: weather, expected road surface, traffic, people, language, availability of food and water, have all changed from my last trip. The heat probably brings the biggest change to the physical toll of each day. We ride early, from about 6-11am and then again from about 4-6pm. It’s just too hot to do anything during midday, so we usually just spend those hours doing as the Thai people do: sabai sabai. Basically napping and eating.
Possibly the biggest change to the routine comes with having someone else on the ride with me. That in itself brings a whole new set challenges that I am in the process of (I admit, slowly) adjusting to. I’m happy to have Sophie along for the ride, and I know this will end up being a fantastic shared experience.
So, with one final beer, we started down the road. Since then, we’ve been averaging about 50-70km/day, living on $5-10/day, and camping for free on beaches and for very cheap in national parks. This is the first night we’ve spent in a hotel, and we paid about $13. Sophie says it’s expensive, but I’m happy because the same room with a private bathroom would have cost upwards of $20-30 in Patagonia.
It suddenly strikes me how different blogging about this trip will be from my last one. In Patagonia, I felt a little like Donkey from Shrek: “Look at that boulder! That is a niiice boulder!” But here there are sights, sounds, people, and energy everywhere. As we ride, little children yell out hello, and everyone smiles at us. There are tons of local thai cyclists who usually know a few words of English, and those conversations are always fun. Very different from the “I spoke to a Gaucho on Thursday for about 15 minutes and that was my socialization for the week.”
Riding during the morning hours is a special treat. I like watching rural Thailand wake up. From monks going on alms round to people yelling hello and prayer calls from both Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques. Speaking of temples, they are everywhere, all very ornately decorated.
That’s all for this blog post from your favorite rolling, sentient blob of sweat, bug repellant, and sunscreen. We’re off to Ranong to get our visas refreshed. You can get a free 30 days upon entry to Thailand, and this can be unofficially refreshed for as many times as you want within reason at the border. Police monitor it to make sure you’re not working for extended periods, but us meagre bike tourists are not a big worry.
May your sweat towel stay clean and dry, because mine sure isn’t.