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craig_foster

Thailand (Lampang) (25)

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Yo dudes,

 

Well it's been about 20 days since my last email so figured I'd get another

one out before my Mom gets the Thai police out searching for me. Having

read a few books about the Bangkok Hilton that's something best avoided so

here we go.

 

My last email was sent from the town of Plimmerton about 50kms north of

Wellington on the North Island. We had two days rest as we'd done some hard

cycling from Christchurch and had spent a day in Wellington which was taken

up with sorting flights out for Thailand and the required visas. We set off

from Plimmerton with the aim of spending 4 days on the bike before catching

a train to Auckland. The plan was to get to Auckland a few days before the

flights as we needed to sort a number of things out before heading to

Bangkok.

 

This time my trip to Bangkok was going to be a bit more complicated. For

one Bessie isn't young anymore. She's done 20,000 hard kilometres and it's

starting to show. I really needed to get her a quality service in Auckland

but time constraints meant this wasn't possible. The other complication is

that my route this time requires me to be more self sufficient. I've needed

to buy pretty much all the major components for both mine and Corinne's bike

because if anything goes wrong somewhere like Laos you're pretty much on

your own.

 

I left Kiwiland on the 31st of March. My feelings about NZ are mixed. It's

a beautiful country but not the amazing cycle touring experience I imagined

or had been told about by others. Culturally the entire South Island is too

similar. You don't get the feeling you're cycling through a real country

but more a eco-disney park for adults. The North Island is supposed to be

more culturally diverse but as a cyclist you have the problem that NZ

doesn't have a secondary road system so you share the road with all the

other traffic. To me it was too similar to Europe but without the

advantages of a well developed road system where you can pick a road and not

see a car for hours. Maybe I spent too long there or maybe it just came at

the wrong time in my journey but NZ is the only country I've left with no

real interest in either going back or learning more about. Even Serbia

stirred emotions and got me reading books and trying to understand the

Balkans.

 

I arrived in Bangkok late on the 31st. Corinne was on a later flight so I

spent a stimulating few hours in the baggage area trying to finish Crime and

Punishment. Corinne arrived and it was out of the airport and into the

madness and heat of the Bangkok night. It was 30C at one in the morning so

after the usual haggle with the taxi drivers we headed for the

air-conditioned luxury of an 8 quid hotel in Chinatown. We spent two days

in Bangkok mainly to sort out our visas for Vietnam and get any last minute

supplies we couldn't organise in Auckland. Shopping in Bangkok is a great

test of how two people get on. Shopping and dodging the traffic in 40C heat

not my idea of fun.

 

After Bangkok we caught the train 70 kms north to Ayutthaya. Last year I

cycled out of Bangkok but I figured it'd be more difficult with the two of

us so we braved the world of Thailand's third class public transport. We

arrived in Ayutthaya with a plan to head off early in the morning.

Temperatures of 40C were predicted and it was Corinne's first time cycling

in anything approaching that type of heat so I figured we'd get up at

sunrise and see if we could get some miles in before the heat got

unbearable. That night we did some touristy stuff and checked out the

temples by night. Afterwards we went for some food and had one of those

small world moments when I met a French guy I'd seen a month ago in

Christchurch. Not sure if it indicates the world is small or that people

tend to travel the same road.

 

In the morning we were up with the sun and heading for the town of Lopburi

80kms to the north-east. I was worried about Corinne coping with the heat

but by 10:30 we'd made good time and had done around 50kms. We had 30 kms

left to do and while the temperature was starting to climb we could take it

easy and increase our stops for cold drinks. We arrived in Lopburi at

12:30, a town famous for it's marauding monkeys.

 

In the morning we set off even earlier than the day before as the distance

to the next town with accommodation was over 100 kms. It was the first time

Corinne had ridden over 100kms and the heat was a worry again with 40C plus

being predicted again. As usual I was worrying about nothing and Corinne

managed the distance without any problems. We were probably helped by a

downpour mid-afternoon but the rain only clears the air for an hour here

before the oppressive heat starts again. Most days we keep our mind off the

heat with my attempts at learning German. I've bought a German phrase book

and the days on the bike are spent seeing how much I've learnt. Usually not

enough and the principle of gender in language makes a tough job just that

bit tougher.

 

We continued heading north increasing the daily distances as we went along.

By the time we reached the town of Sukhothai and had our first day off the

bike, we were averaging a similar daily distance as when I was on my own.

The only difference is that we're having more days off for enjoying the

country. I'd still like to finish the round the world in under a year for

numerous reasons so it's a case of getting that balance right. Obviously

the other thing is that Corinne isn't trying to cycle round the world in

under a year so I have to balance the miles I need and ensure we have enough

time off the bike for Corinne to do the things she wanted to do before she

agreed to cycle SE Asia. This may include her traveling ahead by public

transport to give her more time but I think she enjoys the challenge as much

as me so we'll see.

 

We left Sukhothai to time perfectly with the Thai festival of Songkran. I'm

sure the festival has some deep cultural meaning but from what I can see

it's an excuse for kids to throw water over people passing by with tourists

on bikes seeming to be some kind of bonus. Every town we go through

involves running the gauntlet of kids armed with buckets, hoses and water

pistols. As in keeping with Thais being polite it's always done with an

apologetic word and we've had kids say "I love you" before emptying a bucket

of water over us. Corinne even had the police single her out for a special

drenching when we cycled past a police station.

 

As with the last time I was here, the Thais have been as friendly and as

courteous as you could hope for. We had a puncture one afternoon in the

hottest part of the day and after fixing the puncture we were beckoned over

by some guys working for the highway agency who fed us and watered us before

sending us on our way. I was even challenged to drink some of the local

whiskey which didn't help me cope with the heat.

 

We're in Lampang now which is about 250 kms south of Chiang Rai. We have

one more day off tomorrow and we're planning to head for the Elephant

Conversation Centre and do some Elephant riding and if we have some time

head over the hills to Chiang Mai. Chiang Rai is about three days ride from

the Laos border and after crossing the border it's a 2 day slow boat ride

down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. Laos is going to be different and I

anticipate a tougher ride than Thailand. Gaps between civilisation will be

greater and it'll require more thought and planning. It'll be great to

experience another country and a different challenge.

 

Anyways best go as it's to try something new at the local restaurant.

 

Oh and for those people interested, my mobile is now working again although

I'm not sure if I'll have coverage in Laos.

 

Lots of love as always,

 

Craig. XXX

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