Thailand 1 – Peace and tranquility

posted in: Asia, Thailand | 0

The flight to Bangkok went smoothly, the bicycles arrived without a scratch. As we stepped out of the airport, hot, humid air hit us. We expected it, still 30 °C felt funny on a late November evening. It was already dark so we quickly assembled the vehicles and pedaled to a nearby airBnB. The first thing we noticed in the suburbs of Bangkok was the extremely high number of 7 eleven shops. They were literally everywhere.

 

It seemed like we jumped ahead in time one and a quarter century, not one and a quarter hour compared to Nepal. Next day we saw a multi-storey highway system and gigantic supermarkets. It was unusual to see traffic lights again, especially drivers that obeyed them. They were courteous and never honked. We liked the clean environment as well and that after so many countries people finally weren’t spitting in public. The only disturbance was that people were cooking everywhere and the streets were full of mouth watering food ads. All the way in Thailand someone was cooking something next to us, it made us hungry non-stop.

While we were in the city we went to a bicycle store because our stuff breaks over time. We replaced my broken rack and Adam’s torn handlebar bag. The shopkeeper was very kind, he fixed my rear wheel for free while we were there. Half of the shop was a restaurant so we also had lunch there, vegetarianism is officially over. In the evening we were still in the concrete jungle so we spent the night at a hotel. We walked to a street full of food stalls. We haven’t learnt the names of Thai meals yet so we just pointed at a guy and explained that we would like to eat what he was having. The next day we bought ethyl alcohol, from then on we could cook. It would have been great to eat out all the time, but we didn’t want to spend all our money yet. So most of the time we cooked for ourselves, but when we were in towns where we could see the prices, we ate Thai food.

The place was full of Buddhist monasteries and temples. Buddhism is so different here from the one practiced in India and Nepal. In Thailand it’s much more luxurious with all the golden Buddha statues and decorated churches. Here, worshipers put food and drinks in front of the statues and shrines. We saw red Fanta offerings very often, it turned out that the red drink replaced the tradition of blood offering.

Our next stop was the old capital, Ayutthaya with even more Buddhist. We saw enough for a lifetime. We had soup with rice and shrimps at the river bank and bought a papaya at the market. This was the first Thai market we visited, it was incredible how many different kind of food was sold there, even insects.

Next day we finally got out of the urban areas. We simply felt that we were at the right place, far from the stressful days of Nepal. The weather was still hot, but not humid. We tasted new fruits like dragon fruit, mango and chubby banana. The latter became our favourite. It’s sweeter and creamier than ordinary bananas and they’re cheap. In the afternoon we rolled in to a park with a fishing lake without any visitors, only gardeners. We asked them if we could sleep there, but they didn’t let us. We went 50 metres further on a dirt road next to the park to find a hidden spot for the night. We had to get in the tent early and stay inside because of the mosquitoes. Unfortunately the blood suckers were everywhere so we could never stay outside after 6 pm.

The 5th of December was national holiday, the birthday of the late king. We heard that he was a good king loved by the people. His son, the current king isn’t so popular but it’s against the law to say anything bad about him. For example if anyone would write that he looks like a monkey, the person would end up in prison. Anyway his and his father’s portraits are everywhere. A lot of people were wearing yellow for the birthday, it’s the king’s colour. We saw many cyclists in yellow that day. Besides the horde of Thai cyclists we met a fellow bicycle tourist, it was an old lady from the Netherlands. We were speechless when we learnt that she was travelling the world by bicycle alone, at her age. We got to smaller roads with banana palms on the side and stopped at a river bank. It wasn’t a well-hidden spot, but we found it okay for a night, we weren’t disturbed by anyone. The new fruit for the day was kumkwat, we didn’t really like it. It was like a clove of orange.

Celebration continued the next day, we passed by a school parade. Then we cycled across villages. We loved the buildings there, simple houses on stilts. We also saw a huge varanus that day, it was big enough to eat a smaller dog. We never saw any live snakes but there were a lot of them killed on the road. So we always tried to look for rest places where chances of meeting these kind of animals were low. That night for example, we camped in a deserted building. The night was good until music started to play from the speakers of the village at 4 am, way before sunrise. We often saw speakers on the roadsides, in the daytime we sometimes heard speeches, we have no idea what they were about.

In the morning we walked to a small waterfall then went on in the maze of villages. In one of them we got a bunch of bananas from a lady. It was the perfect gift, those days we ate scary quantities of those chubby bananas. At the market we bought salak fruit to try something new too, but it wasn’t very tasty, especially that half of it was rotten.

Up to that point we mostly cycled on flatland, then smaller up and downhills began. At the same time sunshine was swapped to rain. We waited under a roof until it stopped, the cooler air felt nice, we stopped sweating. We spent a night in a hotel then next night we looked for a campsite again. This time it didn’t go so easily, finally we chose a little wooden building at a fruit plantation. Luckily nobody came to pick fruits at night and we left early in the morning. We stopped a bit further for breakfast. While we were cooking rice a local man approached us. After we chatted for a while he brought us some milk from a nearby shop.

Several hours later we stopped next to a reservoir where we heard a dog crying. We found a very hungry puppy in the bushes. We took pity on him and gave him a can of fish. He devoured it so quickly that he started to have the hiccups. He toddled behind us while we were looking for a campsite. We found a good one next to the lake, although it was full of ants. The reservoir dog lied in front of our tent and guarded us all night. Once a man walked by, the puppy ran there and barked then came back to us. He was so adorable, it hurt to leave him there in the morning. We couldn’t take him with us so we fled while he was having breakfast. From there the road led us straight to Chiang Mai.