Bicycle Touring Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam
Day 160 - Welcome to Thailand
At the airport I acquired my SIM card and collected my bike box, which looks surprisingly in good condition, fingers crossed.
The hotel shuttle didn’t exist, so a taxi driver and I fought like the Chuckle Brothers ( to you to me to you ) for 15 minutes trying to get my bike box in his saloon without opening the boot, with eventual success too :)
So an hour after landing, and now at 10.30am, I’m in my digs, showered, washing done, and now trying to get in the mood for building the bike. It’s going to take me a long time to sort everything out, but the next time the bike flies will likely be many many months away in either Singapore or Indonesia. Maybe :)
Had a great sleep on the plane, and will have a good sleep tonight too before starting my cycle towards Ayutthaya in the morning.
Yes, it's hot and humid, but it was lower than India while I was there, and this morning when I set out, it felt almost cool.
Rain showers for a minute or less were welcomed, and for the heavier rain I just put my umbrella up and parked up until it cleared.
One of the reasons I travelled so far on my first day, was that I just couldn't figure out where the hotels were, as everything is in Thai of course.
I'm sure I passed loads of them, but really didn't have a clue. I even tried acting out the international sign for: I'm bloody knackered and need to flake out.
I did find digs in the end, but I had to locate them on an internet booking site. They came in at £32, but I knew that by turning up at the door, this can be hugely reduced.
And it was, just £17 for a really nice room with everything, and breakfast. Still, it would be nice to be able to locate guesthouses so I can get amongst the people more, and shave some money off.
So I enjoyed my first day mostly, but I drew blood. Yep, I had purchased some really short padded cycling shorts and this would be the first time I tried them under my normal shorts.
I usually wear the shorts that go just above the knee, and thankfully I've got 2 pairs of those with me. These little padded Speedo's :) lifted right up between my legs like a thong, chaffing and sawing.
It was so painful but my other shorts were somewhere in my rear bags and I just couldn't be arsed to find them and then find somewhere to change. On the plus side, my legs are now 3 inches longer and I get to raise the saddle.
Picture is of my morning coconut drink. Straight out of her cool-box too.
I found a roadside 1 Baht ( about 2 pence ) water machine I was told about and thought I would give it a go.
I filled both water bottles with tap temperature water, drank a bottle of it, then stood straddling my bike while looking these machines up on the internet.
According to the internet, these machines are OK at best, and lethal at worst, as they don’t filter out many virus, and most machines have shown to be poorly maintained, if at all.
Suddenly I felt pain in my left leg, like ants biting in multiple places!
Turned out I was stood on a nest of red ants :)
I’ve not finished my ride yet today, I’m only 25 km’s into a steady 56km ride to a town called Saraburi, and will be there for after lunch sometime.
I’m in one of the many roadside “cafes”, cooling off in the shade and ditching my my machine water in favour of chilled bottle water.
It isn't flat. I have cycled through lots of flat km's the last few days, but that was then :)
The people smile, they smile all the time, and it's really nice to get waves and thumbs up from people all through the day.
Everything pretty much is written in Thai, and that's OK because I'm in Thailand. Even Coca-Cola is written in Thai, so it will take some getting used to.
It's very beautiful once you get out of the big towns and on the smaller roads. There are times when it has been necessary for me, to cycle on the bigger 3 and 4 lane roads, but even these roads have little shops and places to eat all along.
The big roads have a hard shoulder that meets gravel and houses and all sorts of things, and there are motorbikes coming down the hard shoulder on the wrong side of the road.
If you forget which side of the road you should be on, it's OK, just keep to the side and get back on the correct side when you safely can, everyone seems to be going in every direction.
I feel safe. In some countries I have cycled, my heart has been in my throat, but here, no problem.
The food is great. Simple dishes are created at the roadside in little makeshift kitchens the size of a small garden shed or lemonade stand, and so tasty and cheap.
Hotels are cheap compared to Europe, but a couple of quid will make a massive difference. For example: Last nights digs were £10 and included AC, shower, double bed, room for the bike, and ants!
Tiny little ants all over the fridge and even the bed. I was too late to get hold of management to sort it, as they had vanished, but after trying to focus on my laptop screen with dozens of tiny ants crawling all over it was just too much, so I went to the 7 Eleven and got some ant spray, which did the job.
Speaking of 7 Eleven's, these are little life savers and there are loads of them. AC to cool down in and pretty cheap items.
Heat and humidity are high, but after being in India before here, it feels so much better here. In fact, unlike in India at this time of year, I was able to go out and about for a few hours last night without hardly breaking into a sweat.
So far, it's a wonderful place.
Since arriving in Bangkok my rear brake wasn't working properly. There was no fluid in it for some reason.
And as I have only been going up hills and not down (I'm on some strange plateau) and not cycled much in the wet, I have been able to hold out.
It may have been upside down on the flight from India, and low anyway due to all the heat and the fact that they haven't been topped up for thousands of km's.
So Beaze Bob Bike shop staff in Nakhon Ratchasima got straight to work, a cup of coffee from their little inside cafe, and job done and off I cycled. So a big thanks to you if you're reading this.
I didn't have much hope for finding professional bike shops out in the sticks to be honest, but they do exist. This one was fully set up to handle anything it seemed.
The weather is hot, and according to the forecast they gave it a 34c but feels like 40c, and they weren't wrong. It was hard going.
Hard going because of the heat, not the roads, the roads are in amazing condition pretty much everywhere I've been.
I have covered a lot of highway, as it has just been easier to get to certain points, and it's not like going along the M6 or M25, it's hugely different and much easier.
Even on the tiny back-roads the tarmac is great. I sort of like being on the busier roads, as it feels like there's someone about. I get a little lonely when I don't see or speak to anyone all day :)
I estimate about a week and I should be in Vientiane city in Laos, where I might have a few days off before following the Mekong River all the way down and through Cambodia into Vietnam.
Here is a map of my very vague route, and I'm the little blue bike symbol at this time. Remember, I try to create some sort of directional map, but it always changes along the way.
I've no idea where I'm sleeping each day, mostly right up until I try to find something when I'm tired and I've had enough. I've been lucky so far :)
I estimate it will be another week before I reach Vientiane in Laos, right at the top of the map line there.
From there, I hope to follow the Mekong River down and into Cambodia then Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, at which point I stash all my gear and take off on a side adventure and a few things I need to sort out, then I return to pick up my gear and carry on.
How long it will take me to reach Ho Chi Minh City is anyone's guess, but judging by the speed I have been going since Bangkok, it could take another 6 weeks or more.
Instead of trying to do as many km's as I can, I have now settled into a more gentle pace. Today for instance I managed just shy of 50 km's because I found a great little hotel, and the next one might not be for another 50 km's
Last night I had to deviate from my route by 10 km's because the guesthouse was the only digs I could locate on the internet.
It turned out to be a bigger town than I thought, with a number of hotels and guesthouses, and an amazing temple which I spent an hour wandering around.
The town was Phimai, and as you can see on my map, there is a little line coming off my main line. I had to cycle back the 10 km's this morning to continue on, but it was worth it.
I met a couple of English gents at a bar, and we chatted and had a few beers, then later I met a South African lady and a lady from Australia, so it was more beer and chats, and I enjoyed it.
This is a strange one. I have been desperate these last few days to get 2 handwritten letters home to the UK, and printouts of some others I need to sign and send home for business, but this has proven to be a major task.
I spoke with a teacher the other day who told me that it wouldn't matter if you could speak the language fluently, the farther you get from the big cities, the less likely the people are to get past the fact that you are a foreigner, and so simply don't hear what you are saying, or interpret what you are acting out.
And it's oh so true :) I went into offices that deliver parcels and letters, and some other businesses, and used 2 interpreter apps on my phone, images of a letter with a stamp on it, an envelope, and I even picked up one of their own letters and expressed that I wanted to send my own.
I couldn't get help finding or buying envelopes or note pads either. But, over the course of a few days, I managed to find a children's note pad that needed cropping a little, and even some envelopes in a 7 Eleven.
I have asked 3 hotel managers if I can print some pages out if I email the documents to them, but I've just been met with blank stares :)
And even now today, I shelled out £20 on the best hotel, and only I think, and all they have managed was to tell me how much the price of the room is, and can't even tell me where I can eat or drink, it's simply strange :)
Today though I found a post office, took my ticket number 83, but the screen that shows who's next is in Thai, so I went around to find out who got a ticket before me, and after they went up I knew it was my turn.
The 2 handwritten signed letters sent via airmail I hope, I did see them put the little airmail stickers on. But as for the printouts I need, I have no idea what to do, it maybe that I have to wait until I get to Vientiane in Laos which is a huge city, that I find someone who can help.
65 km's today in crazy heat, that was in the high 30's, feeling like the high 50's. For 30 km's of that ride there wasn't one single shop on my side of the highway that I could get a cold drink from, but I must have passed 50 restaurants, 7 Eleven's, and petrol station on the opposite side of the road that I couldn't get to!
It was tough, but I had to concentrate on not letting my tongue get caught under the back wheel :)
What an adventure. The people are lovely though, it has to be said. Although this fisherman didn't look to happy.
In fact I only covered 50 km's. I got through about 10 gallons of water, 2 coconuts, 2 large coffees, 3 egg on toast, and 2 bottles of pure orange.
Oh, and it took me from 7am until 12 noon to do that 50 km's with all my rest breaks. Just getting into aircon for half an hour every so often helped, I think.
As I entered the city of Khon Kaen, I heard a clatter from the rear wheel. My first broken spoke in nearly 7000 km's, and hope my last of course.
It had snapped clean off near the hub and was just hanging quite straight within the other spokes, but I had seen a hotel just 2 km's away called Tonwa Residence and Resort, so I just carried on.
How, I have no idea, but I'm glad it didn't cause any more damage, like going through my tire or hub.
It took me just 15 minutes to replace the spoke and true the wheel, and I was quite proud of myself to be honest. If I hadn't done that day course with Bikeright in Liverpool, I would have had a real problem.
On top of that, the hotel was able to print off my letters, and even gave me an envelope :) and green oranges, that were orange on the inside and tasty. I'm told this is how oranges are naturally.
I have my own little porch area for bike repairs at my little bungalow :), and breakfast included. All for 12 sobs.
Washing done, showered, and time for a kip.
I found the little guy almost broken in two at the side of the road months ago, and we had become good friends. He was my Wilson.
But anyway enough of the sad bit, I have a new mascot, Gordon. He's a rubber Gecko (but don't tell him that) and he fits just perfect in the same spot on my handlebars where Rex was. He has proven to be a good companion, although extremely quiet.
Today the landscape started to roll. Up and down all day. But I have had my share of flat roads so I don't mind so much.
I estimate that I will have a fairly short two more days, followed by one long day, then it's over the Friendship Bridge to Laos.
I will then follow the Mekong on the Laos side until Thakhek, before crossing back over to Thailand at Nakhon Phanom, heading down to the Cambodian border.
All along the roadside today, I came across honey sellers.
But this honey was said to be from wild bees and hives in the forests and jungles.
In the picture you can see the beehives, which was a really interesting surprise, but more interesting was that the bees were still hovering around them.
I didn’t get any because I knew it would end up leaking everywhere in my bags, but I bet it was amazing.
They seem to mostly be in a uniform 2 rows and each room is usually detached from the next. They have aircon, shower room, fridge and tv, and are just great little self contained units.
I always bring the bike in too. It’s so much easier than hotels with stairs and lifts. These places don’t all show on maps, so just keep your eye out for either rows of little rooftops, or an arrow pointing down a road.
I avoid those ones down roads though as I like to be around a bit more going on, being as I’m on my own, so look for places with entrances right on the main road.
I try to pick ones that have other shops or a petrol station close by so I can get supplies. Prices are usually between £7 and £11, so pretty good value.
Met a couple of great guys today, John Pothecary from Blackpool who kindly donated 1000 Bhat to my chosen charity JUMP, and a petrol station manager who pulled in front of me and handed me a bottle of water and a bamboo of sticky rice. These two really made my day.
Day 170 - Laos - Adding Laos into this Thailand diary because I will be back in Thailand in around a weeks time, then on to Cambodia.
The roads were not as good, the traffic was disorderly in probably their own orderly way, and the smiles were rationed almost, but there were some smiley faces so that's cool.
The border crossing guards on the Thai side sat me down, gave me a bunch of bananas :), and no, I don't think they mistook me for a gorilla. They even gave me an ice cold bottle of water while we chatted.
Once I got to the Laos border control, things were very different. There was a lot more paperwork, scowls, looks up and down, windows shutting and pointing, but eventually I was through and cycling on the other side of the road.
So what's so special then I hear you ask. Well, this is my 10th country on the cycle and 5th country on the cycle that I had never been to before.
I have also now cycled 7013 km's, which is just crazy when I think about it. I also have to thank Rohloff for creating an amazing hub. I don't know what I would have done without it. I'm sure I would have got through, but I do like my hub.
I'm in digs now in Vientiane Laos, and although not so cheap, the staff have been great and are looking after my bike.
I tried about 6 other hotels first, but all wanted me to leave my bike outside on the road, nope, ain't going to happen.
I am staying here for 2 nights rest because I keep promising myself rest days but never take them.
It took me 10 days to cycle from Bangkok Thailand to Vientiane Laos, which I think is some good going in this crazy heat and humidity.
I had planned on 2 fairly straightforward days and one hard day to finish my ride to Laos, but I squeezed those 3 days into 2, with this last one being 90 km's and completely knackering.
It wasn't easy to find a sim card but after an hour or so of walking around town, I found one in a little deli style shop. How long it lasts I have no idea, or how much it cost.
I went for a beer in a bar and it cost 14,000 Lao Kip (speaking of kip). I crapped myself, I called extortion until I realised it was just £1.25 :)
I estimate I will be cycling in Laos for around a week or so before I reach the second Friendship Bridge at Thailand's Nakhon Phanom, and then I will be heading for Cambodia.
So a good but tiring day, but loads of restaurants around here so it's food then bed time. Then it's a good look at the Mekong River in the morning which is just a few hundreds yards from me here and the one I crossed at Friendship Bridge.
Eating, drinking, sleeping, are all important things of course, but it would be easy to just pass a month or two here doing little else.
The city is quite busy with tourists, and I'm told it's a place where many packpackers and the like renew their visas by hopping over to Laos and back to Thailand, and the other way too of course.
So from what I can make out, people aren't here very long, and that's all cool of course and makes complete sense.
So it was noodle soup tasting day today. The first place I tried looked quite busy with local people. It was a small run down sort of gap in a main street. Tables were tired and decorating was none existent, but I thought it had to be worth a go.
As I was about to tuck into my pork and noodle soup, a cockroach the size of a skateboard decided it liked the look of what I was having, and was obviously too tight to shell out on it's own.
As it shuffled across the table, closer to my bowl, I'm sure it tilted the table intentionally to spill my soup, but I was too quick for the goofy critter. It got a full-fingered flick, right between those beady googly eyes.
I felt kind of sorry for it and thought I may have used a little too much force, as it slid down the wall on the other side of the room, eyeing up someone else's meal.
But hey, ain't no roach gonna get a free meal from me. Especially after paying a whopping £1 including a bottle of water.
The next place I tried charged me £2.50 for the pork noodle soup, but it was actually quite good and even tasted clean, but I have to say that the first soup was tastier and even more meatier, although I'm presuming the meat was pork.
Met a great guy yesterday - Justin - and we chilled and shared a few stories over some beers last night. Justin is here for a week on business, before returning to his family on Perth Australia.
So tomorrow morning I'm out of here, and it's going to be tough leaving this hotel, the Vayakorn Inn. It's quite cosy and the staff are really friendly and they are taking good care of my bike behind reception, so I might leave kicking and screaming in the morning.
As I’m not in that much of a rush that I should get soaking wet, I’m just going to have to hold up, within reach of lots of bars and restaurants, and I’m even going to have to suffer the Brazilian Steakhouse on the corner tonight. Life can be so cruel!
2 full days rest is a good thing, as I still suffer saddle soreness in a big way. During the last week I have left hotel rooms looking like there has been massacres, having to say sorry to the managers on leaving.
I’ve tried everything and all kinds of creams, and that last 90km ride in the crazy heat didn’t things any good, but hey, I’ll survive soreness no doubt.
My original plan was to cycle from Thailand into Vientiane in Laos, then cycle for around 6 days to Thakhek City before crossing back over to Thailand. Well, I’ve changed my mind, because I can.
I’m now going to enjoy my last day here in Laos, then cross over to Thailand, and follow the Mekong down to Nakhon Phanom, then carry own down to Mukdahan – a total of around 500km - before heading inland from the Mekong River to Ubon Ratchathani.
From there, well I’m looking for ideas. Up to now it’s a border crossing at Chong Chom Thailand to O Smach :) Cambodia, and from there I can pass by Angkor Wat and down to Phnom Penh, before then heading back over to Thailand.
Regarding visas: I have already crossed from Thailand to Laos, now back to Thailand, to Cambodia, then Thailand again, all overland. I wouldn’t mind but I still have 15 days on my original Thai visa but I’m told they are only single use.
I have a British passport and can show areas travelled and not jumping borders on visa runs. I can’t imagine there being problems, but hey.
Well, a pain in the butt anyway.
Turns out I’m informed that if I just pass over the bridge and try to get a visa on the Thai side, there is a chance I could either get a 7 day visa, a 14 day visa, or even none at all.
So I was advised to get to the embassy and get a visa there, as it will be for 3 or 6 months and will get me across.
I only need about 3 weeks but it seems my best chance would be to get a visa from the embassy.
The guard looked pretty sleepy and was tucked away in his box, and as there wasn’t a thing to chain the bike to, I put my cable over his telephone cable which went from his box to inside the grounds.
At the office it was hard to get myself understood due to the staff not understanding English very well. I was told to fill out an application and bring it back in the morning, then come back again before 3pm to see if it has been approved. So 2 trips tomorrow, meaning I’m stuck in Laos another night.
On leaving the compound I could have died. The guard had gone home and my bike was just stood on its own on the footpath of a busy main road. He had fed his phone and cable through my lock cable and just left the bike for anyone to take. He could have at least put it inside the gate where there were other guards.
I think this is the thing that bugs me the most, I love the travel, but the visas, flights, transporting the bike on different planes wondering if it’s going to get there In one piece (which is a bit unrealistic considering I will have packed it in about 30 pieces), it’s all a real pain, and a spoiler if I’m honest, which I am as you know.
The extra costs that can sometimes be scams, and it’s just all really tiring. It’s been nearly a year since I set out on this adventure, and I’m starting to not feel it like I did.
Maybe it’s just today, maybe it’s a bit more, but still. Im getting across the border I’m sure, from there though I may do some rethinking. Just look at my poor bike left all alone! :/
So more paperwork done, photocopies, photographs, all done at the consulate.
Then it was a case of getting in line with about a hundred others until I reached a couple of desks in an outdoor makeshift office where papers and passport were taken off me and I was given a ticket.
The ticket states in big letters that no visa will be granted if an address in Thailand is not provided, so I have booked a room at a hostel on the other side of Friendship Bridge in Thailand.
I'm also instructed that I have to return again tomorrow after 2pm to find out if my visa has been approved (which I'm sure it will have been) and I can collect my passport and get out of Dodge.
As it will be late again in the day tomorrow, I'm staying in the same hotel tonight and tomorrow night, hoping to get a good start the following morning.
I'm doing my best to chill and take these days as time to rest, and given that I find it hard to sit still for a minute, I'm doing OK.
I think Thailand has spoiled me a little :). I miss all those friendly faces, lots of places to stay, great food, and really great roads to cycle on with considerate drivers.
Met a young 22 year old couple from Liverpool here yesterday on their way to Vietnam through Laos. They have had a great time in Thailand and are planning to be away for about 5 months, so wishing them well.
I met this little family keeping cool in the mud the other day. I thought about joining them it was so hot.
I’ve been having around 3 showers a day just to keep busy :) Each time I step out and get back in I feel I need a shower and to wash my clothes.
I’m almost feeling I’m stepping out as an excuse to do some washing, I’m feeling much better about my rest days, and really excited about what’s ahead on the 800 km’s or so road to Cambodia.
Brazilian Steakhouse time and it’s really pretty good. Quiet tonight but the lovely food keeps coming, as does the beer.
It’s much more expensive than most places and foods here, at £15. Throw in a few beers and it’s £20 but hey, that’s all the lovely meats and salads you can eat.
Then an hour or less to my digs which I booked as part of my visa requirements. They were only a tenner and I have no idea what's in store for me at the bridge, so I thought I would just take it easy and make sure everything goes as smooth as possible and have a relaxing cycle.
I'm going to celebrate with a rare beer tonight :), and some good food. Then in the morning after breakfast at 8am, I'm off.
I miss the coconut sellers too in Thailand, with their smiley faces and of course, coconuts. This one in my photo has a cool-box for nice cold coconut milk. One coconut is between 20 and 50 pence.
I estimate that I should be knocking on Cambodia's door in about 2 weeks time, but I'm going to enjoy every bit of getting there, I'm sure.
Friendship Bridge crossing: check
Thai checkpoint: check
Cafe Amazon Smoothy: check
Then straight to the post office in Nong Khai.
You will remember those very important wet signature letters I had to send again, well I’ve just had to do them again at a cost of £30. After I left the UK the last time, I received a letter from Cheshire Police to say I had been speeding in a 30mph zone.
Before you condemn me, I had never in my life had points on my license for an offence I had committed. Not in over 30 years. The offence is in the lowest bracket because it was a first offence and not exceeding 40mph, so it’s 3 points and £100.
The problem is that they require a wet signature to state I was the driver and accept full responsibility. Which I agree to of course. Today though was my 4th attempt at getting this letter to them, as none of the others appear to have reached them.
The other times I sent airmail and priority signed for, but the tracking leads to a dead end. This time I’ve sent 2 separate letters by special courier, as I only have 7 days left before the whole silly thing proceeds to court.
At which point I will be forced to return to the U.K. and possibly face criminal charges for not being in the UK. I’ve spoken in the phone with Cheshire Police but they are not interested and only require a wet signature. It’s a real pain for just 3 points.
Let’s just hope these 2 letters get there people. When you get to this age, taking off on something so massive is not like it was when I was in my 20’s, when I just packed a bag, £300 in my pocket and took off, not returning to the UK for 2 years :)
Now, it’s wills to write, insurances to cover any problems so your loved ones don’t have too, bills to pay, and all kinds of commitments to provide for. That said, all those things are what makes my achievement up to now even more extraordinary and very special to me.
I’m proud of myself. It’s all good, and no matter what, I’ll deal with it, it’s what I do.
Chatting with some nice guys in a bar right now, one of whom had waved to me 5 days ago on my approach to Laos and I remember waving and smiling back. Crazy hey, but all good.
You’re following one heck of an adventure, you know that don’t you ? :)
This morning it was time to get moving along the Mekong River towards Cambodia. I'm sort of going across and up along the Mekong before it starts working its way towards Cambodia.
I estimate about 2 weeks of cycling before I reach Cambodia, and today was a really nice day. For roughly 30 km's of the ride it was great to be on a cycle path, and one that is in good condition too.
The path is between Nong Khai and Phon Phisai where I am now, but I just couldn't understand why there was a cycle path in an area where there wasn't really much around. Planned for the future no doubt.
I'm staying in some digs that are right on the Mekong River. My own little fully kitted out hut with great views. Pak Khat tomorrow. I have some digs with an attached restaurant that is supposed to be pretty good. We shall see.
I covered a nice and easy 50 km' of good roads that were a little lumpy but nothing much. I get near the digs I phoned about the day before, and thought sod it, what's the rush.
It wasn't even lunchtime, but the room had a huge bath and bed, so I filled the bath up with cold water and dove in at the deep end :) and just lay in it for about an hour.
Turned out a great call, as while in the bath, the heavens opened and it was torrential rain time. I would have got caught in it, so I feel much better.
The room is really quite nice, with a great view over the Mekong River and a 100 metres from a bar and restaurant.
Rooms like this with amazing views and in great locations are worth every penny, considering I have paid more than twice this for a pitch at a campsite. It's great to just relax, read, and catch up with news and a movie or two.
It's what makes this trip here in Thailand even more special. Sure, camping is great, cooking your own food is cool too (but not that cool), but when you can get digs and food for a lot less than what you would pay to camp and eat in Europe, it would simply be crazy not to make the most of it and have some comforts.
Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
It's just 2pm here and 8am in the UK (6 hours), and it feels weird to know that all my loved ones are snoring their heads off while I'm sweating like a pig cycling through tropical landscapes.
So between the UK hours of midnight and 6 in the morning, that's when I'm cycling here. Just letting you know that's all in case you wake up in the early hours.
So a big splash out at £7, got me those beers of course, and half a deep fried chicken, some round potato balls, and 2 roti.
The roti I'm told they are called, are a thin pastry with a fried egg brushed on, carnation cream and sugar, and I like them a lot.
Cruising along on some lovely smooth and undulating roads, a familiar wobble started. The dreaded tyre side wall bulge. Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Evo though!
This is the second time in just over 7000 km's that I have lost a tyre this way. The first time was in Southern France on a Sunday with nothing open, and again today, a Sunday with nothing around, let alone open :)
But I was given advice some time ago, to cut a soft toothpaste tube down the middle and use it to line the inside wall of the tyre to stop the tube bursting out until I can get to a safe place to work on it.
So glad I did have that tube handy, as I managed another bumpy 25 km's to my digs, where I got to work replacing the tyre with my new spare Schwalbe I keep in my tool bag.
To the picture here; I have been suffering a few saddle sores of late and so it was time to use space-age technology - with wings, and start sticking them to the saddle to find the sweet spot, and it worked too.
The other stuff on the table is my breakfast for tomorrow which is now in the fridge. Lots of dried fruits and a healthy fruit shake.
I had a really comfortable-ish ride today and will continue to use these for the foreseeable future. The one on the table is HUGE and a little scary, but will save me using 2 or 3 others, and I believe they are very absorbent. Well the one on the table will drain a lake I'm sure.
Of course, the ladies in the chemist here in Bueng Kan were in fits of giggles, but I had taken my bike into the mall and took them all to the door to show them the saddle, which I hid under a waterproof saddle cover to save us all blushing.
So all good, digs are great and cheap, beer went down and is still going down really well, washing done, showered and an early night tonight, maybe.
I get to about 50 km's and I'm pretty much done these days. I try to push on, but I'm beat, I just don't have the go or push. I look for digs to just crash out in out of the heat.
I should be able to do so much more than that but I struggle, and we are not even talking mountainous terrain or fierce headwinds like I have been through in Europe. It's a concern for sure.
I've still managed to get thyroid medication and have a supply for some time with that, so that's fine. But regarding asthma inhalers, I haven't had any since India, and maybe that's part of the reason I run out of steam too.
It could also be the heat and humidity which is really high out this way, especially in the forested area's like I cycled through today where there can be no breeze and it's hard to breath with the air being so thick, and maybe a combination of all of the above.
Or dare I say it, but maybe a get a little bored some days. It's true, I'm cycling along hour after hour, nobody to talk to or laugh at :), I take in the views and play my music on my Bluetooth speaker.
But yes, after many weeks and months, it can get really hard to motivate yourself, to push yourself along. You know how it is, at the end of the day it's nice to have a chat and maybe a beer with a little company, or an argument even, oh I long for good ear bending :)
And no, it's not my age.
But anyway, you get where I'm coming from and that's my little moan out of the way. I know, I have a cheek.
The landscape today was quite beautiful. Undulating twisty roads and thick forest. Phu Wua wild life sanctuary is home to some 40 wild elephants, and hence the sign here in the picture.
I would have loved to see them crossing. There was one point I could swear I could smell them. It was so strong, it wasn't cattle, but something else even stronger, and I just stood there still looking into the forest to see if I could see them.
I did cross paths with 2 small snakes though. One tried to bite my tyre, it wasn't happy, and I got bit by a horsefly.
I didn't do all that many more km's than I did the previous few days, but I enjoyed the ride to day much more.
Last night I forced myself to eat at 2 small local shack type eateries. I sat down in one and was instantly given a plate of boiled rice and chicken with a bowl of chicken stock, and I didn't even ask. It must have just been the meal of the day :) Quite nice for £1
Then I called into another and had pork on fried rice with a fried egg. The egg didn't seem quite right so I put that to one side, but enjoyed the rest, even though I could still smell the roadkill odour of the egg. The beer was of course well received.
This morning I set out at 6.30 am with just a bottle of water, hoping to catch a roadside eatery, but nothing tempted me, so I bought a couple of yogurts and a coffee.
It was then that I decided to get off the main road and travel on the back roads, and it was the right thing to do. I met all manner of people and critters, and more barking dogs than I could count.
I came across some people picking things from a tree and I stopped by them and asked them what they were. A guy opened the skin of a 25mm round kiwi looking fruit.
Longan (lam-yai) is the fruits name, and inside it's kind of like a lychee but really sweet and tasty. They gave me about 50 in a bunch to take with me, which was really nice of them. I ate the lot less then a km away :)
I then came to a bridge in the middle of nowhere, and out popped a dozen soldiers with machine guns. They flagged me down and blocked the road.
Then they took turns standing with me for selfies :) So funny. But it's nice when things like that happen.
I put a lot of my recent mood and health blips down to food, so my aim today was to find muesli or other mixed grain and fruit cereal and a few tubs of plain yogurt to go on top of it. Bananas and milk too.
I couldn't find oats or muesli for 50 km's, but then found a 7 Eleven that had small tubs of granola and muesli style cereal, and plain yogurt, and bananas and a bottle of milk. I felt so much better after that.
Digs now, beer later.
Image: Taking buffalo for a walk
As you will recall from my earlier post today, great people fixed my stand, but then roughly 40 km's farther on, and just 4 km's from a 7 Eleven, the only place these last few days were I have been able to get muesli, plain yogurt and milk, the back wheel started sliding, it was a puncture :(
Just 4 km's to go after 70! I tried to ride on, but it was over, it just went flat and of course I didn't want to damage the rim or tyre.
Right across the road though was another petrol station, coffee shop, restaurant, and mini-market. Not a 7 Eleven, but still worth a shot. Nope, only coco pops, no milk or plain yogurt.
So I went into the restaurant and sat myself down, leaving the bike outside with a flat. The menu was of course pointless, so I pointed to a table with 2 men eating what looked like bowls of noodle soup.
I said "I want that one", and pointed at them and pointed at myself. Out came a fantastic beef and pork noodle soup, side salad, and loads of condiments. It was then time to work on the bike.
A police officer was kind enough to lend me some company and a hand, and we had a laugh and the bike was done, he gave me a cold bottle of water and I was on my way.
I passed the 7 Eleven and stocked up with muesli, yogurt and milk for breakfast, and just a few km's down the road I moved into some great little digs for under a tenner. ไพรเวท เพลส meaning Private Place, in Non Tan, Tha Uthen District
Tomorrow I will be passing right through Nakhon Phanom, and will see if I can pick up some more tubes. I still have 2 but could do with 2 more.
I love these tiny roadside resorts. Just a couple of rows of self-contained huts with everything you could need for a good kip.
In fact, I avoid the big town and city hotels now and stay in a resort before or after the town or city, as hotels can be a bit of a pain with the bike, whereas you just walk your bike straight into the resort digs.
Just 5 km's into my ride, the back tube went flat. I couldn't believe it. There was already sweat pouring (for want of a better word) out of me and I was so deflated.
My wonderful day of cruising through Nakhon Phanom was over. OK, so that's a bit of an exaggeration :), but it wasn't good, and at the same time you just know it's going to get sorted.
So over the road I went into the grounds of a Traffic Management company, of sorts, so I could use the shade of the trees while fixing the problem. I was turfed out within minutes, as to be expected :)
But next door the TM company was a little motorbike workshop, and so the owner and I set about putting the front tyre and tube on the back.
I really think there is a problem with that back tyre, with the little wire strands in the rubber. A manufacturing fault probably.
I then installed the new 700x32 tyre (the ones I already have are 700x50) on the front wheel and put the front tyre and tube on the back wheel, and I also used my last new tube, so it was so important I make it to a bike shop.
Now then, I paid £30 for that first spare tyre at the pokiest of shops in a small village a couple of days ago, but I just couldn't continue without a spare, and this guy was fully aware of supply and demand :)
That said, it did get me out of a real scrape today, so £30 well spent I say, sort of. Farther down the road I eventually reached the city of Nakhon Phanom, and quite a pretty small city too.
I found a bike shop who seemed to have pretty much everything. I bought a new 700x38 tyre which they fitted on the front. It was rigid so I wanted the front one in my bag as a spare because it folds.
I also bought 5 spare 700x38 tubes and a puncture repair kit. I broke 3 of my 4 tyre levers in the last few days, so this was a must.
I got steel tyre levers with the kit. All in all it came to £22. A bargain. It would have cost me more than that for 5 tubes in the UK.
Not completely sure, but could have had a different room tonight for twice as much (£20) with extras :O. I said no, I just want beer thank you very much.
I had asked for beer on my phone translator, but it must have just come out all wrong, although it did say beer. It's a very strange but wonderful country is Thailand, and the people are just great.
That said, there was a guy in a town yesterday who got right in my face, pointing his nicotine stained gnarly finger in my face outside a shop.
He was face on but then turned side on, usually a sign of a sucker punch in the UK, but here in Thailand I could just never imagine this being the case and I think he was just on another planet poor thing, so I kept my bike between us and moved on.
And so, this long and crazy journey continues. Lay on the bed in my digs typing this, on my second beer, and less then 50 km's today due to all the messing around, but hey, bet you can't wait for tomorrow :)
I could never get used to this humidity and heat. But of course I do appreciate that It's the rainy season and the hottest and most humid time of year.
I start my day cycling between 6 and 7am, then I'm pretty much drained and done for by lunch time. In Europe I could still be going at 6pm.
It's no wonder most people cycle tour South East Asia during the months of October and March when it is said to be so much more pleasant. I'm also told that it is much more pleasant down in the south and along the coastline.
But hey, I chose my dates and I do nothing by the book as you already know :), and sure, no doubt I would be cycling into the late afternoon during the dry season here too.
But I do feel completely knackered by about lunchtime. From the minute I leave the door of my digs in a morning, I'm almost instantly sweating and without even getting on my bike.
Throughout the morning I must drink about a litre of water an hour or more, then it really starts to get hot after lunch, so everyone heads for cover, trailing behind me :)
That Phanom was my target town for today and tonight, and it's not a bad little town at all really, or city I should say.
I found some tidy little digs on the waterfront, had some great food in a nice restaurant and a good few beers, and later I walked around the town and discovered parts I really need to photograph in the morning in daylight.
While just finishing my meal, the restaurant staff told me they were now closing because they were going for something to eat :/ I wondered of course what was wrong with the food here :)
Breakfast loaded up :)
This was the first time I had been asked for a white emigration paper, as my British passport is all stamped up with my Thailand visa until August.
She said she had to have it for the police. I said bring the police here, I want to speak with the police. I said I hadn't heard of this before and nobody had ever mentioned anything like this to me.
I almost said "do you know who I am?" but she would not have seen the funny side and I wasn't really in that much of a giggly mood either. I asked her again to bring the police here, and was now told it was OK.
Earlier I arrived in a city named Mukdahan, and from here I have 2 choices to get to a city named Ubon Ratchathani about 3 days ride away.
One is to go along the Mekong River some more and then head east and inwards, and the other is to head pretty much directly at it. It's looking like I will be heading directly at it, as I'm all Mekonged out :)
I found some really nice and modern digs and settled in, just in time before thunder and heavy rain. But, I now don't feel so comfortable here after a visit from the manager.
The digs were £11 which is great of course, and pretty standard for this style of self-contained ground level room in great condition. I was also deducted another £2 for the deposit on the key, again this is pretty standard stuff.
But then I was told I had to pay the deposit for the room key, which had already been taken out of my 1000 Baht note (£23). And this started confusion between who took the money and did I pay it.
Well we eventually sorted that little hiccup out, nothing major at all, but later on the manager came to my room and asked for my emigration white papers.
She had already taken my passport and photocopied all the pages, but now wanted white emigration papers, which I had no idea what she meant.
So if anyone has been asked for white emigration papers as well as their EU passport by a hotel or even roadside motel after being in Thailand for a week or more, please let me know what it's all about in case I'm asked again.
I'm over a week away from Cambodia and I'm ready for it now. I'm also still looking forward to the more touristy and coastal areas of Southern Thailand as I miss the ocean, so I'm not done with Thailand yet, far from it.
I want to see the beautiful coastline and clear waters, and do a little island hopping, and I want to get some seafood from the ocean and not a fish farm. I never get seafood from so far inland no matter which country I'm in.
That said, the Mekong River has fed locals for thousands of years and will continue to do so, and I'm sure the fish from here and farther up is pretty good, but I'm referring to farmed prawns, shrimp and some other creatures. Better and safer from the sea if the creature is advertised as a sea creature.
So as you can see by the map - that's me the little blue bicycle symbol - I've covered quite a distance since leaving Bangkok.
All the way up to the Vientiane in Laos then down along the Mekong River, which was really quite nice.
Now I've headed inland and headed towards Ubon Ratchathani, then west to the Chong Chom - O'Smach border crossing. About a week from now I will be crossing into Cambodia.
It's hard to imagine talking such long times (OK OK so I take longer than most ) to get anywhere on a bicycle, when in a car you could easily cover a weeks cycling in a day.
But anyone who has bicycle toured, knows that at touring speed, you see and experience things completely differently.
The purple line in Cambodia is my proposed route, taking in Angkor Wat.
I estimate around 10 to 14 days in Cambodia before reaching the border with Vietnam, where I will head to Ho Chi Minh City which is the green line, and there I will take time out and regroup.
So roughly a month from now I will be in Ho Chi Minh City, and this city is one I have really been looking forward to.
But I still have great things to see in Thailand and Cambodia. I'm a lucky guy hey.
Through India and Thailand, I haven’t had the chance to have my clothes machine washed until today.
I always, always wash my clothes at the end of every day, in the shower, bath or sink, but I always wash them.
Today however my clothes are getting a special treat, because the owner of my digs tonight, let slip that they do a washing service. Time to release the Kraken.
Call me cruel I don’t care, because my clothes need a proper machine was at least a couple of times a year. I make no apologies, except to the owners who will no doubt be beating them against stones. Not beating the clothes, their heads after accepting such an ungodly or even other-worldly challenge.
Also today :), in the 80 km's I cycled I must have seen a hundred statue style bicycles. They were everywhere and I have no idea why, but most were these huge fatbike looking things placed on concrete slabs.
There were also lots of ordinary bicycles painted white and stuck in the central reservation. I took the picture of one with writing, but have no idea what it means. Maybe it’s an area where bikes are manufactured, so if you can read it, let me know.
Great little digs here tonight in my own little place again. The owners have brought an ice bucket for my beer, and even a coconut with a straw in it for me to drink. Nice comfy bed and AC, great.
Well, I might have to sneak out in the morning in case the villagers gather early to beat me to a pulp after the washing situation :)
I love my flat pedals because it doesn't matter what shoes I have on I can ride the bike without damaging my shoes.
I can even ride the bike barefoot and have done a few times over very short distances. Thin jellies are no problem for flat pedals, but it's when they get wet that the problems start.
I don't want clips or those spiky pedals, and so don't think I would ever say goodbye to flat simple standard pedals.
What I have done in the past when my pedals get wet and slippery is put my neoprene gloves over the pedals and it works great, but wears on my gloves.
It worked great. Gave them a washout later and have another 4 pairs at the ready. Those little short sports socks cost next to nothing anyway.
What do you do with slippery pedals?
I didn’t get started until 9am due to the heavy rain this morning, but up to now it has rained most nights then stopped by about 9am, then starts again late afternoon.
This is fine by me because it leaves me a good 5 or 6 hours to get where I’m going without getting too wet for too long.
I’m in digs now and thought instead of a beautiful landscape pic, I would show you my fridge for tonight.
I healthy balanced diet is key when bicycle touring. Certain ingredients are vital, such as beer and chocolate and milk containing calcium for strong teeth and bones :)
Those 2 yellow liquids are just sports drinks I add to my water bottles in the morning with the water.
That's a nice easy days run for some, but in this heat and humidity it's going to take me 2 nice days. Or 2 more nights after tonight, because I'll try to find some digs as close to the border as I can to make a day of it crossing the border.
I haven't seen a single bicycle tourist in this bicycle touring wonderland :), not one, and that could be down to many things.
It's the rainy season and so really hot humid and wet. It could be because I don't follow any pre-designed or popular routes, or it could be that we are all going in the same direction at the same speed, and so will never meet :)
I can also imagine that many cyclist go pretty much directly between Chiang Mai and Bangkok, or Chiang Mai to Vientiane Laos, or any people with any sense will be in southern Thailand enjoying the islands and beeches, not out here in the sticks :)
I did meet a guy today on a fat bike with a Brooks saddle and with 2 rear panniers that looked sort of empty, and we had a little chat. I believe he had a shortish ride to work or something. Really nice guy.
I'm trying the food at my digs tonight as it says it is a hotel with a good restaurant. The proof is in my eating it I say. I've splashed out nearly £20 for the V.I.P room with bath and lounge chair.
I mentioned before I think, that I always stay clear of seafood unless I'm near the sea, and so have opted for chicken with this meal. I would go with duck over either seafood or anything else, but no duck on the menu.
I had one once in the UK years ago and it was nothing like this one. Well is was a lot this one of course, but this was bigger, juicier, and there was so much more inside it.
I bought 2 for a total huge weight of 2.2kg and just 50 pence. Fruit at the roadside is plentiful and pretty much on all the roads I've cycled in Thailand.
Coming up from Bangkok Thailand to Vientiane Laos, it was different to how it is now, not in a bad way, just different foods and fruits and even vegetables coming down from Vientiane to where I am now at Khu Khan.
Going up, there were wild honey sellers and lots of coconut milk sellers too. There are still coconut milk sellers this way but far fewer and much bigger coconuts.
Bananas along this way are more plentiful and less so the other way. I don't remember seeing Dragon Fruit going up the other way either.
What I'm saying is that despite the fairly short distance between the 2 routes, the foods sold roadside are different, or at least different in quality and size.
I'm glad too because it gives more more things to try. Look at this Dragon Fruit, doesn't it look amazing? I still don't eat roadside meats though out in the countryside :)
Leaving Bangkok it's all really fairly flat, but a few days later between Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima things changed. I had to climb up onto a huge plateau, and I'm still on it now weeks later.
It is the Khorat Plateau and includes the Isan region of more 20 provinces. The area is around half the size of the United Kingdom.
According to text, most of Thailand's rural poor live in the Isan region. The region has the lowest literacy rate in Thailand, and the majority rely on mobile phones due to landlines being extremely rare.
What I have done really is go up one side of this region and down the other almost, covering many of these provinces and I have met some wonderful and happy people with plenty of smiles to share.
I'm lucky to have experienced new foods and a way of life I didn't really expect. I had a picture of Thailand before I arrived and it was modern and tourist based, like something from a package holiday I guess.
But I knew if I took the route I did, I might find something completely different, and I did I think I did. Maybe I'll experience the holiday type atmosphere along the coast and in the south, but I'm glad I travelled the path I did here.
The plateau has felt like a big dish. Once up on it, it was a slow decent to the middle, before going up again to Laos, nothing drastic, but ever so slight.
Then it dipped again from Laos to where I am now, on the edge of the plateau ready to enter Cambodia.
For the last 120 km's or more, it has been a gentle rise to the edge of the plateau. About 1 metre every 1 km I'm guessing. There is now 40 km to go with an increase in assent of about 1.5 metres per 1 km. Not much, but just enough to make you notice.
Next is a huge drop off into Cambodia and off this plateau. As I've risen this last week, I have seen hay bales and even peanuts in their shells drying out in the sun. I wonder what I'll experience in Cambodia.
I’ve heard so much about Durian Fruit that I thought I’d just have to try it.
Especially given that I pass it at the roadside daily, and it has to be fresh right?
Well it sure doesn’t smell very fresh :)
But honestly, it didn’t smell as bad as I was led to believe.
I asked the young lady to crack one open and put the contents in a bag, then I took it up the road to a bus shelter.
It’s really hard to describe the taste as it’s a kind of taste you can smell if that makes sense.
Putting the fruit to my nose and it doesn’t smell bad, but bite it and chew it and you get a slightly sweet and yet bland fruit, with this not so nice slightly off kind of smell.
The smell taste wasn’t enough to put me off eating it, but it was from eating the whole thing.
I would say don’t be scared or put off trying it. I also think it would be good in a shake.
Would I buy it again? No
Hang on, not so fast Mr Peel!
My plan today was to make it to the border crossing but stay in some digs on the Thailand side for the night, but I just couldn't help myself could I :)
I reached the border before high noon, so decided I would get stamped up and then seek out some digs on the Cambodia side.
Hotel number 1 "move the bicycle". Hotel number 2 "put the bike around the side". Neither of those options were any good, so my only option really was to continue on until I find somewhere.
After battling fierce headwinds all day, and another 40 km's farther on, I finally found some digs that would allow my bike inside. In fact, these were the only digs I found, there are none of those lovely little resort hotels around here.
But, my little friend here at this hotel went and sought me some beer. 5 cans of Angkor for £2. No fridge in the room so it's down the hatch time and sleep.
The first visible thing I noticed after crossing the border at Osmach, was how much poorer it all seemed. There was litter everywhere, and most of the little stalls I passed at the roadside didn't even have refrigerators for the drinks.
Another thing I noticed was that nearly all of the little stalls were selling a sort of home brew in 2 litre plastic pop bottles.
The houses were all on stilts and it was just how I imagined it might have been a hundred years ago. That said, I was still greeted with lots of smiles and hello's and I did feel welcomed.
Oh, and remember my complaining about being asked at some digs for a little country entry docket that I was supposed to keep in my passport, well it turned out that this is a very important docket, so keep it with your passport.
I spent an hour explaining that I didn't have it and going through more photographs taken of me and phone calls being made, before the guys obviously were OK with me and stamped my passport.
On the Cambodia side they stapled their docket inside my passport, they must of heard about me :)
So anyway, here I am in Cambodia, and it really is amazing that I've made it this far and I'm so chuffed. I have an 80 km day tomorrow to the only digs I have found, and then a 60 km ride the day after which will take me Siem Reap.
I will spend a few days resting there and I'll check out Angkor Wat.
This image is the last one I took leaving Thailand.
I knew that the closest digs to me the next day was 80 km’s away, so I needed some real food last night as I had no solid food all day and it was 7pm.
I really didn’t like the look of the street food and the conditions it was being prepared in, it really was dire, so being as I was in a small town, I thought I would go for a walk to see what I could dig up.
1km and I came across a small supermarket, I asked if they took Thai Baht and they said no, so I went looking for a cash machine.
1km later I find an ATM and the option was Riel or US dollars. The security guard said I was to choose dollars as that’s what everyone uses. So ok I did.
I got back to the supermarket and was told that they didn’t accept US but did accept Thai Baht! I could have screamed.
Screamed because the shelves were full of crap. I ended up with the only half pint of milk, a packet of cereal and some Oreos, hardly the stuff I needed, but there was no way I was eating at the places in the town, it was shocking.
And so, 80 km’s to the digs and I’m told the bike would have to stay out front. Not good.
It’s now just 60 km’s to Siem Reap where there are tons of hotels and famous eateries for tourists flying in to Angkor Wat, but I was too knackered after battling headwinds all day and not having enough food.
I started heading down the road to see if I could get a lift to Siem Reap, and yes it was that bad. I couldn’t believe I was considering this after cycling 80 km’s.
There was nowhere to camp, it was rice paddies and rubbish unfortunately, and a lot of people.
I passed what looked like digs and a shop just 300 metres from the first digs, so I crossed the road and asked.
I’m now showered, 2 cold beers down my neck, bike in the room and looking forward to doing the 60 km’s to Siem Reap tomorrow.
2 or 3 days in Siem Reap to catch up on some food and as I’ve not had a rest day since Laos, it will be well deserved.
The reason was that although I had passed through some lovely places since Laos, none of them gave me the feeling I could just park up there for a couple of days.
But now I’m in Siem Reap, and it’s very different. Well it’s a tourist hotspot for one thing.
Most of the people who arrive here to see Angkor Wat, arrive by plane at the big airport, or by coach from bigger cities like Phnom Penh, and so experience very little of what life is like outside these hotspots.
As a bicycle tourist however, you get to see how places and people really are, it’s a completely different experience.
Landing in places like this, eating the westernised foods, drinking beer, sleeping in plush hotels, will not give you the real feel, but hey, I’m going to lap it up for a few days while I’m here :)
I’ve hurt muscle in my neck and have been having to stop to straighten up every few km’s and I’m also struggling to shake off a bit of a bad bug, so some rest and plenty of food will no doubt do the trick.
I had booked into the Mad Monkey Hostel for the next 2 nights over the Internet, but as I arrived a day early I turned up to book in for tonight as well.
I didn’t tell them I’d booked the next 2 nights already, I wanted to see how they dealt with this one night first.
Well I’d emailed them at the time of booking and told them I had a bike that needs to be secure in my room. They didn’t get back to me.
The reason was that they told me today that I would have to leave my bike outside. I told them that was not right and why did they not email me to tell me that, as I told them I’d booked 2 more nights.
No excuses just dumb expressions. So I told them to cancel my next 2 nights and I went and found a really nice hotel with proper security for my bike, right in the heart of the city.
Now for that chill :)
This was when I really felt sad for the roadside food sellers farther back and with hardly anything to sell. I felt sad for those with next to nothing, yet those same people had the biggest smiles so far.
So I enter Siem Reap and it's like another planet, almost. It's like a huge hostel for students and young people, but there are plenty of foreign visitors of all ages too, and whole families.
They fly in or get other forms of transport from neighbouring Thailand or Vietnam, or are just touring Cambodia on a package. It's a real shame they don't get to experience the people and landscape between the tourists spots, but then again I feel many would not be able to cope with some of the things they might see.
Each day I'm reminded how fortunate my own daughters are, with their own places to live, good jobs and ticking along nicely. I feel sad when I see girls the same age as my daughters, at the roadside selling bits of nothing to survive. But I carry on.
I'm happy to be here resting for a few days to stock up like a hamster ready for the next push with little between here and Phnom Penh. I estimate a good few days before I reach Phnom Penh, and places to stay are few and far between.
There is a supermarket near me right now that sells bread rolls, cheese, butter, and all sorts of goodies, so I'm going to top up my bags with as much food as I can carry, tinned meats and fish are also available.
I will of course continue to buy foods from the roadside, such as coconuts for the water, bottled water, some fruits, and other bits as I go.
Today was Angkor Wat day, and I didn't realise the area was so huge, there are temples all over the place.
It was suggested that it would be nice to have a bike ride around there, but I needed the rest from the bike and so got a tuk tuk driver for the day who was really nice and fast, he took no prisoners on the roads, although driving with an umbrella in front of his face when it rained was a bit unnerving.
So it was Angkor Wat, then another Wat, then another Wat, it was like Wat the..., how many are there! They were all magical of course and I took some nice pics to share with you.
The entrance fee was 37 US for 1 day, which I thought was pretty high, I could have built Angkor Wat for the half the price in half the time :), but seriously, it was really worth it, it was a good day.
I estimate it will take me a couple of weeks, as I want to stop in Phnom Penh to visit the Killing Fields Memorial.
The little houses on the map are places I pin that could be guesthouses or hotels that might be able to house me as I pass through. Not all turn out that way of course.
Many don't allow bikes inside, some don't exist other than on the map, some are restaurants and not places to stay, but I try to map them in places where they are limited, it gives me targets for each day.
Thailand had a place to stay every few km's it seemed, but it's very different here.
Once I reach Ho Chi Minh City I will be looking for storage for my bike and equipment for a little while as I have to return to the UK, so if any of you know of anyone, let me know please.
A number of reasons. One is the driving license craziness I mentioned a little while ago, which is still ongoing and I have to return to avoid court proceedings.
Another reason and the best reason of all, is to see my loved ones, I miss them all so much and need a hug :) Yes, I'm a really big boy, but I still need a hug :)
I also have other matters to attend which like the license situation, have to be done while I'm in the UK. I guess when you get old-er like me, you find yourself with quite a few more commitments and things to maintain and manage.
At 21 years old I gave up my job, my cat, my flat and everything I owned, and with less than £300 in my pocket I took off without any intention of ever returning to the UK.
I didn't give a hoot about finances and didn't have commitments, it was easy, and it was the 80's :) I did return though a couple of years later.
While away I worked in brick factories stacking bricks, on building sites, and even as a breakdance instructor in Australia. I did anything to earn cash to spend on just enjoying myself, just like young adults are still doing.
Not being a young adult now though, it's inevitable that things are going to need my attention, and my thoughts and views are also changeable.
If I can't find anyone to house my stuff, I will try to find some sort of self-storage units. Failing that, I will be taking all the gear home with me until I'm ready to return.
Hey, it's all good. I'm thrilled with my achievement to date, at 55 I've done a pretty good job for a first time bicycle tourist :)
In the meantime, I still have a few weeks of cycling to do through these amazing countries so keep following my progress.
I set out this morning after breakfast at the lovely Apsara Residence Hotel in Siem Reap, in the hope of covering just 62 km’s to the nearest digs I’ve spotted.
The reason for the short target days is the weather. For a while now the rains come down in floods from around lunchtime, and the roads become treacherous.
So getting to safety as quickly as possible is vital. It’s to be expected of course, it’s the rainy season after all, but the rains are now arriving earlier in the day.
It will go on like this until about October, when the dry season starts to come in, with lower temperatures and lower humidity.
It’s just 12.30 and I made the 62 km’s to the digs. The first room was £3. It had a shower room, bed of course and TV, but I soon realized it had no AC, only a very small fan, and a spider the size of my fist 🙂
I asked about the AC but instantly the price rocketed astronomically, reaching ever upwards to the dizzying heights of £6.
But it included a nice view and just 1 cocky huge gecko, which I’m sure winked as I stood glaring at it from the doorway. It’s going to pester me all night I just know it 🙂
Strange as it sounds, but I feel a bit of comfort knowing there’s something bigger than the spider downstairs, but smaller than me in my room, and that eats spiders.
So while paying for my room, the heavens opened. I arrived at the hotel just in time. It’s still raining now.
It’s not that I hate cycling in the rain, it’s just that these roads here become muddy and slippery, and don’t dry up completely between the heavy showers.
The potholes fill up with water so you can’t see they are potholes. The traffic is crazy on a dry day, but lethal in torrential rain as you can imagine.
There is nothing between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, other than very small working towns with little of Interest for tourists I believe.
But, I’m all snug now and dry with 3 cans of Angkor lager from reception to settle me in.
I will go for a wander later to see if I can find some bug spray, then I’ll do my spray and go for a walk while it takes effect. It won’t harm the gecko, all other geckos have survived my bug spraying.
260 km’s to Phnom Penh but at these speeds due to the rains it is still around 4 or 5 days away.
US Dollars, Thai Baht, and of course Cambodian Riel are all useable, at least in my own experience thus far.
So the money here on my table is the content of my wallet. It’s a crazy bundle.
You are usually given a price in dollars and riel. In the small markets it’s usually riel, but in the tourist spots it’s the dollar that shows first.
A dollar is roughly 4000 riel. You’re not offered cents in the change from a dollar, but instead are given riel.
So it’s easy to build up a wedge of very small riel notes when using dollars. If you still have baht it can still be used but not often.
There are a few sites I plan to see, so I have a tight schedule of the usually vague kind, but have managed to squeeze a few days in. Today the road was long but in pretty good condition, really great condition in some parts.
I passed all sorts of sellers, including km’s of women selling sticky rice still hot cooked in bamboo. Then there was virtually a whole town drying and selling fish.
And then came the rice sellers, a whole village selling and processing rice. And I even had time to save an eel that came out of the grass to cross a busy road. I had never seen a live eel before. Vigorous little critter it was.
Rohloff - my Speed Hub Manufacturer - read my post from the other day and put me in contact with a really nice bike shop owner in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam.
We exchanged some messages and he has kindly offered to take care of my bike while I take that trip to the UK. A nice day today with the weather, it didn’t rain until I was once again tucked in nice and snug in my digs.
All the way down from Siem Reap there have been government officials flying by in big cars and motorcades.
Lots of loudspeakers playing music and recorded Party messages.
Of course, the West are not happy about these elections and are calling them an end to democracy.
You would think we had Democracy in the West the way the media are going at this.
Some US citizens are in uproar over a democratic vote in the last election and doing everything they can to overturn it. Same in the UK.
I guess being able to fight democracy is in some way democratic.
It would be really easy to just pass through Phnom Penh without visiting these 2 memorials and places, but I just felt I had to visit them.
I've watched The Killing Fields like a lot of us have, and that was truly bad, but after cycling to Phnom Penh from Thailand via Osmach, and staying in small towns along the way, I got to experience how the ordinary rural people live.
It's a hard life for sure, but what I've found on this tour throughout all the countries where I've met people living at rock bottom is that; the poorest people have the biggest smiles.
The biggest brightest welcoming smiles have come from rural Cambodians. It's a big smile and it really is genuine.
Of course, get into any big city around the world and things can be very different. Phnom Penh is no different from most other big cities really.
Poverty, wealth, big cars, people living on the streets, people from all walks of life converging. Nighttime is seedy of course, prostitution is illegal but rife, and the whole place is lit up like a Christmas tree with thousands of bars and restaurants.
Tomorrow I set off again heading for Vietnam. I estimate around 5 days and I should be in Ho Chi Minh City, where I then have a few things to sort out. I'm looking forward to Vietnam.
I left my really great little hotel, Le Safran de Phnom Penh at around 8am. And headed out towards Vietnam, and wow, cycling through the chaotic traffic of Phnom Penh city was a real buzz.
My hotel for this short break was just perfect. I love being in a city, as long as I'm in the heart of everything but not sleeping above a nightclub, and this hotel was like a little oasis in the heart of everything. I will stay again if ever I'm back there.
Once through the crazy, I'm on the single long road to Vietnam. As the hustle slipped away there was still plenty of places to buy food and drink.
For km's there were people selling giant snails in baskets. The usual small stalls but with hundreds of big black and brown water snails for sale.
I'm told business is slow :)
50 km's along and I'm getting yet another coconut drink, when my very first bicycle tourist zips by, and in the same direction too.
He spotted me and let on as I turned around, and he turned around and we had a good chat before we both carried on.
Just minutes later, Raymond Lei from Taiwan had vanished. I looked behind and no sign, I even looking in front of me in case he had overtaken me in a flash. Then he popped out behind in the distance from the side of the road and waved me back.
I returned to find he had his first puncture in South East Asia. Not only that, but a spoke had at some point, probably months ago, pulled inward from the rim, splitting the rim and sending the wheel a little wonky.
New tube in, and it was time to address the rim rubbing on the brake pad as it wobbled. I helped Raymond true the wheel by adjusting the spokes to take some of the wobble out, and we were on our way.
We reached a town where I was staying for the night in a guesthouse. Raymond is only in his early 20's and is much quicker than I, doing 150 or 200 km's in a day no problem and has cycled in many countries in Asia and Australasia.
We shared a few beers at the guesthouse and parted ways. What a really nice guy and it was great to have some company, even for such a short while.
What a difference it makes to share some stories and a few beers with a fellow bicycle tourist, my first one in Asia.
The guy in the picture had seen my post about keeping some bananas on-board while touring, and has taken it a little too far. Either that or he has very long way to go.
I'm 46 km's from the Cambodia/Vietnam border, then it's how however many km's after that to find digs. There is no street view in Vietnam from Google, but I'm sure I'll sort a place out as usual.
A dusty 6am start this morning in Neak Loeung, but quite a decent day.
The road conditions are pretty bad from Neak Loeung to where I am now at Krong Svay Rieng. The driving lanes are fine, it's the hard shoulder and edges of the lanes that are bad.
Bumpy, lumpy and dusty, and there are so many speed bumps, thousands of them in tight grouping too. Bone shaking. But there are plenty of places to get food and drink from all along the way.
I found out that the price for electricity here in Cambodia can be more expensive than many countries in Europe, due to Cambodia not producing much themselves.
They have to buy nearly all of it from nearby countries, so now I understand why so many smaller shops don't have fridges here, they buy ice and have huge roadside cool boxes, most people just really can't afford it.
Then I met another great bicycle tourist, Mark, going the other way. He was traveling really light, compared to me anyway.
I traveled farther into Vietnam once I crossed the border which only took me 10 minutes and now it’s less than 50 km’s to the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.
My digs are nice and plush but hotels are thin on the ground up to now. Still, my bike is locked up, I’m showered, fed, beer down my neck :) you know the routine.
Get to within about 20 km’s of The Cambodian border crossing and the roads are the worst yet. You’re not going to believe me but even worse than Italy.
Potholes, dust, gravel, crazy drivers. There were times when the traffic almost had my nerves gone.
Near the crossing and it’s casinos. Quite a few of them. People cross from Vietnam to access the casinos in Cambodia.
For about 20 km’s into Vietnam and not that much has changed, although in Cambodia there is a hard shoulder on the highway. No hard shoulder yet, but maybe as I get closer to the city.
These goofy critters decided to cross the busy road in front of me in Cambodia.
A big thank you to Saigon Storage saigonstorage.com here in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam for looking after my bicycle during my absence.
My bicycle and some of my bags were taken in, and to help me out and because I am supporting JUMP Children's Charity and I'm a jolly nice fellow, no payment was asked for.
I of course insisted that I at least contributed something, and that was that. Great, my gear is stored and ready for my return.
So if you're struggling to find storage in Ho Chi Minh, for even the smallest of things, including your rucksacks and suitcase, as well as pretty much anything, contact Saigon Storage.
Thanks also to Rohloff for putting me in contact with a great guy in Ho Chi Minh who also offered to house my bicycle, and thanks also to him.
My flight is now booked for 9am in the morning, 18 hours long too, but really looking forward to seeing my loved ones and friends and getting a few things sorted.
And so, look out for my posts in the not too distant future, as I continue on my merry adventure.
Catching up later with a fellow bicycle tourist Raymond Lei for a few drinks while he is still here in HCMC.
Image from Day 1 of my Tour. 12 Countries ago.