I have said it before and I am willing to repeat it – I do prefer mountains to deserts. A mountain has a highest pass point somewhere and after that it is downhill. A desert has an end too, but while the a pass point on a mountain usually is reached in a day, it can take a month to cross a desert.
This said, when we left the hilly section between Luang Prabang and Vangvien in northern Laos, we started to look forward to the huge plains in Thailand. Of course there are big mountain ranges in Thailand too, but they are easy to avoid and that’s what we have done.
Cycling across the plains of Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region has been a pleasure. Gone are the days of hard physical endurance and we have got our pay back in the shape of a flat landscape, a steady tailwind and cool temperatures in the morning and not too hot in the afternoons.
We have crossed Isaan with our good old friend P’Ben who took one of his two weeks of annual vacation to come and meet us and join us on our ride towards Bangkok. P’Ben is a teacher at a university and is a busy man and he gets to cycle less than I’m sure he’d like to so it was great to see his big smile when he cruised with his bike along the roads of Isaan listening to old thai pop on from the mini loudspeaker he has mounted on his handlebar.
Traveling across Thailand has been different from all the other countries that we have visited before. Not that Thailand is very different in itself, it is we (at least Wej and P’Ben) who fit in here. The language barrier is completely gone and we can stop and talk to people who are usually very curious about our journey. I bet other people we have met in other countries have been just as curious but the difficulties in communicating have limited the conversation to the bare minimum.
Where are you from, where are you going, how many kilometers and when did you start are questions we have learnt to answer in many languages by now. When traveling in Thailand we get the same questions but since there is no language barrier anymore those questions are quickly answered and we can continue to discuss more deeper and interesting issues with people we meet.
One interesting thing with traveling through a familiar setting is that we take less photos – far less to be correct. I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, we don’t find things as exciting or exotic here and secondly, we are busy talking to each other or people we meet.
Cycling is a growing sport in Thailand and there are increasing numbers of Thais who travel overseas to do cycle touring. Apart from this blog, Wej also writes short notes on a thai cycling forum and when we started to approach Thailand she started to get questions what route we would take and when we would pass certain places.
When we passed a small town in Chaiyaphum province we met an old man who was waiting for us along the road. He knew that we were coming and wanted to join us for a day. This man is 70 years old and cycles around some 300 impressive km a week. It was great to get his company for a day. We did 135 km that day, but this gentleman did 175 before he got home. I hope I will be that strong when I am 70 years old.
Thailand’s capital used to be in Ayuthaya some 70-80 km north of Bangkok. The city was destroyed by the burmese around 250 years ago. It has lots of ruins and the city has a special meaning for all thais. Since we came from northeast and are heading to visit my hostfamily west of Bangkok Ayuthaya was straight on our route.
P’Ben had to leave us in Ayuthaya and return to Bangkok. Some local cyclists who read this blog and follow Wej’s thread on the thai cycling forum were curious about our trip and took us to a very nice restaurant on the riverside. We had a great evening together and we do hope we will meet them soon again.
The short distance and the very good roads between northern Bangkok and Ayuthaya attracts lots of cyclists and during the weekends the roads are filled with different groups that are training in the area. Some groups are hard core racing teams while other are more recreational cyclists who want to ride together to some place where they can have a cup of coffe or a bowl of noodles before returning home.
Today two separate groups cycled up from Bangkok to visit us. One was a minigroup consisting of two of Wejs close cycling friends while the other group was a larger group of senior cyclists who wanted to come and meet us. We had lunch with them before we split up and they returend home. We will see them soon again since this group will ride with us on our final cycling day into Bangkok.
We have camped in every country since Bulgaria and we have pitched our tent at many different places. Some have been extra ordinary beautiful while others have been boring sites just out of sight behind a bush somewhere. The night before we entered Ayuthaya would be the last possible night for us to camp so we had to make something extra out of it.
In Chaibadan district in Lopburi there is a large dam with a low bridge leading across it. On its western shore there is a line of fish restaurants and when we arrived there to have dinner we asked where we could camp. The restaurant owner pointed to the Buddha statue that faced the water just across the street and told us to pitch our tents on the platform.
It was just a great way to conclude our long trail of camp sites. After a great fish dinner at the restaurant we showered in the restaurants bathroom before going to bed. We felt safe with Buddha keeping an eye on our tents and the stray dogs that would ensure that we would wake up if anything happened.
The name of our journey is ”Cycling from home to home” with the subtitle Göteborg-Bangkok by bicycle. Many people have asked where the trip will end and we can now say that it has three ends….. The journey from Göteborg to Bangkok ends in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok while the trip from home to home has two ends. Wej ends her home to home trip outside the blue door to her home in Bangkok while my home to home trip ends in Banglen where I used to stay as an exchange student many years ago.
When I write these few lines I sit in a guesthouse in Ayuthaya. It is late and time to go to bed so that I am prepared for the cycling tomorrow which is a special day since it is the day we will ride to Banglen and I will conclude my home to home journey.
We will try to update with some photos and short comments during the day so it may pay off to check our blog a few times during tomorrow (Sunday 24 nov.)