This day was an one of the most important days of our journey since It was the last day of my journey from home to home. We split the day in two halves and the first half was the 53 km ride from Ayuthaya to Pathum Thani to visit P’Ya and her family.
P’Ya used to be a teacher at the school in Banglen that I went to during my exchange year. She was my counsellor and Thai teacher and she and her family became my close friends and we have kept the contact ever since. P’Ya and P’Aeks daughter Araya and her friend Kong are the ones who have designed our new cycling shirts. Unfortunately Araya wasn’t at home to see the shirts she designed in real life, but we will come back later to show them to her.
We stayed at P’Ya’s house for about three hours before we set out on the second half which was the 55 km to Banglen. Technically P’Ya’s house isn’t in Bangkok but since the city has grown a lot in all directions her suburban town is surrounded by big and busy roads that aren’t fun to ride a bicycle on. Nowadays one has to get almost all the way out to Banglen before getting a sense of being on the countryside.
When apporaching Banglen I couldn’t stop thinking of the first time I went there. It was a day in mid March 1987 and I was only 17 years old and jet-lagged. My host family had picked me up at the exchange organizations arrival camp in Bangkok and we were 7 people squeezed into the family’s car when I got my first glimpse of Banglen from the top of the little bridge over the Tha Chin River that flows through the at that time very small town. I remember when crossing that bridge the penny finally dropped that I had a great adventure ahead of me.
The bridge is certainly not any Golden Gate – it’s just a simple white painted concrete bridge which there must be several thousands of in Thailand. I have crossed it uncountable times since the first time but now when it was time to cross it this time I felt similar emotions as when crossing it 26 years ago. First time it marked my entry into Banglen and the beginning of a great challenge, adventure and new relations to people I still hold dear.
Passing the bridge this time was emotional in another way. If my first passage of the bridge was the start of something great, then this latest crossing marked the end of a great adventure. It is hard to understand that what we have been through and experienced between the gates to our home in Göteborg and passing that bridge. I think we both will need some time to let it all sink in.
Before going to my host family’s present house we had to do a tour of Banglen and visit some important places. First stop was in front of the family’s old house where I stayed as an exchange student. I haven’t been inside the house for many years but seeing it from the outside still feels like looking at a home.
Next stop was at the local temple to pay respect to the deceased father in my host family. He was an active layman in the temple and I have spent many hours with him there to see and learn how life is going on at a thai buddhist temple. Where ever he was going in Banglen he did it by bicycle with his dog sitting on the rear rack and I am quite sure that he would have approved of our mission to cycle from Sweden to Thailand.
It was late in the afternoon and after the visit to temple we headed straight for my host family’s house 2-3 km away. The journey isn’t over yet – we still have the ride to Bangkok left – but for me the feeling when cycling the 1 km from the main road along a small local road to the family’s house was something like the participants of the Tour de France must feel when they cruise along the Champs-Élysées towards the final goal.
The family was out at the gate waiting for us and after lots of hugs we stepped through the gate and discovered that the kids in the family had used coloured chalks to write welcoming words on the ground – just like the cycling fans do on the roads in the alps during the Tour de France.
I had been in contact with the family throughout the day and they had promised that it would be a barbecue dinner that night. It tasted lovely and we had a lot of food, a few beers and long stories to tell each other. It was a Sunday evening and the children had to go to bed early but as usual Mat, P’Ngoan and myself stayed up far too late discussing both serious and crazy matters. It feels great to finally be here with all of them.