Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why this journey – a tribute to Saeng

While we still cycled in Sweden we took the opportunity to visit friends who live along our route. One day we stayed at our friend Ulrika’s place and when having dinner together I couldn’t avoid taking a look at the blackboard on her kitchen wall where some words of wisdom were written above a shopping list.

I couldn’t stop looking at that motto that so clearly put words on why we set out on this journey. Why worry about what comes after this life – isn’t it better to focus on the life we are living here and now???

When we made our project to cycle from one home to the other official, people usually told us they also have dreams they wish to carry out some day, but also how they are prevented by the many obstacles in the everyday life. I know how this sort of arguments work because I have also been seeing obstacles rather than possibilities.

While we still were in China we put the order for our new cycling shirts and Wej asked Saeng, a friend in her cycling group, to pick up the shirts from the print shop and send them to us. Saeng liked our shirts so much that she told her other friends who started ordering shirts for themselves. Orders came one by one and everytime we had access to internet Wej and Saeng talked to each other over skype or line.

Saeng and her partner and soulmate P’Nop are both 1000 % cyclists. When Wej spent a year in Thailand they were all in a group that did cycle tours all over Thailand. Since then Saeng and P’Nop have moved on and started to focus on training and competing in road cycling. Even I have cycled with them and I can tell that both of them have legs of steel.

Saeng and her soulmate P'Nop before a ride in November last year

Saeng and her soulmate P’Nop before a ride in November last year

For a while the plan was that Saeng, P’Nop and some of the people in the photo below would come and meet us in Luang Prabang and ride with us to Bangkok. Since both Saeng and P’Nop have sold their MTB:s we even discussed that Saeng should borrow the MTB I have at Wej’s house. Their plans to go to Luang Prabang had to be cancelled for various reasons and later Saeng told Wej she didn’t feel well and couldn’t cycle anyway.

Last weekend were very happy since we first finished our trip to Bangkok and then Wej’s trip from home to home. We looked forward to happy times while relaxing and seeing friends in Thailand and everything was good until Tuesday morning…..

When I came out from the bathroom after my morning shower Wej looked at me with a pale face and said that she just got the information that Saeng had passed away. It felt like time froze until we got it confirmed that she had succumbed to a very rapid disease.

The funeral rituals are carried out in Saeng’s parents home in Suphanburi province some 130 km NW of Bangkok. Wej and I went there yesterday together with friends in our cycling group. We will go again on Friday and then to the cremation on Sunday.

Ton, A, P'Ben, Joakim, Wej, P'Nop and P'Wichit in front of Saeng's coffin

Ton, A, P’Ben, Joakim, Wej, P’Nop and P’Wichit in front of Saeng’s coffin

Yesterday night when I was sitting listening to the monks chanting prayers with my palms put together in a wai position, I could see the coffin with a photo of Saeng sprinting fast on her race bike. At that very moment I remembered the words of wisdom written on Ulrika’s note board and connected it to the thai saying that we all know when and where we were born, but nobody knows when it is time to leave this world.

Although sad over the loss of a friend I am at the same time glad that we got ourselves together and carried out this journey of our dreams and I would like to tell you all to not wait to live your dreams later. Live them now 🙂

See the opportunities and not the obstacles – one day it will be too late to live the dream.

Day 167-168 (Banglen – Bangkok)

PLEASE NOTE – the journey is over but the blog is not. We will update it with a few more articles before closing it.

When I first arrived in Banglen back in March 1987 the place was much smaller and very unlike what it is today. There was for example only one phone in town and that was in a house at the market and a man clocked all calls with a stop watch. Roads were not good, there were no cyclists and certainly not any bread or coffee available.

Today the situation is completely different. Banglen has grown from a large village to a small town. There are a number of factories around and traffic lights at the main intersections, people run around with smartphones and there are a couple of minimarts where for example bread and dairy products can be bought which would have been very exotic in 1987. Early this year a nice bakery and coffe shop was opened where pastries and coffee as well as pork chop with french fries can be bought.

If I hadn’t followed the development in Banglen and Thailand continously during the 25 last years I would certainly not have recognized the place by now. It is amazing what a big change that has been put through in such a short time.

Riding on small roads between rice paddies

Riding on small roads between rice paddies

In the western world it is not at all uncommon to take a sabbatical year and do something else for a change. Cycling across a continent is maybe an odd way to spend such a year, but as said it is not at all unusual. In Thailand the situation is different. People work hard, have short vacations and it is hard to get visa to at least the western world so very few Thais make long distance cycling tours in foreign countries.

Apart from this blog Wej has been writing on a thai cycling forum and when we were about to enter Thailand she made an open invitation for anyone to follow us. One friend followed us from the border to Ayuthaya and we have also met a few other cyclist along the way.

Leaving Banglen

Leaving Banglen

When it was time to leave Banglen for Bangkok a cycling club announced they would escort us to the city. We made an appointment at the café and I bet the workers there must have been as surprised when 30 cyclists turned up a Saturday morning as I would have been by finding a loaf of bread at the Banglen market back in 1987.

The club leader had visited Banglen a few days earlier to check what route to take and he must have done a good job. The road we cycled on was very small and went past green rice paddies and orchid farms.

Riding on that sort of road is much more interesting than going on the big roads. Since there was so few cars on the small roads it was possible to cycle side by side and Wej and I tried to talk to as many as possible of our fellow cyclists.

Riding with a well dressed lady

Riding with a well dressed lady

Curious cyclists asking questions and checking out our equipment

Curious cyclists asking questions and checking out our equipment

After some 10-15 kilometers another group of cyclists from Nakorn Pathom joined us and our escort had now grown to around 50-60 people. It was an amazing feeling to ride in such a big group knowing that they had come all the way to ride with us – or perhaps mainly Wej – into the finishing line in the midst of the mega city. Some cyclist had to return before we reached Bangkok and some parted to go to their homes, but we were around 25 people who rode into Wat Arun on Saturday at 3 PM.

I have never been photographed so many times in one day and once at the official finishing line at Wat Arun the photo spree continued.

At Wat Arun (temple of dawn) together with the group that escorted us into Bangkok

At Wat Arun (temple of dawn) together with the group that escorted us into Bangkok

Thailand’s biggest cycling magazine have interviewed us a week ago and turned up to take photos on our arrival to Bangkok.

Wej and the journalist from the thai Cycling Plus

Wej and the journalist from the thai Cycling Plus

Klättermusen have been so kind to sponsor us with a jacket and a pair of pants each. These clothes are usually seen on Mount Everest, Greenland or the south pole, but now they have been spotted in downtown Bangkok too. We have had very good use of these clothes that have protected us from wind, sun, mosquitos, snow and even rain to a certain level. Thanks a lot Klättermusen.

Klättermusen Einride jackets - a rare sight in Bangkok

Klättermusen Einride jackets – a rare sight in Bangkok

We then had to rush to the dinner we were going to host for our friends. Since we were a bit late we had to sprint as quickly as our legs and the traffic allowed and when we finally got there most of our guests had already arrived and received us with applauses and hugs.

P'Mam, Wej and Bartek - our brother in arms in the central asian deserts

P’Mam, Wej and Bartek – our brother in arms in the central asian deserts

It was a nice dinner and although not everyone could come due it was great to finally see our friends. Wej’s mother is getting older and doesn’t want to go out late so she didn’t come to the dinner. After mingle, dinner and a slideshow Wej and I stayed the night at a nearby hotel so that we could arrive to her home when her mother was awake.

We finished my home to home trip in Banglen a week ago, then it was another 70 km to Wat Arun where we finished the Göteborg-Bangkok trip. The distance from the hotel to Wej’s house is about 4 km. When we left for the last ride to her house we didn’t really want our journey to end so we made a little detour and ended up on Silom Rd where we had lunch.

Wej bringing her bike back to its birthplace.

Wej bringing her bike back to its birthplace.

Wej’s bike has now done about 50.000 km and was bought in Bangkok 8 or 9 years ago – we couldn’t resist the temptation to take a ride to her bike’s birthplace…..

The distance we have cycled from Göteborg to Bangkok is roughly 15.000 km and luckily we haven’t had any more accidents than Wej’s fall in Georgia when she hurt her knee. When were cycling through Lumpini Park with about 2 km left to Wej’s family house I almost got involved in a wildlife accident in the midst of Bangkok. It was broad daylight and we were biking very slowly when I heard Wej shouting loudly STOP….

Mr. Lizard - if you were a cat, we would say that you only have 8 lives left now ;-)

Mr. Lizard – if you were a cat, we would say that you only have 8 lives left now 😉

I braked quickly and discovered I had stopped about 30 cm from a large lizard. They are often seen in the park and I don’t know why I didn’t see it. That lizard now owes Wej a big thank you….

Riding through the Lumpini Park

Riding through the Lumpini Park

After leaving the park and a frightened lizard behind us we rode for about a kilometer on the huge Sathorn Road, before turning left into Soi Suan Plu into the area where Wejs house is. The first ones to spot us was Wej’s nephews who were playing outside the house. Soon everyone who was at home came down. Wejs mother presented us with jasmine garlands and lots of photos were taken before we could enter the house.

Finally together with Wej's mom and the rest of the family

Finally together with Wej’s mom and the rest of the family

This was the endpoint of Wej’s journey from home to home. It isn’t however the end of this blog…. We still have a few articles to write where we sum up things so check out the blog every now and then the coming week.

Most of the photos in this post is taken by Sakkapol Tungsongpaiboolya who has also designed our shirts together with Araya Ponkhumheang. Thanks to both of you for all your help.

After publishing this post we got the link to a 4 minute long video from our last cycling day made by Ugrid Milintangkul who rode with us from Banglen to Bangkok. Enjoy