Sunday, 24 July 2011

Bangkok to the beach


So you are probably thinking that a bike-ride down the East coast of Thailand would be all smooth flat roads running under palm trees along lonely beaches with the odd pastel fishing boat yawing on the gentle lazuli swell while sheer faced islands float upon the horizon. That perfect camp spots are easy to find on grassy meadows by the sea where the sun can be watched rise and fall and shells as shiny as treasure can be found along with unknown creatures when the short tide reveals its rocky nooks and pools. That the natives wave and smile and welcome you to their country when you meet them collecting molluscs in the early light.  If something along these lines is what you imagine this stretch of our journey is like then congratulate yourself because you’re right.

Oh, of course we have encountered a lot of problems too like, um, like, hang on I wrote a list so I wouldn’t forget, where is it now.. ah, here it is : sand, big problem, I love beaches but they are often sandy, sand in the tent, sand in the food, sand grinding always on our chains and cogs; ants, yep, our friendly relationship with the busy little chaps has turned a bit sour in Thailand. Last night (after a few sundowners under a coconut tree, which I guess is a potential problem itself) we both needed a pee in the night. Having seen the amount of snakes squashed on the roads we decided at least to put our sandals on and both got about 3 yards before we started shrieking and scratching. I thought at first it was jelly fish (still a bit sleepy) then remembered there were no air jellyfish. It was red ants, thousands. They had for some reason decided our sandals; left in front of the tent would make ideal foundations for a few new high-rise condominiums in the Formosa style. Back in the small tent a serious ants in the pants dance was performed. These tough little fellas would not let go.  In the morning I found a dozen squashed little bodies still clinging with their clenched jaws to my more sensitive parts; Sun, it is hot and it burns and lastly, headwind, all the way from Laos it has been against us, not strong, not constant, but every day and always blowing the wrong way.
 I am sure some people manage to find some real thing they don’t like about Thailand, but it can’t be easy. There is the sex tourism angle I guess, can’t say I know enough about it to make a valid comment. We see sometimes in the bigger towns the odd grey haired white guy drinking a coca-cola with a Thai girlfriend half his age, a bit weird but there must be something in it for both of them. We imagine how hard it must be to keep such a relationship going, more with the cultural difference than the age one., I mean, we find it hard what with Anja being  foreign and all (and the Sauerkrauts are quite normal really once you get to know them)!!
Leaving Bangkok was relatively simple. The town planners tried to get us lost with a lot of one way systems  but they had not counted on us having a handlebar mounted compass (thanks Derek) that, through dead reckoning, brought us always back on course. We had to make a certain allowance for sideways drift in the strong, cross-town motorcycle currents and avoid a few uncharted hazards but soon we were making 12 knots 240 degrees east into a stiff headwind down highway 35, the major and at this point only road leading to the south of the country.
After 85kms of dull but safe cycling we turned south on route 2021 (nearly all roads in Thailand have numbers and milestones every kilometre (can’t yet bring myself to say kilometre stone)) and felt  pretty pleased with ourselves as we rode through salt, fish and shrimp farms where long legged birds waded and sifted and 5 foot lizards thrashed about in the mangroves.
We camped again in the grounds of a Buddhist temple where the unflustered monks brought us cold drinks and giant candles. Both the act and the wax lit up our evening.  We were shown a block with showers and toilets, a shower after a day in this sticky heat being well, not a godsend I suppose, but let’s say a welcome gift from Sidney Arthur. In the morning we received a visit from the school head teacher  as it seemed the shower block belonged to the school.  I tried to imagine a similar situation in England: two grubby, sun-faded travellers are found in a small village, sleeping in the school/churchyard and making free use of the facilities. Would the head teacher call the police or insist they come in for coffee and doughnuts? I am not sure what they would do but I don’t imagine the vagabonds would  be introduced to the kids and filled with cakes and hot beverages like we were.  We wonder if we get specially treated because we are foreign and our skin is a different colour!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hallo Bolli,
danke für Deine Geburtstagsgrüße.
Weiterhin viel Spaß wünscht