Archive | May, 2013

Thai Ride

29 May

Greetings. I am in Bangkok, just about acclimatised to the heat and humidity. The first few days here I couldn’t leave the hotel room for 5 minutes without looking like I had just had a shower. Rehydration salts have become part of my daily diet; as has Chang the local beer thanks to Jennie my friend from university with whom I have spent the last 2 and a half weeks with.

We stayed in Bangkok for a few nights, wandering round the bars and restaurants and even visiting a few of the sights while we were here. Then we hopped on a bus up to the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai, thinking that it may be a little cooler and the riding superior to the south. The bus was a treat in itself compared to India, air conditioning, comfy seats, a loo and films showing. In Chiang Mai Jennie bought a bike (her bike in England needed some work and had to tackle the coast to coast tour a few days after she arrived back) and the next day we set off in the direction of Chiang Rai near the border with Laos and Myanmar. The riding was pretty nice, generally flat, smooth tarmac and plenty of places to stop. We also had a couple of stunning days climbing and descending through knobbly tree covered hills, crossing rivers and cycling through vast plantations of litchi (the best I have ever eaten).  It took us 5 days to reach Chiang Rai, not an impressive speed but a nice speed to cruise at, it was her holiday from work after all.

After a couple of days we hopped on a bus back down to Bangkok after a trip to the white wat, a Thai temple designed by a local artist. Most of the wats in Thailand look pretty similar; gaudy gold and red affairs, admittedly with nice patterns on them but not to my taste. The white one however is one of the most interesting religious buildings I have seen, using similar sharp swirls as the traditional temple but all in white and silver and a distinctly gothic feel, lots of skulls, bones and 2 huge statues brandishing weapons at the entrance. Definitely worth the ride away from the bus station on a massive busy road.

On our return to Bangkok we hopped on a bus taking us 2 hours south east of the city and then a ferry 12km out to Koh Si Chan, a small island mainly frequented by Thai’s for a weekend getaway. It was a very relaxing little place where we rented a scooter and rode to little beaches, up to high points for nice views and to the many seafood restaurants that it is famous for. After a few days and a trip to a smaller island we reluctantly pushed ourselves back to the sprawl of Bangkok to get a few things sorted, like selling Jennie’s bike, backing up my photos for her to safeguard in England and last night Jennie got on a plane back to England.

So tomorrow my trip will again go back to frugality after being treated to nice hotels, good food and beer daily. I will also have to get used to my own company again after a period of constant company and plenty of chums in Pokhara. I am excited though; I feel ready to get moving again, I am keen to ride and have even fattened up a little bit (relatively speaking). I have new countries to explore, new people to meet and most excitingly new food to try. The food here is vastly different to India and Nepal and gets me excited everyday. I see things that I have never seen before in my life but still haven’t had time to try them yet. But I will save some of the culinary delights I have tried for my next post.

So tomorrow the compas will be pointing east, to Cambodia. The rough plan is to tour Cambodia, maybe ride along the seaside for a breeze, then aim north, up the narrow, hilly strip that is Laos to cross into Vietnam and then ride down to the South zig-zagging my way across the map. But that is a rough plan, we will see what transpires. I hope everyone is well at home. It’s nice to hear that the ladies at Tynwald are still reading about my adventures. I will try and keep you more up to date whilst I am here after a sojourn in Nepal. And James, Happy Birthday for the other day!

Goodbye Nepal

9 May

Hello everyone. So it has been a long time since I wrote last. You may have realised that I am back from trekking and not stuck somewhere in the Himalayas.  I will start where I left off, at the start of my trek.

Rosanna and I left or guest house and I had my first taste of walking with my backpack full of clothes, sleeping bag and dried foods to the bus station where we I got my first good view of the mountains.  On the first day we picked up a Swiss guy, Jerome,  who walked with us for the next 10 days. Life on the trek generally started at about 6 in the morning in order o get nice clear views of the mountains, and walk before it got too hot (not a problem later). Normally we would walk for 4-6 hours with short breaks to eat food or refill our water bottles. Then we would arrive at a village where we would get a room and eat dahl baht (rice, lentils and veg) and then sleep early ready for the next day. That was pretty much the daily routine, get up eat, walk, eat, and sleep. It might not sound very interesting, but when you are surrounded by lots of big mountains,  glacial rivers, yaks and big birds circling in the sky there isn’t much more you want to do. It took us 9 days to reach the ‘world’s highest pass’ , the Thorung La, at 5416m and then another 4 days to Tatopani for some hot springs and one final climb to Poon Hill where I watched the sun rise illuminating a backdrop of mountains. I would go into more detail about the scenery, but you can see for yourself when I buy an card reader and upload photos (my camera cable has gone astray).

The trek has to be one of the nicest things I have done, I can’t recommend it highly enough to people. Not only are the views nice, the feeling of getting somewhere through your own steam is satisfying, but there is a nice community of people who you keep bumping into. Ok, so it’s not very remote, but it is easy to do; you don’t need a porter or a guide as the trail is good and accommodation is cheap and plentiful. They sting you on food, but that is why Rosanna and I took about 4kg of grub with us. If you get the chance then it is certainly an experience to remember.

Anyway that all ended about a month and a half ago now, since then I stayed put in the land of milk and honey, Pokhara. The plans to teach went out the window after a couple of weeks there along with the guilt of being lazy; I realised that I was staying in a nice place and I had made a nice circle of friends and that I didn’t want to move, so I didn’t. Over the last 8 months I had spent a lot of time by myself, lacking a lot of the travel experience that comes from meeting other travelers, so it was exactly what I wanted, to get to know people well, and have fun. My days consisted of playing cards, eating fairly plentifully (especially from the bakery), swimming, fishing on the lake, trying to build up my upper body and whiskey to mention a few. I even went for a few bike rides but was limited by a broken pedal until I arrived back here in Kathmandu.

Anyway a new beginning starts tomorrow when I fly to Bangkok. I am meeting my friend J there and we will travel together for the 3 weeks she has off work. I am very excited to reach South East Asia, somewhere completely new for me. But I am most excited about the food, especially from the street (which Nepal and NE India lacks). Anyway once again apologies for leaving it so long.

If you are interested I knocked together a video of a few sights from my trip which you can watch here: