It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

From The Archives ...

Sorry it's been a bit quiet on the blog of late, but sometimes life is quiet and there's not much to write about.  I was reading through some old newsletters from when we were living in Bangkok and remember this day so clearly that I thought you might like to experience it with me.  The "we" I'm referring to is my brother Thomas, our cousin Martin (aka Moose) both of whom were visiting from Adelaide, and myself.

Bangkok 25th October 2006

Just back from our amazing bike tour of Bangkok. 
Check out their website at www.realasia. net and go to
ABC Amazing Bangkok Cyclist Tour on the left hand
side. We had a fantastic time and I'd certainly
recommend it to anyone who came to stay - I'd love to
do it again!

We left from their offices just off soi 26 at around
10.30am after meeting our guides, getting a little
instruction, finding our bikes and meeting Charlie and
Ellie (about 60 years old) from Amsterdam who were the
other two people on our tour.

The bikes were old style Raleigh with no gears, very
comfy seats, baskets and carriers - great bikes! 

We peddled at a constant, but very comfortable, speed
through the tiny back sois of Bangkok. Past peoples
open homes, waving at their children, saying hundreds
of "Sawadee ka's" to everyone who waved and smiled. We
had a guide at the front and back of our snake of
bikes, so no-one got lost.

We had a good ride through Klong Toei market and Goy,
one of the guides, stopped and bought us snacks -
sliced dragonfruit and roti sai mai (hot thin crepes
filled with sugary floss - wonderful) which we stopped
and ate with bottles of water to keep us hydrated. It
was about 35 degrees and very hot.

Rode through some tiny villages over water on very
narrow paths and you could see village life going on
all around you, everything was so close and I swear at
one point I rode through someone's front room, but
they just smiled and waved.

We rode on for about 45 minutes and ended up in a
monastry by the Chao Prya river. Had a quick break
and went and had our fortunes told at a little altar
by shaking a container of sticks until one fell out
and then reading the corresponding fortune. 

Cycled on a little further until we reached the klong
boat stop and parked our bikes on a reasonably large
floating platform to wait for our boat to take us
across the river. Charlie must have decided to park
his bike in a completely different place to the rest
of ours and about two minutes later he yelped as a
boat went past, rocked the platform, and his bike
(complete with his backpack, digital camera and
wallet) went over the side and disappeared into the
deep filthy water. 

The guides were wailing and we were all open mouthed
with shock. Charlie started to take his shoes off and
dive in after it, but we stopped him (heaven only
knows what diseases you'd catch!). The guides were
running around like startled cats, the locals on the
pontoon were wetting themselves with laughter, Charlie
and Ellie were puce with horror, and Thomas, Martin
and I watched with amazement.

A bunch of locals came over to offer their advice. 
Someone got a mop to see if that would reach (no way -
it's really deep) and I'm not sure what good
mopping it would have done anyway! After about 15
minutes of scurrying around, a fast klong boat arrived
with two young Thai guys in it. There was a brief
discussion in Thai with the guides and the next minute
the youngest guy puts on one of those old diving
helmets that you see in the movies (but this one
looked like it had been made from an old oil can with
a bit cut out for your eyes), attached a breathing
tube, turned on a compressor, and leapt over the side!

We all gathered around, but no-one could see anything
through the water that looks like milky coffee. Less
than a minute passed and he re-appears with the
backpack and hands the other guy a rope that he's tied
around the bike. The bike is then hauled back to the
surface and the guys get a huge round of applause from
us and the locals who've gathered. 

Charlie and Ellie couldn't believe it. I think they
were still in shock from it all going over the edge,
and the next thing it's all back in front of them,
dripping but intact. We pulled our little group
together, took a bunch of photos and got into our boat
to cross the river, a little later than planned.

Had a great ride around a very green island where
there was so much vegetation on either side that you
could almost hear it growing. You got the feeling
that if you came back tomorrow, maybe the paths
wouldn't even be there.

A lot of the paths we took were about one metre wide
and were suspended above water, with no rails on
either side. I got a little bit wobbly from time to
time, but the terror of falling off into the polluted
water kept me rigid with fear and upright throughout.

Had a great lunch cooked for us at someones house (a
choice of pad thai or fried rice) and then rode back
to our boat, back across the river, and back through
the streets of Bangkok to their office.

Never thought I'd say that I enjoyed riding 18-20km in
35 degree heat, but it was the best tour I've ever
done and I'd do it again with no worries at all. 

Great bikes, great guides, lots of local food tasting,
lots to see and the mind numbing thrill of riding a
bike along Sukhumvit Road at rush hour all add up to
make it unbeatable.

They're still running the tours and you can get more information here

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