In Vientiane I needed to buy some contact cement, that glue where you coat both pieces and let it tack dry before pushing them together. Trying to find it using charades was not looking promising but somehow I spotted a shop selling faucets and figured it was a good enough link to being a hardware store. When the lady understood my charades and pulled it off the shelf I could hardly contain my excitement. Ryan would say I didn’t. After the ordeal of finding it, I decided it was best to hold onto it just in case.
I’m just over 4 months into to cycling and it seems now is the time that everything is wearing out. My shoe got a hole in the side which extended to a long tear going a quarter of the length. We found a leather boot, in three pieces spread over about 5km, on the trail from Chi Phat to Thma Bang, I took the leather section as a patch. The following day I glued a leather loop to replace a broken lace hole. While the glue was handy I fixed a hole that appeared in the coin pocket of my wallet (The wallet was a Christmas present from Bec, if that gives you a hint about longevity)
My chain has stretched to the point where it skips in the big gears. I replaced the handlebar tape a couple of weeks ago. I’ve somehow got rust coming through the paint on the top tube. To add to the list, the cleats in my shoes that clip to my pedals are worn out too.
My kindle is also broken and will be replaced soon. But my kindle is where Lonely Planet of Thailand is. Lonely Planet would not only have told me what sites to see and what not to see, but also translations for words like ‘hotel’ which I still haven’t worked out.
The map I have marks towns in categories where the smallest is <50,000 people. Hence large stretches appear to have no civilization but infact have shops and restaurants every 10km. There doesn’t appear to be much correlation between the map and reality anyway. All this, and feeling a bit isolated, left me feeling pretty worn out too.
But the good news is that Bangkok has all the answers. Kindle replacement is waiting, there are big bike shops with new parts, I’ll be able to find another map that maybe even writes towns in Thai font too so the road signs make sense. My cousin Rae lives here so I get a familiar face as well.
The problem was how to get to Bangkok from Hat Lek on the coast where I entered Thailand, its a huge city and my only resource is a map that only shows the massive green roads and a city area map of a random section of city. Instead of following the coast around on major roads, I decided to head north, following the border, then cut across.
After a couple of nights in Trat 100km in from the border, I left and went north. I miraculously appeared in Pong Nam Ron, which was intended, but I’d passed things such as a huge dam that wasn’t marked and got spat out on a highway about 30km from where I thought I was. If I had a trusty lonely planet with me, it would have told me it is an area with only ‘resorts’ and golf courses. Pretty, but not the sort of place that worked for my budget.
Adventure day 2 and I was still heading north with tailwinds, good roads and reasonably flat. Good fast riding conditions, but I had a certain uneasiness. There were tourist signs pointing to waterfalls and elephant spotting but no indications on how far or how much or how good. On a bike a few km detour takes up a good chuck of your day.
After 65km I came to the junction where I had to decide how to get to Bangkok. North and into major highways, or West along a road supposedly devoid of all life (according to my map). It was 134km to the next town marked. Could I cover 200km in one day? I turned west and then started thinking about it. The road was still relatively flat and fast moving.
Now follow my thought process, my logic is perfect.
In Luang Prabang, Ryan and I met Ben. He was German and a really interesting guy, traveling by himself for a few weeks on bike. The previous day he had covered the ~130km to his destination by mid afternoon, decided he didn’t like the town and thought he may as well keep going to Luang Prabang. 200.2km was the total. When we met him he was walking like a cowboy and couldn’t sit in his saddle to ride. Ryan and I discussed how possible it would be. Ben had hills, I had flat and tailwinds.
The counter argument is the Race Across America, where they cover twice the distance of the Tour de France in half the time. The do epic distances every day for a fortnight. If you ride for enough hours then you can cover a lot of ground, simple.
Now, number 1. Riding 200km in one day was going to get me to a town that should be big enough to have a hotel, but still left me 120km outside of Bangkok which is more than I’d want to do in one day. I could push on a bit further so it was only 80km the next day. But what time would I be arriving in Bangkok if I left the following morning and what would the traffic be like?
Number 2. What would be the best time to get into Bangkok? It would probably be in the middle of the night sometime when there is the least traffic. In that case I’d need to leave some time in the early evening, which would involve having a full rest day in some two bit town or . . .maybe I could just push through. Once you’ve done 200km, whats a bit more.
Somewhere after this 200km mark I stopped in at a service station for water and some food. Whilst sitting on a bench out front a kid rocked up on his motorbike, laughed at me, pulled out his camera phone and took a couple of pics. I smiled for him. A few minutes later he returned with a couple of energy drinks and sat them down on the bench next to me, waved and walked off. I’d hate to think how I must have looked.
I arrived in Khao San Rd, Bangkok’s backpacker central, at about 3 am, it was still in full swing. By the time I found a place I could afford (then found out I misunderstood the price and couldn’t, but stayed anyway) it was 3:30. I’d covered 324km and ridden for over 13 hours.
The highlight of the last 100km was heading 11km towards what turned out to be a motorway that didn’t allow bikes, motorbikes etc. so I had to turn around and go back to pick a different route in. It was a 22km detour, a touch longer than the distance from my place in Hilton to the City. Next time I’ll bring a water buffalo because they’re not banned.
Its nice to know you can do these things. I wouldn’t want to do it twice.