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Cycling Asia

THAILAND | Tuesday, 10 July 2007 | Views [876]

Climbing the Lungma La on the way to Kathmandu

Climbing the Lungma La on the way to Kathmandu

It's close to 4 in the morning, and the light rain is slowly stopping. I'm headed towards Khao San Road, and the traffic in Bangkok seems already to be picking up. This is surely gonna be my last riding day for this trip. I think I felt it in my bones this morning when I started in Sisophon in Cambodia. And what a weird day it has been. More than 13 hours on the saddle, for some 210 km. Too much...

It had all started more than a year ago in Istanbul. At that time, I only had a backpack. I wanted to see Asia, and I had given myself a year to do this. And everything started according to plan. The incredible ruins of the turkish aegean coast, the unbelievable hospitality of the iranian people, and the sheer beauty of central Asia. But along the way, I started meeting more and more cyclists. And all there stories rang like music to my hears. It didn't take to much to convince me, especially since I wanted to try this mean of travelling once. I just thought why not now, and asked my stuff to be sent to Bishkek, Kirghizstan. It was like starting another trip altogether.

From the nomadic people in the kirghiz mountains stopping you for Kimiz, bread and so many different dairy products, across the Torugart pass to the legendary Kashgar, the beginning of this new adventure was all I asked for, and more. It even got better when I met some of the cyclists that inspired me in the ancient Silk Road hub. We were going to cycle along the same route, the famous Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, to Lhassa, and share parts of a unique experience. The kind of experience that forges true friendships. And some socks stories that will always bring a smile to my face...

The pants were a bit loose when I finally arrived in Kathmandu, after 2 months in China. It took me a few weeks to restuff myself enough to carry on south. To India and its crazy, reckless, thoughtless drivers. Not exactely the best country to cycle, even if my bicycle as usually got me to places where no other tourist would stop. India, a country of very mixed feelings. A country I was really happy to leave after 2 months, only to feel certain that I had to come back one day for more.

When you're overlanding eastward, India is kind of a deadend. Even though one could cross from the Andaman Islands to Phuket on a private boat. I almost did it, but in the end had to fly out of Port Blair to Bangkok. That's when travelling with a bicycle is a lot less fun. All the packing and the extra luggages make you wanna make sure you stay on the ground as much as you can. The second thing is the scenery change. Coming from Neil Island in the Andamans to a huge modern metropolis in one day is really a shock. From thatched roofed hut to skyscrappers, from bicycle paths to multilevel highways, there's got to be an in-between.

The south-east asian part of this cycling trip wasn't really the most exciting one. Maybe it was simply me getting a bit tired of it all. Maybe the feeling that those countries are a bit too much the same. Same same, but different, as they say over there, sums it up pretty much. So when I climb on my bike this morning in Sisophon, something in my guts tells me I have to make it to Bangkok, because it has to be the last of the cycling days. Still, the thai capital is some 300 km away, and the first 50 are on probably the only unpaved stretch of road in Cambodia. And luckily, it has rained all night long. My first stop in Thailand is therefore a car wash. For my bike, and also for me! Another 70 km take me to the middle of nowhere, a flat tire and the end of the day. That's when Lady Luck decided to give me hand. More exactely a lift on the bed of a pickup truck to the next hotel. An hotel that I missed in the dark, and before I could even realise it, I was in the last stetch of country before the sprawling city. From then on, I only could go all the way. Even when the rain decided to spice things up a bit...

I'm glad I made it all the way, even if the last leg was way too long. The bicycle is now gone. Sent back home for further usage. Because this might have been my first cyclotouring experience, but it surely wasn't the last one. The list of things to do has just gotten a little longer... For those of you interested in more, check my website.

Tags: adventures

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