The chat :
Ahhhh….Thailand. If we thought life for bike tourists in Laos was easy, Thailand takes it to a whole new level. Here are some of the lovely lovely things we’ve noted in our first 24hours:
- There are 7-11’s (American corner stores) everywhere!
- There are air conditioned petrol stations selling ice creams and diet coke!
- A lot of people speak a little English.
- Restaurants stay open after 6pm.
- Thais believe in the concept of toilet paper. And don’t seem to believe in karaoke.
- Everything seems to have a fixed price which is the same for foreigners and locals
- You are never more than about 5km from the nearest artisan expresso cafe.
While these virtues individually may not seem like much, cumulatively they result in extremely happy cyclists. So happy in fact that it took us 3 hours (2 hours more than normal) to leave town this morning, having spent serious amounts of time wandering around Chiang Khong in a daze pointing excitedly and saying “look, granary bread”, and “look, traffic lights”.
The ride today should have been easy – a very flat 110km run into Chiang Rai, one of the largest cities in North Thailand. Having spent the last few weeks trudging up steep mountain passes we were perhaps a bit cocky when we set off, 3 hours late. In retrospect we were also perhaps falsely reassured when the owner of our guesthouse told us that a local cyclist had ridden today’s route in just over 2 hours. It later emerged that the same cyclist also held the current world record for the fastest cycle ride around the world and happily notched up 450km days (vs our 120km) and average speeds of 45km/hr (vs our average of 20km/hr).
2 hours into our rather humid time trial, Andy was exhibiting the sunken eye look he always gets when really dehydrated. His other trademark symptom is utter inability to make any decisions or form an opinion, which, as any family/friends/acquaintances will recognise, is highly abnormal but very relaxing, for me, anyway. Unfortunately unless some seriously rapid rehydration ensues, the next stage after the lovely quiet and compliant one is of extreme irritability and muscle spasms – less fun for all involved. Before we had a rerun of Snuol, March 2012*, like a meek little lamb he compliantly downed 4 litres of water and we headed back on the road. Unfortunately 50km further on I completely ran out of energy and became a trembling mess, only slightly relieved by eating 20 biscuits. As a result of this we made a rather pathetic and sodden sight on arrival to Chiang Rai, and embarrassed ourselves further by eating the first street food we found in town (chicken curry) with our fingers straight out of the plastic bag it came in while sitting on the dirty pavement in between some bags of rubbish and surrounded by flies – even the beggars looked disgusted.
Things looked up on arrival to our extremely cute guesthouse which boasted “bed, breakfast and bikes”, and was full of vintage cycles and antiques. Heading back into town we found the world’s most touristy night market which offered floppy fajitas, sad looking sushi, and $50 bottles of wine in its authentic thai food stalls. Unsurprisingly untempted by this cornucopia of delights we followed the locals to a bustling canteen where we discovered just how many amazing thai curries it is possible to consume for $4 (answer – at least 6). The glittering lights of Svensens ice cream parlour called to us so strongly it was impossible to resist following this feast with chocolate sundaes. We haven’t had “real” chocolate since starting touring, and the experience was so good we began to get suspicious that Svensens were drugging their desserts with some kind of serotonin super-supplement – suddenly, we loved everyone, and the world was a beautiful beautiful place.
*a bad day. Its in the blog.