Fuck all happened. Alan got stranded in Myanmar but had no way of telling me he wasn’t coming back in time for us to ride to a new location so I sat around in my hotel planning the rest of my trip* while I waited for his return. My day had been so laboriously slug-like by the time Alan returned I was besotted with the idea of doing some hardcore exercise. Through an incredible feat of enthusiasm I managed to convince Alan to accompany me on a mission to find a badminton court. With the help of a fast talking motorcyclist with the eyes of a pimp and the wardroom of pensioner, we found this kind of outdoor sports spectacular.
I used my rapidly developing gesticulating skills to become embedded in a teenage futsal round robin. Alan, not a fan of soccer, abandoned me to impress the youths on my own. They didn’t pass much but treated all my successes with great cheers and encouragement. They were all shocked when I told them I was 25. I didn’t embarrass myself but I didn’t score either, which is a pity because I would have enjoyed the earthquake of hooting that would have resulted.
After I started drowning in sweat I left to join some old men in a hacky sack like game, sepak takraw. The aim and culture are the same, keep it in the air, be friendly and maintain some level of uncompetitive effort. The difference is the ball – it’s a hard, straw-tied sphere slightly bigger than a baseball which bounces a lot. As a seasoned hacky sacker myself I managed to do alright. Somehow the troupe of mysteriously limber old men were even more amused by my achievements than their teenage equivalents. Every successful kick was greeted with the kind of hollering I thought reserved for the moment when you find out magic is real. The old folk and I had a splendid time together. Here is a photo of our team.
So that new tyre I got just outside of Kuala Terengganu is about as reliable as a Zimbabwean dollar. I’ve had it for about ten days and it has already been punctured several times leading to the gradual destruction of my inner tube. As you can imagine it made for a pretty annoying day, which was made even more frustrating by a series of baffling miscommunications and idiotic decisions by me.
After the first two punctures were unsuccessfully patched by Alan and myself, I decided to hitchhike with my bike to Chumpon, the closest place that would have a bike shop (I’m still unsure if the thumbs up signal here means anything more than hey drivers, I just want to tell you, great job). After changing to a waving technique, I got a ride with a family lugging some goods in a big truck. I slapped my bike in the back and said Chumpon over and over until I felt secure they knew where I needed to go. My secuity was entirely unfounded – they dropped me in a small highway town about 10km out of Chumpon. I pumped my tyre as much as I could and rode around the town hoping I would find a handy mechanic before my tyre deflated again. Soon after I met an old man who looked like Bill Murray, he drove me to his friend’s place and we patched my tube up a second time.
For some reason instead of hitchhiking the rest of the way to Chumpon I decided to ride on my scantily patched back wheel. As my back wheel got closer and closer to the structural integrity of a sombrero I had to ride faster and faster. Eventually, consumed by sweat and hunger I stumbled into a bike shop but they didn’t have the inner-tube size I needed. One of the bike-mechanics there started to take my tyre off to do yet another patch job but his Trunchbull like boss told him not to help me. When she had tottered off to rip off some young kids the mechanic gave my tyre another pump and I gave him a handy tip and told him not to to give any to the dragon. He laughed and agreed sincerely – it looked like an abusive regime.
Anyway, dragon lady told me there was another bike shop near the ocean. What she really meant was ocean mall but the exclusion of that tiny word ended up with me riding 7km into the forest – again as fast as I could on a slowly deflating tyre – until a Policeman corrected me and turned me towards the mall.
Chumpon is home to the worst restaurant on earth. Essentially it’s a trap for moronic tourists who are so incapable of resisting home-comforts their willing to sacrifice their economic welfare and integrity. A meat pie here costs 300baht ($10Aus), which is about 260baht more expensive than everything else here. Unless I received a guarantee from a reputable food nerd, I wouldn’t even pay that much in Sydney. The food looked like it had been rehydrated from 7/11 scraps and everyone inside looked lonely and bothered. Worst of all was the woman running the joint, she was a small skeletal thing with a empty smile and pointy eyes. I can’t remember what she actually said to us when we walked past but I could see in her eyes how hungry she was to exploit me – no doubt she’s already fucking loaded and each new customer only counts towards pleasuring her twisted soul.
Right opposite rip-off town was a night market teeming with an eye-blisteringly appetising range of Thai snacks, each for around 15-50baht. What kind of tourist misses Western food so much to necessitate fuelling the lavish retirement of a gremlin? If your so home sick, go get some KFC or walk into the mall and get a steak or something, it’ll be, at the very least, cheaper.
These are the sentences I said most today:
“Is that a joke?”
“that isn’t even real”
“This is ridiculous”
“Oh wow, that is fucked”
Nothing bad happened, I’m just completely incapable of verbalising my admiration for beautiful landscapes.
Today was easily the most beautiful ride I’ve done here. It was as if some cosmic force had torn out the prettiest sections of the Blue Mountains and artfully placed then around some tropical beaches. Scattered between the mountain peaks and post-card beaches were idyllic fishing towns and incredibly manicured rubber-tree plantations.
Weirdly, it was all sparsely populated – every time Alan and I went for swim or rode out onto a pier to get a view we found ourselves laughing at how incredibly incomprehensible this all was. In most countries locations like this would be thoroughly exploited for their tourism value but this was just a normal place where normal people did normal everyday things. Alan and I were pretty much always the only people in the water.
Today was probably the hottest day I’ve had yet but we ended up riding over 120km because who the fuck cares if it’s 35 degrees when you’re in the ocean. ALSO there were bike lanes everywhere?! For like a quarter of the trip today we were leisurely cruising through bike lanes luxurious enough to fit a gang of pregnant hippos. The first bike lanes I see in South East Asia and they’re on a tiny rural road where there aren’t any cyclists?! ALSOOOOOOO we had a fucking excellent 2nd breakfast.
I’m pretty buggered now because 120km up and down a shit load of hills is a lot of km but man what a great day.
We rode past another, very overground, underground gambling ring today. This time the liberally teethed men were hustled around a tv under a small, white hanger. They were drinking coffee and making bets on Thai boxing. To their great amusement we got caffeinated with them over a few rounds of legal violence. They grunted and hooted like horny dog-men whenever there was some action. I tried to get Alan to make a bet but we were both to wussy to do it. Despite the grand reaction to our arrival, there was no fanfare when we left.
*my new plan is to ride to Battambang, Cambodia, before Alice arrives in Bangkok. I’m going to leave my bike there with Daisy and get the bus back to meet Alice. When the two of us get to Battambang I’ll pick up my bike again and take it with me to Phnom Penh. After Alice flies out I’ll ride to Ho Chi Minh.
Bonus material for those interested in the welfare of my bowels:
After a rather splashy day and half with a few dangerously close calls, things have returned to relative normality (constipation).
Extra bonus material for those particularly interested in the welfare of my bowels:
Having diarrhoea in a country that has squat toilets raises a difficulty conundrum. When squatting to go to the loo do you take your shoes off and risk having liquid shite splashed onto your naked feet or do keep your shoes on knowing there is a risk your shoes will get stained with poo? Feedback will be appreciated.