A Travellerspoint blog

Cold, Creamy Motivation

DAY 212, km 7942, Aranyaprathet, Thailand

sunny 36 °C

Wim and I are on a fantastic adventure. Yet, I have to admit that part of the time, we just want to fly home and sit on the couch. This is normal when you are biking for a year. The road is not always downhill, the sky is not always clear, and the people are not always smiling. Therefore, you have to find something to motivate youself during those "couch" moments. You need something that inspires you to go further, to extend the boundaries of your limits, and to reach for your dreams. This woman and her collegues provided that for us as we made our way through Thailand.

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As soon as we'd see one of these women motoring by us, Wim would yell, "GO,GO!", and then I was expected to pedal like hell. Sometimes it took half an hour to catch up with her, sometimes less. When we caught up, we were sweaty and gross, but for an ice cream (stuffed between sliced bread), it was always well worth the effort.

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We are now past Bangkok and we will soon be in Cambodia. Of course, as you near a new country, people always start to warn you. We've heard a lot of warnings over the past 7 months, yet somehow....you always keep them in the back of your mind as you enter a new place, because you never know... they just might be true this time.

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Cambodia warnings:

  • The border gaurds/policemen will demand large bribes.
  • They hate Americans and won't issue a visa for Amy.
  • Fasten all of your bags to your bike so that passing mopeds won't snatch them.
  • When you get robed, don't reach into your pockets, or they will shoot you.
  • The roads are worse than in Indonesia.
  • There are landmines everywhere.

With these well-wishings, we prepare for the next country, but our biggest concern is really: will there be ice cream ladies to keep us going strong?

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Posted by amyandwim 00:12 Archived in Thailand Comments (6)

Fantastic Thailand

DAY 205, KM 7452, Ranong, Thailand

sunny 40 °C

Our schedule:


6:00 - We wake up and go as soon as there's light. During the afternoon, it can get up to 40 °C (104 °F), and it's hard not to overheat. (Wim cleverly cut apart two sombreros and attached them to our helmets for added sun protection) At 6am though, the heat is not as bad.

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6:30 - We head for the morning market, which is packed with people cooking, buying, and socializing even before the sun rises. Here they sell everything you can imagine, and it's all made fresh right in front of you! Wim always searches out a breakfast full of legs and antennae, and I head for the curry stalls. Forget oatmeal, we've come to crave spicy fish curries in the morning.

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7:00 - We start out. The roads have big shoulders, there is hardly any traffic, and limestone cliffs loom up around us.

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Dogs chase us through the streets. Whole families shoot by on their little mopeds, all wearing big smiles and waving at us.

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10:00 - Our first break. As soon as we get tired we search out a little shack to sit down for something cold to drink and something yummy to eat. Our search usually lasts about 2 minutes, because in Thailand almost every house is a restaurant, and they all make delicious food.

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However, ordering is sometimes a problem. Despite my efforts to learn some thai, it is a tonal language, and so I seem to say everything wrong. One morning I went to a restaurant and asked for an iced tea with lime. Everyone in the restaurant broke into laughter, and when they finished they all just stared at me. No lime tea for us that day.....Also, the writing is different, so we can't read menus.

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12:00 - Lunch.... if we are successful ordering it. Thai people always give us an honest price, so we don't have to ask the price before we eat, argue about the price after we eat, or fight for our change like we did in the Middle East. The people here are honest, helpful, and they always have a huge smile.

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Once, as we approached a city, famished and looking for a restaurant, Wim quickly pulled into an empty restaurant on the side of the road. I said," No,no, let's go to that restaurant up the road where all of those people are." So, off we went. As we pulled up to the restaurant, a hoard of people were excitedly motioning to us to come and sit down to eat with them. It was sort of strange that they were so enthusiastic for us to eat at the restaurant, but we like enthusiastic people, so we sat down. Before we knew it, a man was bringing out plates and plates of food to our table. Everyone was laughing and excited. So you can imagine our surprise when we looked around to see a dead guy in a casket across the way. We had just crashed our first funeral.

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1:00 - We bike our final kilometers in the afternoon, sometimes stopping because we are turning red and feeling woozey from the heat. We find a shady spot and munch mangos until our tummies hurt. The dogs even stop chasing us when it's this hot.

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3:00 - We end our day early, find a clean, cheap room and head for the night market to stock up on weird fruits and yummy snacks (barbequed bananas, grilled lobster, rice blubber cakes, spicy chicken legs, fruit shakes). Then we have time to relax and explore the village. Thailand is so fantastic for bike touring, that we are enjoying ourselves more than ever before!

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Our route:


From Malaysia we crossed the border on the hilly west coast, and are heading north towards Bankok. Along the way we plan out where we'd like to go next. Problem is that we don't know Thailand, so we relie on our Lonely Planet guide for advice. When they advise a 'paradise beach', we, like every other Lonely Planet guide owner (= everyone and their dog), get all excited and head out for that spot. As we approach this 'paradise beach', skin tones turn from brown to bright pink, restaurants start advertising english food and sauerkraut, people are leaping around in tiny speedos, no one is waving, and no one smiles. Suddenly it occurs to us.... we have entered.... Little Europe!

We have made this 'Little Europe' mistake a few times. We once even went as far as to buy a boat ticket to a 'paradise island'. As we sat in the waiting area for the ferry, hundreds of people started arriving in cattle cart busses. Panic stricken, I turned to Wim and said,"refund?" Before I could say another word, Wim was off returning our tickets. We biked off that day, and unexpectedly came upon a desserted beach. Twelve kilometers of white sand for Amy, Wim, a sunset and an ice cold pintje.

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The road in between the tourist attractions is really the best place to be. Where else can you crash funerals, eat octopus on a stick, or ride with four people on a moped?

Posted by amyandwim 02:11 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

A vacation from our vacation

DAY 183, KM 6486, Georgetown, Malaysia

sunny 33 °C

This is the first face that we saw as we stepped off of our boat from Indonesia and onto Penisular Malaysia.

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His name is David, he's from Malaysia, and he collects cyclists. Years ago he begun cycling around the world, and ever since he has been taking other cyclists into his home and showing them around his part of Malaysia. The moment that we stepped off the boat from Indonesia, David had us flying around town visiting temples, religious festivals

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Chinese new years celebrations,

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weddings,

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fishing villages,

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and tasting every food known to mankind.

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The population in Malaysia is made up of Malay, Chinese, and Indian people. That being said, you can imagine the beautiful variety of temples, festivals, and foods that there are to experience in this clean, super friendly country.

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We left David's house a whole lot fatter and a little bit wiser about this great country.

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From David's house we biked our way over to Kuala Lumpur to meet Wim's mom and sister. We were so excited to have new people with us after so long, that we dumped our bikes in a hotel and ran off to explore the country by bus with them. We went on jungle hikes,

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walked high up in the jungle canopy,

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learned about Chinese medicine (you can come here to munch bats if you have asthma)

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saw the fields where they grow tea,

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and celebrated Chinese new year again and again.

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Although we are really sad and alone now that our family has left, we're excited to start traveling by bike again. Long sweaty bus rides are incredibly tiring, completely unrewarding, and surprisingly not always so much faster than just riding your bike.

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Tomorrow we begin pedaling our way north towards Thailand.

Posted by amyandwim 23:27 Archived in Malaysia Comments (3)

Biking Boulet-Boulets

DAY 159, KM 6063, Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

rain 32 °C

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Indonesians have a lot to deal with. Active volcanoes, floods, tsunamis, a corrupt government, disease, giant cockroaches, pollution, over population, poverty, tourist bombings, earthquakes and much more than you care to imagine.

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All this is set in a dramatic, tropical, paradise-like landscape with mountains, monkeys, rice fields, and crater lakes. So you can well imagine that it makes an interesting, fun, and sad place to spend a month biking.

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We chose to bike on the Sumatra island because we read that it wasn't as crowded as the Javanese island. What we didn't know was that all 40 million Sumatrans are linked together by one small overcrowded 2-lane "highway". Impossible to do by bike! For fear of death, we instead choose to head out with our bikes to the back roads of the country.

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These "roads" ended up resembling riverbeds with giant boulders, or deep pools of mud, and we ended up biking most of the country at 5 km per hour (that is if we weren't pushing our bikes up hills or over huge rocks). Hoards of mopeds shared the road with us. Mopeds with restaurants on top, mopeds with large families pilled up, and mopeds with supermarkets attached. Their creativity was boundless!

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Another challenge of biking here was that there are only inaccurate maps available. These maps are so bad that cities are connected with roads on the wrong side of the country. So, many times, we only had a vague idea of where we were going, and absolutely no clue how long it would take to get to the next village. You would think that you could just ask a local, right? Not in Indonesia. In a country where most people never leave their village, and there are no mileage markers along the road, estimations about distance often ranged from 10 to 200 km, or from one hour by bike to five hours by moped. We had to just pedal away and hope for the best.

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As we went through little villages along the way, everyone said "hallo meeeeester", "howayou?" or "whereyougo?". Then, as soon as we stuck up a hand to wave or said hello in reply, hysterical laughter would break out all over the village. At first we thought that it was our fantastic new monsoon gear... but then they still laughed when we took it off. If we stopped for lunch, we had a huge audience. People found us eating with a fork even more exciting than the soaps they had been watching on TV! It was hard not to let all the popularity go to our heads.

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Food is so cheap (0.5-1 euro), delicious and abundant that we have been eating out three times a day. The minute that you get an inkling of hunger, all you have to do is pull to the side of the road and ask for some spicy noodle soup. You just can't think too hard about where it comes from. This is because all of the water that is used comes straight from the river, and all used water goes directly back into the same river. This includes water for washing, for drinking, for cooking, and for the toilet. Often villagers could be seen down by the river washing dishes, showering, using the restroom, or collecting water for the kitchen. When eating out, it's better not to look at the map to see if their are any large cities upstream.

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One evening, while drinking a river-tea in a hut near the river, a bunch of teenagers became all aflutter as they saw batches of fish floating by, belly up. They all jumped in the river to catch what they could for dinner. Someone up stream had been cyanide fishing. The locals reassured us however that cyanide only kills fish, and that we needn't worry about ourselves. I can say that we enjoyed our tea even less than usual that day.

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Riding through the jungle is magical, with all of it's oversized life-forms, and the constant musical chatter coming from the trees. Along the way we often spot monkeys, giant lizards, big creepy insects, and of course there is an ever present cloud of mosquito's around Wim. Camping here in the thick jungle is impossible though, at least without a chainsaw.

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Our hearts go out to the Indonesians, even though they laughed at us. They are gentle, honest people and half of them look like really cool rock stars. They really do deserve a functioning government and a better life.

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Posted by amyandwim 17:53 Archived in Indonesia Comments (4)

Western Desert

Day 132, KM 5618, Cairo, Egypt

sunny 24 °C

After four days of aggressive sales men yelling "Welcome! ... I SAID WELCOME *%#$@!!!!", people shoving tourist unk in our face, and fighting our way past predatory tour guides to visit the tombs and temples of old, we are leaving the godforsaken city of Luxor with a well developed fear of Egyptian people. Instead of dealing with more people, we will head west into the great African Sahara desert, 13 million square km of... nothing. We want to complete a 1400 km desert stretch connecting Luxor to Cairo. In between there are four oases where we can stock up on supplies and water.

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Because of the tourist bombings in the past, we are not allowed to ride our bikes independently from Luxor to the first oasis Kargha. We have to pay a 4WD to go with the obligatory police convoy. So, early in the morning a dozen policemen leap into a tiny little car to follow our 4WD into the desert. Within seconds our driver and the policemen are racing down the road, cutting each other off, and of course laughing hysterically. After a while, we are going so fast that we leave the policemen in the dust, never to be seen again. So much for the convoy.

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Kargha to Dakhla, 190 km, Day 1 - 3

Kargha is a quiet town, full of tourist police. Every time we pass one of the police on our bikes, they wave, ask where we're going, and then radio to their police friends 100 meters further along the road. One hundred meters further, their friends repeat the same procedure, and we very slowly make our way to our hotel.

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After finding the hotel, we go shopping for supplies for our first desert crossing which will be 190 km. A group of three curious policemen join us on our shopping trip, quietly staring over our shoulder at each thing that we buy. In the end we have 20 liters of water, and three days of bland food (canned stuff and dry bread). Our bikes are so heavy, it is hard to steer them. We go to bed tonight excited to be out in the desert alone, but a little nervous too.

Day 1
In the morning we sign a paper telling the police not to follow us outside the oasis, and we head out into the desert!!!! We are so excited that we are singing and making up stupid poems as we go along. The landscape is wonderful, and there's nobody trying to sell us anything. We are in heaven. Soon though, a strong wind picks up and we spend the rest of the day taking turns fighting the wind. We don't make it very far, but we are exhausted by 2pm and set up camp behind a sand dune and fall asleep really early.

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Day 2 - 3
The next two days are a piece of cake with no wind and beautiful scenery. This is absolutely the best part of our bike trip yet! We reach the Dakhla oasis in no time! In the oasis, there are farmers working on their lush green fields, with stark, dry mountains off in the distance. It takes us hours to ride through the oasis, just because it's so beautiful and interesting that we just don't ride very fast. We're too busy looking around. That night we reach a cute little Egyptian town at the end of the Oasis.

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As we are walking through the palm trees and mud houses, a man invites us to have tea with him in his house. However, Wim is convinced that the man wants to scam us. I convince Wim to give the guy a chance, with many hopes that there are still good Egyptian people left in this world. So we head in, only to be shown some of the man's artwork. We both think,"oh no, here we go again! He wants us to buy something, and then he's going to be mad when we don't". How wrong we were! Badr's artwork was not for sale! He just wanted to have tea and talk with us! We felt really guilty but also relieved to meet someone with genuinely good intentions.

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Dakhla to Farafra, 300 km, Day 4 - 8

Getting ready for the next 5 day, 300km, journey into the desert is a bit harder. We really have to pack our panniers with a ton of food, and we reckon on 22 liters of water. Not everything fits into the panniers, and we strap extra bottles of water on top of our tent bag. Our bikes are starting to resemble utility vehicles! After loading everything on, Wim's bike tips over, and the stand cracks off. Off we go!

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Day 4 - 5
The first days we have really strong headwinds, and spend the whole day pushing against the wind until we are exhausted. At night, we don't sleep well because it's too cold, and our sleeping bags are not warm enough. We try to compensate by wearing every piece of clothing that we own, but we are still in bed at 5:30 shivering when the sun goes down. In the morning we wake up before dawn, stuff a few dates in our pockets for breakfast, put dirty socks on our hands for the cold, and start going in order to do as many kilometers as possible before the wind starts up later in the morning. By 2pm each day, we're exhausted and have to stop.

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Day 6 - 7
On the 3rd day we are starting to worry that we won't make it in 5 days. The problem being that we don't have enough food or water to last us any longer. Also, Wim gets sick! The loneliness of the desert is a bit intimidating...no houses, no people, no cell phone reception, and not enough food and water to afford a resting day. We can't expect to get any help. Despite all of our bad luck though, the landscape is magnificent and our camping spots are amazing. At night there is absolutely no noise. Nothing lives in this desert. There isn't any vegetation, and thus no birds, lizards, and shockingly enough not even a puny cockroach! Camping in such quiet, with a million stars over your head, makes you quickly forget that you are shivering and miserable.

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Day 8
Wim feels awful and lets me do all the work fighting the wind. We survive the whole day on the last pieces of dried up bread that we have left. When we finally reach Farafra late on the fifth day, we are out of food, our drinking bottles completely empty, and we need a lot of well deserved rest.

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Farafra is a dusty Egyptian town with mud houses and no tourists. Despite the quiet atmosphere in the town, we again have police bodyguards that sit outside of our hotel room the whole time that we stay there. Achmed, who is on night duty, becomes our friend and spends long evenings with us in our hotel room. He is quite depressed because his father said, " Achmed, you marry cousin and make many babies." Achmed however, is not interested in marrying his cousin, mainly because it is so expensive for him. Traditionally, during the first year of engagement, the man has to send many expensive gifts to the girl. This is totally ruining the poor guy, and he is really interested to find out that Belgian/American women are cheap to marry.

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Farafra to Baharyya, 200 km, Day 13 - 15

Our last desert stretch.

Day 13
The first day, the winds start up at 8am. By 1pm, we are so exhausted that we have to stop. Since there is no shelter, Wim constructs a clever wind stopper out of the ground cover of our tent and our bikes. Warm and out of the wind, I begin to cook up our last potato's. All of a sudden the bike, the windscreen and a large sand dune fall on top of me and our dinner. Neither of us had really eaten so much sand before, but after an intense day of biking, it actually wasn't so bad.

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Day 14
The wind started up early again today, but by 12am the wind is so strong that we can hardly push our bikes up the hill by walking. Biking is just not possible any more. Flying sand is stinging our faces, and we quickly find shelter in a small shepard's hut alongside the road. Our miles are not going very quickly and we again are worried that we will not have enough food to get us to the next oasis if we don't make better progress. So, we decide to wait until dark, when the wind calms down a bit, and ride by the light of the full moon.

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At 7pm, the moon is out, the wind is a bit better and we start off into the darkness. It is an eerie, and slightly creepy experience to be riding by the light of the moon, surrounded by stars and sand dunes. After completing another 30 km, we finally stop for another shivery night.

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Day 15
We set an alarm clock to wake up before dawn again, to beat the wind. We have no idea how many kilometers we have left because all of the road signs seem to have contradicting millage postings. The wind quickly picks up and our spirits are at an all time low. But, like my father says, "nothing too good, or too bad ever lasts too long." How right that is. After 30 km, we all of the sudden reach our last oasis and we settle into a nice hotel, for a good day and a half sleep.

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Looking back at our trip, it was really hard and miserable. But, at the same time, it was really our favorite part of our trip until now. Strange how it always works out like that. For the last leg of the trip to Cairo, we stuff ourselves into a minibus again, and make our way into slightly less picturesque Cairo.

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Throughout our trip, Egyptians have ripped us off, treated us like cattle, shown us hospitality and friendship and in general confused us and worn us out. However, I have to say, that this was an incredibly interesting and tiring land to visit. Egyptians are smiley people who love joking and making a lot of noise. They will rip you off in their store, but turn around and ask them for help, and before you know it the whole village is passionately discussing your dilemma. And they will not quit until you have what you are looking for. All in all, we're happy to have come, and we're happy to be leaving.

Posted by amyandwim 23:40 Archived in Egypt Comments (8)

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