A person visiting the USA and only going to Disneyland and Disney World by airplane is one way to describe the typical foreigner’s travel through Thailand. Now consider taking a bike from Disneyland to Disney World. The adventure will stimulate your imagination more than meeting a talking mouse or puking in a teacup. However, the typical foreign traveler I’ve met in Thailand would rather spend their days waking up, getting a bite to eat at a foreigner’s Thai cafe, riding in a tuk tuk to the bus station, suffering through the four hours of motion sickness to get dropped off at another bus station, riding in a tuk tuk to a guest house, then eating watered-down Thai food for dinner while watching a Walt Disney movie.
Meeting fellow travelers and hearing their tales can either make me squirm with disgust or lighten with hope. Hope is what happened when I met Nicolai from Copenhagen, Denmark and Sandy from Ottawa, Canada, both traveling SE Asia by bicycle.
Nicolai Bangsgaard began his journey in Denmark in April 2006. I met him in Luang Prabang, Laos a few weeks ago, where he’d just arrived from cycling through Vietnam. Planning to circle the world, he shares photos and writing along the way at www.worldtravellers.dk
At the age of 65, Sandy Mackay cycled across Canada with his daughter. Now he is 69 years old and had just ridden 182 mountainous kilometers from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Thailand. Sandy’s two day bicycle ride of meeting friendly people is the real Thailand that many travelers dream of experiencing. However, for many people, bicycle travel is not considered convenient because it might not involve a comfy guest house or foreigner’s cafe at the end of the day. I suppose it is a daunting thought being half way between here and there with no consumer familiarity in sight. The only western comfort is what it’s in your heart. Hopefully you brought lots of respect, trust, and kindness from home. And in return, you can expect lots of love and generosity. When there is no western tourist economy, you can’t rely on your pocketbook. All you have to rely on is your humanity and charming personality.
The bicycle is the only salvation
For a planet choking to death
On its own convenience
from A Promise for Siam by Tom Radzienda
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Give me an old cool bicycle, and I’ll ride around the city for days.