Friday, October 29, 2004

One the Road Again

Bangkok, Oriental city...

After a week in Bangkok, I'm definitely ready to head out. I visited the major wats and the Grand Palace, got my visas, and am looking fearfully forward to the ride out of Bangkok. The wats are spectacular - much different then the Japanese temples. Ornate mosaics and tiling all over, and more stupas then you can imagine. The best thing about my stay has been the comradiary with other Westerners - all very friendly, and great to chat with after months in rural Japan. The Thais are very friendly as well, but it is nice to finally have meaningful discussions without speaking in broken English.

The current plan is to bike to Siem Reap and visit Angkor Wat for several days. Then ferry down to Battambang, and continue on to Phnom Phen and down to the coast for a little R&R on the beach. After that, Vietnam, the Mekong, and Saigon. But as always, plans are destined to change. I've trimmed some of my Laos travels, as they still have travel advisorys against travelling north to Luang Probang. And I'm also trying to get back to Bangkok a week or two before I depart so that I can head down to a beach for some rest before heading back to frigid Chicago.

A good web site for my route across Cambodia can be found at mrpumpy.

Also, don't worry about Japanese earthquakes, as I'm far, far away from there. And the Muslim uprisings are in the far south of Thailand.

PS - fried frogs taste kinda like chicken. the fried grasshoppers are a little crunchy. and the fried cockroaches have a crunchy outside and a soft, sweet interior.

Leaving Bangkok

I finally made it out of Bangkok - the traffic wasn't too bad. No bike line, but most people gave me more room then they do in Chicago - with bike lanes. The only hard part is crossing the street, as there are few stoplights to keep traffic in check. But once you're going in the right direction it's a snap. I did get lost for a couple hours as I missed my turnoff and struggled to get back to the street out of town. The major problem with navigation in Bangkok is that there is only two or three streets and everything else is a "soi" (which means alley or something, not really sure). So you've got Suvhumvit Rd. Off of that, there are about 100 sois, a few of which have there own names as well (i.e. Sukhumvit 55 is Thon Lo). Then the sois have sois, and I think sometimes those sois will have sois. So 90% of the street signs (when there is a steet sign, which is rare) say "Soi ##", which can cause a wee bit of confusion.

Once out of Bangkok a little the traffic nearly dries up and you nearly have a lane to yourself - just shared with parked cars and motos and the occasional car making a left turn (they drive on the left here). You pass between fields with palm trees surrounding the paddies. Every once in a while, there'll be an outcrop of food places - little huts, sans walls, with a grill, some tables and chairs. Very quaint. I had rice with vegetables and chicken (or something like chicken, my policy is 'don't ask, don't tell'). Total bill for food and a Coke - $0.75. There was a guy there who spoke a little English, and we chatted for a little about my route. Farangi bikers are definitely out of the ordinary, as I was receiving a lot of stares (something the Thais are quite good at doing) and waves.

The road eventually went down to one lane each way, with a shoulder wide enough to bike on - although occasionally it was in pretty poor shape. Pretty flat except for the occasional bridge. They do have little covered bench areas quite frequently - I think they're bus stops, but whatever they are, they make for a nice retreat from the sun.

I have made it to Chachoengsao, which has a few nice wats. One has one of the most sacred Buddhas in Thailand. It's a nice little riverside town, otherwise nothing spectacular. But a definite change from Bangkok. My hotel room as a nice view of the river and a scary toilet/shower room. I imagine it was last cleaned when they changed the country's name from Siam to Thailand. Back to Eastern toilets as well. But for $5, I guess you can't expect the Ritz, even in Thailand.

Tomorrow I'm out of here bright and early and heading east. Should get into Cambodia on the 30th (not sure what day that is) and Siem Reap by Nov 1st or 2nd. I can then watch the election returns there, which will determine whether I go back to Chicago in February of 2005 or February of 2009.

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