poniedziałek, 29 lutego 2016

Epilogue - 28.02.2016

Prachathipat (Bangkok suburbs) – Bangkok airport
The last 24-hours

My WS host puts Kostas and me up at his friend’s house (thank you friend!).

Once at the premises, we talk, exchange stories, listen to music and sing.

The following day Kostas decides to ride with me to the airport.

Since we have been very healthy cyclists for the past couple of weeks, we decide we’ve hard-earned our opportunity to go naughty. We stop by at a coffee shop for some sugar-loaded treats, we drink, we smoke… Rowdy cyclists yes we are!!!


sobota, 27 lutego 2016

Day 14

Ayutthaya – Prachathipat (Bangkok suburbs)

It’s oveeer… My last day of cycling before I hit Bangkok and fly off…

The route is quite simple: straight on the national 32 and then 1, until Bangkok.

Mental note for later: big metropolises like Thai capitals are a traffic road nightmare to get in and out of – hop on a train whenever you can!

I don’t really have anything to say expect that I have 45km of bituminous road to do, in heat and accompanied by the never-ending honking of the overexcited (overheated?) truck drivers.

I pull at the biggest Thai commercial centre at 1pm. With the very last remaining money I get myself a cup of coffee and get in touch with my sister to arrange for a WesternMoney cash transfer, as I’d left for Asia with only 500€ in hand and no credit cards whatsoever.

Three hours later, with a fresh supply of cash, I meet my wonderful Warmshowers hosts and a fellow Warmshower cyclist and the celebrations can begin…

Km: 46.24 km
Tm: 2:08
Av: 21.6 km/h
TOTAL: 1015.24 km

piątek, 26 lutego 2016

Day 13

Wihan Khao - Ayutthaya

After a tumultuous Thursday, Friday’s looking a lot better.

I managed to shake off yesterday miserable experience mainly thanks to my lovely CouchSurfing host Dani and her geek of a boyfriend. I was lodged, fed and treated to a captivating conversation about all things nerdy. I so love CouchSurfing…!

Anyways, with not so many kilometres left to go, I decide to take it real easy. I take my time when passing by the elephant parks and go on an extended visit of the Wat Rachaburana Temple Park.

I finish off in Ayutthaya, early enough to go for a 2-hour full-body massage, take a disco nap and have dinner at a fancy restaurant before setting off to a night visit of the city.

Life is good.

Km: 70.48 km
Tm: 3:35
Av: 20.1 km/h
TOTAL: 969 km


czwartek, 25 lutego 2016

Day 12

Nakhon Sawan – Wihan Khao

Today I’m angry, sad and distressed.

I am pretty gutted to have to write about this but it's part of my story, it's life, it's what happened, so here I am. I had three good opening lines to bring the subject up but as days went by, I forgot them all. Which is good… in the end… it means it hasn't taken up as much space as I was afraid it would.

What's the deal?

Sexual violence against women.

I was happily cycling along a busy road, minding my own business when a car pulled up and started following me. The guy honked, as they all do, and I waved my hand in acknowledgment, as I usually do. Except that the car wouldn't pass me by but continued riding by my side. And honked again. I turned around and saw that the guy was jerking off and happily showing his junk off.
I first tried to ignore him. No reaction.
I then made fun of his tiny dick in order to humiliate him. No success.
I then yelled at him so that he leaves me alone. Without any result whatsoever.
I wanted to kick his car but decided that should he be a nut case, he could easily run me over and so I didn’t. Nothing I did or said – and not speaking Thai didn’t help – had any effect of the creep. I was powerless. I could not protect myself, run away nor stop this from happening.
I was in tears.
Not because a minor sexual offender tried to show me his junk, but because there was absolutely nothing I could do about it to stop it and nothing I could do penalise him for his wrongdoing.
Once jerked off, he would just go about his day until he found another woman, girl, person susceptible to be his next prey.

This is not to say that this happened to me because I was cycling in the middle of nowhere, on my own, somewhere in Thailand.


The exact same thing occurred to me when cycling in the heart of Paris just a year ago. Another man flashed me when I was walking home with a friend, in the late 90’s, literally 200 metres away from my house in Poland.

Thailand, France or Poland: sexual violence against women knows no boarders. Thousands kilometres away or in front of your house. Alone or accompanied. Does. Not. Matter.

The sad fact is, 99% of women have, are and sadly will be victims of sexual violence. In most cases, according to my experience, you don’t go off deeply scarred. Just like you manage it feet away from where your parents live: you will manage it on the road. Staying put does not protect you from predators and wandering off does not mean you are making yourself vulnerable. It really does not matter.

Remember that your home is lands remote to someone else and a faraway place for you: home to another.

Km: 120.80 km
Tm: 5:32
Av: 21.8 km/h
TOTAL: 899 km

środa, 24 lutego 2016

Day 11

Tambon Sai Ngam – Nakhon Sawan

Quick, quick, a horse for a quick breakout from the slimy road hotel. I leave as fast as if my pants were on fire, without breakfast, no coffee, nothing to drink. I know I’ll find a place with grub down the road and indeed, only half an hour later, I’m sitting with locals at a roadside eatery, opposing a morning market. I get whatever the neighbours are having and start the day with some rice and meat, cucumber and brown-tinted soup. Should have been enough, but as I’m also on my 10th day of cycling, my hunger has had time to transform itself into an insatiable beast and I NEED MORRRRE…. I see a pineapple-shaped lollipop and decide it fits my needs just right. Well, that’ll teach me, as it stings all my remaining taste buds and makes even water BURN LIKE HELL.

I decide to gun it, as there isn’t anything to fix your eyes on but vistas of plain nothing. Two hours into the desert of nothingness, I come across a water re-fill: small shop in the middle of nowhere. As always, my every move is being tracked by the owner and only once she decides I’m not an alien threat to her small business, she starts chatting me up. I’m so much of her own people that she gets comfortable enough to do her pedicure with me by her side.

And then, it’s back onto the empty field roads: long stretches of nothingness filled with headwind… The dread of any cyclist. After a dozen kilometres, I am really sick of it. Couple of dozen more and I’m on the verge of dropping it all. FUCK IT. I don’t care. It’s stupid. Why did I even come here in the first place? Why must I always torment myself with some grandiose adventure plans? Why can I not just sit on my but, like most normal folks do, and NOT MOVE A FINGER?

I’ve made a decision, I’m not continuing. I rest my arms. I surrender.

The next bus to Bangkok is in one hour. The local bartender tries to direct me to the bus stop and is 100-positive I’ll be able to take my bike aboard.

Well, I end up spending an hour looking for that freaking bus stop: going back and forth, asking for additional information at the bar, even trying to catch a ride with local police force. In vain. Nobody’s going my way and whatever buses seem to be passing by, do not stop anywhere within sight.

My gosh, Thailand hates me so much, it will not even let me give up and hop on a coach. I’m forced to continue cycling and, luckily, have some good music on to keep me going. With the right beats in the ears, the perspective quickly shifts and the loathed circular movement of the thighs magically starts to smoothly sail on its own…

I get to Nakhon Sawan, aim for the centre and stumble across a hotel resort. I get an extra-cheap under-the-roof room and, once I scrub off yesterday’s hotel’s slime, I hit the town. By night or not, the city tour does not impress me: Thai city solutions are really not my style. I do manage to taste something quite delicious at the local street market though: corn fryers sold by a beautiful lady-boy.

Km: 111.66 km
Tm: 6:04
Av: 18.3 km/h
TOTAL: 778 km

wtorek, 23 lutego 2016

Day 10

New Sukhothai, Sukhothai – Tambon Sai Ngam

I leave with hosts early in the morning: 7 am and I’m already out of the city. Just an hour ride away is the Sukhothai Historical Park. I get there right in time for breakfast and I’m ready for the visit. I come across several tourist groups: all exclusively Caucasian with a local showing around. I have this uneasy feeling of participating in a white supremacist conspiracy. This experience is the last piece of proof I needed to decide once for all that anything touristy is really not my thing. It’s fake, it’s plastic, flat and taken out of context.

Two hours later I’m back on my ride. With wide open roads I feel like I’m cruising. It’s still fairly early and thus pleasantly warm and comfortable.

I stop for some best phad thai I’ve ever had in a tiny roadside hut where I’m particularly popular amongst the female element. The photo session behind, I leave my newfound fan club with hope of finding a place to crash for the night soon. It’s only 2pm but I’m already tired, too hot, in the middle of NOWHERE, with NOTHING to look at, nowhere to stop at and nothing to do (cycling apart). I’m getting grumpy as I am really fed up and just want a nice air-conditioned hotel room. And cocktails. And a dress. And a nice jazz bar. My god, such a dire need for comfort means I’m getting old.

Fun fact of the day: it seems I’m in the least touristic part of Thailand, with nothing in sight apart for paddy fields. There’s no traveller-friendly infrastructure and the ever so popular guest houses are impossible to find. After three hours of nothing and an additional hour of going back up a route I took, I stop at a police box and refuse to move.

I stop a passing cyclist to ask for help and he calls the on-duty personnel. After failing to convince the policeman to letting me sleep at the police box, he gives me a ride to the nearest hotel and pays for my room. A random act of kindness I was not expecting.

Unfortunately, the resort is far from what I’d wished for. The room smells funny, the bathroom is a hot sauna that smells real bad, with feces-like wall colour (sic!) and smudges of blood/vomit/God-knows-what all over the walls of the studio. After the fatal mistake of trying to move a stool closer to the table, I discover it shelters a worm colony underneath. I hop into my sleeping bag on the bed, hoping that the mattress is not infected with anything and that the bugs will not eat my face off whilst I’m sleeping. Well, maybe the lizards whom I’m sharing the room with will make a snack of them before…?

Km: 100.85 km
Tm: 5:42
Av: 17.6 km/h
TOTAL: 666 km

poniedziałek, 22 lutego 2016

Day 9

Hat Siao, Sukhothai – New Sukhothai, Sukhothai

Upon ravaging the entire breakfast stock the hotel put on the table, my belly and I are ready to go. It’s hot, it’s flat and I’m tired and uncomfortable. I don’t like the scenery and I don’t feel like talking to people. I just want to be on my bike. I suspect though it’s because of the language barrier which renders communication with locals nearly impossible. It’s quite frustrating to be honest, as I can’t bullshit my way around and need to speak the only internationally recognised language: money.

After 75 kilometres of soaking myself in water and drying up in minutes, I get to New Sukhothai, where I’m to wait for my CouchSurfing host, Pornpan, who finishes off at 5pm.

Since I get to the city at around 3, what better way to kill the time than with a good ol’ massage? Thai landscapes my not be to my liking, but Thai massage definitely is.

Pornpan shows up right after I’m done, with her boyfriend, on a motorbike (the basic means of transportation in the country). Luckily, when we go out to dinner, I get to ride ON rather than BEHIND one.

The couple takes me out to their favourite restaurant which, surprise, turns out to be Western-cuisine inspired. I hope nobody takes this personally but Thais better stick to their traditional food.

We talk about travelling and working opportunities around the world. Turns out that Thais have just a couple of days of paid leave. Basically, if you want to go and travel you have to quit your job! I am so grateful to be living in a holiday-generous Republique of France!

Km: 75.94 km
Tm: 3:56
Av: 19.2 km/h
TOTAL: 565 km

niedziela, 21 lutego 2016

Day 8

Wiang Kosai National Park – Hat Siao, Sukhothai

On beauty, wealth & fame

Finally, my waterfall frustration comes to an end! 8 am they say? I spring out of bed at 7:30 am to be « at the gate » before 8:00. With my bathing suit on, I am prepared to do my own interpretation of the « Little Mermaid ». Except that with no one to impress, and the waterfall not overhanging, I just content myself with going up all the 7 stories: a truly breath-taking experience!

Upon the return to the base, I give in and eat the two plastic-toxic noodle soups I have from the evening before. The moment I finish burning out what’s left of my taste buds, Mr Daet, the ground guard, gifts me with some fruit. He seems sad to see me go...

Austral-bound, the weather is getting hotter and hotter with every kilometre. Temperatures going up faster and harder, the later I set off, the more I am to pay. “Suffering” being the going currency. Just like today. The road, under the sizzling sun, runs through parched fields of limes and pomelos. Alas, not even the thought of fresh, free, wholesome fruit can offset my sweaty torment.

This is one of those moments when I get pissed with myself for doing “n'importe quoi” (“fuck knows what!”) and envision dropping it all and quitting at the sight of the next hotel or train station. Thank God none of that is ever in vicinity for me to ACTUALLY decamp. For, and I really want to remember that, “everything passes and this shall pass too.” And it does and by the end of the day I'm a rather smug biker.

So what's with this beauty, wealth and fame business? Well, thanks to global economics, each Westerner is pretty wealthy by Thai standards. Beauty being my INNATE quality (right?!), the time has come for the FAME. And that time is today.

I stop for lunch in a tiny lost village: the owner wants to take a picture with me. Why not, right? It seems she was talking about me to her daughter all lunch, as I heard them practice “can I take a photo with you” they later use on me.

I stop for some iced coffee by a local market: all eyes turn onto me. I pretend not to notice by being DEEPLY interested in my drink. Some passers-by smile and even point fingers at me, while some others try to strike up a conversation (in Thai...). Am I being the popular girl, or what?

I stop for the night at a hotel and the managers' daughter asks for my email, phone or Facebook...

Is it me or have I just risen to stardom? Or is it my bike? Or my skin tone? I hear that Asians love whites, which can be easily confirmed by the stock of whitening creams and ointments local stores are filled with. Yeah, I must be the curiosity of the day as I don't think politically correct token White in one's social circle is at play here…

Km: 75 km
Tm: 4:09
Av: 18.0 km/h
TOTAL: 489 km