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Published: November 15th 2015
Wang Chin. To me, it sounds more like the name of a Chinese town, but in fact, it is in Thailand, and I never would have come here without a bicycle, This is the beauty of traveling on a bike: you go to places that few people get to see and sometimes, it's just these places that become the highlights of a trip.
But first thing first.
I left Chiang Mai a few days ago. My bike was finally in better shape and I was ready to go. It was almost hard to leave my guest house: after 4 days, it felt like home and I was enjoying the comfort of a 900 bhat room! The owner was watching me packing and she took photos, she could not believe that I was going to travel on a bike with my luggage. I could hardly believe it myself, my bags seemed heavier than I was hoping, but I comforted myself by thinking about people who have 4 panniers and travel around the world. Surely I could do it with 2? Well, I was hoping, at least.
I arrived in Saraphi, where I was meeting Robert, my Warmshowers host. A German fellow, married
to a very nice Thai woman. When I got to their place I couldn't believe it. This was far nicer than anything I could have expected. I had my own guest house, built by Robert, all beautifully made of teak wood. Kung had prepared a mushroom soup for me and I spent the afternoon and evening chatting with Robert about cycling in Thailand. I had so many questions! He then transferred some maps on my GPS so I would have additional points of interest.We had a big salad for supper and went to bed.
The next morning, I was excited but nervous about my first real day, and about finding my way from village to village. Then I realized that my GPS didn't really work anymore. I felt so disheartened. Luckily, I had read the night beofre about an app called maps.me and with that, a paper map and google maps, I have been able to find my way not so bad.
Well, I won't get into all the details (even if I am tempted, but I should then write a book instead of a blog), but the last 3 days have been very exciting. Little things that we do
automatically at home become an adventure when you can't communicate. This is what I find most difficult: English is almost non existent here. And I have no hope of learning Thai. So finding food is my biggest challenge. Sounds funny to say that, as there is nothing but foodstalls all over, but 95% of the food is not for vegetarians.
But with a phrase book that have the key words written in Thai script, and lots of smiles, I managed to prevent starvation until now.
The scenery was not the best the first day as I had to ride along a busy 4 to 6 lane highway. But then it got a lot better and today was just amazing. Rural Thailand, during harvest season is so colorful. People stopped working to wave from a distance at the foreign cyclist. The road is in perfect shape and the hills are very manageable so far. I haven't seen many other tourists, or cyclists. Only on the first day but haven't had a chance to talk to any off them. But I saw lots of dead snakes, one that was really big with orange and black stripes. I regretted not taking a picture
but then I thought that maybe it wasn't really dead!!! I also went by an elephant school, an elephant hospital and some beautiful wat (monasteries). They are simply amazing
Last night, I stayed in Lampang. A small city, very quiet and certainly worth an extra day of touring around. I had contacted a Warmshowers host who lives in Lampang. She is a really nice young woman who studied abroad. So she speaks perfect English and very good French. She could not invite me at her place so she had booked a room for me at R-Lampang guest house. Very charming place, where the owners obviously put a lot of attention into small details. I had a king size bed and a beautiful shower decorated with stones. Nat invited me for lunch in a local restaurant by the river and we spent a very enjoyable time talking about all kinds of things. I was also very lucky that it was Saturday and there was a big street market at night. Wow. Fantastic. I should have taken pictures but I just couldn't. It was just too authentic. A very different type of market, with all kinds of food, and all kinds of
food I don't know. Most of which I would not want to eat! But what a treat to walk around and "witness" life in another country. I had another banana pancake for supper!
And back to Wang Chin now... I arrived early, after a great morning ride. Had lunch in a typical local restaurant. Delicious rice and veggies. Rested during the hottest part of the day in a more basic but quite nice guest house (Vangtong guest house, a bit nicer than the alternative Viraporn resort-interesting name). Then I decided to bike around town. It is actually much bigger than I thought, and so far the friendliest place too. Of course, I didn't go unnoticed, but people were smiling, genuine smiles and I was able to buy some food.
Nothing fancy, but I realize how much of what I like about traveling is being able to interact with local people. And so far it has been very difficult. But there are many ways to communicate...
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