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Monday, January 31, 2011

The end of Thailand

I woke up a few days ago and made the decision to ride to the nearest town and catch a bus to Bangkok, then to Pattaya. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was very close to Bangkok and did not want to ride through it and knew I needed to get further south to make my way to Cambodia. I decided I would spend the night in Pattaya. Now I have heard shady things about Pattaya and the stuff that goes on there. I thought I could just stay away from it and find a nice quiet spot. Man was I wrong. This place was an absolute zoo. There were only 4 kinds of establishments in the entire city, pharmacies, tattoo parlors, lady bars, and restaurants. It was the most overwhelming, crowded, touristy place I had been yet. Everywhere you look there are big fat European men walking hand in hand with very young Thai women and boys. Every other place is a go go bar and the music is so loud you cannot hear yourself think. I found a somewhat quiet guesthouse and put all my gear away. All I can say is I will never come back here ever again. The next morning I woke up early to get a head start and get the hell out of didge. I will never forget the look of shame in every persons eye that morning.

So I headed south and stayed in a couple different small fishing villages in the south. One night I stayed in Sattahip, a small Thai Navy town, I got this 100 baht a night guesthouse. The bathroom was totally awesome! Check out the picture, there wasn't even a hose to spray my arse out with, and yes that is a diaper stuffed in the concrete window thing. I then began my
journey to koh Chang, an island close to the Cambodia border. This is my last stop before I cross the border and begin volunteering at a local school. This island is absolute paradise! I rode for 10 hours the other day to catch the last ferry to the island. I got off the ferry and figured I would just ride my bike to the nearest guesthouse. I didn't realize the island was almost 60km around and the first 10km to the nearest beach community was straight up and down hairpin turn climbs. I was totally fried by the time I got there. I found a cheap guest house and ate dinner and had a cappuccino while watching the sun set on the beach.

Yesterday I spent the day
with a couple friends I met. We went to the most south eastern tip of the island. It took us 2 hours by motor bike to get there. (this is where I pull another swifty move) so we all head to the beach and jump in, swim for a while then have lunch at this restaurant right on the beach, banana shakes for all! Then we head back to the ocean to do some more swimming and chilling. We are about to leave and realize we can't find the key to the motor bike!! I think I had it in my pocket when we were swimming. So we spend some time looking for it and realize it's lost in Davey Jones locker. We ended up riding 3 of us on one motor scooter for 2 hours over unimproved dirt roads and up and down the steepest roads I have ever been on. Hahahaha none of us lost our cool even once, we all totally accepted what happened and it was not a big deal. We went to the place she rented the motor bike and paid 300 baht (talked down from 700) for a new key, I rented a motor bike, we all went out for dinner and we will drive back
and get her motor bike tomorrow. Another totally random awesome day in paradise

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cambodia bound

Now I am in the town of Sak Lek and I have met this awesome couple that runs a coffee shop, he invited me in to have some coffee and we instantly had a connection, he is a cyclist also! His name is Preecha and his wife is Wassna. I sat and talked a while with him, I mentioned I was going to stay and sleep at a Wat in town tonight and he told me he had a room for 300 baht, I told him I would stick with the Wat in town. So time passed as we talked about cycling and he showed me good spots to stop along my travels through Thailand on the map. After a while he offered me the room for free which was awesome! I now have a place to stay for free for the night and he also hooked me up with free coffee, snacks and dinner!!! Whoa these people are so nice and generous with their stuff. I have never experienced anything like it. A complete stranger offering a free place to stay and free meals at his restaurant. I took a shower and then he was walking me around his property. His mother’s house was right next door and he has 5 small houses on his property, he built everything himself. The coffee shop has been open for 10 years and he apparently does pretty well for himself. He had a karaoke machine in one of the buildings, he said it was his cousins and that his whole family likes to sing. The sunset was absolutely beautiful tonight , it set over this big open field with palm trees and other trees hiding it. I was beginning to feel very homesick but these people have gone out of their way to make me feel like their family. Around 7pm what looked like his whole family came over and entered the karaoke room. About 10 minutes later as I was eating this huge feast of a meal made of spaghetti, shrimp and pork I heard this beautiful Thai music coming from the room across the way. He was definitely not kidding when he said that his family likes karaoke. They were rocking it out in there!

I bet some of you are wondering when I am going to start all this humanitarian work I have been promoting. I am right on schedule with everything as I had “planned”, plans changed a little in the beginning and I ended up in Chiang Mai. My first volunteer stint will be at the Kirivorn school not far from the Thai border. I have been been riding my bike towards Cambodia for a week now. Feb 7th will mark my first mission at Kirivorn, then I will head deeper into Cambodia to meet my friend and contact Charles in Kampot and that will be my launching site. With Charles help I will figure out where I can be of most help to students while there. He has opened a technology and learning center in Kampot and I may stick around there and help him and Cambodian students for a while. I will keep everyone posted as to what exactly I will be doing. I am looking forward to hanging out with Tammy for a while and volunteering at Kirivorn. Untill then I will continue the journey towards Cambodia on my bicycle. I have been going through a lot of emotional stuff the last week on the road. Being a solo cyclist riding 6-9 hours a day really takes a toll on you physically and emotionally. I have gone through so many emotions. When I feel like quitting I just think of the good I can accomplish and all of the people back home.

Oh and I just started 2 online classes. I thought simple things like ordering food and finding a place to sleep were hard enough. Now lets see what happens when I have to find high speed internet and take 2 classes. Oh man, what I have I gotten myself into??

Only 3 weeks weeks in country and check out this SWEET tan line!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lesson learned (again)

My hand is feeling fine and the burns blistered and turned to hard skin pretty quickly. Not much pain resting my hand on the bars.

I am now in Sukhothai pronounced Soo-koh-thai, I butcher the crap out of the pronunciations of town names. Stopping and asking locals which direction a town is, I usually get a look like, what's this guys problem. That's the undertone to interacting with the locals for me right now. I am working on honing my skills and being able to sync with them. Another one of my problems is syncing myself with the Thai way of life, for everyone that knows me I am ball of energy and I'm always going like the energizer bunny. Here, it is a different way of life. As I ride down the road people are taking naps and hanging out telling stories. I am learning how
to be a professional wanderer. As my friend Charles
in Cambodia says, you just need to take your time and enjoy everything. The night before last I stayed in a small little town between Lampang and Sukhothai called Wang Chin, it was a very rural little town and I made friends with a local mechanic as I rolled into town, he spoke very little english but he was able to direct me towards the local Ban-Pahk (guesthouse). I showered, went into town and got some food so I could crash for the night.
I woke up at 6am to start riding as early as possible, I wanted to make it
to Sukhothai. It ended up taking me 9 hard hours to get here. I was totally
spent by the time I got here, I barely had enough energy to walk into town to get food. I slept 12 hours and woke up around 11am today. Took me a while to get going but I decided to spend another day here and check out historic Sukhothai. The lesson I learned from this is to not have a definite destination, just a direction to travel in. I need to learn to stop and take a nap when I'm tired or chill and eat a bowl of noodles in the shade when the sun is out.

Today after 2 cups of coffee and breakfast I headed to the historic part of Sukhothai which was about 12km west of the modern part of the city. This place was absolutely breathtaking. It is the ruins of the Sukhothai kingdom from the 13th and 14th centuries. The city was founded in the year 500. You can feel the
power of this ancient holy city while walking around. There were local families from Thailand praying at the giant statue of Buddha. After walking around for a while I sat and just took everything in for a while. I am very happy I stayed another day here.

Tomorrow I am going to leave nice and early, beat the sun and get some km's in before it gets hot. When it gets hot I am going to practice my patience, tolerance and Thai style of living by heading to the first Wat I see and chilling with some monks for the afternoon, maybe even taking a nap!!!

That is all for now, wish me luck as I try and chill out a little.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You play with fire, you will get burned.

I have left my comfort zone once again and began the descent from Chiang Mai to Cambodia. The first leg was 100 km. I woke up bright and early to beat the hot sun and traffic. the soundtrack to the first part of my first touring ride was Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, the perfect song for a solo dude not really knowing where he's going. The ride went well, I stopped a bunch of times for food. I got to the a town called Lampang and went to try and find a guesthouse. It is super hard to try and ask people where anything is. I have to pull out my lonely planet phrase book and point to sentences to get anywhere. Nothing is in English like it was in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I finally found a guesthouse and took a shower. Man, a shower feels like heaven after a 7 hour ride!!

Lampang is a really sweet town, it feels like I'm the only white guy, th
eres no tuk tuk's, coffee is really great, people are nice,
temples are huge and old, theres horse drawn carriages, and the local markets are hoppin! After taking that much needed s
hower I rolled around town and stumbled into a small english teaching school. I met this woman (whose name I cannot pronounce but I can spell it) Nutjarie, her and this American dude run this small school right down the road from my guesthouse. She was totally awesome and picked me up on her motor bike and brought me around the city and let me be a tourist and take pictures of all the beautiful temples. She brought me to a bunch of awesome markets and we got noodle soup at the best spot in town!
I planned on leaving yesterday morning but I woke up with a nasty cough and sore throat so I decided to stay another day and rest. Nutjarie picked me up and brought me to get Vitamic C, Zinc, coconuts, oranges, bananas, lemons and ginger to make tea then we got some more noodle soup. I felt like crap all day. I sat around in bed watching movies and eating all kinds of tropical fruit. I made lemon and ginger tea with my camping stove.

Then she picked me up at 730 and we went out for more noodle soup, this time with chicken!! Then more coconuts and she dropped me off. I am so grateful for her picking me up and bringing me around. I got some denatured alcohol today to make tea on my camping stove. I started making tea and after I lit the stove I dropped the big bottle of alcohol and it went all over the walls and floor. I picked it up and dropped it again, spilling alcohol all over my hand. So now theres flames all over the walls, the flames are over a foot high on the floor and my hand is on fire. Adrenaline is rushing through my entire body, my pupils totally dilated. I try blowing on the flames but that just

spreads them, I think back to my military training (third grade) and remember gas fire needs to be smothered, so after slapping myself with my hand to put it out, I grab the sweet denim long sleeve shirt I bought a few days earlier for my ride to Pai and start slapping at the flames, at first it does nothing but piss them off, then I throw the whole jacket down on the flames, this seems to work so I move to the walls and I finally extinguish all the flames. A plastic bag on the shelf caught on fire and was dripping gooey globs of flaming plastic onto the floor. Oh man I thought the guesthouse was going to burn down. There wasn’t any burn marks anywhere surprisingly. Only the alcohol was burning not the walls or the tile floor. Whoa! That was a crazy adventure. My hand has 2nd degree burns on it and the blistering has already started. Whoaaa buddy. I am just grateful I didn’t burn the place down.

It is 1030 Friday morning, I just made coffee on my stove in a very mindful manner. I will only learn that lesson once (I hope). My cold feels a little better. I will pack up and hit the road, heading to a town called Wang Chin today, we will see what happenes on this adventure.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Randomness in Thailand

I woke up and had breakfast yesterday and randomly decided I wanted to take a road trip to a little mountain town that some really chill people have been telling me about. I headed to this motor bike rental place called Mr. Mechanic and rented a motor scooter for 2 days at 200 baht a day which is roughly 7 dollars. I went to my guesthouse, grabbed some water and hit the road. The motor scooter was a 120cc Honda Dream and had no clutch so it took me some time to get use to.

I was only about 15 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai
when I realized I was going to be very cold in just a T-shirt, shorts and Chocos, so I pulled over at the first random roadside quasi clothes shop I could find and bought this beautiful pink-greyish denim long sleeve shirt, I looked more like a local and less like a tourist with this bad boy. It was 83 degrees when I left and it got much colder way up in the mountains.

Picture driving up the north side of Greylock with the 4 hairpin turns, now add about a 100 more hairpin turns and you are close to how it was driving to Pai. I have never experienced anything like it and to think I was contemplating riding my bike there. It would have taken me 2 days. I stopped for coffee and food twice on my way. All and all it took me about 5 hours to drive to Pai. I rode through the little village town and kept going, I saw signs for some mountain resort place so I headed there. They wanted 800 baht a night to stay there so I kept going and about 2km down the road I Found this sweet little
cabin on a hillside for 300 baht
a night. I unpacked my stuff and headed back towards town. A small yellow sign that said "Womb" Meditation Center pointed down this long dirt road so I figured why not, and followed out into the jungle down 3 long roads and finally down some sketchy driveway. I was kind of wondering what the hell I was going to find and all of a sudden this beautiful house appeared from behind some palm trees. I parked my scooter and walked around, I didn't see anyone, I called out suwat-dee-kap which is hello in Thai, I turned around and this 6 foot 3 Austrian dude was like "are you here
for the 6:00 vipassana meditation?" It was 5:45, I had a confused look on my face and I said "it looks like I am" It's crazy how things work out sometimes. So we chilled for a bit and then I hopped in his truck and we headed into town to this tea bar which was out of this world. It had wheat grass growing everywhere and had every type of tea you could imagine.
We ordered food, drank kava tea and talked about all kinds of crazy stuff.

This is how I pictured my travels, meeting all kinds of random people and getting into all kinds of random situations. I am so grateful for this journey and all of the people I am going to meeAdd Imaget on it.

I am back at my guesthouse in Chiang Mai now and I planned on leaving on my 2 week trek to Cambodia tomorrow but I have an appointment at Payap University tomorrow to figure out if I can transfer here and finish my BA in Chiang Mai, Payap University is registered with the American VA system so I might not be coming home for a long time!!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finally here!

This is the first time I have updated my blog since landing in Bangkok on the 7th, I am on day 5 in Thailand.
The first day I landed and was in total culture shock, it was like being in a different universe. EVERYTHING was different. The traffic was is absolutely insane, no-one speaks english, everyone was staring at this white dude with a huge bicycle box wandering around like a deranged lunatic. A friend of a friend at Kripalu that lives in Bangkok came and picked me up from the airport and brought me to my guesthouse. I was in Bkk (airport code for Bangkok) for 3 days. The first day I was jet-lagged and very overwhelmed, thank god for friends who knew exactly what I was feeling. I went through so many different emotions, from being excited and happy, to wanting to catch the next flight home. Apparently if you throw yourself into a crazy situation like this, your body and mind react accordingly. On the third day I had seen a bunch of temples, taken a tuk tuk ride, eaten fresh coconuts, got thai massages, fed catfish, taken a water ferry, seen an enormous Buddha statue, visited with good friends, eaten street food, gone to the biggest craziest market in Bkk, and taken a motor scooter taxi, it was an insane 3 days.
I took an 11 hour bus ride from Bkk to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and it is WAY more chill here. I am very glad to be out of Bkk. I am sitting in a little covered patio right now having breakfast and just chilling. My friend Tammy that I met at Kripalu has a couple friends that have a house outside the city and they are letting me crash here for a few days. The day I got here I went on a bike ride (finally) and climbed this huge 5,700 foot mountain and saw elephants, monkeys, waterfalls, and village towns, it was a sight tAdd Imageo behold. I feel a lot more normal now that I can actually ride my bike.

On the second day here I met up with a good Berkshire friend Blair, we met at the WaWee coffee shop and told stories of our travels. Yesterday Blair and I went downhill mountain biking in the jungle mountains of Chiang Mai. We had an awesome guide, super friendly and knowledgable. We got shuttled to the top and there were only 4 of us flying down. We stopped after a short descent from the top at this coffee plantation in the middle of the rain forest, it was a sight to behold. We drank freshly picked, roasted and ground coffee. I have never seen anything like it, even in movies!!!
I am feeling much more at home in Thailand now. Chiang Mai is a really awesome (bike friendly) town and I feel like I could set up shop and live here forever! The people are friendly, the food is cheap, and the roads outside the city are epic for road riding. I have to leave Karen and Mark's place on Thursday and I am re-locating in downtown Chiang Mai at a guesthouse that is 250 Baht ($10) a night. I don't know how long I will stay here for.

So it is day 5 and I really like Thailand a lot so far. I am trying to find some other local cyclists and find a good route from Chiang Mai to Cambodia. It will be at least a week long ride maybe more depending where I decide to ride to in Cambodia.

I will try and keep the updates coming on a weekly basis!

Love and Light,


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Airport Ninja

So many emotions have been running through me today. I have made the same breakfast everyday for the last year and a half consisting of sautéed vegetables, eggs, goat cheese, millet toast and olive oil and it was very surreal making it for the last time.

I threw a bunch of stuff in a backpack last night so I hope I have enough stuff to make it through 6 months in a developing country!! I have my bike, some camera stuff and a passport, I should be good.

I hung around the bike shop all morning and said goodbye to a bunch of people, went to Rubi's got a coffee and said bye to yet more people. Headed to the coop to get some semblance of healthy food to eat on my 30+ hour travel journey.
Tyler came and picked me up around 12:30 and I watched the bike shop disappear from the rear view mirror, we were headed for the dirty Jerzey but we had to make a pit stop for North Plain Farm in Westchester to unload over 500 pounds of cow meat to a high end restaurant.

I got to the airport around 430 and couldn't even check my bags until 730, so I sat around in the wheelchair section with an Indian man named Chandran and another man from Ethiopia and they told me stories of their home countries and I of my plans to travel SE Asia by bicycle. They thought I was crazy like most people do!

The time flew by with my new friends, just picture a white hippie guy, an Ethiopian, and an Indian (red dot not feather) sitting in wheelchairs belly laughing. It was quite the sight I'm sure for passer-bys. I finally got to check my bicycle, they tried charging me for the bicycle and I whipped out the paperwork Steffen told me to print out this morning from the airlines website that says bicycles are free and the guys checking me in settled down. Got my bike and duffel checked no problem and now I am sitting here in the terminal waiting to board the plane. One more hour and I'm off!!!

Will check in after I arrive in BKK

Much Love!