Hat Praphat to Ranong 92km
Ranong To Chumphon 124km
Today I cycled from the west coast to the east coast of Thailand. The first 65km followed a river, about the size of the Waimak in flood, or twice the Waikato in Hamilton. Across that river was another country, with different traditions, government, money, language, and political makeup. It would take me about ten minutes to ferry glide across the river in my kayak, to another world, one that has been, until recently shut away from tourists. But I'm not sure that I'd get away with an illegal border crossing like that, as both countries have patrol boats out on the river, just like in the movies. Many, many locals do attempt the crossing however. I'm told almost half the local population, here in Thailand, is in fact from Myanmar. We in NZ, surrounded by ocean, and with our closest neighbour Australia, forget just how complex the political situations can be in places like Asia. It was fascinating to realize that somewhere so different was so close.
Another thing we in NZ don't realise is how much we value life, and keeping ourselves safe, compared to other parts of the world. I'm referring to driver safety here in Asia. Would the following ever be acceptable in NZ? Riding in the back of a ute on an open highway. Standing in the back of a ute, at 80kph plus on an open highway. Sitting on the tail gate on a ute on the open highway. Sitting on the cab roof on a truck. Standing outside the bus door. School kids doing all the above, plus sitting on the school bus roof. Standing on the back bumper at road speed. And then there's the motorbike helmet issue. All over Thailand there are signs saying "helmets 100%". But who does that refer to? Occasionally the rider has a helmet. But what about the pillion passenger, and the baby in her arms, and the toddler between the riders legs? And they all wear jandals. Yep, they make my risk management genes writhe.
So a couple of long days of undulating terrain. I saw three guys on road bikes with tiny backpacks, and they were flying. Another type of cycle tourist. Other than that, I've been alone with my thoughts, and many of those thoughts are about how much I'm missing my lovely lady, Juliet. If she didn't have such an amazing job, she might be with me now. But her job offers her so much. It is exciting, adventurous, sometimes a little dangerous, and both physically and emotionally challenging. (some would say she has chosen wisely, as being with me would be even more physically and emotionally challenging). Juliet is very good at her job, and I'm very very proud of what she does. The hard part is not being there to support her. Intermittent Internet contact is not the same as a timely hug, and words of support, sympathy or encouragement. Friends, I am asking you to stand in for me. Next time you see Ju, give her a hug for me. Thanks.
Heading north towards Bangkok tomorrow, with a French couple on a tandem. Looking forward to the company, the coast road, and the occasional swim.