Category Archives: Thailand

Ooh, that egg looks interesting… What’s it called? “Horse piss egg”.

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I had a good few days in Bangkok resting up, enjoying all things western once again, though not enjoying the western prices. Simply eating and sleeping costs at least 5 times as much as when on the road in the middle of nowhere. Sure, I could have hunted out the super cheap guesthouses and noodle shacks, but I enjoyed the change. I stayed right next to Nana Skytrain station, which makes things really easy for getting about town.

21st century Siam Square - not so much a square as a jumble of cars and concrete!

21st century Siam Square – not so much a square as a jumble of cars and concrete!

Giant golden chicken

Giant golden chicken

Raised footpath - you don't want to fall into the water round here!!

Raised footpath – you don’t want to fall into the water round here!!

A procession of monks

A procession of monks


A couple of days ago I met up with Gordon, a friend of my brother’s from uni days, and he showed me round the island of Koh Kred in Bangkok. For those who like to escape the madness of a big city, this is the ideal break. Everything is raised up on stilts, including the houses (normal in thailand), as well as the paths which were all concrete. Quite precarious cycling along a path with a 6 foot drop on either side I can tell you… Later Gordon and his wife took me to their local restaurant to feed me the delights of deep fried crickets (quite nice actually) among other strange things including something whose direct translation to English is “horse piss egg”. Like a hard boiled egg but the egg was black, with a bright pink shell. I didn’t want to ask to many questions, but it tasted quite good!

The center of Bangkok is now one huge big shopping mall, with more on the way, and I seemed to spend a fair amount of time in them, given they had air-con!! One of the malls had an entire 5 floors entirely dedicated to computers/smartphones/gadgets. I gave in and bought myself a fake fancy smartphone for NZ. Fingers crossed it seems to be working fine so far!!!

My flights today have turned out to be a huge headache. Excess baggage (my bike) is not so easy to take with you when you are using different carriers, especially budget carriers like Jetstar Asia. It resulted in me having to wait in Singapore airport at the BA desk for several hours (after spending a good hour on the internet trying to buy excess luggage allowance) until someone arrived that could tell me how the system worked. I for one, will never mix regular airlines (BA/Qantus) with a budget airline (Jetstar Asia) again. I ended up getting stung for luggage twice.

So, not such an exciting post, but that’s because I’m not on my bike!! Still, at least It gave me a chance to recharge my batteries. I’m looking forward to getting to New Zealand – It’s going to be a totally different experience to Asia, but one I’m sure I’ll love just as much.

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Back to Bangkok to charge batteries.

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My last day in Cambodia, and as it turned out, the last day of my cycle tour of S.E. Asia. I passed through the most bombed area in Cambodia, which unsurprisingly has the highest proportion of land mine victims too. It was quite obvious by the mature scrub land which hasn’t been touched for 40 years.

I had a more than eventful drink stop in the morning – normally limited to basic sign language and smiles. This one involved a conversation with a soy sauce salesman as well as me saving a small child from blindness. OK, so perhaps she wasn’t going to go blind… She managed to squirt petrol in her eye and all three generations of family could think to do was to cover her eye with a dirty old rag. I managed to persuade them to pour water liberally into the girls eye, which at least stopped her from screaming, diluting it somewhat. I think they went off to a health center after that. It really showed me how little people know about basic medicine that westerners take for granted.

One of many signs showing an area has been cleared of mines.

One of many signs showing an area has been cleared of mines.

Tapioka drying on my cycle lane - pretty much the only safe place be.  Everywhere else is littered with mines.

Tapioka drying on my cycle lane – pretty much the only safe place be. Everywhere else is littered with mines.

Thank you Google!  One of many photos I took to help me find my pre-booked hotel

Thank you Google! One of many photos I took to help me find my pre-booked hotel


Good deed for the day done, I continued onto the Thailand border, which was a relatively simple affair, the only issue I had was forgetting that people drive on the other side of the road in Thailand. I managed to pass 3 vehicles before I thought it strange they were all on the wrong side of the road!!

I had not recovered fully from the illness a few days ago and felt really weak by mid morning. I could tell something was wrong when I found myself in bottom gear and I looked ahead to see the hill I was on was only slightly going uphill. I felt like a flat one of those cheap AA batteries you get in Aldi (yes, my mind works in strange ways). I decided to call it a day (didn’t have much of a choice) at the small town of Pong Nam Ron, which is 50km or so north of Chanthaburi. I caught the bus there and stayed the night before catching another bus to Bangkok this morning. So, Chiang Mai, Thailand > Laos > Vietnam > Cambodia > the little town of Pong Nam Ron, Thailand in 3742km. Not quite the landmark finish it could be!!

The bus to Bangkok this morning was a pleasure – I opted for the first class bus (with essential toilet given I wasn’t feeling 100%), which even provided everyone with airline style food. Upon reaching Bangkok bus station, I had 12km of Google map directions to follow on the many snapshots I took with my digital camera. Thankfully I only needed about 1km worth of directions as I managed to get my bike on the skytrain (just as well, as the battery was going flat). Getting my bike up to the skytrain on the escalator was an interesting experience, as was barging my way onto an already full train. At the other end, there were no escalators, nor lifts, so I had to bump down several sets of stairs. Just as well my battery was feeling a bit more charged by now!! The hotel was apparently just 50 M from the station, but it still took 20 minutes to find. Addresses are so complicated in Bangkok, many of the hotel websites actually give you their location by GPS/lat/long coordinate.

I’ve picked up my bag from self storage, cleaned my bike (not because I wanted to – apparently New Zealand has really strict bio-security and don’t fancy cleaning it with jetlag under the watchful eye of a kiwi inspector), and packed it up. I’m feeling a fair bit better tonight and managed to eat 3 meals for the first day in 5 days or so. Hope it’s the road to recovery!! I wandered around the area of my hotel – by Nana skytrain station – and stumbled upon the local girlie bar area. I think I saw where most of the Ladyboys of Bangkok work when they aren’t swinging from a big tent during the Edinburgh Festival. Not really my scene, so I’m having an early night taking full advantage of my (semi) luxury hotel!

Tha Ton to Chiang Khong, the long way!

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Tha Ton is a sleepy little village right next to the border with Burma.  I was invited up for lunch with a nice group of Thai women who were on holiday from Bangkok, staying in the local temple complex. Napa and her ‘city’ friends had come up for a week of yoga and getting up at 3am with the monks for praying (only I encountered them the previous night on a night off getting hammered at the local bar!)  It turns out anyone can stay in temple accommodation – all that is needed is a donation to the temple at the end of your stay.

The ferry down to Chiang Rai from Tha Ton is quite the experience – even for an adrenaline junkie like me.

Wee boat with HUGE engine.

Half a dozen of us were making the trip that day, trusting our lives with the driver who was weaving in and out of the rocks and rapids, all the while at a fair old lick.

Once in Chiang Rai, I quickly found a bed for the night, and started wandering the streets to stumble into a….pre-teen beauty pageant where girls as young as 6 were dolled up and put on the back of floats/rickshaws.  It was all very strange I have to say.  It was made even more strange by the fact that it was absolutely tipping it down with rain and those who didn’t have umbrellas just continued to sit there soaked to the skin smiling away and waving at the crowd as the spectators cowered in shop fronts.

The next day I headed  north with a view to catching a ferry to Laos & Luang Probang.  I ended up missing a turning and almost ended up in  Burma, so tracked the road down past the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Thailand and  Burma meet. I finally made it to Chiang Khong after 145km in one day.  Epic.

The number at the bottom is how far I have cycled to date.

Finally, for those of you who have been following my blog, but have not yet donated to my charity, please do so.  I know how many people read my blog and it’s about time you paid for it!!  Any amount is good, so long as it’s got a zero after it! 😉

http://www.justgiving.com/JohnnyMcManmon

Blowing Raspberries at dogs.

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I stayed in Malee’s nature bungalows near Chiang Dao last night.  While there, I visited a temple close by which involved walking up over 500 steps through the forest.  Every hundred yards or so there was a saying nailed to a tree which very cleverly gave you something to think about as you puffed up the next set of steps which meandered through an awesome forest.  At the top you entered a shallow cave which had become a bit of a shrine to a monk who had died.  A very peaceful place deep in the forest.

The next morning I set off at the crack of dawn,  (I know it’s an early start when I catch the monks doing their rounds offering prayers in exchange for money – door to door) as I knew I had another big day.  Thankfully it turned out to be one of the coolest days I have seen so far.  Having started so early, I was on the lookout for somewhere to get a coffee, when 2 pretty aggressive dogs took chase down the road – no need for a coffee after that I can tell you!  I don’t think the dogs here are used to seeing pushbikes, which are obviously silent.   The answer was  to make motorbike noises as I approached other dogs which the they seemed to understand, though I got a couple of strange looks from the locals.   I made it to Tha Ton right up north by the Burmese border by about 1pm – I had just missed the ferry down to Chiang Rai so am staying here tonight.

Finally, I couldn’t help but notice how this road sign I saw today is similar to one we have in the UK, though it is subtly different.  Thailand’s good education system has even made it onto road signs – the children actually carry books!

Back to Chiang Mai. Time to be a tourist for the day.

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I enjoyed a day on the bike which had, for the first time, absolutely no hills.  It showed in my average speed – every day so far I had averaged 12 or 13km/hr.  The ride on the flat up to Chiang Mai averaged at over 20km/hr.  I made a huge difference being able to stay cool by having the wind in my face as I cycled.

I had a really good coffee at a random little coffee shack, who it turns out the owner of which is an avid cyclist.  So, only asking for a coffee, I was given a coffee, a cup of tea as well as an ice milk tea which payment was refused for – much appreciated.

Each one with a light bulb in it

Arriving in Chiang Mai had it’s own challenge though, which was finding a bed for the night.  Loy Krathong (click here), a light festival which attracts thousands of tourists had filled up many of the guesthouses.  it took 8 requests for a room before I found one.

This combined with the weekly Sunday street market made for quite the event.

Filling candles in Doi Suthep temple

I hired a scooter for the day (awesome fun) and went up to Doi Suthep temple, which I have included a few pictures of.

I intend to head north tomorrow towards Fang, Chiang Rai and eventually Laos.

Andy – saw this, thought of you 🙂

The only begging I have seen since arrival to Chiang Mai.

Great street food.

Mae Sarieng to Hot – Hot by name, hot by nature.

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  • For the second day in a row I have cycled over 100km – today included a 20km climb which took almost 3 hours, mostly in bottom gear all before breakfast.  I ended up having a 4 egg omelette on rice at the top of the hill. There was also a 20km descent towards the end of the day which I really appreciated.  I would have stopped earlier though there wasn’t anywhere to stop along the way as it is quite  a remote region.  A cabbage growing region by all accounts, as I must have been passed by at least 50 pickups overflowing with them.  More than once I had to serve to avoid one that had escaped from the pickup and had fallen off,  onto the road.

Much of the day was spent thinking of ice cream – the past week or so I have been accustomed to seeing ‘Walls ice cream’ bunting above every village store, though the past couple of days have been in a much less touristy areas.

Tonight I’m in quite a cheap (250bhat), but perfectly clean guesthouse on the outskirts of Hot, and boy is it hot.  As I’m back down in valley floor it’s about 28 degrees at night time.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading north back to Chiang Mai, where I’ll try and formulate a plan for getting into Northern Laos (as well as have a rest day).

Pai to Mae Hong Son

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I’ve spent a night in Pai now, which wasn’t so memorable apart from the number of t-shirt and fridge magnet shops…  To be honest I had a feeling it was going to be like this as I must have been passed by over 50 mini-vans on my way here, carting tourists up from Chiang Mai.

I left early once again to beat the heat, though to be honest I knew it wasn’t going to be so bad as I was climbing to over 4000 feet where it would be cooler (and then right back down again).  I’m now in a wee place called Little Eden in Soppong which is a fantastic guesthouse run by an amazing woman – Pen, who along with her helpers A and Apple (they like to shorten their names to words in English) provide a really clean professional, friendly outfit.  Highly recommended.

I had dinner there with 2 scientists studying insects in the region (one from Germany, one from Israel).  Initially very interesting, but somehow, we ended up on politics and religion (hardly a surprise given what’s going on in Israel just now).  I suggested talking about the third fo paux, money, but they weren’t that enthusiastic…

Much more fun where the 3 Thai women.  One of them had just found out she had won a significant amount of money on the lottery.  I heard the figure equating to 10,000 quid being banded about – the amount of noise she made certainly would make that reasonable.   We ended up emptying a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky to celebrate.  Much hilarity was had over how it should be called ‘Johnny Cyclist’ as I was a cyclist.    Another totally random unexpected night,  once again in a remote village with some wonderful people.  I think remote wee villages are the way forward….

I took a trip up to Tham Lot (click here) – a huge cave system 9km from Soppong which has a river flowing through it.  I opted to take a  guide walking into the cave using a paraffin lamp – all very atmospheric, though I couldn’t really see where I was going, and at one point I almost fell flat on my face – cycling shoes are not made for walking in caves! Quite a remarkable experience.

I set off towards Mae Hong son this morning which is only 65km, though once again, it involves another massive climb – 2 ½ hours to be precise.  Once again, I was rewarded fantastic views at the top.  I ended up being a bit of a celebrity at the top with everyone and their dog wanting to take a picture with me in it.  I suspect it not because they have never seen a white man before, more that they have never met a white man crazy enough to cycle up the mountains in this region!!  I’m afraid I was more interested in wolfing down a packet of biscuits at the time so they might have some strange shots!!