Friday, September 4, 2009
I'm beginning to think the best parts of Global Cycle Ride are the parts where I'm not cycling. I've just returned from Bangkok, Thailand to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan after spending the last 6 weeks on a holiday away from the bicycle. It was an incredible time. The first 4 weeks were spent with my dad, Jim. It was 'boot to the headlight' all the way. We toured around Laos, visiting Buddist temples and caves and stayed in a wonderful river side hut on the edge of a jungle. The highlight of Vietnam would have been a cruise through Halong bay in a beautiful old style junk boat and then in Cambodia we visited a mass grave memorial site of the Polpot regime, then a few days spent at possibly the world's greatest archaelogical site of Angkor Wat. We also got to visit the family of a Cambodian friend of mine. Although this family is desparately poor, they gave us a great welcome. Relatives, friends and neighbours visited Kimseng's home to witness the unusual arrival of foreign guests to this poor village. We, in turn, visited the neighbours' homes. In all cases it was warm welcomes, but I was surprised how openly the people wished to talk about the Polpot regime and the terror it had brought to their lives. A neighbour described how he climbed out of a mass grave "half-dead", while his 10 year old son stared at the floor and listened. Cambodia is certainly the poorest country I've ever visited and its a hard one to figure out. Everyone Cambodian I met, sings praise for the government, who have been in power for almost 30 years, even though not one person has been found guilty of any wrong doing during the Polpot regime. Its almost no surprise to see the country promotes itself as; "Cambodia-Kingdom of Wonder". In south east Asia, a traveller can find a basic but comfortable hotel for under US$10 a night. This generally worked fine for us, but once we unknowingly checked into a hotel between two nightclubs. Crap music played till 5am and dad slept in the quietest part of the room;- The bathroom.
Genevieve certainly had no intention of staying at such accommodations after flying half way across the globe. The only stars that I am used to are the ones that fill the sky above my tent, but in Thailand's islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phanghan, our resorts had plenty of stars after their names. We had a beach side villa with private pool. There was the cliff top appartment with balcony and spectacular views across the sea. Infinity pools. I didn't even know what these were till I jumped in one. Our candle lit dinner on the beach was a far cry from my noodle soup in the tent. A cruise through a marine national park for some kayaking. And a private boat hire to go snorkling off some remote islands. Apart from when we rented a 4 wheel drive to do some off-roading through the centre of Samui, almost all our time was spent on, in or near the water.
It has been a great 6 week break from cycling. The best of company, continually happy moments, great and interesting conversations in exciting and exotic locatons. But the holiday is over and its back to work (!?!). I'm back in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. I took a 500KM shared taxi from Bishkek back to Osh (with the bike on the roof). And its time to continue this big bike ride around the world. And to continue it from where I left off. Although I have two countries left to cross, China and USA, I reckon I'm approximately half way around the globe. I'm about 400KMs from the Chinese border and I must admit, crossing the next one is a bit of a daunting task. China is 130 times the size of Ireland. Its going to be a big one and a tough one. we've got big mountains coming up and the winter is on its way. But first theres the Taklamakan desert to cross (The world's longest road through a sand desert). Its all ahead of me and I'll keep ye posted. But for the moment, its time to get back in the saddle and pedal to the Chinese border to begin stage 3 of Global Cycle Ride.
P.S. Just to let ye know, it could be a long time before I get to update this blog. I've heard blogspot.com is banned in China