Dan said “we had better actually do something if we are going to write about anything”. Basically our days have been pretty laid back since arriving at the beach on Koh Chang Island over a week ago. Yoga at dawn on the deck of the funky fisherman’s guest house where we are staying, followed by ginger tea, a walk to breakfast on the beach, reading and napping in the hammock, kayaking to the beach to swim, more reading, a run for Dan, then a long walk down the beach for a perfect curry dinner, and home by the light of the moon. Completely relaxing. Today I thought we might want to get back on our bikes in a few days to start cycling to Bangkok to catch our flight home, but the bus would be much easier, and certainly faster.
The stark contrast of tidiness in Thailand with the dustiness of Cambodia struck us as we cycled across the border last week. The beautifully paved roads with wide shoulders, relatively sane drivers, lush green roadsides, garden stores and sweet little eateries welcomed us with the predictable Thai hospitality. Thailand is a great country for cycling and we do plan to return for more cycling trips here.
We arrived on Koh Chang by ferry from the mainland, and within the hour our bikes were locked to a tree. They are still locked to the tree. We are feeling sad to be finished with the biking part of our trip.
Today we actually did something. We took a long hike inland, through the jungle and toward the mountains. It was a perfectly pleasant hike, and we got to see the elephants bathing in the river. These elephants are set up for people to take a ride on their backs, and midway through is a river stop. There is also a lunch stop, where you can feed the seemingly docile elephants some banana leaves. As we plodded along up a hill, we came upon the area where they keep the elephants chained up overnight. There was one elephant left there: a huge male with long tusks. We were feeling sad for it, as it had a chain around its’ two front legs. So as it struggled to move closer to us, 6 inches at a time, we had no concerns. But then it picked up into a gallop, lifting both of the front legs together, stampeding toward us! What we didn’t realize was that a rear leg was chained to a tree and at some point (assuming the chain didn’t break) it would be forced to stop. We panicked and hightailed it out of there fast. The power of that massive animal was impressive, and easy to forget when you take a lazy ride on top of one. Later, when we mentioned this to the guesthouse owner, he told us that a German tourist had been gored by a big male elephant’s tusk last month and had to be airlifted to Bangkok. They are not sure what shape he is in now.
Back to the bikes. The cycling has been incredible here in Southeast Asia, and we are so fortunate to have been able to see these countries as we have. Best of all, we have had the “gift of time”, where we haven’t had to rush between places and could take our time in places we especially liked. In all we cycled about 2200 miles in 5 countries. Some days were challenging, some easy, all were interesting. The mountains in Vietnam and China were tough, but the long, flat stretches in southern Laos and Cambodia made us long for the cooler days and vistas. We met the Mekong River up in Jinghong, China, and kept it close until we said goodbye to it as we left Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We had many a meal and spent many a night overlooking it, and watched both sunrises and sunsets behind it as the direction changed along the way. The river continued on to the Mekong Delta, and out to the South China Sea without us. While we have seen so much, there are so many roads we did not take. We need to return to continue cycling here some day. Thailand and northern Laos are our favorites, but the people who have greeted us along the way have been the highlight.
Dan is removing the fenders and the rear racks from our bikes as I write this, and I am feeling sad. It seems like just yesterday that he was packing the bikes up and we were checking in at JFK with excitement and anticipation, boarding our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. A lot has happened since then. We are winding down, and our minds are wandering toward home more lately. Dan has just suggested that maybe we should just keep the bikes packed in their boxes when we get back to Vermont, so they will be ready to take on another trip. Perfect, I am there.