The Stampede

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.

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10 Responses to The Stampede

  1. Angie says:

    What a delicious end to a beautiful journey. I share your sad notes in its end, but I know this will always be a part of both of you. Thanks for sharing it with us. It was great to read and see the beautiful images.


  2. Jacquie says:

    What a remarkable trip this has been. Following it through all your posts and emails has opened up a part of the world in a new way for me. I’m so sad it’s ending, but also so ready to have you back!

  3. Charles says:

    Dear Dan and Judy,
    I’ve followed your posts with fascination and admiration. Thanks so much for sending them. You surely have covered a lot of ground (and water) since we met in SaPa at the end of November. I’m glad you’ve taken a rest at the Thai beach at the end of the trip. You’ll be back on your bikes soon enough! I hope you have a good trip home to beautiful Vermont and enjoy the forthcoming spring. Let’s stay in touch! You could bring your bikes to Asheville and use my house as home base while you bike the Blue Ridge (at my door) and the Smokies.

  4. Eileen says:

    Hi Judy and Dan,
    Thanks for sharing. Our whole family loved reading your posts. It is inspiring to read about the twist and turns of your journey. Like a peek into your journal. Thailand sounds amazing, love the shot of you doing yoga on the porch.
    We miss you and wish you safe travels home.
    Big Hugs, Eileen

  5. Susan says:

    What a idyllic end to such an amazing experience. Been great to travel with you through out it all. Thanks for sharing it with us. Can’t wait to see you home. Not yet spring but there’s hope.

  6. Barb Hanson says:

    That looks so inviting and I wish I was there. Maybe next year. It has rained for 2 weeks solid since we arrived in Sacramento.
    It is comforting to know that you are both safe there and that the drivers and roads were safer than the rest of SE Asia. Enjoy your arrival home.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Dan and Judy, the bittersweet tone of this post is palpable mirrors the long shadow golden sun slanting across the meadow here. Patches of snow still, but Cornwall is probably springier! Have missed you a lot and will be happy to see you again. What a remarkable adventure. I’m so impressed with you for doing it and know you must have changed in the process. See you soon!

  8. Jasmin says:

    Like everyone who commented above, I cannot help but feel sad also. There’s something about anything coming to an end that leaves us feeling sad, and your amazing entries and insights have allowed me/us to experience your adventures as much as words and pictures will allow. However, with an end, there’s always another beginning and spring (as unlikely as it may sound to some of us that have been in VT) is definitely on its way, and with it, yet another reawakening of everything that’s been hibernating for the last few months….and another beginning.
    As sad as I am that this is coming to an end for you guys, I am absolutely thrilled to see your faces, hear your voices, and enjoy (y)our cooking! Safe travels back, and look forward to seeing you!

    Much love, Jas


  9. Rog & Dee says:

    How can we ever top an electronic mozzie zapper?!!!!
    Good luck planning the next trip Guys! We arrive back in Bangkok on 29th April and will head off into Thailand the next day!
    Just think about going home as a chance to rest before the next big adventure!
    Much love R&Dx

  10. Louise Morais says:

    Hi Judes and Dan! It has been a joy keeping up with your wonderful journey through SE Asia…. I can’t believe you will be on your way home soon. This trip will remain vividly in your hearts forever and the people who have touched you along the way will make you smile often when you’re back in Vermont puttering in your beautiful garden!
    Much Love to you both…………Lu xoxo

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