Chiang Mai musing – 200 days on the road

(written a little by one or more of us at various times)

Our little 5-star soiree in Chiang Mai comes to an end tomorrow.  I (Dave) am ready to get back on the road but I will admit that the many things about Chiang Mai have been great.  Not the least of which was our hotel.  This is the only place we’ve stayed so far where they have a pillow menu.  Serious, they have a pillow menu here that includes: shredded rubber, cotton, wool, slim, plump, non-allergic, microfibre, natural latex and in the category of huh, spondi.  If our normal hotels had pillow menus (they don’t), they would probably include: clean, not so clean, was clean once, was never clean, mystery stains, with or without ants, smells like smoke and maybe use at your own risk.  Ah, we return to the glamours of adventure travel once more.

I know that we mentioned how great it was to watch the rugby world cub here in our room.  In fact, when I get my hands on the remote, I can report that there are at least 2 English and 1 French sports channels most of the time.  Our TV has more English channels than I can count and I am happy to report that Nancy has always been able to find a CSI/NCIS/Law and Order/fill-in-blank detective show.  Best I can tell, just like everywhere in the world, these shows always end at 60 minutes and they always catch the bad guy  – amazing.  Some readers may have noticed a few more typos or spelling errors in posts I’ve written over the last few days.  I put this down to my editor being distracted by the aforementioned detective shows.  It is hard to edit with gripping ballistic test results due any minute.  Yes, it’s time to ride.

We’ve been travelling now for a little over 200 days.  We meant to publish a 6 month stats update but didn’t get round to it.  Now 200 days have past and we’ve just missed it as well.  Below we’ve taken the 1 and 3 month lists, updated them and adding a few more tidbits:

Accommodation statistics (night spent in):
1   Showgrounds
1   Pub
13 Private home
3   Caravan Park cabin
3   Bush camp
96 Hotel
5   City park
7   National park
7   Hostel
9   Warmshowers (private homes)
57 Caravan Park

Hotel rooms have surpassed the tent, which was all part of the plan in Asia.  As we expected, it is hard to find camping here.  That which we’ve seen has not been all that great looking.  Having said that, our average nightly lodging costs have gone down since we’ve come to Asia.  Caravan Parks in Australia cost more than hotels and guesthouses in Asia.  Perhaps we should upgrade the hotels after the pillow menu discussion above.  (We would if we could – most small towns only have one or two choices).

Cycling statistics:

Days:  204
Days cycling: 121
Total distance: 9088 km / 5645 miles
Average distance per cycling day: 72.4 km – Malaysia took the average down, Thailand is taking it back up.

Mechanical issues:  all repaired roadside

One rack screw for Dave
One loose pannier screw for Nancy
Two broken spokes for Dave
Nancy’s front wheel making noise, needed grease
(hubs and freewheel re-packed in Chiang Mai)

Flat tires:  only two in all those miles, we still love Schwalbe tires

Finance statistics:
Average total daily expenditure: $82 AUD
Average daily expenditure on accommodation: $26.6 AUD

Both averages have come down considerably here in Asia, especially in Thailand.  We haven’t found so many of the 50-cent meals but we’ve had some great ones at around a buck.  Not surprisingly we spend a lot more on rest days, particularly when we are in a location where there are some Western food options or there is a Starbucks.  I know many would cringe at patronising a Starbucks but when you are surrounded by different food day after day after day sometimes a known quantity is quite comforting.  Relatively expensive, but comforting.

Best things about the trip so far:

  • It was people on the previous lists and it is the same 200 days into the trip.  We’ve had great help from good friends that we knew before the trip and equally, complete strangers have volunteered their support freely.
  • “hello” people – above I’m talking about people that have helped us.  There is a whole other group of folks yell hello, honk their horns in support and even the occasional “I love you”.  You just can’t help breaking into a smile when this happens.  And it happens a lot more than I could have every thought it would.
  • Roads in Asia – mostly there has been a wide shoulder.  And because they sell so few glass bottles, there is very little broken glass on the road to cause flat tires.
  • Drivers in Asia – I’m sure that some are surprised to read this but by in large, the drivers in Malaysia and Thailand have been great.  I put this down to having many more slow moving vehicles on the road and always having to overtake.  In Australia, there are few slow moving vehicles so people are not used to dealing with them when they appear.  Here there is little aggro when people have to slow down or go around another slow moving vehicle.  We are also pretty happy to remember that we are lowest person on the roadway totem pole.  We give way to everything.
  • The food – ok, you probably guessed this one – we enjoyed Malaysia food (especially the Indian), we’ve really enjoyed the Thai food – more often than not, the best coming from a random roadside stall.  And being able to eat as much as you want without worrying about your weight is one of the best parts of being on a bike tour.  We pity those poor Tour de France cyclists who must watch what they eat….
  • Riding up to and down from the Cameron Highlands – it was great to get out of the heat, the climb was great and the scenery fantastic
  • Hanging in Georgetown with Gretch (and Steve).  It was great to have someone from home to chill with for a few days.
  • Seeing Asia from the perspective of bicycle travellers.  Everything is slower, a little harder and more connected.  Being in the tourist cities is fun but being in the remote places is also great.  Doing it all at 21 KPH gives us time to take it all in.  Doing the trip this way really drives home how disconnected business travel is.  No guides for us, one way or another we have to work out everything ourselves.
  • Our readers – it’s great to know that people are enjoying our daily blog postings.  We love reading the comments first thing in the morning before we hit the road for another day.

Annoying, frustrating, bothersome things:

  • Finding a place to stay every night – especially when you can’t speak or read local language. We’ve really come to appreciate past tours with tour companies where this was all worked out for us.  Having the internet to research is great, but sometimes it still feels like it takes a long time to work out the next bed.  Spending an hour circling a town to find a decent place to stay when you are hot and sweaty at the end of a long day can be frustrating.
  • Dodgy hotels with bad pillows
  • Not being able to drink the tap water.  It’s frustrating to always have to think about whether we have enough water to drink, brush our teeth, etc.
  • Lack of egg and bacon rolls in Asia – We get the “no pork” rule in Malaysia but here in Thailand if only they had BBQ sauce we’d be able to make a proper E&B roll.  We may have to try a “green curry E&B roll” one day.
  • No cooking – staying in hotels means no cooking (except for boiled water for oatmeal).  It was fun chopping and cooking at the Thai cooking school the other night – it would be great to have a go at it more often.
  • The heat in southern Malaysia – though that is a distant memory now that we are in “winter” in northern Thailand.
  • Being a long way from family and friends.  Some days we really feel the distance from family and friends.  Having Skype calls helps but it’s not the same as hanging out or having a chat over a coffee.

We have 18 more days on our Thai visa which should be more than enough time to work our way up to the Laos border.  Tomorrow we backtrack a bit to Lampang and spend a day there, then we head east a bit and then due north toward Laos.  We hope to catch up with a friend and former colleague in a town along the way.

So, overall a great trip so far…  here’s to the next 200 days!

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11 thoughts on “Chiang Mai musing – 200 days on the road

  1. The prata breakfast did not seem so long ago and since then, both of you have gone through Malaysia, winding down Thailand and next Laos? Whew, I salute both of you. Cheers to another 200 more days!

  2. Thanks for the update and the daily blog. Today I have the day off for Nevada Day so I can leisurely read it. I was surprised at the number of days cycling compared to the number of total days. It doesn’t seem like you’ve had that many rest days, but I’m glad that it is true and that you are enjoying so much of the culture and meeting such fantastic people. Carry on! I was wondering what your general direction across Asia will be. Do you have much past Laos planned? just generally? and when? Is China or India on your list?

  3. Nice to see the statistics for the past 200 days! The only scarey time I had for you was hearing about the floods in Thailand but you did very well in avoiding the actual floods. The people you meet are just amazing and remind me to be willing to help someone I do not know and to remember that a smile is free and can be helpful to everyone! You forgot to mention the TV show Bones! Also good! Skype is a marvelous invention! I’m ready to come visit when you are in Spain or France. I’m a camping wimp! Keep having fun!!

    • You are spot on with the smile thing. And even more so about helping people. I’m looking forward to one day having the trip over so that we can get back to somewhere permanent and start returning favours.

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