(written by Dave)
Today is our last day in Thailand. In terms of raw numbers, we’ve been here for nearly 2 months (we have two days left on our 60 day visa’s), we’ve ridden about 2,900 ks and we’ve spent a bit below our expected budget. But the numbers don’t tell the full story. We’ve very much enjoyed travelling in Thailand. The food has been great, the guesthouses mostly good, the traffic actually better than we expected, the roads mostly smooth with wide shoulders and the people fantastic. As you might expect the people really have made Thailand. From the random honks, hellos and waves, to the genuine palms pressed together and bows while saying hello, you get the feeling that as travellers you are most welcome in Thailand.
K’s ridden: 2,860
Days in country: 57
Hotel stays: 52
Private home stays: 5
Days riding: 35
Other bike issues: Nancy’s hub, but it was not really that bad
Green curries eaten: about 50
Pad Thais eaten: about 100
Times someone yelled “Hello” at us: 1,000s
Times someone yelled “I love you” at us: A few too many
Number of 7/11 stops: 100s – you can eat a proper meal here
Number of dogs “chetted”: 52, would have been higher had we learned “chet” before Kanchanaburi
Buddhas sighted: I’ve lost track
THANK YOU THAILAND!
Even as we depart, we still find funny things that make us smile about Thailand. Many men and women have a desire to have lighter skin. I’ve caught quite a few Thai staring at Nancy and her fair complexion with wonderment. Many of the hand or face cream products for sale have “whitening” or “whiter” in their names (see photos below). I find it a bit ironic that in Australia there is a big tanning booth industry (light skinned people wanting to be darker) while here in Thailand the folks want products that make them fairer. Seems that everyone everywhere has a little bit of wanting to be/look like someone else.
In today’s paper we also found another Thai-ism that we’d heard about but not quite ever seem so openly noted. Thailand is known for it’s healthcare tourism industry. Many folks come here to have medical procedures. They get the work done, recover and save enough on the costs to have a holiday as well. Procedures are not limited to cosmetic, though that is all that you’ll note in the advertisement below.
I am happy to report that we made it out of the guesthouse today. We only made it as far as Tesco and Starbucks but at least we got past reception at the guesthouse. We anticipate getting good coffee in Laos but as the Starbucks ad goes, familiarity breeds contentment. We’ll probably not see a Starbucks again until Cambodia. If they have them in Laos, they will be in the more touristy north where are not planning to go.
And finally, while we did get some planning done today, we also managed to spend another chunk of time talking travel to yet another touring cyclist. When we returned from Tesco we noticed another touring bike at the guesthouse. We then found Dave, a Brit, relaxing off the day’s miles over a cold beer in the guesthouse garden. He’s been on the road for 6 weeks but has big plans for Cambodia, Vietnam, NZ and beyond. There is a chance we’ll see him on the road again. It is nice to know that we are not the only ones out here.
So tomorrow we are off to Laos. At this point we only know a few things about Laos. We know that it a communist country (one of the few left in the world). We know that it is very poor and most of what is consumed is imported. Prices are said to be lower than in Thailand and people don’t bargain much because little sums to travellers are much bigger sums to locals from Laos. We also know that the currency is traded in crazy numbers. For example, today 1 USD = 8,000 Laos Kip. We are going to have to get our heads around paying 10,000s and 100,000s of Kip for everyday things. Funny enough, our ANZ bank has a branch in Vientiane so getting Kip should be pretty easy. We also know that Laos was colonised by the French in the late 1800s. The French left in the late 1950s or so, but they left a legacy of good coffee, good bread and even some French food. Stay tuned as we work our way through Laos and figure out which of our preconceptions are accurate.