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Blog 114 Thima Koul to Sa Kaeo (Thailand)

January 18th

Cambodian Peoples Party Cadre

These geezers are everywhere, I mean thousands of posters in every village and town.

I Am Surviving the Highway

When I'm not looking at these guys I'm surviving on the highway and I do this by living in a constant state of hyper vigilance. Kind of tiring and stuff that matters I catch in a glance as I pull back from the rear of a car that turns off in front of me. Sometimes it's at speed and if I hadn't rearranged my road position instinctively, the offending driver would have hurt me - injuries between indeterminate and smashed to bits, daily. Correction, hourly, daily, for months. There will be no cessation to possible chance encounters with my maker; either as an avatar that needs erasing from his machine or as fragments of carbon, once corporeally my body has been disposed of, but the randomness of it all - that car, that overtake, that moment, my ability to counterpoint the manoeuvre through the sensation of sudden feeling has the dots on the dice still in my favour. The default modus operandi of motoring here is disconnected from indicating direction of travel. Other than moving forward, any manoeuvre more complex requires significant reasoning to quickly deduce all possible outcomes. A giraffe doesn't waste time quarrelling with rabbits over what the top of a tree looks like but insight focuses on the form. The pattern of driving, quickly assessed, my brain working in the familiar already knows what the vehicle in front of me is going to do. The corporeal consciousness, the hidden driver in my head has scanned and computed for every possible action, the insane movement fractionally filed before it happens. Chance probability of a successful outcome instantly formatted in my head based on a simple movement. It's an arm lifting to turn the steering wheel, a head, just a twist moving to check if an exit is clear. I know where he's going before he does because car drivers wear a cycling badge saying 'Die-Scum - you are IN MY WAY'. If he kills me, in Thai law he might get a $30 fine, maybe not if they don't bother to collect it, so it's a ride. I'm in traffic. All day somewhere. It's, a theme park best without a mirror so I don't see behind me or I'd throw up my candy floss and corn dog, sit down on the side. Common drivers like leaves on a tree come and go unnoticed, except when the sun is on my back I see the shadow of a truck overtaking mine. I'm suddenly reduced to smallness and in my smallness the likely impossibility of me being able to control this situation is preferable to a possibility that is unconvincing. The whole paradigm of motoring methodology is instantly fully featured in my immediate space. It's computed; the speed, the size and an analysis of driver motor-skills bullet-pointed in a print-out. Too close he doesn't give a damn, small despair when truck tyres are at my shoulder height; 6 inches from my handlebars, my elbow, my knees and feet. I smell the rubber, but not the rationality because that's too slow. I need a reflex. I need to be jerked in my head and in a quantum moment information posted to every part of my body. If his tyre blows it blows me too and as the sound starts to squeal faster and ear deafeningly louder, I focus at the frightening friction of heavy tyres forced at speed. I feel the vibrations in the road. Whether my sentience has evolved from complex computer algorithms, the random fusion of carbon particles from faraway suns or I really am a figment of some collective imagination, I play God with myself when I’m inches away from being played out. It’s me who takes one more throw prior to my degradation and I'm now so tiny maybe he won't hurt me as the lorry passes and I continue riding until the whole process starts again. 

There are escape mechanisms. I hold onto my pants and find a toilet. I spend the last few dollars on coffee in Cafe Amazon, a cold drink before immigration then another big fat cold iced frappe immediately I exit the border point between Cambodia and Thailand - spend, spend, spend - $5's, $6's and onto Thailand. This not very hard and not at all tough adventure continues. 

Checking into Thailand took an hour due to locals also queuing in the ‘Foreigner’ port of entry. Foreign travellers and tourists were out numbered 50 to one and outnumbered by everyone, I was the only cyclist, I’m pleased to say.

Thai / Cambodian Border Krong Poi Pet

This border area was quite the easiest and sweetest I've ever known. I've had quite 'growly' ones in the Americas, crossings in Tanzania which were quite unfamiliar, scary ones here and there but this was sweet as a nut.

Chatting to the English bloke in the Queue

I haven't spoken to an English person for 5 months when suddenly I am standing next to one in the queue. He looked English. "Big queue," I said. "Yea but there an passport booth over there and no one's in it, what's the point of that?

"Don't know," I said lamely.

"Thai’s are useless, you ask a simple question - 'Nong Ning Nong," he said, "can I have some ice?" he laughed I'm sure at himself, perhaps not; "I'm only joking but they're like that ...." and he tailed off for a second but came back bristling, "and then they just look at you as if you're the stupid one," his eyes looking like a dog wanting his dinner, willing me to agree with what for him is common knowledge understanding. "And I've been married to one of 'em for 20 years," and he waves over the way to his wife already through immigration on a local passport. "I’m only a stone heavier now than when I was 16," he looked me up and down and sniffed. Certainly he had an interesting physique that suggested he wasn't an athlete. His belly stuck out so far it looked like he'd swallowed a gas tank and was still inflating. It wobbled, and all of it precariously balanced on thin white legs like a potato being carried home by an ant. "Admittedly I was fat then," he said "but most of my muscles were in the right place, fucking hell," he said, "I used to go to Cardiff and I'd drink them under the table, I played rugby."

The queue was long and I'd waited three weeks for an English conversation, "I run a Thai restaurant in Teighmouth, she gets all the pastes out here, take it back, half price, that's why I'm here, see the village, go home."

"Do you like Thailand," I asked him.

"Not really," he said, "too hot for the likes of me".

Later. And then by chance, by taking a turn off the highway, I found a night market (late afternoon). The community spirit and kindness that dominates rural life is one of the heartening things about being on the road. Such a happy moment and the sort of highly important small town event only travellers journeying independently get to experience.

A Late Afternoon Market

"I'm not on holiday, you know...."

Map of the Day

Postcard from Home

It's a cold winter in Wales. My back garden has a small waterfall and it's frozen. I can hear the coldness which from where I am in the heat of Thailand it sounds refreshing. My wife Caroline on the deserted beach at nearby Abderdyfi with the dogs.

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