The stark contrast between Cambodia and Thailand was evident the minute we walked into the air-conditioned passport control office on the Thailand side. Outside, a large sign warned that anyone possessing drugs will be sentenced to life in prison or executed. But after 2 weeks of eating ants, crickets and snails we were ready for something different, even if it meant giving up the ‘happy’ pizza (look it up). Fighting the habit of 14 years of right-hand driving proved to be difficult and we narrowly avoided oncoming traffic before swerving to the left-hand side. As a general rule, car exhaust is slightly cleaner here. However, the extra volume of traffic more than compensates for the stricter air-quality standards and we were quickly overwhelmed by the constant stream of diesel trucks and buses belching black smoke. Continue reading
A border awaits again. This time it’s not a line we cross, but a zone. On our side: dirt, dust, the smell of burning plastic and human excrement. Prostitutes wander about seeking eye contact in the busy, dilapidated streets that are lit only by the flashing neon signs of businesses with confusing identities. In the border zone sit extravagant, towering air-conditioned casinos. Fancy looking Thais and Cambodian families come here for the scene and the chance to win big, though the gaudy scale of these cheesy buildings seems proof enough that they won’t. And across the border, on the other side, we know nor expect nothing besides the fact that we’ll be riding on the left side of the road from then on. But hope grips us. Continue reading
So. Cambodia, holy sh*t. We had a soft beginning, we’re starting to realize. As soon as we crossed the border, the world changed. No more traffic, and the countryside was visible from the road – there were breaks in development! Cambodia is blessed, in our opinion, with a tenth of the population of Vietnam, and the reduced traffic very much compensates for poorer road conditions. Continue reading
Day 10 – Ha Tien, Gulf of Thailand, Vietnam
It’s time for a quick break. We’ve been biking for five days and our bodies are worn down from the road. Long days have added up to about 500km on the odometer, several days we’ve biked into the dark, and traffic is taking its psychological toll. Heat rash is beginning its slow march up our legs – which one of us thought that bike touring in the tropics during the monsoon was a good idea? Our first impressions of the motorbike culture were positive. Nimble, everyone has one, they take care of everything on them, and infrastructure is built to serve them. The curbs are even built with a slant so that motorbikes can be driven onto the sidewalks. Continue reading
Day 7 – Can Tho – Mekong Delta, Vietnam
We left HCMC 2 days ago. Signs of the delta are everywhere – houses and paths, soccer fields and roads built just above water level, rice fields lining the highway and in the central median. Ducks and aquaculture ponds litter the countryside next to banana plantations and cassava fields. A strip of development follows the highway in most places, preventing views out across the delta and ensuring that traffic stays heavy and constant.
Found the bikes today at baggage claim in the next hemisphere over, and spent the next 2 hours reassembling them with a revolving audience of 25-30 curious Vietnamese. They ride just as slick, smooth and solid as we left them. They will now define our lives. Continue reading