Homeward Bound

Thinner and uglier, but a hell of a lot wiser

So this is it. Delhi was the last blast in a string of unfamiliar worlds. We’ve biked through these worlds and soaked up the landscapes and cultures, trying to let them change us. Yet all of them remain foreign, because each experience was fleeting. That’s the thing about a trip like this; the nature of a bike tour means that there’s no place to miss. All it is, really, is a lifestyle. We decided to live a certain way for six months. Almost every day we moved, and if a routine set in it didn’t last. Every day we woke up in a different place, and experienced a different world of people and climate and roads and hills and emotions and even the ‘change’ changed. Will we miss the lifestyle? Time will tell, but as our taxi lurched through the city on the way to the airport neither of us felt any qualms about saying goodbye. Strangely in a daze, we didn’t really feel anything at all. We’ve amassed a world of experience, and the proof might be in the photos, but the truth of it will only be felt by those who know us, because even we can’t identify if and how we’ve changed. In the end, that might be the only thing that matters. Continue reading

Advertisements

Police State, China to Dhaka, a State of Insanity

Three crazy countries, three crazy cities, fifty million awesome people

In the past few weeks we’ve come from a world dominated by landscape, through a world defiled by human destruction and development, and now into a world that is defined, almost wholly, by the thickness of humanity itself. A place like this can only really be explained by its human relationships, and none of the other feelings we could describe (besides, perhaps, that of affection) actually matter. We recently biked away from Dhaka, by some accounts the densest city on earth, in a dazed state of reflection. I was still recovering from a high fever, and both of us suffered from the water. Happy to be on the road again and out of the chaos, but sad to be leaving our new friends and one of the most amazing cities that either of us has ever seen.

dhaka
Continue reading

Hanoi’s Cycling Comeback ….maybe

Hanoi is not like it used to be. Talk to anyone who is familiar with the classic Hanoi of the 70s and 80s, and they will lament the loss of the quiet, bicycle-filled streets that were characteristic of this ancient city. Up until the early 1990s everyone used to commute by bicycle, but they’ve since been replaced by motorbikes as the predominant form of transportation. (Just as in every city we’ve visited aside from Bangkok). But that’s not to say that no one rides bikes here anymore. As soon as we crossed the border from Laos to Vietnam, we immediately started seeing more bicycles. And as we descended from the tumultuous, tortured mountains of western Vietnam, the number of cyclists increased inversely with the landscape’s slope, until they reached maximum concentration in the poorer cities surrounding Hanoi. Thankfully, this means that there is no shortage of bike shops to help out the stranded bike tourer with a broken rim. Topping that long list of shops is Mr. Quann. Continue reading

“Nobody bikes in Bangkok”

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