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 →
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.
Kunming to Dali, the Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La – 2 weeks, 900km
China overwhelms and assaults the senses. It’s also a land of contradictions that has you groping for air from the terrible truck exhaust one minute, and gasping in awe at a 10,000ft deep gorge the next. In the past 2 weeks we’ve been through bike-touring hell and back, but are now perched on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, giddy with excitement at what the next 2,000km and 4 weeks will bring. We sit in blissful high-altitude comfort in the mythical town of Shangri-La surrounded by initial glimpses of Tibetan culture, and the joy of being in the mountains makes it especially hard to reconcile this new wonderful China with the same China we escaped from only 5 days ago.
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 →
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.
Curious Vietnamese children on one of the hundreds of bridges we crossed
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 →