Thailand, B-side

On Friday, July 19th, we leave Bangkok by the same way than we entered: train, with our bikes on board to Ayutthaya. This flea jump towards the former stronghold of the kingdom of Siam promises us a definite change of scenery, as the temples contrast with the modernism of the
present capital. On site, we take advantage of the few bike paths and the small scale of the area to buzz.

Famous Ayutthaya scene

We appreciate the vegetated ruins, the alternation of bricks and stucctu, the Buddhas and the timeless atmosphere of the sunset on the remaining stupas despite the destruction of the city by the Burmese in 1767. For the rest, tourism is a little too invasive not to mention the unethical tours on elephants backs …

It’s like Indiana Jones:)

The weekend is over, we’re back on our bicycles heading to Khao Yai National Park. 180km in 2 days, under the heat and above all, new challengr, with 800m of vertical drop! Not always easy to choose the right route, we find ourselves first on a little stewing highway. We almost climb shoulder to shoulder with huge trucks that struggle as much as we do.

Unexpected meeting with a cycling farmer

Fortunately, we end up with beautiful laces in the park’s primary forest to the sounds of locusts and birds, with harmless macaques crossing here and there. The place is worth a visit: the forests are sublime, rain trees, vines, thick trunks and foliages of the canopy are home to countless butterflies, gibbons and other fantastic animals. The famous Asian elephants, sometimes visible in the grasslands, have remained well hidden and unfortunately we have only seen their poos! Not to mention the leeches that particularly affect Cléa’s ankles…

Khao Yai Park grasslands

At the campsite, we meet some porcupines, wild deers and mischievous monkeys (goodbye bread!). Both Thai and French tourists are very curious to see us cycling in this remote place full of pick-up trucks and the discussions are therefore very open. We finally take advantage of our gas stove to cook after having searched it in Singapore in vain and then in Bangkok to find the right cartridge.

Porcupines crossing the campsite

On July 23, we leave Khao Yai and begin a beautiful descent before reaching the plain. We are finally in Sa Kaeo after a terrific day on bikes: 130km under continuous rain and truck mud splashes… The dream…

Ironically, tonight we are staying at the “Sun Resort”, perfect for recharging batteries and dry. Thank you, buddies, tonight we’re using the “Comfort Hotel” travel prize pool:)

We’re tired, but still thirsty for discoveries. Tomorrow, already, if all goes well, we will cross the border of Cambodia for new adventures!

Love Green Farm

Just arrived in Bangkok, after 14 hours of train from the southern village of Surat Thani, we join Boon and his urban farm project Love Green Farm in the western suburbs of the megalopolis. He is registered on the HelpX platform and so we meet each other by this way.

Local and international volunteers are already here (Cecile, french, and Benji, german, both backpackers in Asia for several months), they are busy bringing to life the vegetables (tomatoes, beans, red corn …) and trees fruit trees (manguiers, bananas, papaya, jackfruit). They also manage the farmside areas such as irrigation canals, weeds and much more.

A parcel of the urban farm

We take our marks, help as much as possible and rediscover the basics of gardening, very different from our daily life in bicycle.

Transplanting snitching

We also enjoy unique and valuable exchanges with Thai volunteers who teach us how to transplant young plants, cook the famous Pad Thai and bring us on a tour of the streets of Bangkok.

Pad Thai, fabulous Thai feast

As the week passes, clearing and seeding progresses, we allow ourselves a few bicycle rides in the city centre and exchange regularly with Boon, our host. Here are the original questions we asked him 🙂

When did you start this project?

5 July 2018, with my 2 hands!

What motivated this green/organic farm project?

I want to do a clean food campaign for all life. I love the earth and I want to protect it.

What do you think about the nature place in Bangkok and about the pollution (air/soil)?

A lot of pollution here, we have only a few parks and green places to purify more than 100 tones of pollution a day. It’s impossible to have clean air and clean food in Bangkok if half of the people is still silent!

How do you deal with the difficulties to make plants and vegetables grow well in Thailand and Bangkok?

I do what I can when I can! I deal with positive thinking! This is very important to fight for the earth 🙂

Is HelpX a good source of volunteers for you?

Definitely yes, I just show my ideas. Then people read and think about it. If they like it they come, most of the time they are very kind people! The four of you have a lot of energy and a strong passion to build your mind and achieve your goal. This is very good for my own learning and encourages me to be patient to win this campaign!

How do you find other volunteers?

I have a Facebook page, a volunteer website, and I am in some online volunteers group. So I can post my ideas and my activities to invite them to join it 😀

How do you manage them?

I just talk to them, tell them what I want and listen to what they want. As soon as they understand the goal, everything is automatic as it should be! Looks easy but sometimes it’s not if I need to deal with uncontrollable things such as big rain! Haha

What’s next? How do you see the future of the farm ?

Plant, plant, plant, and plant as much as I can!  I see the future farm as a little forest that can feed people living nearby and be a model of sustainable agriculture 🙂

A big thanks to Boon and the volunteers for their welcoming and long life to the urban farm!

If you are willing to visit Bangkok and would like to participate in the project: https://www.helpx.net/host.asp?hostid=93305

Bangkok

Bangkok is unique. Unchained, exuberant, roaring.
Getting around by bike requires a constant awakening, good reserves of adrenaline and a small dose of madness. In peak hours, the crowded arteries allow only a meticulous and laborious slalom, inspired by the 2 motorized wheels that do not fail to spit their gasvenom under your nostrils at every red light. Taxis, empty and in a hurry to catch their next prey or ordered to stop in incongruous places to satisfy the king customer, are by far the most dangerous cohabitants of the urban jungle. Buses and especially tuk tuk scan the ideal route imbued with the fluidity of the cyclist but bring you the charm of local life before your eyes. Individual cars, on the other, are as bland, oversized and despairing as in our attitudes.

By day, pedals in motion, figies of the new king, tricolor flags and yellow Buddhist shingles parade at the corners of your sharp eyes like a well-honed kaleidoscope. At a standstill, the gilding and serpential shapes of countless temples, as well as the open-air kitchens or the sinious writings of Chinatown, draw you to the exoticism of a future break. Looking up, what you will rarely do as it is difficult to lose the thread of traffic, it is the skyscrapers and subways “out of ground”, edified or in the process of being, that will enchant you or indignant you according to that your antibodies are still attached to the fever e expansionist or you have just completed the last issue of the Decline.

At night, if you have the chance to pedal at full speed on a little busy aisle, the scripted or decorative neon neon will gradually make you lose your footing and you will find an impromptu poetic refuge in the ever-ambient moist. If you are, rightly, of the family of nocturnal advertising sign outs, throwing yourself into this task would be totally despairing here. Just enjoy the stupas sublimated by their projectors that bloom like stalagmites on the edge of the dirty river. Or change your senses, feel the last edible scents that triumph over the carbonized nitrogen stagnant on the asphalt like a stubborn fog. Listen to the soft roll of oriental tongues surpassed by the rattling of the stalls being stored that syncs with that of your adventure partner’s derail. Touch your brakes and rest assured, they will hold as much to the next urban alert as in the mountains once you leave the big city.
Return to sight, leave your brain at rest and remember the mop of the day for an innocuous count of tricolor fire.
5-4-3-2-1… Bangkok.

Illustration by Charles

On the Thai road

June is ending and we reach in a morning of cycling, from Kota Bahru, the Thai border. With a bit of apprehension (“crossing here can be dodgy during periods of sectarian violence”, says the Lonely about supposed Muslim-Buddhist tensions), we enter in the Kingdom of Siam without any trouble, any fees neither questions from the customs officer who even wish a “good luck” once the stamp is delivered 🙂

We choose to go to the nearest train station (the first we meet from Java) and take, to “earn” few kilometers, an ultra-economic class train towards Hat Yai. The trip is relaxed, the bikes well wedged along the windows wide open, some hills appear among the path and a Muslim family, from the baby to the veiled grandmother, accompanies us.

Let’s go Matcha!

Hat Yai gives us a first glimpse of Thai “shapes”: colorful and dashing buildings, often adorned with uninteresting advertisements, overlooking charming echoes where food has a place of choice. About Thai caligraphy, as is the spoken language: it is beautiful but absolutely not comprehensible or imitable for non-expert. Choices on cycling routes won’t be easy!

A brand new temple on the road

We begin July by pleasant country roads in Songkhla province. On the menu: temples with carved and gilded roofs often adjoined by a Boudha, fields of rubber as far as the eye can see, recognizable by their small individual dome in order to collect rubbery sap, always those damned palm trees and… Dogs! Damn it, we did not miss them: Malaysia had more or less banished the canid to Sylvain’s delight but here they are so many… We warn each other each time we see more or less terrifying pets, pushes a little on the pedals to get out and, until today, keep calves unscathed.

A forest of rubbers among many others

We camp on the edge of a pretty lake, welcomed by the local guingette where we had previously a good diner. At dusk, local adults and children watch us set up the tent while the last fishing boats decorate the horizon.

Songkhla Lake at dusk

July 2, we head to Trang where we have a promising contact via Warmshowers. This first crossing to the West Coast rhymes with verticality and so we make our thighs on hills more and more frequent. The surrounding jungle is beautiful and the mercury rises over 40 degrees easily. Fortunately there are the “iced milk tea” or “Cha” breaks. It takes us 2 days to reach the town, allowing ourselves a stop at pretty waterfalls. Kim, Bruce Willis’ angular lookalike from Pensylvania, warmly welcomes us in his little family: tonight is KFC meal! The evening is great, Kim, an English teacher in a high school, tells anecdotes about the specificities of Thai education and then evokes his bike rides and the countless cyclists welcomed to his home. Great stories!

From Trang we reach Krabi in 2 days of regular pedaling, we find a good rhythm even if Cléa does not lack to yell “Lance Armstrong: not too fast!” On the way we explore an emerald-coloured lake, the water is soft but the atmosphere a little too touristic.

When Thailand rhymes with Disneyland…

Krabi, wedged between huge mangroves visible at low tides and cliffs with gravity-defying silouhettes, has an undeniable charm. We fall even more under the spell at Railay, the adjacent peninsula, which instantly makes us want to put on slippers and harnesses to rock-climb. However, we don’t want to rent at a expensive price or take a course for beginners, and so we are largely satisfied with the few steep trails and a wonderful remote lagoon.

Railay on fisheye

On July 6, we head north to Surat Thani. After 180km of bike – “Russian mountain” rather nice, a parade and a football match catches on the way, we arrive in Surat Thani.

Unexpected Village parade
Local football match, with speaker!

Time to store the bikes in a safe place and we are sailing for a week on Koh Phangan and Koh Tao island. Hell yeah, we’re going to dive!