Hey, another reason to get on your bike and ride!
(Not my bike, I ride mine. Posted on a forum)
Source: Something Awful Forums – My mountain bike is now a home for animals
Hello adoring internet public (…I can pretend at least)
Throughout the trip, I jotted down little notes here and there of tips, tricks and advice that I thought would be beneficial to bestow upon future travelers.
The recommendations I’ve tried to make are out of the ordinary and as you’ll read, obviously do not include common sense basics. Some tips are universal to all budget traveling, some unique to being on a bike. Without further ado, here they are:
- Mandatory items:
- Have a phrasebook on you; bought home or away. Additionally, try to learn some of the local tongue: I guarantee a richer more memorable experience.
- Earplugs, quality ones. Not easy to find abroad, bring a big bag from home
- A cheap 3.5mm audio splitter to share tunes with a fellow traveler (especially on buses) . Can be easily found while traveling
- Tape: most useful for covering holes in shabby guesthouse screens
- Domestic knick-knacks and family photos to entertain locals with
- Universal sink stopper: Doing your own laundry? Don’t expect a drain stopper!
- Cyclist items
- Sugar and salt packets for makeshift energy drinks (keep your salt up!)
- Dog repellant might be useful for Thailand’s vicious dogs
- Punctures are easy to locate with a cotton ball; just run it along the tire’s inside and look for any cotton left behind on the protruding offender
- Tent and sleeping pad, a contentious issue. I say, take them. They won’t be necessary, but they will give peace of mind when you can’t find a place to stay. The sleeping pad also offers relief against terrible guesthouse mattresses. Just make sure to not be stupid like me and bring the ten’s rainfly
- Decide between toting a laptop and using cafe PCs: there are pros and cons of each
- Cafe PCs
- Have a USB flash drive with all your apps on it (ie picture editing). Having Picasa and Windows Live Writer on mine made blog posting a cinch
- You WILL get viruses though, it’s out of control there. Do the best you can to make sure the machine is clean or find one that is.
- Computers will be generally slow and cumbersome to use
- A several hundred dollar breakable and weighty liability
- Privacy, all your apps in one place, no virus worries, properly calibrated screen, watch movies, learn languages with Rosetta Stone
- Guesthouse rooms without windows. Cheap, yes, but also impossibly hot.
- Constipation: I prepared for the opposite, surprise! Eating lots of fruit helped
- Money issues. Call your credit card company and debit card issuing bank before leaving and alert them you are travelling and request a cash advance PIN from your CC company. Generally no one takes credit cards but if they do, pass, fraud is a big problem. Have a backup and a backup to that backup.
- Cyclists, beware:
- All transportation beside the bike. Bus drivers and ticketers will refuse your bike outright. Airlines will refuse your bike if not packaged to their specifications. Trains only take your bike when there is a special luggage car (which can be random!). For buses, never mention you have a bike: when you arrive to board, have your bike ready in it’s smallest form (handlebars turned, front wheel off, seatpost lowered, pedals off) and with some ninja stealth open the luggage door and slide it in (it will fit despite what they tell you).
- Being a weight weenie. Few weeks on the road and you’ll forget about weight. Being space conscious is much more important than weight.
- Rust: The coastal routes I traveled wreaked havoc on my steel. Apply a light oil to all steel parts at regular intervals and keep that chain in check!
Please let me know what you think of the list and if anything was helpful on your trip!
20 days home already. The progression of time for myself as a traveler has been incredibly weird. Sometimes being back in the States I feel like I’ve never left at all, other times I feel like I disappeared off the planet for years and am now just returning.
Adjustment back to US life didn’t take much effort, I apparently hadn’t forgotten. The lasting impressions I’ve noticed are habitually removing my shoes at dwellings and seasoning my food like crazy (everything here tastes…bland).
I’m feeling good but nowhere near the feeling I had when travelling. I feel myself slipping back into old habits that I’m not fond of. In general, I just feel like I need to get back on the road, keep moving. Will get my wish mid-June and head up the coast to San Francisco.
- Unbelievably clean public spaces (beaches, parks, streets)
- Predictable and orderly traffic. Riding here has been…interesting; I’m still in “every man for themselves” mode. Easier now to do things I shouldn’t (weave lanes, run reds, etc)
- OMG EXPENSIVE. Going from a $1 meal to a $10 meal is a bit of a shock
- Rules exist; interesting concept. Best example: walking through Westwood to catch a bus, sidewalk is closed on my side but I pay no heed and walk past in the street. Black and white pulls up behind me, honks aggressively a few times (thanks), then pulls along side to roll her window and reprimand me for disobeying the closed sign. Threats of citation exit her lips towards my confused face before I can even stammer some lame apology. Thanked her for her “valuable time” and hoped sincerely the sarcasm had not escaped her.
Amazing how quick air travel pulls the proverbial rug from underneath you. I’m now back in the States. Sudden change, I know, it was quite sudden in fact. This trip fortunately never had a definite end date, thanks to an open ended air ticket, so it was at my discretion when to wrap it up. That decision ended up being made halfway between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Why it was made is difficult for me to really answer in any detailed form but at conclusion, it just felt right, a “change” was needed. The deciding factor in at all was that I will be back again (and likely again, and again….)
Phnom Penh was…chaotic. Traffic in particular, was insane. Cambodian drivers are by far the worst I’ve encountered. Phnom Penh is one of those cities where the traffic completely ignores traffic signals but instead waits for a large enough mass of vehicles to collect in their desired direction, then inch with the collective forward until the opposing traffic is blocked. Its mostly a game of wills; a big game of chicken. Fun sometimes but also stressful as hell. Biking in it wasn’t nearly as bad as trying to walk around; stress level through the roof there. Pedestrians, the lowest on the totem pole, are forced to constantly survey a 360 degree field in front of them watching for impending doom coming from all possible directions. Real shame too since walking is my favorite way to see a city. The palace and riverside area is much more enjoyable to walk than the rest of the city though. Unfortunate also that on top of this you have to deal with the persistent noise of buzzing motos and cars, choking exhaust fumes and touts who just don’t know when to call it quits.
Some very beautiful old French buildings in the city and there is undoubtedly a French feel right down to it’s grid layout. Noticed an elephant casually being trotted down one of the Parisian riverside avenues.
I had heard about the backpacker area of the city, guesthouses situated lakeside, and decided to make it my home for the night. First night I stayed in a posh place on the alley before the lake. Second night I stayed at Number 9 Sister right on the disgustingly green water but that proved a disaster after rowdy Aussies went ape with drunken abandon around 3am. The whole lake area is cartoonishly out of control. It just seemed like a humorous exaggeration of the “backpacker scene” complete with restaurants dishing up “happy” pizzas and shakes and herb being both smoked and solicited at every corner. The vibe was fairly chill if you could ignore the insistent touts (and by this point, ignoring was getting easier). Sunset on the lake though is a nice close to the day (with or without the prop spliff).
I can go on and on about how spectacular how Couchsurfing has been on this trip. I haven’t even used it to it’s fullest either, often forgetting to check it. In Phnom Penh though, I remembered. Browsing through the Cambodia message board I stumbled upon a post by “The Velomads”; they sounded right up my alley I thought, turned out I was right. The Velomads, Stani and Richard, are touring cyclists four years into a world journey. They kindly invited me over to their apartment (or rather the apartment they were housesitting) and cooked me a vegetarian meal complete with cycling conversation; great people, good time.
I had noticed on the streets several truckloads of bikes in various conditions . Don’t know what that was about but I can only hope they weren’t destined for the scrap heap
Knowing that I’d finally be headed back home, I for the first time allowed myself to actually shop. Normally, it isn’t my thing but with so many interesting things to choose from it was actually fun picking up certain things as gifts. My favorite by far was a stall in the Russian Market that sold bags and wallets made out of recycled fish feed bags (out of all things; the same woven plastic fiber bags they also store rice in and that I’ve often seen stuffed into garbage dumps). Great little cottage industry that recycles goods AND gives villages a legitimate source of income. Just wished I saw more of this kind of thing!
I had gotten tired of the lake area already and wanted to try out staying somewhere else in the city; I tend to move guesthouses often. Ended up at King GH near Sihanouk Blvd. Thought it a very mediocre place but it ended up being a fine choice not for its accommodations but rather the random encounter while sitting at one of their computers. Sitting there, I met Zoe, a Canadian on a two month trip who just so happened to be wrapping it up same as myself.
Next day, we hopped in a tuk-tuk off to do the typical but depressing tour of the killing fields and S21 prison. Hadn’t anticipated sharing the experience with anyone but felt glad that I could. Killing fields are strangely peaceful and there’s really little evidence of the brutality that occurred there remains with the exception of the large glass Buddhist stupa containing many skulls of those murdered.
S21 on the other hand, is still clearly a place filled with chilling reminders of the atrocities that occurred in Cambodia a mere 30 years past. The school turned prison is truly a creepy place, especially the rooms with single metal beds and a hung photographs showing the room as found in 1979 with bloodied tortured victim atop that same bed you are staring at. The crude windowless brick cells and barbed wire enclosed building were particularly poignant also. Killing fields could honestly be skipped but do not skip a visit to the prison.
Zoe was headed back to Bangkok, just as I was, so we boarded a Khao San bound bus for the princely sum of $13USD. Thirteen long hours later and we were amidst the nonstop backpacker party that is the Banglamphu area.
We stayed off Khao San down a soi, then down further another; was somehow still noisy but nothing earplugs couldn’t fix. Had a couple days to still kill in Bangkok so we took off by foot, my favorite mode of transport for sightseeing.
The water taxi piers are never that easy to locate but somehow drunken Thai guys are quite easily located. Lost down a narrow path looking for the pier we ran into these gentlemen who insisted we drink some whiskey with them and exchange a few English words and a few Thai. They were nice guys haha; guy on the right may have had second thoughts though…
Bangkok public transit usually requires you to enter and exit with force, shoulder pushing your way through the crowds. Water taxi on the Chao Phraya is of course no different.
Some tasty insect snacks under plastic. Good thing for the plastic, wouldn’t want to attract flies….or would you?
I’m really pleased that I ran into Zoe; was able to end the trip on a really high note.
I had my bike boxed up at Probike across from Lumphini Park the day prior to leaving and the next day luckily managed to convince a taxi driver to cram the bike box and boxed panniers into the small cab and off to the airport we went. Left BKK at 12p and arrived at SFO oddly the same day at 4p. For some reason, EVA Air refused to change my destination from SFO to LAX, so a Southwest Air ticket was purchased for the next day. Where to stay for that evening was a question in the air but I figured at worst, I could sleep in the airport. Luckily, I didn’t have to resort to that. I scoured Couchsurfing prior to leaving Bangkok and sent off last minute requests to crash at someone’s place for the night before my LAX flight. Xavier, an over the top nice guy in San Bruno, got back to me happy to help. He went as far as even picking me up at the airport and dropping me off the next day! Like I said before, Couchsurfing is an amazing resource and the people on it are often genuinely one of a kind class acts!
Now, I could have (and would have liked to in fact) posted about my intentions to come home when I first had the thought a few weeks back but there was a bit more to it than that. I thought if I was going to come back, I’d make the most of it….and surprise the hell out of my mom by just showing up at her door. So to keep the secret, I could no disclose any of my intentions online.
Arrived at LAX, I assembled my bike in a quiet corner of baggage claim. I expected to get hassles from security, this now being US soil and all, but had only a single question and was then mercifully left alone. Made a short ride down Aviation Blvd and the plan went off without a hitch: her mouth was agape opening the door, jaw on the floor hahahaha.
Back now, the feeling has been a bit weird but the adjustment has been relatively quick. Short term plans are to stay in LA for a couple weeks and then bike the coast up to the Bay Area where I can sell off the few things I still own that have been in storage and plan my next big getaway This will not be the last, trust me.