A few days ago @physioonhand and I decided to leave Thailand's east coast for a few days and head for the mountains in search of the Khung Ching waterfall. What seemed on paper to be a fairly straightforward day turned into 25kms of steep unpaved climbing, an unexpected extra ten kilometers at the end of the day due to the location being wrongly marked on maps.me and the following morning another 7 kilometers on foot to reach the fall itself. Starting the following day off with a swim in the Khung Ching plunge pool made it all worth it though!
I am not usually a beach person but cycling Thailand's east coast has totally changed my mind! We are treated to an awesome sunrise and sunset almost every day, and often find cool places to kip, last night in a Buddhist temple among the stupas, and in this photo we are sleeping in the dining hut of a beach side restaurant.
After India and Myanmar touring in Thailand is like floating on a sea of candy floss under a sky of magic rainbows, in 40 degree heat, mind. I have teamed up with @physioonhand for the last few days, which feel dreamlike and slide by almost without our knowledge as we idle along beach roads under coconut and banana trees. After a swim (and some careful jellyfish navigation), evenings are spent drinking beer and playing cards on the beach, where we sleep to wake to the sound of surf and bird life. The locals are real friendly, and I think Thai food three times a days speaks for itself! We head for Malaysia over the next days, but to be honest I wouldn't mind another few weeks, or months, tooling around these beaches.
Very happy to be supporting @parkinsons.uk this #worldparkinsonsday. More than 145,000 people live with Parkinson's in the U.K right now and 50 people are diagnosed in the U.K every day. There is no cure. Research shows that people don't think Parkinson's is a serious condition and those living with Parkinson's don't feel understood. @parkinsons.uk are working hard to change public perception and have launched the #parkinsonsis campaign to spread the word. Get onto the @parkinsons.uk account if you would like to find out more or get involved!
Happy 23rd to myself! Really fun birthday yesterday, started off with a group ride around the backstreets of YANGON with local cyclists, then off to @easycafeyangon to buy myself a birthday present. These Ruby Hills beans are grown by a 2x winner of Myanmars annual harvest competition in the washed category! It's absolutely delicious with lots of interesting fruity acidity. I'll have to pace myself but hoping to make this batch last to Bangkok, around ten days riding from now!
The moutains of the Myanmar India border were majestic but back-breaking, or perhaps leg breaking, to cycle. The flat lands heading south to Yangon were comparitively, and literally dreamy. Much easier on the poor legs and I am able to nip along at 25kms/hour. The exuberant green of the rice paddies makes me continually pinch myself, it's like the saturation has been turned to 100.
As someone who eats 8-10 bananas every day I was pretty stoked to find this guy as I cycled out of Myanmars capital, Naypyitaw. Despite five attempts though, I COULD NOT get him to look at the camera and simultaneously keep his eyes open.
The bicycle is the best way to explore the temples of Bagan!
I really had no idea what to expect from Myanmar before I arrived. Tourism is young here, and the border I used from India opened only last year. I have learnt a few lessons quickly. It is hot. Very hot. Combine this with 2000+ meter unpaved climbs and you have yourself a rather brutal introduction to a country. The food here is delicious and plentiful. At a roadside restaurant the other day I was served no fewer than fourteen different dishes for $1.50. But the best thing by far is the people. They are amazing friendly and helpful, and very respectful of the norms of other cultures. This photo was taken on my second day in the mountains of north west Myanmar.
Goodbye India! I was going to try to sum up my experience of India in this post, to condense four months of cycle touring across this infinitely varied and vast subcontinent in a clever paragraph or two. But I have realised it is impossible to sum up India in any way at all, let alone in a Instagram post. India has grown and changed me in ways that I know already and ways that don't know yet but I think I will continue to discover throughout my life. Everyone's experience of this place must be entirely unique, and when I have got some perspective on mine, I hope to say more! For now, thank you India, you have given me every emotion I am aware I can feel in vast quantities. I have loved every moment of it and will be back for more soon!
There is never any harm in asking! A few nights I was in one of India's agricultural areas where there is NOWHERE to wild camp at all. It got dark, and I needed to get off the busy road. Luckily I found this madrassa and was allowed to camp on the front lawn, they even brought me a bucket of water to wash which is the ULTIMATE luxury before bed while cycle touring. + kudos and thanks for looking out for the bike traveller! A shrewd eye might notice a black band around my ankle. I will explain. Several weeks ago I arrived in Shillong where I planned to stay only a few days to write a blog. I had been cycling for several months since badly tearing a ligament in Jaipur where I had physiotherapy for five weeks. On a night out in Shillong I was walking down a steep hill and mis-stepped. It took a fraction of a second and I felt the ligament tear again. I called up my sister in tears, not from the pain as I was too drunk for that. It was because that was the third time it had torn in the last five months. It was frustration, and worry about the feasibility of continuing this journey with what has become a considerable physical liability. I had time to think it over the next morning. I knew I wanted to continue. At least to give it one more go. One more multi week layoff. Luckily Shillong is a young and energetic city and an excellent place for r&r. Fast forward three weeks and I have set off once. Now I am strapped up to the nines and spend so much time staring at the ground before my feet that I am far more likely to deal myself serious injury by walking into a lamp post. Anyway, for anyone wondering why north east India is taking me SO long, there is an explanation.
My coffee enthusiasm began in Jaipur while I was working out how to spend a five week lay off from cycling. I began to take an interest not only in the end product of this delicious bev, but also the complex, lengthy and often unpredictable journey which the humble coffee seed goes through en route the final cup of a speciality coffee. Coffee cultivation has been practised for centuries in north east India, but has only become commercialized in the past few decades. Coffee is a difficult crop to grow and proper education is crucial to develop high quality beans. It is companies like Smoky Falls in Shillong, Meghlaya, who are driving the local industry, encouraging and educating local farmers in the area to begin the process. I had the pleasure of visiting their roastery and spending more than an hour chatting and brewing freshly roasted coffee in my aeropress for the family. Thank you Smoky Falls for a wonderful afternoon!
Big thanks to the excellent mechanics at @procycling_shillong for a general tune up. New chain after 5000kms, rear wheel true, BB clean and gear tweaking. All set up now for the next phase, heading into Myanmar and then south towards Singapore.
A few days ago I was stuck for somewhere to sleep as it can be tricky to find a quiet camping spot in the agricultural gangetic plains of India. In these situations it is best to enlist the help of the locals, so I stopped at a Police station to ask if they had any suggestions. Bhadra, pictured with me here, immediately cleared out an office in the station and installed a proper bed with a mosquito net and all! The following day I was an hour out of the Police station town when Bhadra caught up with me in his car to give me this traditional Assam headscarf, after having not slept all night due to having been on shift! I will treasure it and remember his kind actions every time I wear it (though likely I will wear it round my neck!)
My favourite kilometers of the day are almost always the first. In the winter the evenings are dark by 5.30 so I an usually in bed by 8. Accordingly I am often awake and on the move early and get a glorious hour or so of cool beautiful light that feels like it is just for me. Uttar Pradesh state land is almost exclusively used for agriculture, but that doesn't stop those pretty moments.