- By Vin Cox
3rd April. 138.2 miles cycled.
Rained for last 40 miles… and I wasted time waiting for it to stop for a while. Knee hurts now.
Today was okay, but I’m tired and can’t take it in quick enough. One more big day towards Kula Lumpur and hopefully I can get a good sleep.
Alan Bate should catch me tomorrow – I think he might break himself [going too hard?]. He’s doing it differently to me and all before, apparently he has a spare bike – that’s not allowed in the rules. Hope I’m wrong.
138.2mi @ 13.9mph
One cool thing I did on this day was wet shave on the go! I bought a razor at a convenience store and then figured I could save some time by getting on with it while I rode. I was already sweaty enough for it to run smoothly, then I just jetted myself in the face with my water bottle.
I diverted off the major roads to take a quieter coastal route. “The path less travelled” always has a draw for me, even when I need to average 150 miles a day! I don’t think it slowed me at all, possibly speeding me up with better air and mental stimulation. Guinness World Records recreated my day in Malaysia during a photo-shoot for the 2012 book (it’s actually in the Eden Project, Cornwall though!).
About Alan; happily I was wrong. My most loyal supporters naturally saw Alan as a threat and rival, so they looked on his efforts with sceptical eyes. I hadn’t seen much of Alan for myself at this point, so was starting to go along with the relayed negative outlook. I eventually came to know Alan as the true World Record Breaker and nice guy he is, and I’d soon decided to only listen to positives about him anyway – it wouldn’t help me to view him badly. In the end Alan actually lobbied Guinness World Records to classify our two records separately rather than make him take it off me, but ultimately there can be only one holder of the crown.
It’s up to Guinness World Records to decide if applicants have stuck to the rules, so Alan must have done everything by-the-book to be ratified. My supporters back home didn’t like Alan purely chasing the record, not making so much of seeing the world, having a support vehicle and not carrying his luggage. For my part, I knew and revelled in the idea that I’d be the last person able to get this record in an adventure touring style, so I quickly relaxed about Alan’s alternative style and focused on my adventures.
Alan’s team posted a video as he rode through Thailand where he explained his approach as a racing cyclist. He contrasted that approach to the way some people set out to live life on the road for months or years carrying so much in front and rear panniers, rack-top bags and handlebar bags, that any racer would cringe at the restrictive load carried. His metaphor was “stallion or ass”. I know where he’s coming from, but if you look at it from a negative point of view it can look bad (my team thought I was the ass) – so watch this with a positive attitude and get it:That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
2nd April. 169 miles cycled.
Took off 1/3rd of a mile for back tracking [Guinness World Records rules].
Nice big day – most of it damp. Some serious rain out there! Feet and arse suffering.
American breakfast @ 45 miles.
Shop keeper pimping his staff @ 70 miles.
Border (quick!) @ 145 miles.
Finished the day riding with new friend Mick.
169mi @ 15mph
The rain which falls in a proper tropical downpour is amazing. Vehicles come to a complete halt on the highways. I thought I’d ride on, but couldn’t see the road beneath several inches of swirling water deceiving my eyes by generally flowing sideways. I soon couldn’t see anything or even breath properly such was the amount of water hitting my face. Of course I was drenched, but not cold. I crept on very slowly and was applauded by motorcyclists almost blocking the road as they sheltered under a bridge.
Generally I took my shoes off whenever I stopped – just kicked off under the lunch table for example to let my feet breath/dry. It was certainly necessary after all the rain, but a leech attacking my foot at lunch left a sore mark which I was afraid could get infected.
Guinness World Records rules required that I obeyed the local traffic law. So I had a double reason to follow the rules, and although I was allowed on Thai highway 4, I knew that Malaysia’s E1 on the other side of the border was not legitimate cycling territory (thanks in fact to reading of previous record holder Mark Beaumont accidentally breaking that rule). The solution was to head to the minor Padang Besar crossing about 5 miles west on smaller roads.
At the Malaysian border I met Mick, and Australian/Londoner who’d also been cycling across India and the SE Asia to get this far. We shared an opinion that border towns were funny places and wanted to ride on, so we continued together to Kangar for the night and then ate together too. Mick was a perfect cycling partner during dusk and we teamed up on the search for a decent but cheap hotel. Conversation was very natural with him, and I envied his plan to catch a cargo boat to Australia from Singapore – very eco’ and unusual adventuring.
Skin softens with water, and my already tender areas were wrinkled and frankly falling apart by the end of the day. 169 miles tends to make most cyclists bums hurt, never mind being damp all the time too. Taken with the previous day’s 132 miles of riding, I’d progressed 301 miles in the last 48 hours. Now I checked the distances again and started to understand that I’d have to keep it up to reach Singapore on time. My skin would just have to cope.That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
1st April. 132 miles cycled.
The prostitution here is a bit much! This morning I pulled into a roadside café for water, and was offered sex [as if I was being offered fries in a fast-food outlet]. I had a massage at the hotel, and (no surprise) was offered sex with that. After dinner, the receptionist saw me heading for my room “Sir! Sir! You want lady? Beautiful lady tonight?” – No, I don’t… and even if I did, you only sold me that ‘massage’ an hour ago – what do you think I’m made of?
Apart from the sex workers, another beautiful day through central southern Thailand’s hilly jungle. Stopped less, went fast, good miles, early finish.
Wheel very wobbly now.
Almost got rained on today! Just missed it.
132mi @ ???mph
The Garmin was back on the blink. The backup system just told me how far I’d gone, not the average speed, hence not noting it where I usually would have.
This was my final night in Thailand, although I wasn’t sure if I’d make the border the next day as I worked it out over dinner. 145 miles to Malaysia – just possible I thought, and to make Singapore in time for my flight that progress would be necessary.
I think I was grumpy about prostitutes just because they’d woken me up a few times the previous night asking for work. Everyone had a smile and was polite, and I always respect a positive attitude. It’s a sad indictment of single western men travelling to Thailand that these women assumed I was a potential customer.
Thailand’s roadside retail is so consistent that I was relaxed about running out of water and only getting more when I needed it, even though I was taking endurance exercise in a very hot humid environment. That was how I came to need water and pull into what I thought was a sort of beer garden bar. It was actually a knocking shop…. And that is how I came to be offered sex with my bottle of water.
My back wheel had been decaying since the cracks formed in India. Trying to fix it (by adjusting spoke tension) would very likely have finished it off, as would pumping the tyre up too hard, or hitting a bad bump. To proceed with caution was my only option, and hope I made it to Singapore where I’d get a replacement.That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
31th Mar. 123.5 miles cycled.
Coffee stop @ 25 miles: Cappuccino, madeleines, cornetto, and a new tail-wind! Perfect.
Took off 1 mile for back tracking [Guinness World Records rules].
Me, conditions and everything good. Could have gone further but for warning of no accommodation ahead.
Very very humid today – sweet a real problem. Thunderstorm just missed me… would have liked to get wet.
Plan to start even earlier tomorrow.
123.5mi @ 14.5mph.
I got far too excited about that possible thunderstorm, as this video shows:
Ironically, when I eventually did get hit by a storm two days later I discovered it’s almost impossible to ride in. Such heavy rain that you can’t see or breath if you’re moving into it. Traffic mostly stops. I could do without that for now.
I stayed this night in motel style accommodation behind an open air restaurant. It was brilliant to have such a convenient and good meal (I let the staff recommend something, then ordered two portions!), and then be able to retire to bed so efficiently ready for an early start. My sleep was interrupted several times though by knocks at the door from eager young ladies wanting to negotiate the price of their virtue. I must look like a perv’.
Fellow world record challenger Alan Bate set off from Bangkok on this day, about 220 miles behind me on the road. Therefore I had a 5,342 mile head start given our respective start/finish points. I felt safe in my own attempt even though Alan was targeting the Jules Verne figure of Around the World in 80 days. Apparently he had a police escort out of Bangkok; I did feel a little envious of that after all the traffic lights I’d faced.That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
30th Mar. 113.2 miles cycled.
Distance has already been reduced by 2.2 miles due to back-tracking [Guinness World Records rules].
Beautiful forests and farms in hilly land for most of day. Head wind all day was gentle and didn’t get me down. 14mph average all the same!
Forest was actually orchards of coconut, pineapples and bananas. Big piles of Dorian fruit for sale at the roadside – had been catching a whiff from time to time before I spotted them!
I’m in the place David made it to on his 1st day in Thailand. How did he do that?!?!
A little gecko was so friendly it climbed on my leg to catch flies – I thought it was a fly and thankfully failed to swat it.
113.2mi @ 14mph.
For years, my friend David Piper has been cycle-touring around the world in stages of a week or two during time off work. Operating without Guinness World Records restrictions on him, he rode all the way to this town of Bang Saphan on his first day! It turned out he’d started from west of Bangkok rather than the airport, he’d had a great tail-wind, and most of all he’d been fresh and motivated on the first day of his adventure. That accounted for the difference, but his 190 mile ride was still impressive. Check his diary here: http://www.tra-velo-gue.co.uk/trip05.htm or buy David’s book here:http://lejogtour.co.uk/travelogue.htm
Dorian fruit are incredible. Bylaws have been made against people eating them in some public situations such is the stench! It’s no wonder I noticed them at the road-side. I have tied one once on a trip to Borneo, and I’d agree they don’t taste anything like as bad as they smell – but that’s not saying much. They are probably popular because they are a quite savoury fruit in a region full of sweetness.
I knew the 7-Eleven brand as an American pro’ cycling team sponsor. The business of the brand is convenience stores, and beyond their USA base they also dominate the Thai road-side. These franchises are always well stocked, air-conditioned to the same temperature, friendly, and easy to find. I rapidly learned their range of snacks and groceries as the basis of my subsistence in South East Asia.
Whenever I could, I had a proper meal rather than snacks. Thailand had many road-side restaurants, which usually were thatched-roofs with no walls, and a family would run the place; dad the chef, mum and children waiting tables and taking in the money. I found a lovely friendly place for lunch where they didn’t speak English, but I knew what I wanted. “Cow pat moo” I said, and fried rice with pork arrived shortly afterwards.
My sister had spoken to me on two issues the day before and now both were taking my attention. First, she had told me of another guy about to start an attempt on the around the world cycling record, called Alan Bate. Secondly, she asked me when I thought I’d arrive in Singapore so she could book me a flight.
I thought it was great that the record was going to be attacked by two people at the same time, but because I’d got a long head start I didn’t see it as a rivalry or a race. The record could fall to me if I was good enough, and then to Alan if he was. I sent him a “good luck” email and offered to meet up on the road, which might be possible because his start/finish point was Bangkok and he was planning to go faster than me (obviously). Now I’d gotten a nice email back wishing me the same.
Flight times were always a stress. I don’t know why I’d relaxed and guessed on such an important point while I rode along chatting to my sister Viv, but I’d said “It’s about a 1000 miles – Conditions are good, so give me 8 days”. So over dinner, I checked my messages and saw when I had to be in Singapore; 7 days, then checked the maps and saw it was in fact still over 1000 miles away. Some tough days cycling lay ahead!That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days Ism to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
29th Mar. 128.1 miles cycled.
Fell back to sleep when ready to go, so had a 6:30 start rather than earlier. Bangkok okay – traffic generally behaved predictably, but there was much navigation to do and many traffic lights.
After Bangkok, road great and tail wind to lunch. Headwind after that, so pleased with total distance ridden.
Had steak and chips at a German restaurant then first leg massage in over 5,000 miles of hard cycling. Luckily I found a massage parlour which wasn’t a brothel.
128.1mi @ 15.1mph.
Thailand is famous for massage and notorious for “massage” (wink-wink), and Hua Hin (the town I stayed in that night) had everything on offer. A stroll back from restaurant to hotel after dinner was the perfect time to get my legs loosened off, but I got intimidated a bit by the touting on the street. There were dozens of places to get a massage, but all looked like there might be more on offer. I was concerned that choosing badly might mean a no-good leg rub and then an embarrassing misunderstanding. In hindsight, I’m fairly sure I didn’t make the excellent choice I credited myself with at the time; but I shouldn’t have worried because it was a good leg rub and I’d made it clear that was all I wanted.
There was a lot to get used to in Thai culture. Royalty is publicly revered in an amazing way, and was one of the first things I had noticed. “God save the King!” is a common slogan, written in English, as a bumper sticker. Public and private shrines to Rama IX [the King] are common sights from the road, his photo hangs in every hotel and restaurant, and decorative gold signposts/adverts celebrate his benevolent presence. Rama IX, has been on the throne for over 60 years and is the world’s longest serving head of state. Because it is illegal to criticise the King, the natural or true level of respect is not so easy to judge, but it could be the case that making dissent illegal has actually worked in making most people love the King. My friends had told me that most importantly King Rama IX represents stability in an otherwise politically volatile country, and one can see why the population would appreciate that.
Another big thing to get used to was Thai sexual attitudes and gender roles. Back in India, and earlier in my journey in the Arab world, women sometimes worked, but rarely had a voice. Here in Thailand women certainly weren’t shy. They were communicative and dynamic, but they also frequently offered themselves as prostitutes and sought out single male foreigners like me. Most difficult for me to comfortably relate to following my cloistered existence on the road so far, were people of ambiguous gender such as the ladyboy at the hotel who showed me to my room. He/she commented as we rode in the lift, on how athletic I looked in my cycling gear. That didn’t half make me feel uncomfortable, and he/she had more fun telling me I had a “lovely body”!
That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
28th Mar. 21.5 miles cycled.
Actually 22.5 miles, but some back-tracking [so not counting for Guinness World Records].
Come to see Sally and Marcus… and baby Layla.
Went for a meal with them at a posh hotel. Buffet. Spent 3 hours constantly eating! So good to be with friends and to talk of our shared friends.
Trying to upload videos so I have spare memory – not working!
Also been buying inner tubes and a new pump in town.
21.5mi @ 12.4mph.
Female security personnel and airport staff strode confidently around Bangkok Airport as equals. The contrast with India was stark, and I was surprised I hadn’t been more conscious of it before arriving in less misogynist Thailand. These were women who could look a man in the eye, and had personalities. I was sick of only talking to men.
My phone connected to the local network as I walked to passport control and collected my bike. It updated it’s clock (in the uncomfortable direction), received text messages telling me what good value calling home was, and then picked up more useful messages. One message rocked my world and brought me to tears instantly: My old university friend Sally wanted to meet up! Sally, Marcus, and baby Layla lived near the airport, so I might see them ever so soon!
Just trying to think about greeting old friends was very difficult for me. I had no idea how lonely I was until this moment. Every time I approached it in my mind, from any angle, I just welled-up. I took a few meandering diversions on the ride across town to see them, just to compose myself. I hadn’t thought about the day of the week, but it was the weekend, so Sally and Marcus had the day free from work at the prestigious Patana School. They talked me towards their apartment building on the phone until I saw them on the street. I decided as I hugged them that I’d stay all day if they’d let me – and they offered straight away to put me up for the night. The record could wait.
- By Vin Cox
27th Mar. 110.5 miles cycled.
STOP GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS CLOCK @ 14:20 – KOLKATA AIRPORT
This is a nasty airport in a nasty town.
Bike very badly packed at local bike store – hope it’s okay.
Enjoyed seeing paddy fields and banana plantations on the run-in, also a spot of rain! Nice!
Other western travellers [in the airport] have stories of rudeness, illness, and are keen to leave.
110.5mi @ 14.6mph.
East of Durgapur the coal filth faded and vibrant tropical fields dazzled my eyes so used to dryer dusty shades. The road was slightly raised from the flat alluvial plains of Bengal on which the crops grew. I enjoyed the view immensely as I rolled the final miles east in India.
Many times I’d noticed that most Indian roads had curb-stones pained black and white. I don’t know why they bothered spending time and money doing it, but it was a characteristic I’d gotten used to. On this day I came across a team of workmen in drab clothes squatting in the open highway painting the curb. It just reminded me how far from home I was; home where any worker would be in hi-viz, major roads don’t need curb-stones, and the stones we have are left their natural colour while we get on with business. I pedalled by scanning the horizon for the city that was my finish line for this stage of the journey.
Old Calcutta had become Kolkata in 2001. As with Mumbai / Bombay, it looked like this was just a rebranding of a dirty old city and didn’t even seem to be worth a coat of paint in real life. The main most rewarding effect was that any visitor literally could not get the name right; whichever name they use could be corrected to the other one by a local. I tried to find a road sign for the suburb of DumDum, because I’d been spicing up the required evidence photos for Guinness World Records, but there was very little signage for anywhere. Then I suddenly recognised that I was entering an airport – so I got on with that instead.
‘The black hole of Calcutta’ actually refers to a cramped jail cell which became notorious in the eighteenth century, but in looser popular misunderstanding it gives an idea of the dirty, jostling streets of the former capitol of British India. I had to return to those busy streets once I’d checked into at the airport because I needed to package my bike for flight. In other countries, any bicycle shop will have a box they’ve just taken delivery of a bike in, and be happy to have someone take it away. I had no such luck in the bike shop I found, but it did get strapped and wrapped up, then stitched it into some old sacks. The fee was agreed before the packaging work commenced, then they tripled it at the end because three people worked on it… Not a ridiculous price by western standards, but I stood firm to the original negotiation, otherwise why had we bothered?
So as Guinness World Records rules judged it, I finished India with a total of 5079 miles ridden in 45 days 8 hours and 53 minutes, at an average of 111 miles per day. My flight would be overnight, so I whiled the evening away working such things out, and messaged some ex-pat friends who lived in my next destination: Bangkok, Thailand.That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
26th Mar. 136 miles cycled.
Hotel check-in included all the usual forms [bureaucratic India] plus one which had “Hotel name:” as question 1… I left it blank, and the clerk shouted at me. I replied with a smile “It’s your hotel. I don’t know and don’t need to tell you it’s name.” – He was really helpful after that.
I’m in Durgapur. Steel and coal everywhere. Coal dust lines the roadside and covers me. Now in the state of West Bengal – not all good so far: Truck traffic jam on entry, lots of pollution, nasty town.
Had one beer with dinner. Feel V drunk!
136mi @ 14.7mph.
The town name – Durgapur – and the atmosphere of dangerous industry and filthy poverty reminded me of the puppet comedy film “Team America”. I could imaging the ironically arrogant team of “World Police” smashing the place up as they did in fictional “Durkastan”, never understanding what was actually going on. Understanding such a place seemed important and interesting to me (which I had taken to be the moral of the film).
Coal was clearly vital to the local economy. I’d been amongst open topped trucks dominating the highway with clouds of black dust streaming from each. It was no exaggeration to say I looked like a miner with such a dirty black face. The trucks were taking coal from the mines to the steel works in Durgapur, the main industry of the town. The need for coal to be transported to the steel works was so great that some men pushed bicycles loaded with a good tone of it, having first pedalled to the source of the coal. I joined a group resting in the shade briefly:
With just 160km left to Kolkata, my Indian adventure was drawing to a close and I was also mentally preparing for the next leg once I’d flown to Bangkok. I tweeted “My average miles per day: EU 144, AFRICA 105, JORDAN 109, INDIA so far 105. Must do better in Asia”. That was getting ahead of myself though – there was plenty to do still in India!That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
25th Mar. 135.3 miles cycled.
Had to get up in middle of night and ask for money back before A/C suddenly worked! Then found locked in, and the cheeky sod who let me out asked for cash!
Got up to truck speed straight away.
Saw hills at about 30 miles, then climbed a bit at 100 miles. New state, Jharkhand, is hilly and forested – nice.
Very budget hotel. Samosas at café next door for tea.
135.3mi… Garmin had another error for a few miles, then thought I was doing hundreds of mph for a while. It reads 133.6mi @ 18.4mph. I don’t believe anything it says any more.
I felt great. Finally heading into a new state, knowing I was just a couple of days from Kolkata and the end of my Indian adventure, and having good conditions was great. It was still hot, but only mid 30’s rather than over 40C (around 100F), and I was more use to the heat and the intense glare. The roads were quiet, the land less populated, and there was more inspiring wilderness around.
Scrubby forest covered small hills which the highway wove between and cut through. The creations of both Mother Nature and mankind were impressive. The road was silky and quiet beneath my tyres, and progress was aided by some serious civil engineering isolating the road from the undulations of the land. In the trees beyond the Armco barriers, birds sang and I imagined Tigers prowled. Tigers do indeed exist in the area, but like everywhere in India, they are damned rare. I pondered for many miles whether I would be lucky or unlucky to see a tiger, recognising that if I did see one I’d probably be prey. Fatalistically, I concluded it was unlikely and irrelevant how I felt about it, but I kept my eyes peeled!
Traffic had died down to almost nothing once I was in the state of Jharkhand (funny, I’d never heard of the entire state until I arrived there!). When I finally saw another road user, I sped past as it was a pair of oxen pulling a cart. The road was definitely over-engineered for current usage levels. The whole area was so undeveloped it was no surprise to find a hotel with everything; dirty linen, shared toilets and shower/bucket, grubby walls, vermin, mosquitoes, etc. It was all very friendly though, and the street café next door was perfect for me. I ate endless samosas to send me to an early bed as great preparation for the next day, when would have to get within striking distance of Kolkata because my flight was now booked.