- 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.