Thailand - The Sequel (May 16th - May 30th)

(Sisophan - Poipet - Kabinburi - Chachoengsao - Bangkok)

Distance biked so far:  (11, 952 km)

After pulling myself away from the nice pool in Siam Reap I continued west towards Thailand and was again greeted with a friendly "hello" from hundreds of smiling children. It's always a great day when I get this kind of greeting.
As I was approaching the Thai border I met another solo cyclist heading the opposite way. He asked me about the road ahead and if there was a place to eat. I told him I had just stopped at a small restaurant and that you can't miss it. There are 6 monkey bodies on skewers on the ground in front of the place. I highly recommended the meatless salads or vegetarian soup.
I stopped for a night in the border town of Poipet, one with a bad reputation for drugs, prostitution and other vices often associated with border towns. It has a casino zone and I managed to win enough at the slots to pay for a night's accommodation, a lunch and dinner. The border crossing provided a contrast between the poor Cambodia and wealthy Thailand. The Thais would be entering Cambodia in their cars, headed to the casino zone or further down the road to Angkor Wat while the Cambodians would be pushing their carts to the Thai markets to buy supplies not available in Cambodia.

Here is the border crossing looking from Thailand back to Cambodia.
I loved Cambodia despite some hard cycling conditions and like Laos will most remember the children. In Laos I was met with the constant "Sabaidee" and in Cambodia the children would say "hello" but in both, they were tireless in their efforts to greet and make me feel welcome. Cambodia has a tragic history and as in most places it is the poor that suffered the most during the years of civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime. The suffering was on an unimaginable scale, one-third of the entire population killed and often in brutal and inhumane ways. I cycled through and often thought of the years of terror and how those kind and smiling faces must have felt with family members and friends being taken away, never to be seen or heard of again.

The cruelty that exists in the world is something I am really struggling to understand. I was aware of it from reading books but when you go to the Killing Fields and actually sit in front of the tree where they smashed small children to death in front of their mothers, it impacts you and tears at your heart. I am not a parent but I love children and cannot imagine the anguish and suffering. And for what purpose?  So that a group of men can force their views of how a society should exist and then kill anyone in opposition. It is madness and beyond comprehension.

I crossed the border without incident and can't believe it has been 8 weeks since I was here. It didn't take long to see my familiar and highly anticipated coffee shops, ahh my beloved Thailand is back.
I cycled into the busy Bangkok rush hour and right as I arrived in the Central area got a flat tire and decided to stay for the night. It was too busy and dangerous on the roads. On Saturday I went to the zoo. I love animals, particularly those that can terrorize humans like lions, tigers and crocodiles. I also enjoy the seals, giraffes, tigers and chimpanzees and the Bangkok zoo is a pleasant place to walk with their tree filled park.

Here is a close up of a giraffe as he was munching on a small leaf. I thought it odd that he would extend so much energy eating a leaf about 2" long, could he even taste it? There must be a long delay between chewing and having it get into your stomach.
I am often torn when I go to a zoo because seeing beautiful animals in cages just isn't natural. I can empathize with the animals because I spent 7 weeks in India with people staring at me while I rested or ate a meal; they too probably wonder what all the fuss is about. On the other hand though, the visitors learn to appreciate their beauty and in the long run may lead to more efforts at conservation. Here is a Malaysian Bear begging for food.
As I go through each country I often think about the animals around that could cause problems if I end up having to sleep in my tent. Although this monitor lizard that was in park in Bangkok is harmless, it would give you a start if you ran into one on a bathroom break in the middle of the night.
Okay, I have some pretty big changes for my trip that will take effect immediately.  Those who have been following me for the past 10 months know that my main goal has been to go to the orphanage in the Philippines where I will volunteer to work with orphaned children for up to 6 months. That has not changed and I have a flight booked on July 1st. I will however not be flying from Singapore but will fly there from Bangkok where I am now. I will not continue through southern Thailand and Malaysia and the bike portion of my trip will end here for now. I will be here in Bangkok until June 30th and then fly to the Philippines. I will not be providing another update until I get to Tacloban City and all further updates will be posted under the Orphanage tab of this website.

Fred Bouwman

May 30, 2011

Bangkok, Thailand
It is really embarrassing to admit that this elephant can paint better than me.
It took me a little while to figure out how this tap could be suspended in mid-air.