Nomaden der Straße seit 365 Tagen

Vor genau einem Jahr haben wir uns ein letztes Mal verabschiedet und sind gegen 11Uhr aus Empfingen weggefahren. Mit einem sehr sonderbaren Gefühl, da wir nicht wirklich wussten, was auf uns zukommt, wie wir mit allem zurechtkommen, wie wir uns 24 Stunden am Tag und sieben Tage die Woche verstehen, ob uns ein Leben als Nomaden gefällt, ob wir so lange wegbleiben können oder ob wir auf halbem Wege wieder umkehren. Auf einige dieser Fragen haben wir noch heute keine Antworten. Wir wissen nur, dass wir für uns die richtige Entscheidung getroffen haben, die beste übrigens, und wir genießen jeden Tag unserer Reise in vollen Zügen. Natürlich streiten wir uns ab und zu, aber auch nicht mehr als vorher, eher im Gegenteil, wir sind ein super Team, jeder hat seine täglichen ‘Hausaufgaben’ und wir ergänzen uns gegenseitig hervorragend. Aber das wussten wir ja schon bevor wir losgefahren sind. Momentan können wir es uns noch nicht so richtig vorstellen, uns an einem Ort niederzulassen. Noch sind wir frei – so frei wie wir es immer sein wollten!

Natürlich vermissen wir unsere Familien und Freunde und viele unserer Radeltage sind auch sehr anstrengend. Das Radreisen is nicht immer so einfach wie es sich manchmal liest oder anhört. Trotz allem war es bisher eine außergewöhnliche Reise, wir haben viele neue Freunde gewonnen, viel über uns fremde Kulturen gelernt, unsere kulinarischen Kenntnisse erweitert, sind manchmal an unsere Grenzen gekommen, haben wunderschöne Landschaften gesehen und haben für’s Leben gelernt. Und das Beste an allem ist, dass wir Dank der heutigen Technik und sozialen Medien mit allen Zuhausegebliebenen in Kontakt bleiben können und uns dann wieder fast wie zuhause fühlen.

Wir haben unten unsere bisherige Reise mit all ihren Höhen und Tiefen für euch zusammengefasst. Damit beantworten wir hoffentlich auch einige der vielen Fragen, die wir häufig gestellt bekommen.

Viel Spaß beim Lesen, unser erster Blog zu Malaysia kommt demnächst!

Gesamte geradelte Kilometer: Fast 16.000km

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Anzahl der bereisten Länder: 16

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Längste Distanz: 145km in Kambodscha und Laos

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Längster Tag im Sattel: 8:25 h von Niang Kiauw to Louang Prabang in Laos

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Höchster beradelter Berg: 2,100m in Nord-Vietnam

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Anzahl Platten: 13

Anzahl gebrochener Speichen: 3 pro Fahrrad, danach haben wir sie alle auswechseln lassen

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Anzahl sonstiger Pannen: KEINE! Wir lieben Smokey und Rudi, wirklich wahr! Beide sind Idworx Easy Rohlers und wir finden, dass Idworx die besten Fahrräder herstellt.

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Außergewöhnliche Erlebnisse: Gastfreundschaft in Indien und Malaysia. Viele Menschen laden uns einfach so in ihre Häuser ein und wir fühlen uns fast wie ein Familienmitglied.

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Ärgerlichste Erlebnisse: Keine Privatsphäre in Indien für ganze drei Monate. alles wurde immer und überall angefasst, selbst wir und wir konnten nirgends ein ruhiges Plätzchen für uns alleine finden; Hunde in Rumänien und Thailand; Busfahrer in allen Ländern.

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Beste Radelerlebnisse: Rückenwind entlang der Etsch in Italien, wodurch wir eine viel längere Strecke radeln konnten als ursprünglich geplant (dies ist insbesondere deswegen bemerkenswert, da wir eigentlich grundsätzlich nur gegen den Wind fahren); Radeln entlang des Mekongs in Kambodscha; Militärpolizeieskorte in Thailand.

Schlimmste Radelerlebnisse: Radeln im Dunkeln auf einer stark befahrenen Schnellstraße ohne Seitenstraße, dafür mit zahlreichen Schlaglöchern, mit Fahrzeugen, die ohne Licht fahren und starkem LKW-Verkehr.

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Unser Lieblings-Fahrradland: Hier können wir uns nicht festlegen, alle Länder waren auf ihre Weise landschaftlich schön, beeindruckend und faszinierend.

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Ungeliebte Fahrradländer: Rumänien (zu viel Schwerverkehr und die kleinen Nebenstraßen sind in sehr schlechtem Zustand, falls man die Trampelpfade überhaupt Straßen nennen kann); Indien (zu viel und zu chaotischer Verkehr).

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Lieblingsländer (bezieht sich nicht ausschließlich auf’s Fahrradfahren): Slowenien (Landschaft, Menschen), Italien (Landschaft, Menschen, Essen, Kultur, Architektur), Rumänien (Landschaft, Menschen, Kultur, Architektur), Türkei (Gastfreundschaft, Landschaft, Essen, Architektur), Vietnam (Landschaft, Menschen), Thailand (Menschen, Landschaft, Nebenstraßen, Strände, Essen), Malaysia (Landschaft, Gastfreundschaft, Menschen), Kambodscha (ruhige Straßen, Menschen, alte Tempel, Kultur, Mekong), Deutschland (Straßen und Radwege, Essen, Landschaften)

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Land, das uns nicht so gut gefallen hat (bezieht sich nicht ausschließlich auf’s Fahrradfahren): Indien (zu dreckig, zu viele Extreme, keine Privatsphäre, Spuckerei).

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Bestes Essen: Italien, Deutschland, Thailand, Türkei, Malaysia

Schlechtestes Essen: Indien (wir sind davon andauernd krank geworden); Laos (zu einseitig)

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Bestes Hotel/beste Pension: Eine kleine Bauernhofpension in Italien an der Grenze zu Slowenien; Hotel Malji Ka Kamra, Churu, Indien; 2N in Phetchaburi, Thailand; Pedal Inn in Georgetown, Malaysia

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Prima Warm Shower-Gastgeber: Sibylle in Hanoi, Pad in Thailand, David in Malaysia

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Bester Zeltplatz: Wüste in Indien

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Schlechtester Zeltplatz: Ein kleiner Wald in der Türkei, in dem die ganze Nacht gejagt wurde und der Weg dorthin aus klebriger Tonerde bestand.

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Andere klasse Radtouristen, die wir unterwegs getroffen haben, um nur einige zu nennen: Sharon und Tim aus England; Astrid und Gerd aus Österreich und Deutschland; Ludo aus Belgien; Annika und Roberto aus Deutschland und Mexiko (bisher haben wir sie nur virtuell auf Facebook getroffen, aber wir sind ihnen auf der Spur); Mirko und Katia aus Slowenien und der Tschechischen Republik, die seit 2000 mit dem Fahrrad unterwegs sind; Tony aus England, 71, der seit 35 Jahren um die Welt radelt; Asako und Alex aus Japan und den USA; Aaron aus Australien

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Höchstes Hoch: Nachdem wir 145km in glühender Hitze durch eine langweilige und abgebrannte und/oder abgeholzte Landschaft geradelt sind

Tiefste Tiefs: Als Bärbel in Indien von einem betrunkenen Idioten geschlagen wurde und als Johan erfuhr, dass sein Meniskus gerissen ist

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Was wir gelernt haben: Radfahrer sind immer hungrig und die Portionen in Asien sind viel zu klein; Wasser immer rechtzeitig nachfüllen und nicht darauf hoffen, dass später schon auch noch die Möglichkeit kommt; Radeln in strömendem Regen macht keinen Spaß, auch nicht in Asien, wo die Temperaturen selten unter 20 Grad C sinken; niemals beim Kauf von Fahrradhosen Geld sparen, NIE; niemals im Dunkeln auf unbekannten Straßen ohne Seitenstreifen fahren; vom Fahrradfahren bekommt man keinen Bikinihintern und auch keinen Badehosenhintern

Traurigster Moment: Abschied in Empfingen

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Glücklichster Moment: Nach einer längeren Pause wieder auf dem Fahrrad zu sitzen

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Größte Überraschung: Man gewöhnt sich an fast alles, sogar daran, nicht ständig online zu sein

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Außergewöhnliche Landschaften: Schwäbische Alb in Deutschland; Österreichische Alpen; Karpaten in Rumänien; Slowenien; Mekong in Kambodscha; Vietnam: Dong Van Karst Plateau, Hoang Lien Son Gebirge bei Sapa, Pu Luong Kalksteinlandschaft; Route zwischen Louang Prabang und Vientiane in Laos; Thailand: Yao Khai Nationalpark; Süd-Thailand

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Härtestes Radfahren: Dong Van Karst Plateau in Vietnam; 145km Radeln in glühender Hitze und ohne Schatten in Kambodscha

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Geplante Route für die kommenden Monate: Malaysia, Singapur, Indonesien, Australien, Neuseeland

Voraussichtliche Rückkehr: Frühjahr 2014

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Nomads of the road for 365 days

Exactly one year ago we said our last goodbyes and left Empfingen, Germany, at around 11am. A very odd feeling as by then we didn’t exactly know what to expect, how we would cope, how we would get along with each other 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if we would like the nomads’ life and to be away for such a long time or if we would return halfway. So many questions to some of which we still don’t have the answers. All we know by now is that it has been the right decision for us to leave, the best ever and we still have the time of our lives. We have our arguments, but not more than we had before, we’re a great team, have our daily chores and complement each other very well. But we knew that before we left. So far we enjoyed every minute of our journey (mostly) and right now cannot imagine to settle down at one place forever. We are free – as free as we always wanted to be.

Of course we miss our families and friends, it’s been a tough journey to get to where we are now and not every day is as easy as it might sometimes sound, but all in all, it’s been a fantastic journey, we made a lot of new friends, learned a lot about different cultures, enjoyed amazing food, sometimes discovered our limits, saw beautiful and scenic landscapes and learned for life. And today’s modern technology makes it really easy for us to stay in touch with everyone at home and not feel missed out.

We’ve put together a few fun facts on our journey also covering some of the questions we repeatedly get from our fellow followers.

Enjoy reading and watch out for our first post on Malaysia coming up soon!

Total distance cycled: Almost 16,000km

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Number of cycled countries: 16

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Longest distance cycled: 145km in Cambodia and Laos

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Longest time in the saddle: 8:25 h from Niang Kiauw to Louang Prabang in Laos

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Highest cycled altitude: 2,100m in Northern Vietnam

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Number of punctures: 13

Number of broken spokes: 3 on each bike and then we decided to replace all of them

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Number of other bike failures: NONE! We love Smokey and Rudi, seriously! Both are Idworx Easy Rohlers. We think Idworx is building the best trekking bikes possible.

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Most amazing experiences: Hospitality in India and Malaysia with so many people inviting us to their homes and making us part of their family.

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Most annoying experiences: No privacy in India and people touching everything including us, never ever a single moment to ourselves for three months; dogs in Romania and Thailand; bus drivers in all countries

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Best cycling experiences: Tailwind along the Adige in Italy for one day when we covered a much longer distance as originally planned (especially as we had mostly headwinds for the rest of our journey); our journey along the Mekong in Cambodia; MP police escort in Thailand

Worst cycling experience: Cycling in the dark in India on a very busy highway without shoulders, a lot of motorized vehicles not using their lights, heavy truck traffic and a bumpy, potholed road.

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Favorite cycling countries: Too hard to say, all countries we cycled through were in their own way beautiful, at times fantastic, scenic and stunning

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Least favorite cycling countries: Romania (too much heavy truck traffic and very bad back roads), India (traffic)

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Favorite countries (not cycling related): Slovenia (landscapes, people), Italy (landscapes, people, food, culture, architecture), Romania (landscapes, people, culture, architecture), Turkey (hospitality, landscapes, food, people, architecture), Vietnam (landscapes, back roads), Thailand (people, landscapes, back roads, beaches, food), Malaysia (landscapes, people, hospitality), Cambodia (quiet roads, people, old temples, Mekong), Germany (roads, food, landscapes)

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Least favorite countries (not cycling related): India (too dirty, too many extremes, no privacy, spitting)

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Best food: Italy, Germany, Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia

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Best guesthouses/hotels: A little farm guesthouse in Italy close to the Slovenian border; heritage hotel Malji Ka Kamra, Churu, India; 2N in Phetchaburi, Thailand; Pedal Inn in Georgetown, Malaysia

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Great Warm Shower hosts: Sibylle in Hanoi, Pad in Thailand, David in Malaysia

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Best camp spot: Desert in India

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Worst camp spot: A little forest in Turkey with hunters around us all night and sticky clay mud on the path

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Other great touring cyclists we met along our journey: Sharon and Tim from the UK; Astrid and Gerd from Austria and Germany; Ludo from Belgium; Annika and Roberto from Germany and Mexico (only met them virtually but are positive about meeting them in person as well), Mirko and Katia from Slovenia and the Czech Republic who have been cycling the world since 2000, Tony from England, 71, and cycling for the past 35 years, Asako and Alex from Japan and USA, Aaron from Australia

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Worst food: India (we got sick from it all the time), Laos (no variety)

Highest high: Cycling 145km in one day on a boring route in the soaring heat in Cambodia through a slashed and burned landscape.

Lowest low: Baerbel getting beaten up by a drunk guy in India and Johan’s diagnosis of a torn meniscus

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Lessons learned: Cyclists are hungry all the time and Asia’s portions are far too small; when you are running out of water never think there’ll be a shop within a few kilometers, always refill as early as possible; cycling in the pouring rains isn’t fun, not even in Asia when temperatures usually don’t go below 20 degrees C; never save money on bike shorts, never; never cycle in the dark on unknown roads without shoulders; cycling doesn’t make a bikini nor a swimming trousers bottom

Saddest moment: Leaving Empfingen

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Happiest moments: Sitting on the bike again after a longer break in a city or while on a vacation from our bikes

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Biggest surprise: You can get used to everything, even to not being online every day 😉

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Most amazing landscapes: Swabian Alb in Germany; Alps in Austria; Carpathian mountains in Romania; Slovenia; Mekong in Cambodia; Vietnam: Dong Van Karst Plateau, Hoang Lien Son mountain range near Sapa, the Pu Luong limestone landscape; route between Louang Prabang and Vientiane in Laos; Thailand: Yao Khai national park; Southern Thailand

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Toughest cycling: Dong Van Karst Plateau in Vietnam; cycling for 145km at soaring temperatures with hardly any shade in Cambodia

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Planned route for the coming months: Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand

Estimated return date: Spring 2014

Back to cycling heaven

22 – 30 June, 2013 – Thailand, the land of the smile. The land of a million 7-Eleven/Tesco Lotus supermarkets, smooth sealed roads, mostly well-working internet connections, super friendly people, clean guesthouses and delicious food. This country is so convenient, so comfortable, so comforting and so easy to be loved. Understandably we meet a lot of expats here even in the remotest areas.

Thailand, we're coming!

Thailand, we’re coming!

Yippie, we are in Thailand, secretly crossing the Mekong by bike

Yippie, we are in Thailand, secretly crossing the Mekong by bike

Second breakfast at Tesco heaven

Second breakfast at Tesco heaven

Lunch at 7-Eleven heaven

Lunch at 7-Eleven heaven

We’ve entered Thailand in the northeast, a region called Isan that gets only 1% of all tourist traffic. I think because it doesn’t have the stunning landscapes like in the far north or south or because it is a very rural area with a lot of farmland. And admittedly cycling was a bit boring as there wasn’t much else than lowland rice paddies and eucalyptus trees. Our first night we ended up putting up our tent under the front roof of a small house from a Thai/Dutch couple, a couple we would talk and think about a lot in the coming weeks.

We started cycling in Thailand on a very busy road along the Mekong. The first 50km or so there was a large shoulder and we didn’t mind the traffic too much as it was good going and we made great progress, all we wanted. But after lunch the shoulder disappeared and traffic got mad with many huge trucks racing past us. After about 15km fearing for our lives (even Johan got scared) we decided to leave this road and took a small back road through the countryside, knowing we would have to camp as the next town was too far away. In a small village we met a Thai woman speaking excellent English and inviting us to camp in front of her home. And what a surprise, her husband is Dutch. Johan was already looking forward to a nice evening with a nice chap. When we arrived at their house, the Dutch guy looked quite annoyed that his wife decided to bring us there, however, there was no way back for him anymore. Charming Johan quickly involved Kees in a conversation and within minutes the ice was broken and our involuntary host seemed to be happy to speak some Dutch again. We put up our tent under a roof in front of the house, had coffee with Kees and his wife and talked a bit. As we were really dirty from cycling that day we asked where we could wash ourselves. At first we were supposed to wash next to the house – which would have been OK of course except for the fact that there wasn’t any privacy next to the busy road and the neighbours – but then Kees’ wife told me she cleaned the bathroom for us so we could come into the house to wash. Pleased I went inside and was quite shocked how primitively they lived. Kees had retired a few years ago after having worked all his working life offshore for a Dutch company. He must have made a lot of money and must have lost everything afterwards. This is at least how it looked like. The bathroom, actually the whole house, was still extremely dirty, I think it was the worst place we’ve ever stayed at. A bucket shower in a bathroom of which the door could not be closed anymore and with dirty dishes from the kitchen standing on the floor. It was disgusting. Despite this, we both were still glad to be able to fully undress for washing instead of standing half-dressed in the mud next to the house. And I know we should be very grateful that these people let us stay at their place, nothing we can take for granted and nothing that would easily happen where we come from. And we were grateful as it started to rain heavily that night and wouldn’t stop anymore until noon the next day. But still, this Kees must have screwed up heavily. In our wildest dreams we both couldn’t imagine ending up like this. On top he couldn’t stop complaining about the horrible Thai mentality, his stupid wife – she was beautiful and very nice and not stupid at all – his idiotic in-laws, the laziness of people here in Thailand. All in all he hated everything about Thailand, while he was sitting all day long in his plastic chair in front of the house yelling commands at his wife and 13-year-old daughter, who would by the way sleep on a thin mattress on the ground next to their parent’s bed. It’s been a quite shocking experience for us to be honest and we’ll not forget this for a while.

We survived the first night in Thailand

We survived the first night in Thailand

The next morning we left as early as possible in the pouring rain to let Kees and family continue their miserable lives. We really felt sorry for his wife and daughter as we think they didn’t really have a choice. For the first time we cycled all morning in heavy rain, topped by headwinds and again undulating roads. During the day we met more expats from the UK, Germany and Switzerland, Thai women seem to be very popular with European men ;-)!

Over the coming days there wasn’t much change in landscape, it continued to be quite boring the further we got into central Thailand. We didn’t mind, we’ve had enough dramatic landscapes in the past months and were looking forward to our first real elephant experience.

Mr. Coolio with his fake Ray Ban sunglasses, bought in Vietnam

Mr. Coolio with his fake Ray Ban sunglasses, bought in Vietnam

This is 'Schlappohrenliesl' or 'Liesl with the floppy ears' or 'flaporen-Liesl' and we are cycling against this heavy wind!

This is ‘Schlappohrenliesl’ or ‘Liesl with the floppy ears’ or ‘flaporen-Liesl’ and we are cycling against this heavy wind!

Johan shrinked from too many beers and too much sun

Johan shrank from too many beers and too much sun

Cute temple monkey

Cute temple monkey

We cycled to Ta Klang, an elephant village, where for hundreds of years elephants and human beings live together. In the past the elephants were used for logging in the nearby forests. As more and more forests disappeared, logging became unlawful and elephants unemployed. As they need a lot of food – up to 150kg per day – and as they couldn’t just be sent back to the wild, people were looking for other employments for their elephants. They either went street begging (nowadays forbidden by law), learned them tricks to become circus elephants or used them for elephant rides. As you can imagine all these activities are against an elephant’s nature and the Surin project was born. It is a non-profit organization supporting mahouts (elephant caretakers) so they are able to buy enough food for their elephants, free them from doing stupid tricks for tourists and don’t hurt them anymore. As we’ve decided to support the Surin project there will be a dedicated elephant post with a lot of interesting information.

Unfortunately we attended an elephant show in this village as we didn’t know better at that time, but immediately thought when seeing what these creatures were doing that this couldn’t be right. In total we spent 2.5 wonderful days in the village, went for a walk in the forest with the elephants, watched them bathing and eating and learned a lot about them and their habits.

This might be fun for the spectators but certainly not for the elephants

This might be fun for the spectators but certainly not for the elephants

This is real elephant fun, walking in the forest

This is real elephant fun, walking in the forest

Elephant beauty

Elephant beauty

Yummy bamboo!

Yummy bamboo!

An elephant's footprint (the left one!)

An elephant’s footprint (the left one!)

Bathing is almost as much fun as eating

Bathing is almost as much fun as eating

We are best friends so I can poo while walking into the pond for a refreshing bath

We are best friends so I can poo while walking into the pond for a refreshing bath

Enough bathing, time for more food

Enough bathing, time for more food

Boy, you smell nice!

Boy, you smell nice!

From there we continued our journey southwest to visit an old Khmer temple from the 10th century, almost as beautiful as the better known Angkor temples in Cambodia, but unfortunately based on top of a volcano with the steepest ascents ever, I hardly managed to push up my bike on a sealed road! Thai’s road building engineers must be crazy about taking the shortest route over a mountain, seriously!

Johan, the cyclist, at the ancient temple

Johan, the cyclist, at the ancient temple

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Still at the temple with Cambodians mountains in the back

Still at the temple with Cambodian mountains in the back

During our journey we enjoyed Thai hospitality at its best: one morning we were invited for breakfast by a family preparing for a special celebration. As we just had food we thankfully declined and they gave us a huge bottle of Fanta. Later that day we stopped to drink some water in front of a house and a nice woman came to talk to us and within five minutes we were invited for lunch, this time we happily accepted and enjoyed some local fish, a very hot vegetable curry and rice. Very often people give us water, either a car just stops in the middle of nowhere to hand us each a bottle of cold water. Once we sat in front of a restaurant to eat our lunch we bought some hours before and the waitress came out with a bottle of water, two glasses and ice. Thai people are extremely friendly and often cars stop to take our picture, people greet us and wave at us everywhere and they would ask us tons of questions, mostly in Thai, which we unfortunately don’t understand.

So we continue cycling with a smile on our faces in the land of the smile.

Thai lunch

Thai lunch

Distances cycled:

22 June, Thakek (Laos) – Caanod (Thailand): 116km

23 June, Caanod – Kuchinarai: 100km

24 June, Kuchinarai – Roi Et: 80km

25 June, Roi Et – Suwannaphum: 66km

26 June, Suwannaphum – Ta Klang: 75km

27/28 June, restdays in Ta Klang

29 June, Ta Klang – Prakhon Chai: 102km

30 June, Prakhon Chai – Pa Kham: 63km

Final thoughts and facts on Cambodia

First of all – we had a fantastic time in Cambodia and loved most about it and were really sad to say goodbye. We spent 24 days in the country, cycled 1,139 km, were 68 hours in the saddle and saw most of its hot spots.

Cambodia is 1.5 times the size of England of which 5% is covered by water of the Tonle Sap lake. It has a population of 15 million of which 90% are Khmer and the average annual income is just 610 USD which makes Cambodia one of the poorest countries worldwide. Sadly, the average life expectancy is only 61 years.

Below is a random collection of some Cambodian peculiarities we found noteworthy, funny or just interesting.

Pyjamas: I still cannot get over the pyjama fashion, it is just hilarious seeing women in my age wearing red, yellow or baby-blue outfits with teddy-bear, flower or comic prints. Admittedly, I am also a bit jealous as it is the most comfy outfit I can think of. And nobody sees if you have a few kilo too much on your hips (you won’t even feel it yourself as the pyjama grows with you :)).

She is selling mangos

She is selling mangos

Language: Khmer is a language hard to learn. In the little more than three weeks we just managed to say ‘Akon’ (thank you), and that’s about it. In the main tourist areas people speak English very well, however most of the times with an accent we really needed to get used to as they cannot pronounce the ‘S’ at the end of a sentence and as commonly known for Asians, they use the ‘L’ for an ‘R’. When we first arrived we had no clue when a waiter asked us if we would like to have “Li” with our food, he of course meant ‘rice’. Or if we would like to have ‘I’ in our drink. On some menus they also write an ‘L’ instead of the ‘R’, we once could have bought Malbollo (yes, cigarettes are on the menu and you can buy them separately or by package).

Have a closer look at the last two translations

Have a closer look at the last two translations

Ice: People usually don’t have fridges. They buy their food fresh from the market where animals such as fish, chickens or ducks just get killed when bought. We were also told that all the other meat is always just from the day (which I still doubt, given the sometimes very stale smell on the markets). But they always have huge blocks of ice which gets delivered by small non refrigerated trucks or mopeds/motorbikes (packed in sawdust), sawn in small pieces and as per quantities needed right in front of the house. If the ice isn’t delivered directly to the house people just buy it somewhere and carry it on their bikes, motorbikes, in plastic bags and it sometimes falls on the street as it is too heavy for the bike which is one of the reasons why we always opted for warm and ice-free drinks despite the temperatures.

An ice truck

An ice truck

The early bird catches the worm: Cambodians get up very early. As soon as it is light, life is in full swing. Women sell their goods on the market, small food stalls are open to sell iced coffee, rice porridge or bread. Fantastic for us early risers, as we could always get some food in the morning. On the other hand they also go to bed early, and shortly after dusk shops are closing and roads are emptying. Handy for us once more as we could always have early dinners.

Early morning food stalls

Early morning food stalls

Women: There is a lot of respect for women which was a huge relief for me after India, where a woman is just good for doing all the work and give birth to baby-boys. In Cambodia women of course ride motorbikes, why not? They of course have a job other than caring for their children, households and husbands and they go to school as their male siblings do.

Open-air aerobics for the modern woman, in pyjamas, what else!

Open-air aerobics for the modern woman, in pyjamas, what else!

People: As much as Cambodians are emancipated they are very friendly, warm and welcoming. We did not make any bad experiences – except for the one or other bad-tempered hotel manager or disinterested shop sales person. The children are cute, funny, cheerful and seem to enjoy themselves if they are poor or rich, on a bicycle, motorbike or afoot, at school or at the playground. And the children always shouted their super enthusiastic ‘hello, hello’ to us.

Cheerful children

Cheerful children

Food: The food is OK, but there is not so much variety as there are just a few main dishes such as Lok Lak or Amok they serve, but that’s maybe just our impression and what they serve for foreigners. We ate a lot of noodle soup as well, but that’s not an original Cambodian dish. We loved their baguettes, they were huge and always freshly served, hence warm and crisp. And they had great fruit shakes, tukaluk, a bit too sweet for my taste but still good. So far Thai food still ranks first.

Who knows all the fruits?

Who knows all the fruits?

Vehicles: They have very funny tractors or trucks that almost look like self-made vehicles. They are very basic and without a cabin, you can see the engine and the driver is usually wearing a helmet. These vehicles can go very fast!

Fancy truck, fancy helmet!

Fancy truck, fancy helmet!

Roads: Good things first: they are empty and even the ‘busy’ main roads between the bigger cities are not busy and cycling is very relaxed and you can concentrate on the surroundings instead of the traffic. Traffic-wise Cambodia is made for cyclists. Roads can also be a nightmare. Especially if they consist of gravel and dust. On the upside, you get a free full body exfoliation and a day-long massage as you hobble on the way. The dust also give you a wonderful tan as the combination of sweat, sun cream and red sand make you look as if you’ve just come from a four-week beach vacation.

No, these feet are not as tanned as they look like!

No, these feet are not as tanned as they look like!

Nature and wildlife: While there is hardly any jungle left (I’m not going into this again, it is sad enough) and with it a lot of wildlife vanished, it has still some stunning landscapes left: the Mekong, the Tonle Sap lake with it’s beautiful floating villages and some remaining jungles. I would almost call it the country of the butterflies as I’ve never seen so many (different) butterflies as in Cambodia.

A Cambodian grasshopper

A Cambodian grasshopper

Monuments and architecture: Thankfully the Khmer Rouge couldn’t destroy all of the fine Khmer and other heritage such as the hundreds of Angkor temples or all the other temples and monuments across the country. We loved the wooden stilt houses. The inside is very basic with hardly any furniture, but they just look beautiful.

Countrystyle

Country style

Cleanliness: I have to admit, after India every country is clean. We were really impressed by the Cambodian’s attempt of keeping the country clean. In small street stalls we could help ourselves from sauces in clean flasks, the tables were clean and not sticky and usually every table had its own dust bin. And as far as I recall we only used our own sheets for sleeping once. There are dust bins almost everywhere, even where you don’t expect them and the best is, most of them are produced from recycled tires. Well done!

A temple waste basket

A temple waste basket

Furniture: If it comes to furniture they are a bit odd – at least for our taste buds. There is just one style: polished hard wood. Restaurants are full with all kinds of chairs, stools, tables, cupboards and they are always exactly the same. They resemble more a furniture shop than a restaurant as the rooms are usually overloaded with furniture and you can hardly walk anymore. And don’t think you get a cushion to sit on, no way, you sit on the hard wood, and we suffered a lot with our sore bottoms, I even considered to buy a pillow, just to sit on…..

This is one of the more sparsely arranged restaurants

This is one of the more sparsely arranged restaurants

We are now the second day in Vietnam, spent the first night in an awful but expensive guesthouse, couldn’t find decent food and left without breakfast this morning, cycled on heavily undulating roads – we’re back in the mountains – and rewarded ourselves for the hard work and the bad hotel yesterday with a nice lunch and a super luxury hotel in Pleiku instead of cycling another 50km.

Good morning, Vietnam!