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

Bombs on Laos

10 – 21 June, 2013 – We spent one full week in Vientiane to recharge our batteries, believe it or not. We really liked the city for several reasons: it is very relaxed, little traffic, nice food, nice sites to visit and last but not least we met our cycling friends Astrid and Gerd again, with whom we would spend all evenings.

Four cyclists in front of the Patuxai monument

Four cyclists in front of the Patuxai monument

Two enthusiasts in front of the same

Two enthusiasts in front of the same

Pha That Luang, a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty

Pha That Luang, a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty

A temple near Pha That Luang

More of Pha That Luang

The most memorable event in the city was the COPE visitor center. COPE (Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise) is the main source of artificial limbs, walking aids and wheelchairs in Laos. The visitor center offered a myriad of interesting and informative multimedia exhibits about prosthetics and the UXO (unexploded ordnance) that unfortunately make them necessary. We watched a film about an Australian organization helping to deactivate the many unexploded bombs and bombies (=bomblets or submunitions from cluster bombs), that can still be found everywhere in the countryside.

In 1964 the US began its air war over Laos as the Vietnamese used Lao territory to infiltrate personnel and supplies into South Vietnam along what became known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Did you know that

  • Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world?
  • More than 580,000 bombing missions were conducted over Laos, which equals one bombing mission every eight minutes, 24 hours a day for nine years!
  • Up to 30% failed to detonate and remained in Laos after the war.
  • About 25% of all Lao villages are still contaminated with UXO.
  • More than 50,000 people have been killed or injured by UXO in the post-war period between 1974 and 2011 of which 40% are children!
  • It will take more than 150 years to remove all UXO!

We knew nothing about this before we came to Southeast Asia and it is really shocking to us how little is known by others as well. Thankfully this wonderful visitor center exists and hopefully a lot of visitors share our enthusiasm for them. For more information or donations you can visit their website.

At the visitor center: artwork made from bombes

At the visitor center: artwork made from bombes

One week after our arrival in Vientiane we left the capital together with Astrid and Gerd to visit Xieng Khuan, a Buddha park next to the Mekong. In a field by the river this park is full of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures designed and built by a yogi-priest shaman in 1958. We took a few fun pictures and continued cycling along the Mekong river on a very bumpy and hot road. At around 5pm we decided to camp next to the river as we didn’t make enough progress to get to the next town. We found a nice roofed stilt-shack along the road, checked with some locals on the rice fields if we could stay here and spent another nice evening with Astrid and Gerd.

"Oh, how nice!"

“Oh, how nice!”

Buddhas, buddhas, buddhas...

Buddhas, buddhas, buddhas…

I survived!

I survived!

I also survived this pose...

I also survived this pose…

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Kids along the road

Kids along the road

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Another rocket festival to welcome the rainy season

Another rocket festival to welcome the rainy season

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Campsite spotted and Gerd is performing the mosquito dance in the background

Campsite spotted and Gerd is performing the mosquito dance in the background

Getting ready for the night

Getting ready for the night

The night was hot as our little tent is missing fan and aircon and we were glad when we could pack up our things the next morning and leave again to enjoy the airstream. After our first break at around 10am we said our goodbyes and continued cycling alone as we usually rode more kilometers per day and a little faster than the others. Our visas expired soon and we had to move on. We were a little sad as we had a lot of fun with Gerd and Astrid and really enjoyed their company. The sadness didn’t last long as we met another cyclist and while chatting with him, Astrid and Gerd caught up with us. What a nice surprise. It was close to lunch and we enjoyed another last lunch in nice company (we thought!). More goodbyes after lunch and we cycled again alone for the rest of what would become a very long and hot day. When we finally arrived, shattered and hungry, we couldn’t find a hotel, either they were full or shabby and so expensive that we would have rather camped once more. After about an hour we finally found a nice hotel, but then we couldn’t find a place to eat. And we weren’t really picky but they either wouldn’t want to serve us at all, were closed or sold out! Lao mentality at it’s best. Another hour later we finally succeeded, had some rice and went to bed.

The next morning we left late as we slept so well and were still recovering from the tough ride the previous day. It was another very hot day and this time Johan wasn’t doing well. We were making slow progress on a boring road and at lunch we decided not to continue as we feared that Johan had a sunstroke. While checking into a guesthouse Astrid and Gerd suddenly passed. What a wonderful surprise to see them again. They decided to stay with us and we spent our last Lao days together. The next day we rode more than 100km together, again on a really boring road with just some scrub along both sides of the road. Every once in a while we caught a glimpse of the Mekong river, but very rarely. This part of Laos is certainly a distance that could easily be covered by bus, as there is really not much to be missed. But we are the stubborn cyclists that have to cover whatever possible by bicycle. Just to remind you, this is not a fun trip ;-).

Enjoying the company of Astrid and Gerd

Enjoying the company of Astrid and Gerd

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Almost done for the day

Almost done for the day

1.5 days later we arrived in Thakhek, the town where we would leave Laos to go back to country #12, Thailand. Finding a hotel was as challenging as a few days before and Johan and Gerd spent two hours to find a decent place where we could stay for two nights and say our final goodbyes to our cycling friends. If all goes as planned we will meet them in New Zealand again, which would be wonderful!

A hotel with a view - Mekong river view

A hotel with a view – Mekong river view

We spent almost a month in Laos and enjoyed the landscapes, the warm welcome of villagers of all ages when we cycled through – at times we felt like movie stars – the mountains in the north despite its challenges and the food, which isn’t just noodle soup and of course having cycled for the first time with other touring cyclists. We did not really enjoy the far too laid-back mentality of the Lao people when everything seemed to be a huge effort for them. Sometimes we felt as if we were trying to sell them a refrigerator and not like someone who actually wants to spend some money on them. We never found out what time would be good for them to help us as at any time of the day Lao people just prefer to watch TV or sleep. While we really liked the scenery, Vietnam was much more dramatic and spectacular, but I have to admit that we didn’t leave the beaten track in Laos which we did quite often in Vietnam. Time on our visa just didn’t allow.

In total we cycled 1,142km in Laos, took a boat once, spent 29 days in the country, haven’t seen a single elephant in the land of a million and met a lot of other interesting cyclists as Laos’ empty streets are a cyclist’s heaven.

Sabaidee!

Yippie, Thailand we are coming!

Yippie, Thailand we are coming!

Leaving Laos via friendship bridge 3 (Thakhek to Thailand), bicycles and pedestrians are not allowed!

Leaving Laos via friendship bridge 3 (Thakhek to Thailand), bicycles and pedestrians are not allowed!