Thursday, 9 February 2017


Here I am, still in Thailand. In fact I was supposed to be back in Florida, USA, by mid-December, but that was not to be. So I will start off more or less where I left off in my previous post. Apologies for the big time lapse since my previous post. Things have happened since then, but not much in the way of cycling. I have mostly recovered from my injuries sustained when I had the accident, but if I sit for a long time, or cycle continuously for a couple of days, then I do feel some discomfort in my hip.
I am back on the farm in Eastern Thailand. I have not just been lazing around (although after the accident I just lay around here recovering from injury). Since I first came to the farm I have fitted a kitchen sink, a wash basin in the bathroom, and I have painted the interior of the kitchen and the bathroom. I have also been doing a bit of weeding and gardening around the house, and have fitted electrical outlets, taps, door locks, etc. When I go to Amphoe Trakan town 21 km away I usually cycle there so that I can pack groceries and things on my bike. When we went to town for the paint, Pannee took her mother's old gearless bike and cycled with me all the way (I ended up riding back with a 25 litre bucket of paint balanced on my back rack - literally a case of "the tail wagging the dog").
It was time for me to go to Florida, USA, again, and as ususl Gabriele of Paradise Farms paid for my ticket. At the airport in Bangkok I checked in my boxed bike and bag, but I did not notice that they changed the boarding time. Also, the boarding pass was not in my name, so after trying to sort out the problem I missed my boarding time. I was taken back through immigration, and was surprised to find my checked baggage still in the oversized baggage department (I suspect that the flight was overbooked, and I was conveniently the fall guy). I tried to get another ticket, but for the next few weeks all those flights were fully booked. Gabriele did get me another ticket at the end of December, but I was required to leave the airport in Europe and re-check my baggage, so I needed an EU visa which I cannot get in Thailand (this time she lost most of the ticket money, as some of the airlines involved do not give cancellation re-funds). So that is the reason why I am still in Thailand.
After my missed flight incident, I was at a loss regarding what to do next. It was too costly to remain in Bangkok, so Pannee and I returned to her farm in Ubon, Eastern Thailand. Thai people are mostly Buddhist and do not celebrate Xmas (they don't seem to know much about Xmas at all). So I bought a Xmas present for the people on the farm, and I was surprised when I also received a present from Pannee (Lulu-Suzie, the bear with the bow-tie in pic).
At the time I had the accident in September, I had just returned from Laos where I had obtained a new 2-month Thai visa. So 2 months later at the end of October I was still not able to cycle, and I went to Malaysia by train and obtained another 2-month Thai visa (as reported in my previous post). And so it happened that over New Year I had to get another visa, and this time I cycled to Laos again. I crossed at the Southern border close to the city of Pakse, a day before my Thai visa expired. It was chaos at the border as many people from both countries were crossing, probably to spend New Year with family. It also took a long time for me to get out of Thailand as the exit stamp in my passport had been canceled when I missed the flight, and I no longer had a departure card. Eventually they let me go to Laos, but they spent a lot of time on their computers and I was a bit worried that I may not be allowed back into Thailand, even with a visa. At the immigration office on the Laos side they charged me substantially more for their visa than before, but I had to pay up as I could not then return to Thailand (perhaps the officials were making some money for their New Year's party). I had to change the remainder of my cash to Laos Kip, and it seems that the shady money changer also needed funding for his New Year's party. So off I cycled into Laos, having been done out of the money which was meant to pay for a week or 2 of cycling, as well as the new Thai visa. Luckily for me my sister Olga came to the rescue once more so I could make the trip and get the new visa. I also took a bus and train part of the way back to Eastern Thailand, as I had cycled those roads a number of times before. On my visa trip to Laos I camped mainly at police stations and Buddhist temples (see pics). Thankfully the monks gave me some food to eat, for which I was very grateful.
I am able to cycle again, and I have the time, but unfortunately I do not have the funds anymore to go and complete my route through China, as planned. Even although I was not doing much cycling, I was still filming my misfortunes for Brandon who wanted to do a documentary on my travels. In November last year an agent for FedEx came around to the farm and picked up the package which contained about 8 hours of film. Unfortunately the agent did not complete all the necessary paperwork, and the package was held back in Bangkok. Eventually it was traced to the FedEx facility close to the airport, and last week I made a special trip to the city, added some more film, and re-sent the package to Brandon (2 and a half months after I had first shipped it). Hopefully he can make something of it, I am still waiting to hear from him.
I am very thankful to my sister, as she has helped me out on a number of occasions this trip, since my savings disappeared. Anyway, other than the visa run to Laos and the FedEx trip to Bangkok, I have been back on the farm. In about 3 weeks I will need to do another visa run, where to this time? Now I am waiting to see if anything comes from the filming which I have done. If nothing, I will have to make a plan to earn some money, perhaps teaching?
Mainly due to my accident in September, I have not cycled much since then. The closest town with banks and a supermarket is Amphoe Trakan, about 20 km from the farm which is close to Ban Trakan village. Usually when I go there I carry a number of bags and come back loaded with shopping, so I am counting those trips. Distances cycled since my last post have been:- Ubon Ratchathani (back and forth to closest train station) 212 km; Amphoe Trakan (shopping etc) 174 km; Khong Chiam (for visa run to Laos) 78 km; Pakse (Laos) 81 km; Small Village Temple 77 km; Rock Wat 79 km; Village Wat 68 km; Savannakhet 93 km; Tha Kaek 90 km; Vientianne (+bus) 23 km; Nonh Khai (back in Thailand) 27 km; Udon Thani 60 km; Khong Kaen 113 km; (train to Ubon Ratachathani); and Ban Trakan farm 53 km. Total distance cycled is 138 913 km.
And somebody got a tattoo (not me of course). At the time of the picture it was still very new and tender.
Besides her parents, Pannee also has 2 sons on the farm, the youngest of which is a lively 6-year old (in pic with me). So the only time I become really bored on this farm is when money runs out and we eat only rice. (But then again, rice is better than nothing at all).

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