It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but had to revive the old blog to share my recent interview with Love Affair Travel. In it I talk with Ian about my my two 1/2 months travelling around Thailand with a bicycle, and the things I experienced along the way, many of which are on this blog! Spreading the love for bike travel, always!
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.”
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
– Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry￼
“The Paradox of our Age:
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
we’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We built more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.”
– Dalai Lama
A great interview with Peggy and Joe, the couple that ran the earthen building workshop on the Burmese border I was at, describing the earthen building movement that’s going on in Thailand.
Eat your bugs and veggies!
While those creepy little legs may gross you out, you’re looking at what could be the protein of the future right here.
For those of you that know me, a mostly-vegetarian, you’re probably wondering why in the world I would munch up a mouthful of bugs. Here’s why:
And yes, I did actually eat them. The Thai guys who work on the farm brought them for lunch one day; it’s not out of the ordinary to eat bugs in Thailand (as in most other places of the world), and I challenge our Western minds need to start thinking it’s no big deal as well! These tasted like crunchy dried soybeans, actually, I couldn’t stop eating them. The cicadas were also not half bad…
Last week in Thailand. Woah!
I spent my last week in Thailand working on a friend’s farm that I had met down South on Koh Phangan. She’s had the land for several years and has really done some incredible things with it, along with her boyfriend, David. They have all kinds of cool projects going on, from excavating swales to building their future cob house, to digging wells, building beehives and planting a food forest! Gets me excited to start some of my own :)
You can check out what they’re up to on their blog:
I actually wasn’t aware this would be my last week- because I was flying standby, I have to just check flights and see when I can get on one (whenever there are free seats). When I stopped by the internet cafe to do so one night, I realized I’d really be pushing it close if I didn’t get to Bangkok ASAP, since the flights at the end of the month all looked pretty full and I needed to get back for work and my brother’s wedding. So four days later I had sold my bike, and was off on a bus to Bangkok to catch my plane.
I definitely felt like I could have continued travelling; it’s amazing how after 4 months I felt like I was just getting into it and there were plenty of opportunities for me to continue with. It was great to be in an environment where I was learning so, so much, while spending very little and being in an environment that’s both good for my mind & body. Who would want to leave that? Perhaps I will be back, perhaps I will continue a bike trip somewhere else; either way I hope to continue on this path of learning more about sustainable farming/living I’ve been on, which luckily there are opportunities for all over the world!
The bike was another unexpected bummer… I was planning on taking it home with me, since it was a handy FOLDING bike which usually is no problem getting on planes, especially as my only checked bag. But Delta charges $200 regardless, if they find out a bicycle, and I didn’t have any fancy bag or case to disguise it in like I’ve heard of friends doing to avoid the charges. But it worked out; as I was printing off signs to hang up around town to sell the bike, the internet cafe owner told me he was interested and ended up buying it off me before I had a chance to put them up. After a quick day in Chang Mai, meeting up with a friend I’d met in Phuket and running into another I randomly ran into at the night market that I met in Pai (another former bike traveller) it was off to the U.S. of A! Phew!
All downhill from here… notice the tiny bike on the left!
Now that’s what I call a breakfast.
After this it was 30km down the road to Pai!
Reason #2: No puke stops required. And yes I actually heard people puking inside as I passed by.
Reason #1 why it’s good to be on a bicycle: makes you appreciate those views!! Although I must say the camera phone doesn’t quite do them justice… Volunteers for a photographer for the next trip, anyone??
Biking Chang Mai to Pai: Day 2
This day definitely topped the list of the most difficult day of the trip, as well as my personal list of the more absurd things I’ve chosen to do in my life- bike the insane hills that many people had warned me about between Chang Mai and Pai. Many said “no!” others, “impossible!” and so I had all the more motivation to go through with it. I knew that bicycle travelers had tackled even more difficult routes before, and after about a month and a half of biking and doing manual labor I felt that physically, I could handle the challenge.
However, I did get to the point of questioning my sanity many times for deciding to tackle these hills in the middle of the hottest month of the year. I consider saying “HILL”, because that’s what today felt like… one GIANT, NEVER ENDING HILL! Alright, there were some downhills in there-.but one thing my small wheels are not great for is speeding down steep, uneven terrain so they only helped my pace slightly.
My first mistake was deciding to pass by the restaurant at the national park I slept at (although their selection of ramen noodles did look enticing). I figured I could get breakfast after a few kilometers of biking, since mom and pop restaurants are never far between in Thailand. Little did I know I was setting off on over an hour on The Hill That Wouldn’t End without any food in me…
The heat was intense, even in the morning, and it was pretty useless putting on sunscreen since I’d sweat it off immediately. Also, my first gear was broken, and that meant some pretty slow going and lots of getting off and pushing. The fact that I’m not a morning person definitely wasn’t helping matters.
After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only an hour, I ran into a police station and an abandoned restaurant at the top of the hill. I yelled out to the two police officers sleeping there with the TV blasting, but after a few very loud “Sawa dee ka”s [hellos] with no response, I figured I’d let them nurse their Songkran hangovers and continue on to get water somewhere else. The next downhill was glorious and I was soon at a little village, with no restaurant still but some bananas for sale. I bought a bunch, ate four immediately, and a little further asked a family to refill my water since there was still no sign of a store and by this point I was out.
By the time I ran across a place that actually had food it was pretty much lunchtime, and I took my time eating my bowl of soup and charging my phone for the GPS to beat the midday heat. I still had about 40 km to go to the next national park where I was planning on sleeping. I figured 5 hours would be plenty of time, but man, those hills were relentless!! Mind you, I wasn’t continuously biking & took a few rest stops for food or coffee along the way as things were less spread out now. Just as the sun was setting, I arrived at the place my phone said was the national park, but was actually the forest fire station, and signs said I still had about 7 kilometers to go. My legs were pretty shot by this point but I took out my bike lights & headlamp and headed uphill for the last stretch. It was definitely dark by the time I got there, and I was out of water. I got a warm (rather disbelieving) welcome from the guards who refilled my water, but soon told me I couldn’t camp there since the park office was closed. (are you kidding me?? I thought, looking at the map of the campsites JUST down the road) I tried my most desperate attempt at convincing them, since I really didn’t want to be back on that mountain road at night, but they would not budge and told me there was a police station down the road where I could camp. Annoyed and both mentally and physically exhausted, I finally gave up. Those last few kilometers were definitely a low point. My bike light kept going in and out so I’d have to stop and pound it a few times to get it to turn back on (it’s been glitchy since it spent the night in a puddle of water one time), and I kept thinking how I really did not want to be on that road in the dark. The glowing lights of the police station/checkpoint were totally the light at the end of the tunnel, and even better, an OPEN RESTAURANT! By this point I’d assumed I’d be eating my sesame bars for dinner.
While it might seem strange to camp at a police station, it’s common among bicycle travelers in Thailand and I’d had it recommended to me by one of the families I stayed with. The main officer guy let me set up my hammock by their housing/sleeping quarters, and the family at the restaurant made me a huge serving of fried rice. They were extremely friendly and talked with them and a Thai girl about my age whose car was broken down for a bit until it was time to go shower, wash my clothes and finally give in to sleep. (I had salt crusted to my shoulders if that tells you anything about how hot it was) I was so exhausted that the lights and noise from the checkpoint hardly bothered me one bit. With food in my belly, a safe place to sleep, and 30 kms of downhill ahead, I was one very happy biker indeed :)
So glad I chose to sleep here!! Took a morning dip before I headed out on the bicycle.
On the third day of Songkran, I took off on my bicycle, wanting to get in some biking while the water throwing madness was still going on! Famlies would wait outside their houses, waiting to throw buckets of ice water as I went by, or dousing me with the hose. Occasionally a group would block my way and make me stop so they could pour one (or several) buckets of water down my back… Fine with me!! I didn’t dare take out my phone from my water proof pack until night time, as no one escapes the mandatory dousing during Song Kran!
Due to my late start and being a bit hung over from the last two days, I decided to call it a day at the first national park I got to after about 30 km. After a brutal hike up a steep hill, I got to the park, paid my $1 for camping and set up my hammock next to the river. Beautiful, beautiful place!! Just beyond the river in this picture is a series of small falls, as well as the bigger ones I went to the next morning. No need to shower in the river this time though, as there were nice bathrooms and showers on site.
Get doused with buckets of ice water all day in hot humid Thailand like I’ve been dreaming about every other day on my bicycle?? Yes please.
After the school building project, I was planning on biking North by the Burmese border, but got convinced on the car ride from the waterfall that I should go to Chang Mai for Songkran, the big New Years/ water festival which was occurring over the next few days. Best decision, ever- I’d heard of the festival but had NO idea it’d be as huge as it was- 3+ days of water throwing madness, with people packing the streets all day long armed with water guns and buckets of ice water. People refill their buckets from the moat downtown Chang Mai and pack the streets throwing water at cars and passerbys. If you leave your window down, you will soon have a water gun shooting in your car, or a bucket of water inside if you leave your doors unlocked. My friend Robert showed me around the city for two days, and on the third day I started off on my bike, wanting to get in a day of riding while they were still throwing water (a bicyclist’s dream!!) Next stop: Pai.