Hello! Tuk Tuk?
Sunday, March 4, 2012
I spent the three days in Vientiane mainly reading and lounging. The obligatory cafe visit usually lasted until late in the afternoon. On the second day I prepared my things for the onward journey. However, at night, for the first time in months, diarrhea overran me again. This left me no other choice than to stay in the city for another day.
Among the French, Vientiane served as a major hub for Indochina. Much of this time has been preserved. The architecture, French cuisine and most of the mansions and mansions have been restored.
Vientiane (200,000 inhabitants), literally "Sandalwood City", was founded as an early Laotian feudal estate. During its millennial history, the place was ruled, devastated and plundered by Vietnamese, Burmese, Siamese and Khmer. In 1828, after the Lao king Anouvong (Chao Anou) attempted to lead the country into independence, the Siamese laid the city to ruins.
As Laos towards the end of the 19th century became a French protectorate, Vientiane was renamed capital and rebuilt. So it developed beside Phnom Penh and Saigon to one of the classical Indonesian metropolises. In the early 1960s and the beginning of the Vietnam War, it was swarming with CIA agents and Russian spies. In 2009, the venue hosted the Southeast Asian Games - but this success has become a dilemma to this day as around 50,000 Chinese immigrant workers moved to "assist" Vientiane in its further development.
With a slight discomfort, I drove on the next day. Already in the late morning hours, the temperatures were already pretty hot and rose around noon each on the 35 degrees. The Friendship Bridge spans the Mekong and forms the border crossing from Laos to Thailand. Luckily I got a 60-day tourist visa in Hanoi and was able to get in easily. Although you get visas on arrival at the border, these are only valid for 15 days and can not be extended. Although it is not officially allowed to cycle on the bridge, the nice lady at the checkpoint just waved me through. So I came easily to Nong Khai and found after a few hundred meters already the first ATM to withdraw money. A breeze.
The Kingdom of Thailand (Thai: ราช อาณาจักร ไทย) is governed as a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej as head of state, who was appointed king in 1946. He is considered the oldest living monarch worldwide. The approximately 69.1 million residents are 75% Thai and about 15% Chinese; a Muslim minority, the Malays, lives in southern Thailand.
Buddhism is the dominant religion of the country. The Thai immigrated to today's Thailand in the 11th century. They founded several kingdoms, which were united in the following centuries. In the epoch of colonialism, independence was preserved. After the Second World War, Thailand was dictatorially ruled by the military, but at the same time it experienced an economic boom and became one of the economically leading states of Southeast Asia. Domestic conflicts repeatedly shook society over the past five years. In southern Thailand there are violent clashes between separatist Malays and the central power.
The natural vegetation of Thailand consists of forest; still in the year 1960, a forest cover of 75-80% was given. This value has dropped to 18-26%, depending on the source, due to strong population growth, quality of life measures, and strategic road construction and related colonization in eastern Thailand during the Vietnam War. At the end of October 2011, the biggest flood disaster in 50 years had claimed nearly 400 lives, and large areas near the Chao Phraya were flooded.
The most trouble I had in the beginning with the left-hand traffic. Already at the border crossing the track was changed. Although I have experienced the left-hand traffic in Hong Kong before, but not on the bike. At a gas station, I bought a Thai street map on a scale of 1: 1.2 million. Compared to my Southeast Asian map (scale 1: 4 million) this was much more accurate. I decided to try and ride on the highway to Udon Thani.
The highway police just waved me through and so I was able to cycle comfortably on the Pannenstreifen through the area. In Udon Thani then came the turnoff to Nong Bua Lamphu. In a field I found my first campsite in the late afternoon. The first thing I had to do was remount my rearview mirror, which is attached to the handlebar, from left to right. So the next day I could finally see again what's going on in my back.
At night, it constantly rustled under my tent. In the morning I discovered the plague. A small, cheeky mouse had made himself comfortable there. Due to the heat, I tried to get up as early as possible and to ride as many miles as possible around noon. Then I usually lay in the shade for a siesta.
That day my diarrhea was still not cured. Luckily I've had some experience with travel diarrhea since Central Asia and so I put an antibiotic in to get my immune system going again. The search for a campground was usually relatively easy. There was always a small place somewhere in a field. It always took a while in the evening for the inner tent to cool down a bit. Sometimes I felt like in a sweatbox.
The landscape was largely flat and the roads mostly in good condition. Traffic is much stronger here in Thailand than in Laos. Although the Thai people do not honk when overtaking, which is very pleasant, but they are just as ruthless in driving behavior, as the Chinese. A bad habit that I do not like at all. I arrived in the capital Bangkok six days later via Chaiyaphum, Khok Samrong, Lopburi and Saraburi. In each village you can see pictures of the king, cows with long ears grazing on the roadside, the trees carry huge leaves, huge Buddhist temples characterize the image and the trucks are also here often overloaded by Swiss standards and colorfully painted.
I found the inhabitants very restrained. While one is constantly euphorically welcomed in Laos, the people here seem to pay little attention. Often the signs were written in English only on the main streets. After two small wanderings I decided therefore for the highway. There I had enough space on the side and found in the small bus shelter always a place for my Siesta.
After this first week in Thailand I was not very enthusiastic about this country. In mass tourism individual travelers go under a little. I did not feel right. At least I could always enjoy a Schoggidrink with a blackboard Schoggi in the many Seven-Eleven shops in the morning. That brings the happiness hormones for the beginning of the day a little momentum.
My catastrophic sense of direction made me hopeless on arrival in Bangkok. Fortunately, I soon found someone who could help me with map and a little English. So I soon found the youth hostel and enjoyed the first shower for six days to the fullest.
The next morning I had a new visa issued at the Vietnamese embassy and was able to pick it up in the evening. Wonderful! In one of the huge supermarkets I did my first shopping. If you have only bought for months in small shops, you feel a bit overwhelmed at the sight of such a large selection. The next day was a low blow.
At the Russian Embassy I tried to apply for a tourist visa for my return trip with the Trans Mongolian Railway. The ambassador told me that I only get a tourist visa from my home country. Only transit visas are available abroad and valid for 10 days. When he told me then, which documents you have to submit everything, my mood sank to the bottom. Angry, I tore up my application form and would have like to blow it up when leaving the embassy. I am now seriously considering blowing off my trip to Russia, getting on a plane in Beijing and thereby saving myself this stupidity. My sympathy with Russia is now at its lowest point.
Until Sunday, I was mostly lazy like a fly in the hostel and enjoyed the freedom of doing nothing. On Sunday morning there was a happy reunion with Petra and Tom rollolafs.blogspot.com. They invited me for breakfast. Unfortunately, they were ambushed in Bangkok and the bag was stolen with camera, passports, cards and documents. Now they are allowed to spend the last days of their holidays organizing trips to leave. In the afternoon I drove to the airport and picked up my uncle.
After a restful night, we took the first walk through the city, visiting the Royal Palace, the UN Main Building, the Golden Mountain, the Democratic Monument and Khao San Road.
The heat soon made us flee into the shadows. Toward evening we met with Roman and Nora. They have finished their journey through Thailand and are now flying from Bangkok to the Philippines. We had not seen each other since Tajikistan. Nora had a great surprise: she became pregnant in China. Made in China, so to speak! Petra, Tom and Hermann joined later.
Hermann comes from Germany and drives the electric bike through Thailand. We talked until late in the evening.
The next day was our tuk tuk day. After a delicious Swiss breakfast, which brought my uncle from Switzerland, it went on the search. The three-wheel rattling boxes can be found practically on every street corner. If necessary, you do not even need to look big. Constantly you are addressed by the drivers. "Hello Sir! Tuk Tuk? ".
For short distances the things are very practical. The wind is at the 38 degrees usually a welcome change. The heat seems to pile up in the streets of Bangkok until late in the evening. Together with Tom and Petra we ate lunch again at noon and then had to say goodbye to each other. Thank you Tom and Petra for the great time with you and the many "spare parts"! After a lightning visit from Chinatown and the Wat Arun by Night was soon closing time.
On Wednesday we deposited most of our luggage in the youth hostel and drove for 150 baht per person (1 baht = about 33 CHF.-) in a two-hour drive by minibus to Kanchanaburi. Many know Kanchanaburi from the book or film The Bridge on the River Kwai, because during World War II there was a prisoner-of-war camp operated by the Japanese. Many visitors come here to escape the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers from the ranks of the Allies. Pretty soon the suitable guesthouse was found
That same evening we rented two scooters to ride them the next day to 38 kilometers away Tigers Temple. There are quite different statements about the temple. Some critics believe that all proceeds go to an illegal breeding program that is part of the international carnivore trade (http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/0,1518,562903,00.html). Although there is no evidence for that, a fairly open protest movement has since formed.
We wanted to get a picture of this controversial tourist attraction. After a cup of coffee we sat down on the electric turbomachinery. I had to get used to the new driving style first. A strange feeling when you suddenly just have to turn the handle and can jet at 70 km / h through the area. We enjoyed the almost 40 minute ride to the fullest. On the Internet there was very contradictory information about the exact opening hours. At the entrance of the temple we were then confirmed that only from 12:00 clock the doors are open.
After a quick visit to the nearby temple, whose murals are being redeveloped, we were back at the entrance on time.The entrance fee is 600 Baht. Then you can use various additional programs depending on your mood. Of course, with a certain surcharge, which of course is used to support and further develop the temple. Supposedly a good thing.
We booked in addition to our program a feeding of tiger babies. According to the temple, the animals are mostly tired in the afternoon because of the heat and therefore take a few snapshots. All sorts of regulations have to be observed and the large number of staff and volunteers take good care that they are also complied with.
A little queasy it was already at the sight of the kitties. A full-grown animal brings about 220 kilograms on the scales. The animals react irritated to stinging colors, e.g. Pink, red and orange. I was just happy with the many monks wearing their orange robes. It also had some overweight tourists. Any normal-thinking tiger would certainly eat one of them first. That calmed me down a bit.
After the first photo shoot, we ran in groups together with the tigers in the canyon. There it is a little cooler and while the animals are dozing, one can take a little photograph. In 1999, the first tiger babies were brought to the temple by locals, who tried to rescue the animals from the poachers. Especially due to the strong decline of the forests, the tigers have been decimated in recent decades.
Under www.tigertempel.de find some information about the temple and its history. Dani and I decided to leave the animals alone and explore the area. The whole area consists mainly of a huge forest area. In addition to cows, wild boars, chickens, deer and peacocks, the monks live in simple accommodation.
Feeding the 2-3 month old tiger babies was really fun. You had to be hell-bent on making sure the little brats did not jump on your back or try to bite your little teeth. Quite exhausted from the many impressions we made ourselves with the scooters on the way home. We could not see from our point of view that the animals are treated badly here. However, it is difficult to get a realistic picture in such a short time. As with most zoos and breeding stations, there are obvious things that could be improved.
Of course, the next day followed another highlight after another. First, we visited the bridge on the Kwai.
In 1942, the Japanese occupied Thailand and sent POWs and forced Burmese and Malaysians into the jungles of Kanchanaburi to build a 415-kilometer rail track.
This is now called Death Railway because more than 100,000 people died in its construction. The railway line was to connect Thailand with Myanmar, because the Japanese wanted to create an alternative supply route for later conquests in Southeast Asia. On the Thai side, the rail section was completed in just 16 months. Amazingly fast considering the rough terrain and the simple equipment.
The tracks ran 37 kilometers south of the Three Pagodas Pass and were used for 20 months until Allied aircraft destroyed the bridge in 1945. It was rebuilt. In the pillars on the river bank one can still see the bomb damage. You can walk over the bridge, just jump on one of the platforms as soon as the train rolls on.
Afterwards we visited the 5 km distant Chung Kai Allied War Cementry. During the Second World War, there was a large prison camp on the grounds of today's cemetery. The internees built a hospital and a cemetery here. In total, 1,700 Dutch, British, French and Australian soldiers are granted their final rest here.
About two kilometers further we reached the temple Wat Tham Khao Pun. This consists of nine different caves. The first and largest is home to a reclining Buddha. In the remainder one discovers roots of a fig tree, a crystallized column and a rock reminiscent of a mermaid from one of the works of the Thai poet Sunthorn Phu. Cave shrines are typical of Thai Buddhism, as they testify to the mystical connection to nature. We were very impressed by this visit.
Unfortunately the day was over and we had to bring our machines back. I enjoyed the comfort of English movies in the room every night until late in the night and therefore slept very little. The bus ride the next day back to Bangkok went smoothly and after checking in at the youth hostel we went back on tour with the tuk tuk.
On our last day together we wanted to visit the temple Wat Pho, which was built in the 16th century and is Bangkok's oldest temple. It houses Thailand's largest collection of Buddha images and the country's most powerful reclining Buddha. This amazing figure is 46 meters long and 15 meters high and symbolizes Buddha's final entry into Nirvana. Inside it consists of bricks, the outside surface is plastered with plaster and covered with gold leaf. Mother of pearl adorns his eyes and feet, 108 different, auspicious láksànà (features of the Buddha) adorn his soles.
Dead tired I fell to bed. On Sunday morning, after 8 days together, I had to say goodbye to my uncle again. He flies to Ko Samui to enjoy another two weeks beach holiday. That's not my thing. Many thanks Dani for the great week with you and for your support!
Somewhat wistfully I went with Kurd (my bike) to Wat Phra Kaew.
When turning at an intersection, I paid too little attention to the traffic and was hit by a scooter. We both landed on the street. Luckily we both remained unharmed except for a few scratches. Our vehicles were still intact. But I still had a little weak knee after this collision.
When entering the temple, the adrenaline was already gone. The high entrance fee (400 baht) was at first inexplicable to me and I was already thinking of dropping the action. However, when I entered the courtyard, I was overwhelmed by all the pomp that hit me. The temple is considered an architectural masterpiece of gleaming gilded chedi (stupa), polished orange and green roof tiles, mosaic-decorated columns and gables of magnificent marble. The highly respected Emerald Buddha is located in the main chapel. It is made of jasper, not precious stones, and was brought (hidden in a stucco layer) from the north of the country to Bangkok.
An almost epic journey, because in the meantime Lao troops confiscated the figure and transported it to Luang Prabang and Vientiane. However, the Thai people finally conquered it. Unfortunately, photography inside was forbidden. In words, the details can hardly be described. Therefore at this point just a little taste:
Thailand has become sympathetic to me in the past few days. By the mass tourism there is now an enormous offer of possibilities. However, for a velonomy like myself, which prefers remote areas and authentic cultures, Thailand is a bit too abstract. Nice locals who thank you deeply in front of a respectable, impressive temple and good infrastructure will remain in positive memory. However, I am now looking forward to the largest religious building in the world, the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and a little traffic less streets. Also a big thank you to my mother for the great supply from the home and the many mails.