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No country has changed its impression in my mind as much as Thailand. After visiting Bangkok and whatever islands were fashionable 3 years ago, my impression of Thailand was a lot like that of Disneyland- built for tourism, and full of plastic. However after crossed the Friendship Bridge border from Vientiane, Laos I was treated to a fresh perspective, away from the tourist traps and trapped tourists (aha aha. How droll.)
Cycling across the North of the country from East to West, I was suprised by how unique and downright cool Thai style was. This was a world away from street hawkers and ladyboy shows.
The first thing I did was go to a ladyboy show. But hear me out. There was no ping pong mayhem or goldfish peek-a-boo here. After a long, 45°C day on the saddle and a dozen swims in roadside lakes on the way, I was ready to hit the hay as soon as I found a room. But my plans were scuppered by festival loud music being pumped out from somewhere around 10pm. I could tell they weren’t stopping the party any time soon so I thought I’d go check it out. Across the road, the town hall was in full swing. The place was like a gentle, friendly version of Roadhouse, but no less chaotic. Masses of people were grouped around tables, overflowing with beer and peanuts. I saw another foreigner, who made a stellar effort throughout the night to ignore my presence, as any self-respecting expat anywhere is obligated to do when they come across a tourist. Ugh, tourists.
But the place was the bomb. Lazer lights and Casio tones filled every inch of the room as a tall, confusingly attractive ladyboy shimmied demurely across the stage like Jessica Rabbit with an Adams apple. The crowd went nuts, people losing their shit as this chick hit the high notes and brought the roof down.
The next day I set off on what I thought would be a leisurely pedal through a national park. What it turned out to be was a sick, torturous uphill graft over 6 hours as I tackled unrelenting mountains that transformed the spritely, upbeat Alex of that morning into a grotesquely sweaty quivering mess. There were no shops for food or water and it was ball roastingly hot, the combination of which resulted in me considering, for the first time, whether I may need to drink my own piss. Luckily I was saved that fate by a kind Thai family who happened to be having a picnic under a great big oak tree. When I saw them I gestured like a lunatic that I needed water and they waved me over and unveiled the most glorious feast imaginable- a bucket of KFC and another of ice cold water. I devoured both like a ferel wolf boy.
Colonel’s best gave me the kick I needed to make it to the top, and the downhill payoff was exhilarating, as i blazed down the winding mountain roads at 50kph.
I found a beautiful little guesthouse that evening and decided to take a rest day the next day. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip…. but my fingers are tired so that’ll be a story for the next post.

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