Saturday, January 1, 2011

Home Again

We've been home again for 10 days. I've already talked to most of the people who follow this blog, but I hate leaving this thing without a conclusion.

Erin and I spent our last few days in Chiang Mai Christmas shopping and tying up loose ends. On our last day, we cleaned our bikes and packed them back into their boxes, and then we went out to say goodbye to the few people we met.

We had a final Thai lesson with Sompop, our Thai teacher. We gave a tip to Bpong, the lady who cleans the guesthouse we stayed at. She nearly burst into tears. I guess nobody tips the cleaning lady around here. She made us promise (in Thai) that we'd come back next year.

We bought flowers for the owners of our guesthouse, for the nice women who run the street bar on our soi, and for the soup lady who made us breakfast on about half the mornings we spent in Thailand. The soup lady did burst into tears. Apparently nobody buys presents for the soup lady. She made us promise (in Thai) that we'd come back next year.

That night we made our rounds of the few bars where the staff knew us and had a couple of beers at each of them. People seemed sad that we were leaving. It was nice. After two months of intermittently living in Chiang Mai, we felt like we'd sort of found a place for ourselves.

We have been discussing whether we'll be able to do this again next year. It doesn't seem particularly likely at this point. We've got our projects and our obligations, like attending my brother's wedding in Borneo in August, and we probably won't be able to go back and get fed by the soup lady and have our room cleaned by Bpong. We'd sure like to go back, though, and learn some more Thai and do that big loop of a bike tour that we were never able to find time for this year.

I put 1979 km on my odometer on this trip. It was a good chunk of riding, but I feel like we could have done more, if it wasn't for all that pesky work getting in the way.

I think if I was to do this again, I'd bring a different bike. It was fun to be able to burn across the flats at 33 km/h and put in 130 km days, but my sport-touring or club-racer or randonneur or whatever you want to call my bike, was the wrong choice for a number of reasons. First off, I didn't have the gearing I needed to climb the ultra-steep hills in Thailand. Secondly, I would have been a lot more comfortable on some of the less well-paved roads if I'd had wider tires. Thirdly, I'd have been a lot drier and happier if my bike had some fenders.

And fourthly, we really ought to have had more luggage capacity than a trunk bag in my case, or a trunk bag and a handlebar bag in Erin's case. That's a fine amount of luggage for a two-day tour, but it's the shits if you're going any longer. We were washing our clothes in the sink, travelling without rain coats and worrying about where we'd next be able to get our laundry done. A pair of lightly-packed panniers would have pushed a lot more wind, but they'd have made the tour a lot more flexible and fun.

Next time around, I'd like to have a proper touring bike or possibly a folding touring Bike Friday. They fit into a standard-sized suitcase and apparently they're good enough bikes for long distance touring. I'd like to ride one before I made up my mind, though.

So that's it for now. Have a happy 2011. Reset your bike odometers and work on a new cycling total for the year. Between two bikes, mine was something like 8000 km this year.