Prologue: Three big countries, three short months - Touring in Thailand, Cambodia and China - CycleBlaze

Prologue: Three big countries, three short months

Last winter Janos and I cycled a few weeks in Thailand. We're not new to cycle touring but this was our initiation into cycling in Asia and we loved it. We felt we were just getting started when it was again time to board the plane home. We knew right away we must return to Thailand and spend more time there. Since we're both retired, if we have anything we have time, so we decided to escape the cold winter at home in Munich and not return until spring is in the air.

I figured as long as we're in Southeast Asia we should go to Angkor. The amazing temples at Angkor have long been on our list of places to visit together, and now the time has come. And as long as we're in Angkor it would be a shame to leave Cambodia without seeing a little more of the country while we're there, so we have set aside a portion of our three months for Cambodia.

Now that would be enough of a program for three months, Thailand and Cambodia, so why China? China is vast and again we will be complaining that the time was much too short. However travelling in the winter months has narrowed down our choice to southern China and we are aiming for a small part of southern China, Yunnan, and a small slice of Yunnan at that.

I am again drawn to China. About 15 years ago I taught English for a year at Xiamen University located on the southern coast of China. In those days my interest in China was sparked by my many years of Kung Fu training. I have been told China is changing fast, I won't recognize it and I am feeling very curious to have another look. Another difference will be that I wasn't travelling by bicycle then, either.

With little opportunity to use my Chinese since I was in China, the Chinese I had learned has now deserted me. But I love studying languages, so even if the chances of becoming proficient are pretty slim I have started working on Mandarin again. I expect by the time we leave I'll be able to say little more than "a bowl of noodles, please", which I probably could get without any knowledge of Chinese. I feel that working on the language is letting me get a toe in the door, a closer peek at a culture that is indeed very foreign to us. It's not just about ordering food, finding a room and reading road signs.

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We have no idea how we will meet the challenges of bad roads, mountains, poor maps, aggressive dogs ... I don't even want to think about the dogs. I reassure myself that you deal with problems when they arise, not in advance, so there's no need to worry now. Despite this profound insight, I am going through the same worries that I have before every trip.

I hope the title of this journal doesn't turn out to be a misnomer. We are sure to get to Thailand as we have booked a return flight to and from Bangkok. I hope very much that the rest of the trip unfolds somewhat along the lines of what we have planned and that Cambodia and China will also earn their places in the heading.

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