February 11, 2002 GMT
Thailand

The place is sticky the way a foreign metropolis should be. Lots of "Hello you want to be my friend?" The heels and crimson paint landscape is a bit of a shocker after the subcontinent. The women are up front all right. I get my first proposition in the terminal.

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Am bitten by a stray dog on New Year’s Eve in Surat Thani. Still struggling with the metaphorical significance: extirpating last year’s sins or a portent of a troublesome 2002? I don’t fancy the rabies treatment. Us children of 1970s England were subjected to some pretty horrific video nasties at school in the name of education. The bite victim was shown manacled to a table writhing while masked doctors thrust 20cm needles into the kidneys. Not looking forwards at all.

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The last European human rabies fatality was in the 1930s. Looking back the Keep Rabies out of Britain campaign had nothing to do with public health awareness and everything to do with instilling a suspicion in the Queen’s subjects of the dangerously diseased continentals. As it happens the experience is fairly pleasant. Being fated by kind Thai nurses in clean modern hospitals is not so bad at all. And the needle was small. Okay, I felt a bit of a prick, but this is nothing new.

My life centres on the low compression in my front cylinder and seafood. Only the one has the bite I like.

Get to the Laos border. Nice little spot by the Mekong: bamboo huts, banana shakes and all that. The riding has been wonderful today. Up in the hills on the Golden Triangle backroads in an area settled by Chinese that were on the wrong side in the revolution. There is plenty of what the Lonely Planet calls hill tribes. On the bike I pass through real people’s lives catching a few glances. It’s enough. It makes next to no impact. Better than unloading off a 52-seater camera shutters clacking. They glance up from their work and wave occasionally. When did anyone last wave at a ten tonne coach?

Chang Mai is full of bar girls up from the south. In the e-mail cafes they pass around a template letter and slowly copy it out two-fingered, changing the name appropriately: “When you come back? I am missing you. So so love you.” It's funny for a short time. They are well organised, dedicated and thorough in their poverty escape strategies.

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Funny what you come across

My centre stand falls off. Broken weld. It has been bashed too many times: another fault caused by the knackered suspension. Otherwise things are real good.

Was blocked at the door of a Bangkok cinema the other night. An elephant had decided to sit down on the steps. The exiting audience all waited patiently. No hurry. It waddled off in its own time, revealing two flashing LED cycle lights stuck to its bum. To alert other road users I guess. Captured something, that moment. I am sad to leave Thailand.

Posted by at 11:50 PM GMT
 
 

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