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Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India



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  #1906  
Old 1 May 2018
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Look what we found! It has a pool!

We found another place a bit further from the centre of town, it was like a resort! Perfect, tranquil setting!


Neda gets a chance to work on her cross-stitching. It looks like she's almost done!


Wheeling the bike out to go in search of food
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  #1907  
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There are very few tourists walking around Battambang. It doesn't have the cosmopolitan appeal of Phnom Penh, nor the pull of the magnificent temples in Siem Reap, and it doesn't have the beaches that the sun-seeking Barangoes flock to in Sihanoukville. We like that a lot!


A local restaurant around the corner

On the menu we saw "Happy Pizza" and "Happy Milkshakes". What makes it so "happy", you may ask?

Cannabis!

Although marijuana is technically illegal in Cannabodia, it seems to be tolerated and there are some restaurants and bars that spike their food and drinks with pot. Then they label it "Happy" and the authorities turn a blind eye to it. That's pretty dope.

The best kind of Happy Pizza is vegetarian, since it's specially made for Herbivores. Each pizza comes with 2 cans of Pringles, and a whole tub of ice cream. You know, for after...

Besides getting stoned, there little draw for tourists to do in Battambang. The biggest attraction is Phare Ponleu Selpak, the Cambodian circus!


We sneak backstage to watch the young performers train before the big show.

Phare Ponleu Selpak is more than a circus. It had its roots in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge genocide, which decimated the adult population of Cambodia. In 1986, a French humanitarian worker came to work with the kids left behind in the refugee camps. One of her approaches was art therapy, allowing the children to express their trauma through drawing.

That small group of kids grew up and eventually went on to found an arts centre here in Battambang. In 1996, a music program was added. In 1998, a circus was added and it has grown in leaps and bounds (pun intended) since then. Graduates from the circus program eventually go on to perform around the world, ending up in world-class troupes like the Cirque du Soleil, and then often returning to give their time back and teaching the next generation of kids at Phare Ponleu Selpak.


Every evening, the school puts on a show, showcasing the young students performing talents in music, dance and acrobatics
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  #1908  
Old 1 May 2018
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Taditional Cambodian dance


And then the circus begins!

After what this country has been through, watching these kids fly through the air, I felt a bit proud to be supporting them in some way. Our admission fee and donations from sponsors allow 1,400 students a year to receive free schooling and basic education, plus the ability to attend any of the arts, music and performance classes.

If you feel like supporting them, please visit their site:

https://phareps.org/make-a-donation/
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  #1909  
Old 1 May 2018
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Some music, some slap-stick comedy, very entertaining!


And then more eye-popping aerial gymnastics!

Tomorrow we leave Cambodia and re-enter Thailand. Then one final push and we'll be in Chiang Mai.

Although we're really looking forward to the long, extended break, we're also a bit sad that we're leaving this beautiful country. Something about it really resonated with us. It had just the right amount of exotic appeal and adventure, it was friendly and inviting, but most of all, it seemed undiscovered and under-the-radar - due in part to the complications in overlanding across the border.

And we also enjoyed the pace! Over the last few years, we've either felt too rushed or too slow. The perfect pace seems so elusive. And despite our initial misgivings about only being given 14 days to see this country, it was actually the perfect amount of time for us, just enough calendar room to give us a goal to ride towards, but not short enough to make us feel rushed.

Strange, isn't it?

Thank you, Thai customs people!
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  #1910  
Old 8 May 2018
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/388.html



The yo-yo is coiling back up the string, returning to the hand that spun it out so long ago.

For non-nomadic travelers, every trip is a loop. Whether by motorcycle, car or plane, you always go back to the place you started. Just like a yo-yo, what goes out, must come back in again.

Because we're storing bikes in Croatia and Thailand, we now have places where we know we'll have to return. So now we've gotten little bit of that yo-yo mentality. Different if we had stored cellos in different places. Then we would have the Yo-Yo-Ma mentality...

(Cello, is it me you're looking for?)

That start/end point is now in sight. It's been over ten long months since we left and Chiang Mai is now only a handful of days away.

It's looking like an oasis of rest in this desert of fatigue that we've been crawling through.


We're reversing our route out of Cambodia, so back to that funky motel
that we staged at the day before crossing over


The O'Smach border post, the same one we crossed to get into Cambodia, falls behind us without incident.

After worrying so much about customs, corrupt border officials, etc. the whole thing turned out to be so anti-climactic.

Not complaining.

In the morning, before we embark on this final leg, I replace the fuses on our bikes to re-enable the daylight running lights, the reverse of what I did before we entered Cambodia and that sense of unwinding returns.

The mood today is a quiet weariness. We pack in relative silence with the end of our long travels within sight. We should be in Chiang Mai within two sleeps.

It's comforting to be back in Thailand after two weeks in Cambodia. Although it's not as exotic and alluring, there's a certain familiarity to all the 7-11s, PTT gas stations, smiling Sawadee-kahs, driving on the left once again, etc. Also, the food is a lot better. I remember the first thing we did yesterday upon crossing the border was to find a food stall and order our favorites, Pad Thai, Pad See-Ew...


Lanna temples, lit up at night in Kohn Kaen

It's a long day's ride to the city of Kohn Kaen. The last time we were here, we stayed a bit outside of the city. Now, we find a place right in town.

Gotta change *some* things up a bit!
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  #1911  
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The new king's face is adorned on shrines everywhere in Thailand


Christmas tree in the lobby of our hotel


Because we've been in Kohn Kaen before, we know all the good places to eat!

Aside from the peppercorn crab in Kep, Cambodian food was unremarkable. There are a lot more tastier options in Thailand, and we've really missed the good food here!
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  #1912  
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BMW riders can be such snobs! I think there was a Thai Big Bike club staying at the same hotel we were in. They brought their own signs...

In hot climates, you put a piece of cardboard or cloth over the seat otherwise it's baked buns when you hop back on your bike after it's been sitting in the sun for hours! The nicer hotels will sometimes do this for you.

Another long riding day brings us back within Chiang Mai city limits. However, we're not exactly home just yet. Because it's Christmastime, the apartment that we usually rent has jacked up it's rate by over double, so we've temporarily found a cheaper place outside of the city. We've booked our favorite apartment for the New Year when the prices are more reasonable.

Yes, sometimes things *are* expensive in Thailand... Especially when the rich farangs descend into town for their winter vacations!

Damn farangs, ruining it for the rest of us.


The neighbourhood where we're staying in


Our temporary digs

We're booked in this place for about a week, about 10 minutes ride away from the centre of town. It's nice and comfortable but I feel like we're refugees or something, counting down the days till we're able to settle into our long-term apartment rental. I just want to unpack everything right now, park the bikes and not worry about moving for a very long time. And it would be nice to be able to walk everywhere again, instead of having to ride into town whenever we want to eat or go shopping.

Still... we're in Chiang Mai. After ten months of non-stop travel, we're finally back where we started and again, that anti-climactic feeling clings to me. Like getting walked over the plate instead of dramatically sliding safely into home after a sacrificial fly. I don't know anything about football. Did I say that right?
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  #1913  
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More delicious Thai food


All across the city, we see these baby elephant statues, painted in different colours

They're a part of an art project called the Elephant Parade. It's the world's largest collection of painted baby elephants. 89 of these statues are stationed all around the city. In addition, hand-crafted replicas and other merchandise are offered for sale, a portion of the proceeds going to elephant sanctuaries and other conservation efforts. This exhibition has traveled all around the world. In total, 1350 artists from all over have painted 1500 elephants, raising millions of dollars for Asian elephants!

Baby elephants have a special place in Neda's heart.


Did I mention the food choices in Thailand are excellent? Big Burger Time!

Big burgers have a special place in my stomach...
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  #1914  
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Neda finally has time to work on her cross-stitching. She's almost finished her latest project!

Although we are tired of riding, we aren't tired of talking about it, or meeting other motorcycle travelers!

There's a motorcycle bar in town, and every year they host an evening get-together inviting overland bikers to talk about two-wheeled travel. We volunteered to do a presentation!


We got a chance to share our experiences with a slide show of our pictures running in the background

Sometimes while you're in the middle of a long journey, bogged down in the mundane: the visas, the vehicle import permits, the language difficulties, the fatigue of it all, etc. you lose sight of the larger picture. Stepping back and talking about why we did this trip, the preparation, our state of mind when we first started -- it really brought back the joy and wonder of it all.

It was very enjoyable for us, and I think it rubbed off on the audience as well - there were many enthusiastic questions after, as there always are.


Looks like Neda is doing Karaoke! "Near... faaaaaar... whereever you aaaaaare...!"

It was a great evening getting to meet other motorcycle travelers. However, there were more ex-pat locals than foreigners. Thailand has recently instituted a rule where foreign vehicles now require a permit and a hired Thai guide to escort them through the country. I've heard these rules were put into effect specifically to curb the influx of careless Chinese drivers, who have caused several high-profile accidents in the country.

Unfortunately, these rules have also affected overland travelers. Previous annual meetings here used to boast a much larger attendance of foreign bikers passing through. Not this year though. One of the organizers told me this would be the last annual meeting of its kind. Sad.

I think for some overlanders, it's a very romantic notion to travel with the same vehicle all over the world. But in retrospect, it was a very good decision for us to buy motorcycles in Thailand, instead of riding or shipping our bikes in.

We've gained trouble-free access to and from many SE Asian countries without requiring permits or carnets, but most importantly, we're able to stay as long as our visas allow us to, and not be constrained by a vehicle permit. And the new rules only allow for a 30-day vehicle permit in Thailand. 30 days! I can't even imagine that! We've been here close to a year in total with our Thai bikes!!!
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  #1915  
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Hey, look who also showed up in Chiang Mai! Our fellow nomadic friends, Yaw and Hélène!

We missed them the last time they flew through Bangkok, but now we've got a chance to hang out with them in Thailand! They're in town for a month doing that digital nomad thing, so we've got a social circle once again!

Yaw and Hélène have the distinction of being a couple of only a handful of people that we've met up with during this journey on three or more continents: We first met them in Seattle, then Marseille, and now Thailand! I love our little network of world travelers!

"Let's do lunch in New Zealand next month!" So awesome...!


Celebrating the new year in Chiang Mai with good friends and great local music!

We are also moving into our apartment this week. That frenetic pace of constant travel, packing and unpacking, being in unfamiliar surroundings, having to hunt and scrounge for food and shelter, it's finally over!

Is that a good thing? It feels like it.
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  #1916  
Old 17 May 2018
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/389.html



We've been craving a place to settle down for a while now. But that Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) has kept us moving until we just got completely sick of traveling.

If you had talked to Neda about travel anytime during these last couple of months, she'd get this glassy look in her eyes and then she'd stare off into the distance somewhere past your left shoulder. I knew exactly what she was staring at: Chiang Mai. If you listened closely, you'd be able to hear her murmur under her breath: "Just gotta get to Chiang Mai", "Everything will be better once we reach Chiang Mai". It might as well have been called Shangri-La.

I didn't feel as strongly, but I did want to stop and take a long rest and Shangri-La was not a bad place to do it.


Shangri-La. Or Su-Thep. Close enough.

While visiting Chiang Mai, everyone goes to the golden temples at the top of the Su-Thep hill overlooking the city. Apart from the annual lantern festival, Doi Su-Thep is probably the top tourist attraction in the area. To get there, most visitors take a 10km long, twisty, stomach-churning, vomit-inducing ride in the back of a songthaew.

What is lesser known is that there is a smaller, more secluded temple closer to the bottom of the hill. It's called Wat Pha Lat, and there's a steep, but scenic, hiking path called the Monk's Trail to get there.

You just have to mention the word "hike" and Neda is all over it like a fit kid on a quinoa salad.

There were only two problems. The first is obvious: I hate hiking.

The second is that Neda's ankle is *still* sore from that trip-up at the Tomb Raider temple in Cambodia. She went to the doctor here in CM and discovered that it's quite a serious sprain. They've got her going to physiotherapy to fix it. Thankfully, healthcare is very cheap in Thailand!


Let's see now... Who do we know that likes hiking...?

If Yaw is my "Are We There Yet?" Anti-Hiking Brother from another Mother, then Hélène is Neda's Active-Lifestyle Sister from another Mister.

Soy-slinging Health Nut? Check. "We should *totally* do another hike... RIGHT NOW!" attitude? Check.

It's so perfect that they're in the city the same time that we are!
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  #1917  
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As you can tell from the pictures, Neda never lets anything trivial
like a sprained ankle stop her from doing a steep hike


Others (not naming any names), can come up with any number of reasons not to go hiking. "Can't hike today. Still bummed that the Leafs haven't won a Stanley Cup in a while".

I don't know anything about football. Did I say that right?


Scratching the elephant belly at Wat Pha Lat


Ham it up, ladies!

Although it's quite hot in Chiang Mai, it's nothing compared to the scorching temperatures of April.

Speaking of which, we've managed to extend our tourist visa an extra month in Thailand, which lets us stay till the end of March. Perfect timing to leave Chiang Mai! Not just because of the scorching temperatures, but also because that's when burning season starts as well.

However we have no idea where we are going after that. If you ask us right now, because we're so sick of traveling, the feeling is that we're done. We'll wrap up this little motorcycle trip of ours. Because we have no idea where we want to end up, the default is probably back to Toronto for the summer and then figure it out from there. Then relocate the BMWs to wherever we decide to settle.

But we really don't know. It's still too early to make any decisions or even talk about the future. We're just enjoying being in Chiang Mai.

So what are we going to do here for the next three months?
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  #1918  
Old 17 May 2018
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Welcome to my office

The blog has been severely neglected.

People e-mail me all the time: "The last update was from months ago! Where are you? Are you okay!?!"

It does get updated. Just slowly. Like the way we travel...

Now that we've got some free time, I try to catch up on the picture editing and the writing. But I just can't get the motivation. Sitting in our comfortable apartment is just not conducive to blogging.


I like this quote. Except replace "painting" with "riding". "I dream of riding and then I ride my dream"
No, that makes no sense at all. Nevermind.


So I get this idea: Yaw and Hélène are digital nomads. So while they get to travel all over the world, they are still working at the same time, just that all their work is online.

Like many digital nomads, they don't work in their apartments. They check into "co-working spaces". The internet is faster there. It's air-conditioned. But more importantly, there's no TV or other distractions and everyone else around you is also working. It's a very conducive environment to get work done.

Or to get blogging done.


One day, Neda joins me and the digital nomads at our usual spot, the co-working space on the top floor of Maya Mall

I've got quite the daily routine going on, which is quite unlike me. Honestly, I've never had a 9-to-5 office job even before we left on our trip. I was always on an airplane or rushing to and from a different city or country for my previous jobs.

But now, every day I wake up early so I can walk to Maya Mall, which is about a km away. You have to get there early otherwise it gets too hot to be outside for too long. Also, all the good seats are taken up by 10AM. The mall doesn't even open till 11AM, so you have to take the service elevator to get to the co-working space.

For every dollar you spend at the coffee bar/restaurant, you get a coupon for two hours of Internet time. The stacks of Internet coupons pile up between the three of us faster than we can use them.

Yaw and Hélène are so hard-working and diligent. Sitting beside them every day for 6-8 hours a day really provided me with the motivation to get cracking on the blog. But really it's because I would have felt so guilty watching cat videos on YouTube while they were hard at work.

Thanks to them, I'm pumping out entries almost every day. The blog is quickly catching up to real-time!

It is very disorienting to spend a few hours sorting through pictures and writing about Eastern Europe (yes, that's how far behind I am), then at the end of the day, look up from the laptop and ask the people around you, "Where am I? What country are we in right now?"
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  #1919  
Old 17 May 2018
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While I am playing Digital Nomad, Neda has her own daily routine. Yoga classes three times a week

Also physiotherapy for her ankle a couple of times a week, and she also started volunteering at a dog shelter - also three times a week. This is Shangri-La for Neda. This is the reason why she was so eager to get back here. Well, everything but the physiotherapy part...

It's like we've got some kind of semblance of a normal, sedentary life again!

It's not bad. I kind of like it.

Motorcycle travel is *THE FURTHEST* thing from our minds these days. Because everything is walking distance from our apartment, the CRFs have stayed parked since we arrived.

My domestic bliss is rudely interrupted though:


Neda is like a drill sargeant!

Somehow, the women convinced/blackmailed Yaw and I into going on the Su Thep hike with them.

I guess they felt bad for having so much fun that they wanted to inject just a little griping, moaning, grumbling and complaining into their hikes.

Which is where Yaw and I come into the picture...


Proof that I did indeed do the hike as well
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The drill sargeant congratulates us for reaching the top. "Now drop and give me 20!"

I was a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Although I hate hiking, it was nice hanging out with friends outside of a mall or coffee shop.

I was like, 50% Namaste, 50% F*ck Outta Here.


So back to the coffee shop...

We digital-nomad (it's a verb now) at different places around the city, trying out swanky diners, funky coffee shops. Still, the co-working space at Maya is the most conducive to work. And the cheapest option too. This one place above had really good cakes though...


Another hippy cafe we tried. They had hammocks and mats on the floor for you to lie down on. I don't think we got much work done at this place...

The digital nomad subculture is fascinating. The idea is that since your customers and work are all on-line, you gain the benefits of a western income, but keep your expenses low by living in a low cost-of-living country. The more complicated version of this is called "Three Flag Theory", where you plant different flags in different parts of the world based on three criteria: 1. Where you pay taxes, 2. Where your business pays taxes and 3. Where you actually live.

If you renounce your residency, you don't have to pay income tax (unless you're an American citizen). If you incorporate your business in a tax haven country, you don't have to pay corporate taxes. And if you live on tourist visas and never establish a new residency, you get a sales tax refund on everything you purchased every time you leave the country for the next place.

It makes sense if your business is location-independent and you're adventurous and your travel ambitions extend past visiting the Eiffel Tower and sitting in cafes in Paris.

Flag Theory is slightly controversial, because if everyone ducked taxes, how would a country be able to run? However, it's such a small subculture that I don't think western countries are in any danger of running out of people and companies to tax.

Just as a disclaimer, Yaw and Hélène are actually still based out of the US and pay US corporate and personal taxes...
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