It’s 4.40am and the sun won’t be up for another hour or so. Although warm beds beckon, this is my writing time. It’s in these pre-dawn hours when I am disturbed by no-one, that I write my blog posts, my articles and letters. I also do the paperwork that I can’t face in the light of day – byzantine processes for obtaining a carnet for a motorcycle, renewing registrations from another continent, trying not to get deported from whatever country I’m currently visiting. You know, that sort of paperwork. Being a homeless unemployed person involves more admin than you might think.
By the time the sun comes up, I generally hope to have achieved enough to keep my vagrant life in order.
One of the reasons that I carve out these dark predawn hours for myself is because I mostly exist in other people’s spaces. I have been essentially a guest, for five years straight. Sometimes I am literally a guest in a new friend’s house, which is a wonderful mode of existence: there is nothing more wondrous than being allowed to share in another person’s mode of existence for a little while, to see what life is like for them. Because humanity is infinitely rich and infinitely varied, and there is no greater privilege than to have opportunities to learn that not everyone experiences the world as you do yourself.
However, as you can imagine, when you share in someone else’s life you can’t exactly tell everyone to be silent or go away because you want to write in peace. Rude. Also, a wasted opportunity. So, 4am it is.
Of course, I am not always a guest in someone else’s house. Sometimes I have a room in a cheap guesthouse, just one night as I travel; in which case you’d better finish your writing and everything else before the sun’s too high and the inn keeper is knocking on your door. Other times I am camped, and I will be honest – I find it very difficult to maintain my discipline when camping in the wilderness. When I’m outside I tend to sleep naturally with the darkness, and only wake with the dawn. From that point, my main concern becomes setting enough things on fire to boil water for coffee.
As general rule, you can tell that I am having a lot of fun and maybe sleeping in a ditch when the blog posts dry up. Sorry about that, and yet… not sorry too. Bear with me.
Today I am setting out on a road trip within an epic road trip. I’m going to ride across the top of Thailand and back again on the CBR650; perhaps two or three thousand kilometres over the next five or six days. I have a friend to visit and at least one good deed to do.
A word of warning – I do what I say I’ll do, although not always on schedule. If you invite me to come and see you and I say that I WILL come, without caveat, be prepared to see me on your doorstep even if it’s four thousand kilometres from where I’m meant to be and four years later than you expected. Distance and impracticality will not prevail.
So only invite me if you really want to see me, okay? One of my strengths and one of my faults is my sincerity.
Usually when I travel I don’t blog in real time. On one hand, I like a little distance to give me perspective on the experience before I write about it. On the other hand, the internet and real life is full of creepy people and most of the time, I don’t want to be found.
This time, I’m making an exception. I’m going to narrate this little roadtrip across Thailand in something close to real time. A little on this blog, but mostly I think I’ll make Youtube videos – show you a little bit of the Thailand touring life. I’m taking the CBR so I’m going light and fast and I’m staying on road, and I won’t be camping in the bushes. It’s much harder to ride a CBR sufficiently far from a road in order to camp in the bushes in total privacy and safety, you know? Much easier to disappear into the jungle on a dual sport than on a 220kg sports bike. So I’m going to be taking you on a tour of the modest accommodations and beautiful twistie roads of Thailand, an experience which will probably be more applicable to normal human beings who might like to come over here for some pleasant touring, and not sleep in the bushes.
The sleeping in the bushes is kind of a niche market.
So the expedition starts in Chiang Mai, and I’m going to be heading east, towards the Lao border. Should I wash the CBR650 before I go, so that I can appreciate its sleek black glory as I ride over the next few days? Or will I hit roadworks in the first ten minutes and wonder why I wasted my time?
These and other similar dilemmas are the delightful non-problems which I like to deal with.
It’s been months since I last left Chiang Mai province – since the Delta wave of covid came and never left. Almost nobody was vaccinated yet; interprovincial travel restrictions were imposed; the bars and massage parlours were closed, service of alcohol prohibited, beer had to be drunk out of tea cups. And a lot of people got sick.
I have spent most of my time safely on a mountain where the air is cool, the single track is good, and the population is tiny and mostly immobile. Yes, immobile: the village is almost entirely populated by the elderly. These are the grandparents and great grandparents, living out their twilight days in cooler weather and cleaner air than the sweltering, choked heat of the cities. It’s like a Thai village version of Florida. All the young people have gone off to make their fortunes.
If you ever wanted to send me mail, it would be easy: you could just write the name of the village and write “farang” – foreigner – on the package, and it would find me. I am the only farang in the village.
But I digress. Today I’m fully vaccinated and I’m back on the road for the first time in months. Yiiiewwww.
For those who missed the memo and are wondering where my 690 is – it’s in Phnom Penh, and I can’t get it out yet because the land borders are still closed. This is why I invested all of my pennies in this lovely black CBR650: after realising that the borders were not going to reopen any time soon, and a bad experience with a rental bike, I realised that a Thailand commuter bike was an investment I needed to make; and why not get something a little fun while I’m at it? With all the foreigners running back to their home countries at the start of the pandemic, it was a buyer’s market, and buy I did.
On a more serious note, nothing aggravates my PTSD more than not having the independent means to leave a place, no matter how nice the place. I always need to have an escape route which I feel is within my control. If you think about Maslow’s heirarchy of needs – well, in my personal heirarchy, a motorcycle ranks before shelter. (Yes, it’s the PTSD driving this insecurity, but sometimes, if you can’t slay the beast, it’s okay to placate it.)
Anyway, here’s my black beauty:
When the borders reopen and I get my KTM back, the CBR will be for sale. So let me know if you’ve always wanted to own a fast bike in Thailand.
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Time for me to go eat some rice and pack for the trip. The sun will be up soon.