In Thailand, never criticise the king or the royal family. The Lonely Planet says so and every traveller you meet agrees that it’s a bad idea to get into that subject. The Thai truly love him and it would be ill-advised to say bad things about him.
When you are in Thailand, there are pictures of him and members of his family almost everywhere you look, from the more formal ones with his royal attire to more informal ones doing day-to-day things or activities related to the place that you are visiting. They even have comic books about his life and works!
Notice the smiley faces in the crowd behind him :).
But it goes deeper than that, in times of struggle, the Thai turn to their beloved Rama IX for counsel. It is a well-known fact that if there is a coup, the government will only be overthrown if the coup has the king’s blessing. Otherwise, it will fail.
That is all and well but what if I have more mundane problems and I want to know what would the king do? Let’s say I want to buy a camera and I’m undecided about which brand or model is the best. I may think « Gee! What camera would King Bhumibol recommend? ».
Today, it’s been 7 months since I left Paris on a sunny afternoon after getting my vaccinations done at the Pasteur Institute. Yesterday, my bike’s odometer turned 40000km. That means I have sat on that saddle for about the circumference of the Earth and the trip is far from over. My dear companion had about 7000km in the odometer when I left, that makes 33000km in 7 months. When I left, I had had the bike for 9 months. That’s about 800km per month before leaving and about 4700 per month for the last 7 months. Now, when people ask me, I can tell them that my average is around 160km per day but enough with the numbers.
Far from me to do a balance post right now when I could be enjoying some fine Australian wine but I have something as significant as that. Here’s two pictures of the bike. The first one was taken when I was setting off, the second a couple of days ago at the Madura roadhouse on the second day of the Nullarbor crossing. Find the differences!
Leaving Esperance to cross the great Nullarbor plain.
Now a little game: how many water bottles can you spot on the picture? And based on that, how many more do you think I’m carrying?
Bonus question: in how many days will I emerge on the other side?
The game is on until I reappear with the answers.
Tomorrow I take the Eyre highway to Adelaide. 2000km of treeless nothingness and of course no cell coverage or internet. It’s going to be the longest communications blackout since I went « into the wild » in Kyrgyzstan.
There is supposed to be gas stations and water/food shops along the way but apparently everything is terribly overpriced so I stocked up on water and food for the crossing. I have probably overstocked since the crossing should take around 3 days/2 nights give or take and I must have food for a week or more. But hey, it’s me! I’ve already been lost and without supplies so this time I won’t be caught unawares. The thing I may be short on is cash, will they take my credit card along the way or does everyone just leave for that highway with a big pile of cash for fuel? I guess I’ll find out in a couple of days.
In the meantime, you can follow my progress thanks to my SPOT, here: Live Tracking.
If you want to know more about the Nullarbor crossing (some call it like that), here’s a couple of links:
Wikipedia says 321, the Lonely Planet says 320. Tonight I stopped at Walpole, Western Australia for the night and I was complaining about the quality of wifi and the fact that Vodafone doesn’t cover this « city » when I decided to check the total population.
On a more cheerful note, this morning when I was leaving the campground I saw a kangaroo for the first time. Two kangaroos actually.
No, those are obviously not the kangaroos. Those are Myriam and Koen, the gentle Dutch couple that camped on the site next to mine and shared dinner with me. I had beef sausages, they had vegetables. I had wine, they had chocolate. I had bread, they had, well, they had bread too. And fruit! They had everything that I can’t carry on the bike. We had dinner together and a lot of fun chatting into the night. They are from Utrecht and they are travelling in a rented van for a month around Western Australia. Naturally, this morning they wanted to share their breakfast with me too and even though I didn’t have anything to contribute, they shared pancakes and coffee. Awesome breakfast! Thanks!
While I went on with packing, they left to try to find some drinking water and the way to the beach so when I set off, I didn’t expect to see them again but when I was almost at the exit, I saw them on a side road and they were pointing somewhat excitedly to somewhere where there was not the exit of the camp so I pulled the break, turned around and came back to where they were and started looking at them quizzically. They were still pointing at something behind me, so I looked.
Later, on the road, I saw a dead one. That happens a lot in Australia, they get hit by cars that drive in the evening or early morning and they die.
South East Asia has been a great experience and would totally be worth a full year of travels or more but KL was just the perfect crowning. All the good vibes I got here and there around SEA were crystallised in this, my last destination in the region. Now, I fly to Perth with a heavy heart because of what I’m leaving behind. There will be new adventures ahead and I’m sure Austalia will be great. Still, I may shed a lone tear as I board my flight, she deserves it.
On January 1st we all were horrified by the disappearing act of my gadgets. At least I was: Macbook, Kindle, DSLR and GoPro, plus the iPad of the girl in the bunk next to mine that she had entrusted to my locker, were gone. Gone, supposedly forever.
It was a dire morning but talking with the other roommates and the hostel manager, we quickly came to the conclusion that the Singaporean Indian that had introduced himself as Asi the previous day and was not in the room anymore this morning had taken the things. Based on speculations, of course, but it was our conclusion nonetheless. He had been asking suspicious questions that didn’t seem so suspicious at the time about where was everyone going to spend New Year’s Eve and what time we would be going out and all. No one paid much attention to him because we all had plans of our own and he had just arrived. And of course there is the little detail that he was gone and the things too.
I accepted the fact that everything was gone quite graciously except for a couple of very dark moods along the day and waited for the owner of the hostel to come back so that we could go to the Tourist Police together and register our case to be able to claim something from insurance. Her brother came and took us there quite late in the afternoon.
We were merrily (NOT!) telling our tale to the police when someone called and told the hostel manager that the Czech guy who had been in the next room with his girlfriend and left that morning to Cameron Highlands had seen the Indian guy there checking into their same hostel. The police of Cameron Highlands was called immediately to arrest him.
That gave us a little hope but what really got our hopes up happened later, in the evening. The hostel owner came to tell us that the boy’s family wanted to talk to us. Boy. Not guy anymore, boy. He is 16 years old and from KL, not Singapore.
I was a bit scared of what may happen but she reassured us saying that they were very correct gentlemen and it was alright to talk to them so we met them at the Indian food court opposite the hostel. There they told us a bit of a story: that his parents had divorced when he was 1 year old and that his stepfather really beat him very hard and he had completely lost vision of one eye and 50% of the other. A sad story indeed but they didn’t stop there. They asked us to withdraw our charges. What? In exchange of getting all our things back. Apparently some were still with the boy and some others (including but not limited to my Mac) had already been sold.
Once we agreed that we would withdraw our charges if and only if everything was returned, we only had to wait. The boy was to be brought back from Cameron Highlands soon and only then they would know where exactly he had sold my Mac. The wait was of course unbearable and I cancelled my visit to Melaka in order to be available for our next meeting but nothing happened on January 2nd.
On January 3rd, I was finally called by the boy’s brother to come to the police station and get my things back. Sophie too. Once there, everything was returned to me and a long discussion about Sophie’s make up bag and iPod ensued. During the discussion, the boy was slapped in the face at least twice. Once by the older, almost toothless guy that might have been part of the police force but I never knew and once more by his brother. Both times because he talked. He claimed many times that he hadn’t stolen anything from me and that the thief was actually Pavel who had later given him the things for selling and sharing the prize. I couldn’t care less if that was true or not.
Once again, chance meetings on the road had worked their magic. This time I didn’t get to be part of the meeting but I certainly benefitted from it.
While we were about to leave the police station, Raja, the boy’s brother said to me something very disturbing: « I will teach him, I will beat him ». That was after the boy had come to Sophie asking for the money back in order to go « back » to Singapore. In reality, he wasn’t even Singaporean, he was just a missing boy from KL.
I should get a backup service
Always keep my keys about me
He will get beaten very hard (if he hasn’t already)
I must have been collecting some pretty good karma to end up getting my things back
My Mac was formatted but it was also upgraded to Mountain Lion.
The only thing that didn’t come back was the splendid green sleeve I was using for the Macbook.
The South-east Asian leg of my trip is coming to an end soon. I lost many things in this region but I had a lot of fun. I lost one glove, one bungee strap, the Mac sleeve, my pants, and possibly some more things I can’t remember right now. Totally worth it. Update: I just remembered a couple more things I’ve lost. I lost my dragon thumb ring in the jungle in Thailand and I forgot my Mongolian seat rug at the hostel in KL 🙁