It hadn't been the first wet day since leaving Hanoi, in fact it had rained heavily pretty much every day. After previously taking a wet day off in Hue, I got up bright and early on the day I was initially going to do the Hai Van Pass and just as I was stuffing the last of my gear into my panniers, I heard the rain stop. Brilliant! Excitedly, after securing my gear on my bike, I headed outside. To my right the road was submerged beneath the flood waters with people wading knee deep through it. To my left I observed a similar scene. Not one to shirk a challenge lightly I started thinking about how I could reattach my bags to elevate them slightly above the water, however after discussions with the hotel manager I was going nowhere as the road I needed to take lay more than waist deep underwater further along. I hadn't anticipated any flooding until I reached Thailand.
After completing the pass, my route to the Laos border took me up through the mountains and there I enjoyed what I felt I had missed out on. I was slightly delayed a few times due to landslides covering the road or taking part of the road away, having to carry my bike over some sections.
Vietnam had been a great experience. On my route from Hanoi I had seen spectacular views; had my skin rubbed and pinched by a random old man who I don't think had seen a white man up close before; bravely tied to nibble at both halves of the chicken's head I had been given to eat as I enjoyed what seems to be man's Saturday in Vietnam where the men sit round eating and drinking while the women all hide away somewhere; and I had enjoyed the reverse sound of trucks. You don't always just get the standard beep-beep-beep-beep. I heard one truck give a rendition of Beethoven's Fur Elise. I have also been treated to twinkle twinkle little star and a Christmas medley by passing vehicles.
Laos was to be honest a little dull and frustrating. The route I took through was very flat and apart from the houses on stilts there was not much interesting to look at. I also felt thoroughly ripped off all of the time no matter how hard I tried to haggle. I therefore pushed on to the border with Thailand. I was again confronted with the issue that I had had coming into China from Mongolia where you cannot ride a bike across. Although I had to cheat and take a lift in the back of a pick-up truck over the bridge across the Mekong River, I at least could remain with my bike all the time. Once I had filled in the arrivals card at Thai immigration and stood for the national anthem I started pedalling my way to Bangkok singing "the 9 days of Thailand," a variation of the twelve days of Christmas I had made up to learn the Thai numbers.
Thailand felt a bit like home pretty early on. They drive on the left, have Shell garages and you can buy Jammy Dodgers (or at least a pretty decent version of them). The people are all lovely and apart from the touristy areas of Bangkok, I haven't felt like anyone has tried to rip me off. I've seen elephants wandering around the city streets (I'm moving on from the feeling like home bit now by the way) and even spent a night in a Thai prison cell, or at least it was before they converted the prison into a hotel.
Navigating my way into Bangkok had been on my mind ever since I heard about the floods and how long they were going to last. I had read that it was very possible to enter by road even though I was coming in from the north-east which is one of the worst affected areas. I therefore hit the main road towards the city and hoped I wouldn't get too wet. Before I got to the edge of the city I had to ride through ankle deep water for a couple of sections. The water got deeper and more widespread as I actually got to the start of the built up area. I rode through water which came half way up my wheels. When a lorry past I became frustrated when the wave it generated washed over my front pannier bags (I have had to stitch up my bags a few times so they are no longer completely waterproof). I reached a point where it got too deep to cycle and a guy suggested I try to ride on the toll road which runs 15m above the ground on which bikes are forbidden. I headed to the entry ramp and after speaking to a very nice policeman I was able to get an elevated view of the flooding as I followed the toll road into the dry centre of the city. The toll road had become a bit of a car park as people had moved their cars up from the flooded streets below. Small boats motored between the submerged vehicles that did not escape the flooding and I passed planes sat on top of the water at the domestic airport. For miles and miles I rode past the houses of so many people who had been affected by the floods, some of whom I had past on the way into Bangkok in tents at the sides of the roads. People seemed in good spirits and I got lots of smiles and thumbs up as I rode past but it made me think what a selfish idiot I was worrying about the stuff in my bags getting a bit wet when so many people have had their lives so significantly affected by the flooding.
The Scots have a reputation for deep fat frying just about anything but in my years there I have never seen bugs, crickets and gheckos cooked in such a manner. Last night, in one of my more ambitious, less wimpy states, I thought I would give these rather crisp and salty little beasties a go as its not everyday you get a chance to sample such a delicacy (still not sure if it really is a local delicacy or whether someone thought it would just be a bit of a giggle to see what they could get away with feeding tourists!) A top tip though for any potential cricket eaters, break off and discard the two big jumping legs as these have small hooks on the end that will cling to your mouth and throat for dear life.