When we last updated you guys on the status of Quesnel Bikers – Good Neighbour Tour of SE Asia, we were just crossing the border to Aranyaprathet, Thailand, from the Cambodian city of Poipet. Both Heather and I were very happy to be back in Thailand for the last leg of our adventure.
Thanks to our Thai taxi driver friend Thanasup, we got a ride from the border to our next route — the southern isthmus following the coast along the Gulf of Thailand. We had always dreamed of riding bicycles along a spectacular tropical seashore with palm trees swaying and a warm breeze in our faces. We weren’t disappointed. From the minute we left our starting point in the tiny community of Khao Tao, we were thrilled to be riding in such a beautiful area. Yes, the temperature was ‘hot,’ but making a point of stopping by noon addressed that. This is a well-used route for touring cyclists. Typically, they’re either heading north from Malaysia and the Philippines or they’re heading south to Australia. It’s a little like the bicycle travelers we host at our place in Quesnel. They’re going north to Alaska or south to the tip of South America.
Our first stop on this route was a small, family-run hotel called Stella Resort located in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. The resort was exceptional and a fraction of the cost of a similar place in Canada. It’s in a beautiful area with rugged mountains all around. The riding to get here was a dream — along a tropical sandy beach just like we hoped! But as we continued south along the coastline of Thailand, the reality of our tour’s shrinking timetable started to reflect upon us. During the mornings, we’d ride through coconut groves and along pristine white sand beaches, basking in the beautiful tropical setting while feeling grateful just to be here. In the afternoons when we stopped riding, we couldn’t help thinking what an unbelievable adventure this has been.
We have cycled over 4,500 kilometres in five countries, met countless Good Neighbours and witnessed both wondrous and disturbing things. Some remarkable sights have showcased the biodiversity of our earth and man’s creative abilities, such as the world’s largest historical religious complex at Angkor Wat Archaeological site. Very friendly people, children’s ‘hello’s in five different languages, delicious food and brilliant sunsets also come to mind. On the other end of the spectrum, learning about the senseless brutality of humans involved in centuries of conflict in this part of the world was appalling and emotional for us. We’ve also seen evidence of man’s corruption in the form of unjust distribution of wealth. Massive palaces in the middle of poverty-stricken villages, children not in school and people struggling to survive. It’s an understatement to say we were also dismayed over the amount of trash and the blatant disregard for our earth. We saw tons of plastic rolling across beaches, piled high next to the roads, trapped in barbed wire fences and defacing beautiful flowering bushes. It’s revolting. Another crime was the general treatment of dogs. Dogs abandoned, starving, covered in mange, broken limbs and in-explicitly on the spit being cooked. This brought us to tears.
But the kindness of people was overwhelming. In every country we visited, we experienced unfettered neighbourliness, typically when we least expected it. Being invited into a celebration of life for a much-loved community member in Thailand; having food placed in front of us at a Buddhist religious ceremony in Laos; or an offer of friendship along with a dinner at a family’s home after a chance encounter on the road in Vietnam, are just a few examples. The emotions these experiences generated were genuine and profound. Realizing Good Neighbours exist not just next door, but around the world has reaffirmed our faith in humanity!
Our final cycling route continued down the southern Thailand coast towards Chumphon. The beauty of the coastline blossomed, and we found ourselves riding in a tropical paradise. We’re glad we came to this corner of Thailand. Being able to slow down and enjoy all it has to offer effectively helped us complete the journey. Looking back, there are far too many places and people to remember. Maybe that’s one way we know it’s been an incredible adventure. We’ll just have to refer to our blog to put faces and names to all the wonderful folks we’ve met and this part of the world we’ve visited.
And then there’s COVID-19. The development of the pandemic has touched us in a few ways. In early October last year, we spent a night camping in a baseball field across the river from a South Korean town called Daegu. It was a great place to camp with running water available, washrooms and nobody around. Unfortunately, months later, this city was the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak in Korea. We’ve also had to change our flights home. We preferred not to layover in Hong Kong and are now traveling through Taiwan instead. Finally, we have just learned we will be required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days after our arrival. Going to be tough, but we’re fortunate to have a home in Quesnel to go to. We’re also very lucky to be Canadian.
We’d like to thank the Quesnel Cariboo Observer for encouraging us to share our stories. Thank you for following as we satisfied our wanderlust and fulfilled dreams of cycling in SE Asia. Heather and I will be forever grateful for the health and good fortune that made our vision a reality. We were always confident in our abilities and our relationship that would foster this incredible journey. We knew we could do it.
What a journey it’s been! If you’d like to see more photos and read some of the stories, please visit our blog at crazyguyonabike.com/doc/quesnelbikers2019.
On May 29, in support of Epilepsy Quesnel, we will be hosting an evening of stories and images of our South Korea and SE Asia Good Neighbour Tour at the Occidental in Quesnel. Please put that date on your calendar. We hope to see you there.
— Chris and Heather Hartridge
Quesnel residents Chris and Heather Hartridge have spent five and a half months cycle touring around South Korea and Southeast Asia on their Good Neighbour Tour. The Quesnel Bikers, as they are known, have been sharing their journey with the community by sending periodic articles and photos to the Observer.