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Adam and Gita – Bangkok to Lauang Prabang on bike …

Chris Evans | An introduction

Adam Mitchell is a highly acclaimed and award winning theatre director www.adammitchell.com.au having been Associate and Resident Director for Black Swan State Theatre Company, Black Swan’s HotBed Ensemble, and in addition to his independent work, regularly directs Theatre, Opera and Music Theatre for The West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). He’s always been hugely talented and success was largely an inevitability.

Adam and I know each other from a very different world however for we first met and became very good friends at the ripe old age of six, as students of our local kindergarten. Our days largely spent trying to mine the elusive ‘choccy brown’ from the kindergarten’s sandpit – which in reality were simply different coloured rocks but to a six year old – carried great currency. Many of my fondest childhood memories are of times with Adam and his family, including taking the zodiac up the river with Adam and his dad, or trips up to Wedge Island. In fact I still think I’m nursing bruises 30 plus years later from being towed behind a quad bike whilst riding a sand board! Thousands of hours on the tennis court together, actually thousands of hours of me getting flogged on the tennis court by Adam, thousands of adventurers, thousands of stories.

Upon reflection, perhaps the thing that has shone most brightly through Adam through all of these years is his spirit and conviction to cut his own path. To forge his own journey. There really is something very special in someone chasing their own dreams, tackling their own mountains and treading their own adventures. This next instalment of our Stories and People series penned by Adam really sums up adventure perfectly, in that one has an idea, and makes it happen. And perhaps there’s a very clear lesson in that for all of us, adventure really is that easy and adventure really is that available, all we must simply do is choose it.

 

Adam Mitchell | Date 30/11 /17

One of the best ways to see the world is from the (padded) saddle of your bike.

 

My girlfriend Gita and I had been trying to get away on an extended trip for years, and the budget being what it was- all roads pointed to South East Asia.  We had both spent time in Thailand and I’d previously had a ball in Laos, but neither of us had ever really cycled further than getting home from the pub.

The plan was simple; land in Bangkok and then take two months to amble north through the back roads of the country. From the northern boarder of Thailand we would then embark on a slow boat through the mountains to Luang Prabang Laos, and then tack south heading down the Malay Peninsula towards the islands of Ko Tao and Sumi.

We had neither decent bikes or any level of fitness that would prepare us for the 2000km journey, though the deal we made with each other was that if it got too mountainous or there was too much highway riding we would simply jump aboard the next train

 

 

We bought simple bikes and attempted to string together a series of warm up rides around our city. On ride one I got a flat tyre (I wasn’t carrying a spare), and on ride two, Gita fell off and ended the day in the hospital with 12 stitches. Our confidence was dented. Jump forward two weeks later and we are trying to survive on the busy, yet courteous streets of the Thai capital with just two panniers each. Gita 6KG, Me 5KG. That was it! With all supplies bike repair kit, spare tubes etc in that.

“On ride one I got a flat tyre (I wasn’t carrying a spare), and on ride two, Gita fell off and ended the day in the hospital with 12 stitches. Our confidence was dented. Jump forward two weeks later and we are trying to survive on the busy, yet courteous streets of the Thai capital with just two panniers each. Gita 6KG, Me 5KG. That was it!”

 

We hopped a train north to the ancient city of Ayutthaya (we decided getting out of Bangkok on bike was suicide), and the cycling began by following the Chao Phraya River into the former capital of Siam. Meandering through the ruins of the UNESCO world heritage site on bike was a great way to acclimatise to heat and humidity. From here we had many early mornings to try and escape the heat of the day and slowly threaded our way through villages and small towns towards the metropolis of Chiang Mai. The humidity was so oppressive 50 or 60kms felt like a full days riding, and we tried very hard to be off the road before noon.

 

Through the ancient city of Sukhothai and the bustling market towns of Phitsanulock and Chai Nat, the Thai people are friendliest and most welcoming we’ve met. We were certainly a novelty is some dusty manufacturing towns, but in every spot we were directed to the tastiest thai foods imaginable and icy cold Singha beers.

From the lifesaving roadside breakfasts of banana and sticky rice porridge wrapped in banana leaves to super spicy curries and everything deep-fried and served on a stick, Thailand is all about the food.

Chiang Mai was far busier and touristy than it had been when I’d visited 10 years earlier, so we upgraded our cycles for a motorbike and headed towards the mountains and the Mae Hong Song loop. This is a 600km circuit through some of the most scenic and death defying mountain roads you can imagine. Four days of fear on the motorbike navigating hairpin turns was actually more exhausting than the cycling. It was nice to be cooler riding through the beautiful misty valleys along the Myanmar boarder following the narrow cliff top roads and of course eating the local spicy everything.

Back on the bikes and headed east towards the boarder of Laos and an obligatory travellers experiences, the two-day slow boat to Luang Prabang.


We loved the boat thing and the night stop over at Pak Beng. The isolation of this walled city and the influence of French colonists are astonishing.

From the Buddhist Monks daily collection ritual to the amazing pastries and coffee houses on the cobblestone streets, it’s an unlikely cosmopolitan mix literally in the middle of some serious jungle.

 

From here we boxed up our bikes and boarded a flight back to Bangkok. Riding south was less picturesque, it was hard to get off the highways, but the town of Prachuap Khiri Khan and hitting the water festival at Hua Hin were highlights.

The Elephant Refuge  www.thaielephantrefuge.org
about 30minuts from Hua Hin is our recommendation for travellers wanting to see elephants in an ethical way. A brilliant organisation that rescues elephants from right across the county, it’s a seriously good organisation and no, you do not get to ride them.

The last few weeks were spent in recovery on the beautiful beaches of Sumi and Ko Tao. We couldn’t recommend taking a biking adventure more. It’s a wonderful way to see the world, and there’s a whole lot more world to see!

 

 

 

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In adventure,

Chris and the Quipmo team!

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