Bangkok (Thailand) and Guwahati (India). Happy New Year 2016

Posted: January 1, 2016 in Cycling
Tags: , ,

Mountains, oceans, deserts and impenetrable jungles have shaped the flow of mankind throughout history. I get a shiver down my spine when I cross these natural barriers and pass from one world to the next, and experience people and cultures so different from my own. I am cycling across the massive Eurasian continent – a land-mass where the majority of humanity lives. Over Christmas and New Year I was in Bangkok and North-east India – two vastly different places. Another taste of the diversity of the planet. Man, this trip is cool!

Looking out over the plains of Bangladesh

Looking out over the plains of Bangladesh

The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan explains the history of mankind through the lens of geography. The vast deserts of western China. The Himalayas, Karakorum and Hindu Kush mountains. They separate cultures so different – India, China, Europe. The heartland of Eurasia – Iran, the stans and western China – have been the crossroads where civilizations meet and create a common intricate history.

Cycling along, I see and hear words from languages and lands far away. I was amazed hearing Turkish words deep into the stans. And one day I stopped in amazement when the penny dropped, and realised the word I had been seeing in Cyrillic script in Kyrgyzstan all this time in shop windows was the Hindi word Dukan. This place is the melting-pot of civilization, and you can feel it everywhere.

India
In 2015 I cycled through China and experienced the land deeply. At Christmas time, I left my bike in Bangkok, and flew to India – another major culture on the Eurasian landmass. I was not very far from where I had been in China – just the other side of the tallest mountains in the world. The Himalayas shield these countries from each other and the cultures are so different.

For me Bollywood music and films transport me instantly back to India. Such a happy, iconic music with surreal love scenes and frivolity. Driving back from the airport with Bollywood filling my ears, we saw people picnicking and dancing on the banks of the Bramaputra River – the lifeblood of so many millions of people.

Dill wale

Dill wale

India is so very different to China, and so very different from south-east Asia, and so very different from the west. Motor and cycle-rickshaws abound, the traffic is chaotic spewing out poisonous fumes that create the thick cloud of pollution hanging over the city. The markets, the shops, the buildings are all so.. Indian. The haggling, buying and even temple donations is particularly fierce – especially as a foreigner with a (perceived) endless wallet. Although very different, India also feels familiar – Australia shares its Commonwealth roots, and with my Indian friends of similar age, we could reminisce about the cricket stars of years long gone.

I gave a presentation to some local kids about the bike trip and sustainability for Green Pedals. Global warming could affect these children so much in their lifetimes (and also in my lifetime) as the glaciers feeding the Bramaputra dry up. These kids got it, and these kids were motivated. I love talking to kids and seeing the light in their eyes. The excitement in a new life just starting.

The kids in Guwahati

The kids in Guwahati

The Assam Tribune

The Assam Tribune

Newspaper article

Newspaper article

Thank you my good friends Autri and Jodi, and Autri’s wonderful Indian family for your amazing hospitality. I saw some beautiful parts of north-east India in Assam and the scenic hills of Meghalaya – the last burst of mountains before the steep drop to the endless river delta plains of Bangladesh. And thank you to Autri’s mother Anuradha for your hospitality and passion to make India and the world a better place.

Little shops

Little shops

Zombies

Zombies

In the hammock

In the hammock

Autri's lovely mother

Autri’s lovely mother

Bangkok
I didn’t visit the temples. I didn’t go to Kao San Road. Bangkok was eating, relaxing and seeing friends – heaven after a lot of cycling. Oh – and lots of thai massages.

Bangkok feels like the antithesis of Iran and central Asia. It was great to be, for example, served by a transvestite in the major shopping complex food court. That would not be possible anywhere else in the world (outside of gay areas). In some way, people are free, and in others, the political turmoil is sad for the lovely people of this beautiful country.

Me, Jay and Mark

Me, Jay and Mark

Tomorrow I am continuing my trip in a new year – down one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. I am so excited to be cycling along beautiful palm lined beaches and turquoise blue water – landscapes so foreign to the ones at home (wherever that home may be).

Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing your journey as it informs me for my own forthcoming journey. Happy New year

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Even in your downtime you are busy! Happy New Year Matthew!

  3. Paul says:

    Happy new year safe travels!

  4. Judith says:

    Happy 2016 with many inspiring encounters and places!
    Don’t go too fast…i love to start my day at work with a blog from you 🙂 (other world traveller I followed just finished his trip from China to UK)

    • Never fear.. There is still 9 months of travelling to go. Arrival date in Adelaide is September 13 2016. I’ll be doing a big detour in Borneo and Sulawesi. There will be a break, though, of a month when I am studying Indonesian in Jakarta.

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