Back To China

By Stephen Ewashkiw | April 4, 2014

12,373 km so far.

Not every day of our trip can be on quiet back roads, unfortunately.

Riding along the highway all day today we had flashbacks to China. Now, don’t get me wrong. Thailand and China are very different places. However, today we couldn’t help but notice all the similarities.

There is an entire other blog post, which may or may not be written, about the ways Thailand is not like China, but this is not that post.

This is:

Thailand And China: Same Same But Different

Language Barriers. Both languages are very hard to read. After four months in China we could only read about 10 words. As we have been in Thailand for less than one month we know only two words – vegetarian and resort. At least those cover two of our daily basic needs.

The same in every language, rules at Sa Kaeo River Resort & Spa.

The same in every language, rules at Sa Kaeo River Resort & Spa.

Who Needs To Breathe? While the air quality in Thailand is so far superior to China’s it seems petty to mention it, Thailand is the second smoggiest country we have travelled in. Yes, it is also smoggier than LA. While the smog in China is primarily caused by industrial pollution, the smog in Thailand is mostly down to industrial-scale field burning.

Smog and bicycles do not mix, at Sa Kaeo River Resort.

Smog and bicycles do not mix, at Sa Kaeo River Resort.

Feed Me. Despite expecting a plethora of exciting vegetarian dishes to be readily available once we arrived in Thailand, most of our meals have been very similar to our Chinese staple: rice, veggies, and tofu. The big difference here is that in Thailand they know how to mix all of these together into one dish. In China, each item makes its own dish. This means Thai meals tends to be one-third the size of Chinese meals.

Thailand has coffee, China has tea. Thailand wins.

Thailand has coffee, China has tea. Thailand wins.

Mall Of Dreams. We haven’t seen nearly as many grand, expansive, and empty buildings in Thailand as we did in China, but there are a few. Our trip to the apocalyptic-in-its-emptiness Sky Mall the other day made us think that Chinese money, or at least Chinese business ideas, have been finding their way into Thailand. It’s not so much a case of “Build it, and they will come,” as it is “Build it, and we will get paid for building it, even if it stands empty forever.”

Road Rules. In China people drive wherever the fuck they please, rules be damned. In Thailand, same same. Only in Thailand, they do it much faster. And if they’re coming straight for you, they expect you to leap of the way. In China, people slow down or change their course to avoid mowing you down. China’s way is nicer.

The highway looks much better at night, Sa Kaeo.

The highway looks much better at night, Sa Kaeo.

Way Out Loud. As in China, it is not uncommon for trucks to drive around town, or around the countryside, with music blaring from their flat bed, advertising anything from plates to massage parlours. In Thailand they actually have elections, so recently, election trucks have been added to the mix, with messages from the candidates blasting into the air. We passed a line of trucks one day, driving about 20 feet apart, all playing the same message from the same candidate. That guy wouldn’t get my vote.

With the southern beach paradise of Thailand still to come on our trip, I expect we’ll see a whole different side of the country. Will it remind us of China’s south coast, or will we be transported back to our days in Croatia?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Soundtrack: Catherine Wheel, Adam & Eve | The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema | Sivert Høyem, Endless Love | Johnny Cash, Out Among The Stars | Hothouse Flowers, People | This American Life podcast  

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.

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