If I Could Talk To The Animals

By Jane Mountain | March 22, 2014

11,564 km so far.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that, being hippie yogi animal lovers, one of our favourite ways to pass the time as we roll along country roads is to talk to the animals.

We know we can’t really have a chat with them, but that doesn’t keep us from trying. After all, it sometimes elicits just as much information as we get conversing with the local Thai people in their native language.

Animal Farm

Early this morning, as we were heading up what is probably the last hill we’ll see in months (hurrah!), I heard a grunting bark in the bushes. I thought maybe it was dogs coming to chase us, but when I looked up, I saw three small wild pigs scurrying deeper into the forest to hide from me. As I was grunting back at them, the mother, about five times the size of the piglets, emerged from the forest, looking more than a little terrifying.

I was quite relieved to see she was without tusks.

At the top of the hill, we stopped for a short rest break.

It's downhill all the way to Cambodia!

It’s downhill all the way to Cambodia!

The area was a little creepy, with a fenced-off temple, several wooden shrines in varying states of disrepair, and an abandoned shelter with pineapples, corn cobs, watermelons, and papayas strewn about the ground. A family of chickens was busily pecking up bits of the discarded fruit.

Creepy shrines at the top of the hill outside Thoen.

Creepy shrines at the top of the hill outside Thoen.

Stephen was clucking away to them when a skinny little pig emerged from the forest. I tried to call it over, and it came a little way towards me, but stopped once it decided I wasn’t going to feed it.

Stephen broke open one of the pineapples and slid it over to the pig who happily began gobbling the tasty flesh.

small pig in farmyard

Scrawny pig on the hilltop.

During our little break, two big trucks jam-packed with cows slowly chugged their way up the mountain. The drivers waved and shouted to us as they went, but we only had eyes for the livestock.

All we can say to these animals, who must be on their way to the slaughterhouse, is “Sorry guys. We’re sorry.” I’m sure the truck drivers have no idea why we look so sad.

The Crowd Goes Wild

As Stephen mentioned the other day, the chorus of insects in the forests here is unbelievably loud.

Today, as we ripped down the hillside, they almost sounded like a massive crowd, screaming and yelling and urging me to greater and greater speeds.

The sound is almost deafening, but it’s also oddly beautiful. It does set me to wondering about how big these insects are, and how many of them are up there. And if they ever swarm unsuspecting cyclists.

Every Day Is Dog Day

Thailand is filled with dogs. FILLED. It’s hard to explain just how many dogs there are here. At any moment, on the road, you can probably look up and see five dogs within yelping distance.

Some cyclists seem to have a big problem with Thai dogs chasing them. They resort to picking up sticks to ward them off, or carrying a stockpile of stones to throw when dogs chase them. We carried a few stones for a couple of days, but never had any occasion to use them. They just kept falling out in our hotel rooms, so we finally ditched them.

We have been chased a couple of times here, but we are employing our “talk to the animals” strategy to ward off aggression. If we see a dog at the side of the road, I usually start talking to it long before it can give chase. I tell it what a good, smart puppy it is, and usually, it takes the bait, waggling its tail as we ride by.

With dogs who start barking as we go by, we bark back. Instead of using an aggressive top dog kind of bark, I usually mimic the dog’s bark, like I’m just saying hi. It has seemed to work OK so far.

Still, I know there are a few vicious little biters out there. I just hope we’re lucky enough not to encounter any.

Two-Legged Friends

Since we left Berlin, we have encountered a sum total of two other farang cycle touring couples. Today, as I stopped to get a picture of the unusual garbage cans they have here, we saw a couple of touring bikes parked in front of a coffee shop.

Double double toil and trouble. Rubber cauldron garbage bins.

Double double toil and trouble. Rubber cauldron garbage bins.

We liked the idea of a coffee, so we went inside to join them. Turns out it was the same pair we’d met in Laos a few weeks ago. They had been going north while we’d been heading south, and we both circled around into Thailand from opposite directions.

Happily, we discovered they are now going the same way as us, so we joined forces for a while, becoming a parade of weirdness along the road.

cycling in thailand

Thomas and Wibke, our new cycling friends.

With four people, we attract exponentially more attention than we did with two.

These two were too busy to take much notice of us.

These two were too busy to take much notice of us.

As we were approaching our stopping point for the day, we spotted a cute and odd restaurant for lunch. It was decorated with all kinds of antiques, like an old barber’s chair, fading pop bottles, and video cassettes.

cute cafe thailand

Checking out the decorations.

Unfortunately, my request for veggie food was met with a laugh and a shake of the head. But, the woman running the place led Stephen and me a few doors down the street to another eatery, where they were happy to make something “gae” for us.

In our less decorated restaurant two doors down.

In our less decorated restaurant two doors down.

We were a little envious that our new friends got to eat in the more picturesque spot. They were served a whole grilled fish, sticky rice, and papaya salad, all of which looked delicious. Our own plate of rice and veggies was tasty too, but it was about a quarter of the sustenance we needed.

Arriving in town, we supplemented our meagre meal with a pint of ice cream which was on sale at Tesco. Once again, dear cows, we are very sorry!  

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

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