Day 104: A trip down memory lane

I shall be cycling in Thailand in the near future.  This has been running through my mind of late.  It has been over ten years since I was last in Asia.  I look forward to the thick aroma of spices, the heat, the hustle and bustle, the constant stream of life and of course, the change of scenery.

Whilst I was cycling yesterday along the coast towards Lloret de Mar, in Catalunya, my mind wandered back to Thailand.  I began to smile as I remembered the last cycling trip in what used to be called Siam many moons ago.  When I went it was of course called Thailand.  My  trip took me from the outskirts of Bangkok up to Chiang Mai.  I was leading a cycling training trip for the Hong Kong national junior triathlon squad.  The plan was simple –  ride from Kanchanaburi up to Chiang Mai.

Kanchanaburi is a busy little town, the capital of the province of the same name.  It sits at the point where two rivers merge to form the mighty Mae Kong River. It was made famous in the movie ‘The Bridge Over The River Kwai’ a film that portrayed the horrific experiences of the prisoners of war that worked on the Burma Railway whilst the country was under Japanese control in 1942.

I had organized a small support van, driven by a short, dumpy man, whose name sounded like ‘Bang My Hat’ or ‘Be Right Back’…or something like that. He was an enthusiastic fellow who kept us in constant supply of bananas and assorted fresh fruit as we cycled.

I was sharing a hotel room with the squad’s coach, a friendly Ironman triathlete who had taken the junior squad under her wing.  We were in a two star hotel in a nameless town, two days from Chiang Mai. We were tired.

We decided a leg massage would be a good idea and called the hotel desk to find out if they could organize one for both of us in our room.

I explained that we only wanted a massage, no bells and whistles.  “Yes, Yes, no problem Meester’ the hotel clerk said, in an excited tone.

We lay back on our beds waiting, wondering what the massage girls would look like.  Would they be stereotypical Thai ‘working girls’? I was a little bit nervous.

After about ten minutes there was a knock at the door.  My room-mate went for the door.  When she got near to it I asked her if she could let me have the prettier girl.  My room-mate grinned at me and slowly opened the door.  I could hear muffled voices, some sort of discussion took place and then two women entered the room.

The first woman appeared to be roughly ninety years old.  Her long grey hair was tied back so tightly the skin on her face appeared to be on the verge of tearing.  Good grief I thought.  Please don’t let her be mine. The second girl was standing out of sight behind her.

The next lady was so short I could hardly see her over the height of the bed.  I wondered if she was on her knees for some reason.  She was not.  On tip toe she stood about 1.2 M in height.  If the fan in the room was on, she would have blown away.  She had a pleasant smile.  I could see both of her teeth.  She came over towards my bed and then began to talk to her living fossil of a colleague.

Our hotel room had two single beds.  I was stretched out on one, looking across at my room mate being pounded by her masseur.  Mean while my ‘girl’ was trying to copy everything the older one was doing.  It soon became obvious that she had never given a massage in her life before. I was in trouble.

After a few minutes, I watched as my room mate was told to sit upright.  The million year old lady lay down and then proceeded to arch her subject’s back with her knees, whilst pulling on each arm.  It looked like some sort of medieval torture process.  I could hear her grunting as she resisted having her spine snapped.

Next it was my turn. At sixty four kilograms, I was not particularly heavy, however my shoes weighed more than my massage girl. She was trying to apply the torture move to me.  She lay on my bed and told me to lean back onto her knees.  I did as I was told.  She then took hold of each of my arms, holding them firmly with each of her hands.  She tried to lift me up off the bed and began to pull on my arms. I was looking up at the paint that was peeling off the ceiling.

She had neither the strength, nor the confidence to successfully complete the maneuver and I began to tip to one side. She tried to correct the position but failed.  I was sent tumbling off the bed, narrowly missing the bedside table on my journey to the cigarette stained carpet.

My massage over.  We paid them and then fell about laughing when they left.  I had carpet burn on my elbow and a bruised hip but it was worth it. It was entertainment, for us, and for them.

I snapped out of my trip down memory lane.  It was time to turn around.  The group that I was cycling with had reached the turn around point in Calella. A small beachfront town about 50KM from my home.

The ride out had been into na annoying headwind and the group were happy to have the resulting tailwind now that we had turned around.

I had not eaten any breakfast and was halfway into a 100KM ride.  My mind turned to food whilst I forced a rock hard PowerBar down my throat.

The night before I had eaten Caracoles – snails in a rich sauce of chorizo and red wine and had followed that with a huge plate of Monk fish, known as ‘Rape’ in Spain.

I made a mental list of the items in my fridge and whilst looking out at the bright winter sunlight reflecting off the sea, I decided upon a Red Thai Curry and began to smile again.  I was looking forward to being back in Thailand.

Details of my route out to Calella, Catalunya, Spain, can be found here:


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