06-04-04

ON THE ROAD, again

on your own
with no direction home

like a complete unknown

 
 

 
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the motorcycle, that it is just after ten in the morning. The wind even at sixty miles an hour is warm and dry as in a sauna, burning the nostrils. When it's this hot at ten, I 'm wondering what it's going to be like in the afternoon.
With just the slightest adaptation to my own circumstances, these are more or less the first lines of Robert Pirsig's 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance', the book I just finished reading. And isn't it funny that I should identify?
 
Thais are farang - friendly*, even the government. In  sharp contrast to my experience at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu. In Thailand, with a Visa about to expire, they make it easy for us tourists. Leave the country, even just for an hour, and upon reentry, a new 30 day Visa is  issued, no fee, no questions asked. The other option - if you can call it that - is to visit an immigration office and pay $50 for an extension of 10 days. Well, all right, for some people that probably works just fine.
There are two friendship bridges in these parts of Thailand, opening the Thai-Myanmar border. When these bridges are open [ sometimes during political unrest, not uncommon in Myanmar, they are closed ] farangs can cross into Myanmar for a day, or an hour, and so get a new free Visa upon reentry.

So on Tuesday, two days left on my Visa,  I rent a Honda Dream 125cc and I hit the road for my Visa run. It is a three day enterprise, 800km roundtrip. Day one, Southbound to Mae Sot, 5 km from the border and the friendship bridge to Myawadi, Myanmar. Day two: a layover in Mae Sot with a visit to Myanmar. Day three Northbound for Mae Hong Son again.
 
Pirsig continues ... You see things, riding on a motorcycle, in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car ( or bus or train I might add ) you are always in a compartment and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle that frame is gone. You are completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it any more and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on. It's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime and the whole experience is never removed from immediate consciousness.

*farang: Thai word for foreigner, from 'francais', covering all fair skinned, round eyed foreigners. According to the Thai Nya Phuum: "They are exceedingly tall, hairy and evil smelling. They school their children long and devote their lives to the amassing of richess. Their women, though large and round, are very beautiful. They do not grow rice." When the Thai call you farang, it is not pejorative. They disarm the word with a grin or a giggle. But they remain cautious. The farang does not have the great Thai virtue of 'Jai yen', cool heart. His heart is liable to overheat.  [ Charles Nicholl: Borderlines, Journey in Thailand and Birma ].


06:38 Gepost door pieter | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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