Sunday, April 25, 2010

In the Night Market

Chiang Mai is well known for its night market. The main market is open every night, but once a week they close a bunch of streets and really go to town.

They set up food stalls in the temple grounds, some of which I showed in the previous post. Blind people busk with musical instruments, as a form of social welfare.

There are lights everywhere.

Food Interlude

My new year's resolution this year was, while in Thailand, to eat my body weight in Thai food in 10 days. Who says resolutions have to be noble and self-improving? I gave it a pretty good stab, but unfortunately, as I binged, my body weight ballooned accordingly, like the carrot before the mule. And even though I ate that metaphorical carrot, and the metaphorical mule, the end point was always that one unachievable step ahead of me.

But, although I failed, I did manage to disgrace myself at pretty much every meal. Here are some Thai food highlights.


Bamboo worms:

Bamboo worms taste just like chicken. If said chicken was riddled with giant maggots.

Actually, they're pretty similar to pork crackling.

Fried quails' eggs:

Omlette with ant's eggs:

Sticky rice with mango in a bamboo tube, or wrapped in banana leaves:

Some of these may seem a little out there, but let me tell you, I didn't have a single meal that wasn't delicious.

Thought for the day: There's a reason "Thai food" and "typhoon" sound so similar. They're both an unstoppable, devastating force accompanied by strong wind.

Easter in Holland: Epilogue

I have this theory that the worst day of cycle touring is still better than the best day at work. Admittedly, cycling in the Netherlands is about as user friendly as you can get, but this trip was a bit of a test of that. The weather was certainly against me.

Yes, it was still cold

On the way north I took the inland route, but on the return trip to Hoek van Holland I rode along the North Sea Route. It runs along the dunes and is quite wide and sealed the whole way. So, that adds another 80km to the stretch of the North Sea Route that I've done. 300kms down, only ...5700km to go? Oh, for fuc...

I paused for lunch in the Hague on the way back, mostly just to thaw out. I went to the Hague historical museum, which was - surprisingly - only in Dutch. Still, art is art and more importantly they had heating.

While waiting for the ferry in Hoek, I chatted with a drunk Dutch guy, where we had the following conversation:

Him: Do you smoke...?
Me: No.
Him:...heroin or hashish?
Me: Um, no, I get high from my bike.
Him: I make mumble mumble.
Me: Oh yes?
Him: Then police come, raid flat, take everything.

So, that was about it. Another memorable bike trip, not quite as planned, but still high on the enjoyment factor.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Keukenhof: I Don't Have a Pun for That

By this point, it was raining a lot of the time. Those big campervans with satellite dishes were starting to seem like not such a dumb idea after all. At least when it was raining at night, it wasn't freezing.

I got up in the morning and decided to walk to Keukenhof. It would've been quite a quick bike ride, but it took a couple of hours on foot. I went through the Keukenhof forest, which was completely deserted.

By the time I got to the Keukenhof Gardens, I was expecting to have the place all to myself. Cue the bus park.

Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden. They've planted 7 million tulip bulbs. This year, the theme was Russia. Because the first thing you associate with Russia is flowers.

I must say, in Keukenhof I did get to see a lot of tulips. There were large indoor pavillions with some stunning flowers, and the outside gardens were underway, although I don't think they were at their peak.

I won't post all of my photos because they're pretty repetitive. Here's a couple of my favs, and then a link to the photo site in case you're a masochist.

My Keukenhof gallery

Flower Sour

I cycled from Leiden to a campground near Nordwijkerhout. I took the inland route, including taking the bike ferry that I've already shown you.

It was one of those vast camps full of fixed dwellings and large campervans with satellite dishes set up on the grass beside them. I'm sorry: That's not camping; that's having a second house with wheels. Nordwijkerhout is near the coast, and I went for an evening ramble over the dunes to look at the North Sea. It looked cold.

Nord...etc is near Keukenhof. I was told that when I cycled through this area there would be an explosion of colours from the tulips fields. Can you guess how many tulips I saw in the wild? Zero? No, far more than that. Two? No, you've gone too far.

One fucking tulip. And it looked like it was having second thoughts. Because of the terrible winter in Europe, the tulips hadn't bloomed yet. There were a few brave daffodils, but who cares about them?

Ridin' to Leiden

I moved on from the Hague to Leiden. It wasn't a particularly long ride, and there are good bike paths between the cities.

Leiden was the site of my first campground. The lady in charge seemed surprised to see me, and said that I was the first that they've had this year. I don't know if I was the first tent camper they've had, or the first cyclist, but either way ... yeah, I'm hardcore.

(I'm beginning to think that the red drink bottle is spoiling my camping gear's camouflage effect.)

It was perishingly cold that night. I have a pretty good sleeping bag, but I was still wearing 2 pairs of thick socks, thermal leggings, 2 merino tops and a cycle jersey, a neck gaiter, and a thermal hat.

I realised something that hadn't occurred to me until this point: I was going to get a lot of sleep on this trip. When you're sleeping in a tent and it gets dark at 8pm, you're going to sleep at 8pm.

Leiden has set up a walk around the old buildings of the city centre called the Leiden Loop. It's well done. There's plenty to see.

Leiden is an old university town. As part of Europe's musical chairs of war, the Spanish twice laid siege to Leiden causing major starvation. As the Spanish commander had butchered the people of Haarlem, Leiden knew that they couldn't surrender. At one point, the mayor offered up his arm as food for the populace. (Is that why people vote for Gerry Brownley?)

The locals eventually broke the dikes to flood the surrounding countryside and drove away the Spanish, whose hold on the Netherlands collapsed. William of Orange sailed in ships of food and created the university in recognition of the town's struggle.

When the Pilgrims fled England, they came to Leiden. They stayed here for a couple of decades, before setting sail for America. This is the point they left from.

Below is the canal by the camp ground. You can see how the bridge lifts up to let barges barge past. The railway line on a parallel bridge also raises into the air and rotates sideways.

Is this a statue of Lord Flashheart?

"Nursey! Am I pleased to see you or did I just put a canoe in my pocket? Woof!"

Good on you, Holland.