What a shock.
When I walked down the stairs, playing with the key, headphones on and already excited by the 25 next minutes I’d be spending riding Bangkok’s most badass bicycle…. and it was not there. Gone.
My beloved bike, noble steed and everyday companion, was gone. And I’m afraid he didn’t leave me on his own initiative, if you see what I mean:
Yes, I tend to get VERY sentimental about my bikes. They’re a pride, an everyday source of joy and the key to my independence. Also, the fastest way to get to work almost everywhere I’ve been. :) Those who know me in real life perhaps associate me with a color: a ludicrous, über-kitsch pink in Beijing, this bright red in Paris, and the “UN colours” in Bangkok. You’ve seen me coming on my bicycle no matter the weather, the heels or the skirt (oh, it’s easy, by the way), probably red cheeks and sweaty forehead, but undoubtedly happy and fully enjoying the ride.
When I arrived in Bangkok, I was at first determined to behave prudently; in a country that scores crazy road accident death tolls, most of which involving two-wheelers, I forced myself to be reasonable. Living in Thewet, far from both skytrain and metro systems, my main means of transportation were my feet, the khlong boat and those good ol’ “wooden floor & fan” buses. Never would I hop on a mototaxi, but even harder: I resisted the temptation to buy a bike for… 8 months.
8 months! Before my crazier self whispered: “Hey you know what? Fuck that shit, here is a gift from yourself to yourself for your Birthday. Just pick the funkiest of them all, and enjoy.”
So I did.
To be frank, cycling is far from being as fun as it can be in Europe. You need:
- to wear a good helmet despite the heat (at least you should),
- to be aware that, as the slimmest on the road, you’re also the last link in the food chain. You’ll likely be squeezed between SUVs and coughing behind a bus black exhaust.
- to be extra careful about the road itself and its numerous, massive potholes and deadly gully grids
- (also, survival tip: you will soon see yourself adopt a slightly aggressive riding style. Nobody really cares about firelights anyways, so be prepared)
In sum, it’s not for the weak, that’s true. But one thing I love about cycling is that you encounter so many friendly people, encouraging, approving or simply looking amused to see you preferring to sweat hard on your bike. That one minivan driver at a firelight who really wanted to give me his sunglasses to protect my eyes from the dust. The frequent cheers from mototaxis. The countless thumbs up and hellos. Yes, it is that different from the cold, anonymous skytrain atmosphere and its zombie-like faces, everyone way too busy playing on their smartphone to give a damn about the person sitting next to them.
And above all let’s face it… Is there better feeling than, after dark, having an empty road on your own to cycle as fast as you can, shouting out the lyrics of your meticulously handpicked playlist? :)
A couple weeks ago, I decided to spend a night wandering around. I found quasi-rural places, funny dogs and a welkin full of stars on the other side of the river. Old Chinese style temples and traditional Thai embroidered gold roofs outlined against the dark sky. Late night life scenes. A 100km of happiness, on that rad, bright Smurf bike. A lonely but oh so beautiful night, and I wanted more. I guess I’ll need to find a new companion for the rest of my adventures…
So long, my dear friend. You’re greatly missed :(