Log Cabin Chronicles

Dr. Denis Mahoney Letters from the other side of the world
Occasional reports from a bicycle trip that began last July in Vancouver, British Columbia....


Filed 1/19/98

Dear all,

Sorry to everyone in the family for not phoning on your Christmas [get-together in Ottawa on 1/17/98]. Phones here have been a challenge to figure out. It isn't like home -- pick up and dial.

There are different country codes, and as I keep changing countries they keep changing -- and I forget them as soon as I leave the country.

Hope you were able to get together, given the storm damage and all. I've just spent four days 30 km up a hill. Mornings and nights are cold (10c); at the base of the mountain you're looking at 33plus, in KL probably 35-36c. Damned site better than Perth, Australia, which recently hit 40c. I'll stay in Malaysia for a bit more.

Days recently have been spent grinding up the 38km hill a couple of times, eating egg roti with curry sauces, and looking at the jungle from the beautiful 65-year-old English Mansion turned guest house that I've called home for a few days.

Following a 200 plus km ride, I was ascending the final 30km to home when my rear derailer snapped. Bike was paralyzed. 16km up, 14km to go. Time: 6:50 p.m. Darkness hits the jungle at about 7:40 p.m.

I start to run-walk with my bike. Thinking: Sunday night, downhill traffic - nothing going up. It going to be a long evening. Motor scooter goes by with two onboard. I smile and wave, and run. 13km left. 12km left. Sun is dropping fast. Hello -- a car (with a trunk) slows, then stops.

Yup, help arrived, I was home by 7:30, showered and eating by 8:00 p.m. Life is good.

Today, I'm in KL for bike fixing, a movie, and a hot shower. Demain, the basic plan is to ride across the country to Kuantan (on the east coast), then head north or south depending on the direction I steer when I get there. Be well, and make it count.


P.S. Mayalsia has an international world class rode tour (Le Tour de Langkawi) that will feature some of the top teams from Europe. I had the opportunity to ride for a bit one morning with the Malaysia team. Interesting looks I got when I pulled up behind them on my mountain bike, complete with rear paniers.

Filed 1/14/98

Dear All,

I've just arrived in Kuala Lumpur, having travelled about 2500-3000km almost due south from Chaing Mai, Thailand. Lots of new experiences. The olfactory stimulation of the raw rubber and trucks carrying putrid fish ensured there would be no falling asleep while riding the bike. Given the weather you've had of late, I'll write a brief weather forecast for you for this part of the world:

Weather today in central Thailand will be hot, from 32-35 celcius, with winds out of the NE at 25 km/hr, except when cyclists are heading south in which case winds will be out of the south. South of Bankok along the Thailand pennisula and into Malaysia, the temperature will rise gently to the 33-36 celcius range. Rest assured you will face heat stroke and exhaustion with prolonged exposure. Stay indoors and avoid heavy physical exercise. For long-range forecast just reread this paragraph everyday. Keep your shirt on in Malaysia!

Things are clean (highway grasscutters, roadside sweepers, vacuum and power spray cleaning of fish pond) here in Malaysia. They are a little protective of their sterilized environment along the major NS highway (2 crews of highway workers tried to kick myself and another biker off, and definitely didn't want our bikes close to their open air sala restaurants). This is a bit different from their neighbor to the north.

Tomorrow, I will head north to Bukit Fraser, a town I visited previously atop a 30km hill ride. The jungle will follow.

My thoughts are with all of you in Quebec and Ontario. I hope you all have heat and food. Remember, it's challenging times like these that make us stronger, and revive our community relations. love,

Filed 12/29/97

Dear All,

Seasons Greetings! My mini trip to a little town (Kongloi) was a fruitful and entertaining experience. It involved cycling, ice cream, loading and unloading rocks from a truck (so we could use it to get to another town), eating, a visit to a wat, a couple of soccer balls, and lots of smiles. A pretty full day when all was said and done.

I'm enroute to Bankok and cut short my ride today as I developed a minor anatomical aliment that prevents comfortable (heck, just uncomfortable and I'd still be riding- - this sucker hurts bigtime!) sitting while cycling. After the first 60km, I resorted to full-time standing, which worked well for the next 30km to the city. A long massage and I'll be rip-roaring ready to ride demain.

It's time for me to go back to the jungle. I'll work my way south about 2000km to jungle and hill country in Malaysia.

Always remember: There is only terror in the mind, not in the jungle

Until we meet here again, peace be with you all.


Filed 12/25/97

Dear All,

Happy Holidays to all! Four days of riding have brought me back to Chaing Mai (about 730km). It's chilly in the a.m. when I start riding, but still not snowboarding weather.

Tomorrow I bring my trustworthy travel companion to the sick bay for a new rear rack (all the welds finally broke 20km into the mountains today and duct tape applied liberally permitted me to complete the next 175km to finish the day). After this, I set out another 150km to find a little nine year old...

Special Note: To the guardian angles looking after Celeste, if you are able maybe slip her a piece of chicken or turkey and give her a big hug and kiss from me. Thanks.

All is well. Peace and love. Be well.

Love, Denis

p.s. I'm going to look through the market stalls to see if I can find any maple or chocolate fudge as a pleasant reminder of Christmas in Quebec.

Filed 12/21/97

Dear All,

Last time I wrote I was undecided as to my next direction. Here's how it went:

Travelled northeast to Mae Sai (Golden Triangle), the opium production and trafficking center of the world (printed material says "Former" - sure!). Nothing special here, just 1000 feet of ten-foot-wide tourist trap sales booths. I snapped a picture for you so you won't have to go.

I followed the Makong river south, then to Song, Pitsanolok, Nakon Sawan and Bankok. About 1250km partial loop (7.5 days riding); legs are strong after the stint in the hills.

Special equipment note: Don't get a kevlar seat for long-distance cross-country travelling. I thought I was tough. Nope. Kevlar is tougher and I'm in the market for a plush couch to put on my seat post. Vaseline and baby powder helps, but I've logged over 8500km here in Southeast Asia and my butt has been raw for most of 'em.

My holiday wish for all - may you live in peace. Also, family and friends who have thought about sending holiday gifts to me or stockpiling them for when I return: Don't. I'd rather you put that energy into something for someone who really needs it. Maybe a food basket, gloves for cold hands, or a special toy for someone who may not receive any others this season.

For my Christmas gift to me, I decided this morning to head back to the north country of Thailand. One of the kids I took for ice cream when I was struggling couldn't see very well. He just squinted all the time. When you got close to him, his eyes would open up wide - now he could see clearly.

When I was about his age (he's nine), I couldn't see very well either. Yes, I had glasses, but my vision had deteriorated and I didn't tell my parents I couldn't see the chalk board at school. Academically, I was not shining. So I'm going about 1000km back to this town and try to find a little boy and offer my assistance in getting him a pair of glasses.

I'm not sure how it will work out, but something down deep says it something I need to do. I tell you this in print to hold me accountable. You see it would be easier for me to just head south and fly to Australia. I really hope to make this little boy's 1998 a little clearer. New glasses made a big impact for me when I was nine.

All is good. My love is radiating to you.


Filed 12/06/97

Dear all,

I'm in Chaing Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, resting this afternoon and looking forward to a traditional, multiple-hour Thai massage a little later on.

For those who knew me in 1980-81 (my first year at Acadia University), well, physically look a lot like that. Skinny. Kinda like you'd might what to take me home for a big meal and give me a doggy bag to take home. I weight about 67kgs, down about 7kgs since I began in Singapore some ten weeks ago.

A major challenge I have is eating enough. I eat about 10,000 calories a day which leads to a super engorged tummy by late p.m., and back to skinny in am. Richard Simmons has missed a huge marketing ploy here: bike 100-250km a day and eat your way to a body like those in a Calvin Klein underwear ad.

The weather here is hot. It's winter and the temp remains steady at 33-36 Celsius. By noon my brain is fried.

My schedule is up at 5 a.m., on the bike by 5:30 looking for food (I graze at the food markets), riding before 6 to another town that looks the same as the one I just left -- colors change, people don't.

I could tell you all about the water falls, the gazillion wats and temples and the elephant rides but really, just get an amazing Thailand brochure and read it. What you won't find in the printed information is the people. This is really what it's all about:

The couple who followed me in a car for several km, then stopped and gave me a special coconut-rice desert treat because of my biking efforts (they saw me the prior day 150km south of where they found me this day);

The kids who repeatedly say "sawai dii khap" (hello\goodbye);

The group of twenty Thai tourists I met while climbing the Phu Kra Dun mountain near Loei, that fed and housed me for a day up on the mountain top;

The elders who give me a thumbs up with a big betel nut (like chewing tobacco) stained smile;

And the thousands of shop and market stall workers that have kept me well nourished and help to keep me smiling when the chips are down.

I know folks will ask "So should we travel in Thailand, where, how, when ? Truth is, I don't know. Everyone's experience is different, everyone's preferences are different.

It took me thirty-four years to take the step -- it's a big one. It was for me. Do it. Do it now.

If I thought much about this trip I probably would've talked myself out of it. Glad I didn't.

Here's a little bit of what I was thinking about during a major hill-climbing day (Tak to Mae Sot (next to Burma) for lunch, back to Tak) Probably a 5-6000 foot vertical climb each way.

Mr. Parsons, my Grade 10 physics teacher, taught us about Ep (potential energy) and Ek (kinetic energy). At the bottom of the hill I have zero Ep, and I'm storing Ek as I bike up.

It helps me to think as I grind to 875 meters altitude about this abundance of Ep I'm storing up.

It takes my mind off the knife in my left shoulder, the fire brewing in my cycle shoes, and the fatigue mounting in my quads.

More Ep. Good. Another thought: what goes up must come down. Good.

Many times this day I exchange Ek for a thrilling, white-knuckled, screamer descent. I admit the exchange was worth it every time.

It's time for me to more along. Until we speak again, chances are you'll be in my thoughts.

With love,


Filed 11/23/97

Dear all:

Travel is happy and hot. Since my last report I visited Laos. I entered at Vientiane and biked north one day's ride to Vang Viang (160 km). I returned to Vientiane the next day to visit an English secondary class.

Travelling here is interesting as many of the older people speak French because of France's presence here from the early 1900s to 1975. I've had fun dusting off 17 years of unilingual English communication and recalling the French I learned while living in Quebec for eight or nine years. Many expats are visible in Vientiane; however, they're the most unfriendly folks you'll encounter while travelling in this part of the world.

I headed south along the Mekong River, along which live most of the 4.5 million Laos people.

Day 1: Pakxan (150km). Day 2: Tha Khaet (190km). Day 3: Savanaket (130km). Day 4: A gruelsome ride of 250km along what's best described as a logging road (took me 14hours, took the bus 12 hours).

I had no more courage to face unpaved or under construction roads, so I headed south to Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) by long boat with many local folk and a few tourists. It was a pleasant seven-hour trip.

The next day six of us falang booked a dugout to take us to a waterfall and to see the only railroad every built in Laos (by the French in the early 1900s) and later also used by the Japanese during their occupation here. It is now abandoned and all the rails, ties, and pegs are visibly recycled as house building materials or fences.

A special note on Laos -- everything is recycled here and has been forever. The only visible signs of garbage are the very recently introduced plastic bags.

The major highlight in Thailand for me is the markets for interaction with the people, watching the locals, and for eating (which I do a lot of!). Here is a major difference with Laos markets.

Major centers have fairly good selection of food ( rice, meat, fruit, Vegas, traditional soups, and barbecued animals). However, in the smaller centers the vendors may have very little to sell, have no ice or refrigeration, and basically sit on the dirt, with a rice mat set out to sell a handful of peppers and a few cucumbers.

Quite an eye opener. Here one does not bargain for the cost.

My journey continued north to Chapasek and a visit to Wat Phu, ruins of 8-13th century religious temples of followers of animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. A highlight in Laos. I decided to head back into Thailand via Chong Mek (130km) land crossing. From here I cycled to Roi Et (170km), Kalasin (160km), viewed dinosaur bones, Sakon Nakon (140km), That Phanom (130km), Mudahan (across the Mekong River from Savanaket) and back to That Phanom (105km), north to Bung Kan (235km), and now returning to Non Khai (135km).

My plan is to travel around here for a few days then head north to Chang Mei and Pai, then down the west coast near Burma.

Love to all...I look forward to our next communication.


Filed 11/01/97

Dear friends -- an update from abroad. I got my Laos visa in Khon Kaen, Thailand on Friday morning, biked north to Laos border, and am getting ready to cross the Friendship Bridge into Laos at Vientiane.

The basic plan is to bike north to Van Vong, truck to Luang Probang, maybe bike there. Raft back to Vietienne, then bike south along Mekong river to Savanaket, the namesake I believe for one of my nieces. I have a four-week visa; when I return to Vientienne I will call as this is the only place for international calls in the country. No e-mail, I'm sure.

As I was biking north from Bangkok to Khon Kaen there were large animals grazing at the side of the road. I have named them cigs(pronounced chigs) and pows. They eat grass like a cow, wallow in mud like a pig, torsos are rounded and corpulent like pigs, and face is similar to a cow.

The first dehydrated, heat-exhausted thought that flew by my mind was, how did they set up a date with Miss Piggy and Mr. bull? Please e-mail any suggestions. Also, from a commercial point of view, could we mix in some hippo for some very large Hipocigs -- better return on the invested dollar, I suspect.

From a bike point of view, my motor is getting bigger, and the vehicle is getting smaller. I've lost about 5kgs and my bike load gets smaller as I send stuff back home. When it's real lean I will write a basic essential trip list perhaps. Another 1000-2000kms and I'll look like a Thai farmer.

When I sit for a longer period I'll update from my diary -- lots to share...will attempt to e-mail pix sometime, too.

Love to all, may you live in peace.


Filed 10/24/97

Sawaii dii khap (Hello) and welcome to Amazing Thailand!

Last time we contacted I was in Penang, Malaysia. On Sunday, I climbed Penang hill with a fellow world traveler (Cat) from Montreal. We took (I followed) the much less traveled path to the top and came upon ruins of an old monastery -- it was a great find.

We were quite naive about local wildlife. A crash course on snakes came on the way down when a two-meter, thick-as-my-wrist cobra crossed two strides in front of us; 15 minutes later we saw a one-meter black and yellow ringed snake and was told it was a poisonous water snake. Enough fauna for one day.

Mon. Sept.29/97: Biked to Sadao, Thailand (160km). First great hotel hunt (about 30min). Tues. a.m. biked north to Hat Yai, got on bus (no air conditioning, with a driver perhaps on too much ritalin - they drive pretty fast compared to the speed I'm used to on my bike). Arrived in Chaiya at Suan Mohk, a Buddist Monastary.

Wed. Oct.1/97 Started 10-day silent meditation retreat with about 60 others. Days start at 4 a.m. with gong, followed Dhamma talk and sitting in meditation 4:30-5:30 a.m., yoga until 6:45, sit med. until 8 a.m.

Breakfast: Thai food -- brown rice, 3-5 dishes of curry, spicy, etc. tofu, greens, beans, plus fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple, papaya), and mint tea or sweet tea. Chores (sweeping, cleaning, dishes) follow.

9:45-12:30 sit and walk meditation. Lunch and free time 12:30-2:30. Food - see breakfast.

2:30-5 p.m. sit and walk med. 5-6 p.m. Dhamma talks, followed by tea. Chanting (in Pali language) the teaching of the Buddha from 7-8 p.m. Sit med. 8-9, then to bed.

Repeat 10 days. I will report another day about Dhamma and what I experienced.

Oct. 12. I biked 150km to Chumphon, where I boarded a midnight ferry to Ko Tao (island off the East coast of Thailand) for four days of cooling out, yoga, meditation, snorkeling, and chiropractic. By the last day, I had a mini clinic in the dining area -- a real pleasure to perhaps assist people a bit.

Stayed Friday p.m. in Chumphon, late start on Saturday due to lots of flat tires.

Remember this: for every effect there is a cause. If you are getting the same condition/effect, don't just patch it - it won't work for long as I found out. A local bike shop worker found the cause ( sharp nail about 1 cm long), and corrected the problem by removing the nail and replacing the tube. Simple and easy when you find the cause.

Biked to Thap Sakae 150km -- ( 2nd great hotel hunt: 1 hr+). Sunday biked to Hua Hin (120km) and met fellow Japanese cyclist who has toured for eight months around the world. Monday biked 120km to Ratchaburi. GHH#3, 1hr+. Great food market.

Tuesday biked to Kanchanaburi (100km) home of the bridge over River Kwai.

Stayed at the pleasant Jolly Frog and visited the DEATH war museum, the WWII museum, bridge, cemetery, markets. Recommended.

Camped in park, biked 11km up serious hills to Prathat Cave first thing Wednesday a.m. Great cave with slimy floor (1 inch of bat shit) and serious number of spiders (a gazillion at least). I ignored them and they did likewise. Biked back to Kan. (90km for the day).

Fri. Oct. 24/97. Arrived in Bangkok this am. I am trying to get an extension on my one-month visa. I met up with Cat (met in Penang) and Japanese cyclist within 30 minutes of being here. Quite amazing considering there's 6-8 million people in Bangkok.

That's all until we meet here again. Until then, Do plenty of good,Do little evil, and may you live in Peace.



Copyright © 1997 Dr. Denis Mahoney

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