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Memories of the trip so far: Weeks 8 to 9

I arrived in Bangkok airport and found welcome smiles, laughter and banter amongst the staff there. The women were doing it too - a revelation after male dominated and serious India. Heading west into the city I began stopping to check out the shops and stalls at the roadside - getting a feel for what would be available during a days ride. My first purchase was fresh barbecued meet as I'd been craving it during the long days on Dhal.

My old friends Sally and Marcus called me up as I was cycling along in Bangkok traffic - apparently it's quite bad, but I'd just left India so I thought it was great! - To tell me I was within a mile of their house and invited me over. I was ridiculously happy to accept, weeping as a rode to their house and only just holding it together as they greeted me. I can't express what it means to see a face you know when you've only met strangers for nearly 5000 miles of cycling. They introduced me to their young daughter, put all my clothes in a washing machine and took me to lunch - they not only knew me, they knew what I needed. The lunch buffet was brilliant; many options for food, as much of it as I could eat, a wonderful view from the 24th floor and superb company. Then they took me to a bike shop where I bought fresh innertubes and a repair kit. Finally we returned to their home and chilled out watching a film and using their internet connection. I hadn't cycled far, but I think the day was a very positive one for my moral and for the trip.

Vin in Bangkok with friends Sally, baby Lyla and Marcus behind the camera

In the morning I made my usual 'slightly later than I wanted but still quite early' start targeting the tourist resort of Huahin for the night. Bangkok traffic still seemed nice and I used both main and back streets to weave my way west through the city, riding with scooters and cyclists along narrow streets lined with overflowing stalls and cafes was a great experience. Clearing the city I picked up a tailwind, but as the road turned south the wind turned the opposite way and became a headwind. I made Huahin at sunset and found a hotel, happy with smooth clean and fast roads, well behaved drivers, and friendly people.

I did make a terrible mistake early my ride through Thailand: Unsure what day of the week it was and of how far away Singapore was, I said on the phone that I'd get there by the next Tuesday and got flights booked. Only a day or two later did I work out quite what that meant in terms of miles per day and by then it was over 150 miles average required. Thankfully, if there's anywhere that's possible for an already weary cyclist, this is it, so I pushed hard for long days to make it to the flight and bike service booked for me.

Food was no problem; it was tasty, safe, cheap and available whenever needed. There were ATMs if I needed cash, and unlike India they worked all the time and didn't have 'security guards' to stop me approaching on a bicycle or insist I remove my cycling helmet. There were convenience stores - 7eleven brand - with powerful air-conditioning which could revive an overheating cyclist quickly, and sold Cornetto ice-creams to ride away licking.

The Thai signs were a bit confusing as they have their own script. This was the 4th alphabet I'd seen on my ride - the others being ours, Arabic, and Hindu - so I was use to looking mainly for distances and inferring the rest. When I was on the bigger Thai roads which were practically motorways, they had great service stations. Big brand fast food, coffee, convenience store, ATM, then a food court and stalls with fresh fruit and juices. They were clean, great value, friendly and just where I needed them.

Many purchasing decisions are affected by price and availability - I'm like this with food. For other people it might be shoes, and for many single western males visiting Thailand that's how it is with prostitutes. I got a little bit tired of being offered their services; sometimes while buying water or food mid-ride! This pestering must be because people who look like me often say 'yes please'. It was almost like being in a McDonalds and constantly hearing 'would you like fries with that?', except it wasn't fries on offer.

All too quickly I was closing in on the Malaysian border. It was a day with an early start and a tail wind, so I'd achieved the 150 miles to the border by mid afternoon. I'd had to ride through some rain to do it, and wow it was heavy rain, but I felt ok.

A few meters before the border post, a typical Thai street vendor was barbecuing pork. I stopped to enjoy a last taste knowing I was moments away from a Muslim, therefore pork free country. I'd quickly find on the other side of the border that Malaysia has plenty of pork and other non-Muslim things available from the many non-Muslim communities.

Having crossed the border, I stopped at the first ATM I could find, and met another cyclist, Mick. He was also at the ATM, also having cycled from Bangkok and also having set off from London and come through India on the way. We had a lot in common and rode together 20 more miles to find a hotel for the night, meeting later for dinner too. He was a great bloke and we swapped stories and tips for the journey onward. But in the morning I set off early for another day longer than a sensible man like Mick was keen to try.

The jungle was all around, but I expected the snakes, bugs, and leaches to stay in the jungle and not bother me.... So I was a little surprised when I spotted a leach making a dash for my foot at lunch. I didn't worry though since I was just getting up to leave. 20 miles down the road I found that my shoe was full of blood and my toe had a hole in it where I think the leach had had a try. I saw other wild nasty creatures mainly as road kill; small mammals and amphibians, and larger reptiles which eat them. Monitor lizards are huge things and I was lucky enough to spot a live one swimming in a ditch at the roadside. It was big enough to do harm if it attacked a human, but still actually quite a little one. A large python rotting on the verge created the most incredible stink. Only the Durian fruit, a rotting camel and the nation of India can rival it for stink. The Durian fruit was also available at the roadside; it is a very large bulbous green fruit which tastes very different to its smell. I tried it and it was unusual, almost savoury and very different from most fruit. I didn't like it much and the smell is too much to forgive for any flavour.

Sticking close to the coast rather than heading for the highlands north of Kuala Lumpur, I hoped for sea breezes, beach cafes and speed. I didn't see the sea as often as I had hoped, it being seemingly always 100 meters east of my road, but the road was good and quite quiet. I met a group of local club cyclists out for their Sunday ride and covered 25 miles chatting to them. Then, on my own again, the road swung close to the beach and my dream came true; a restaurant, complete with beach front tables and hammocks slung between trees to sleep off a good lunch.

I didn't rest long anywhere on the way to Singapore. 10 miles into the morning of the final day a guy on a motorcycle assumed I'd ridden through the night and touted his hotel ahead. I must have looked rough, but I put in nearly 170 miles to get to Singapore that night. Friends - practically family really - Peter and Liz met me in Singapore and guided me to the airport on the 'MRT' train so that I didn't break the law and cycle on Singapore's expressways. I had 17 hours to rest, get the bike serviced and sort everything for the next stage of the journey: Indonesia.

Liz took me everywhere I needed to go and bought me anything I needed. She was too generous really and I'll have to find a way to balance this in the future.

We went to Rodabike, a great bike shop, who were ready to service the bike and had been told by my sister that I'd damaged my back wheel in India. They'd got a gift of a new pair of wheels for me! - They and Shimano wanted to make sure I got this record.

Back at Liz and Peter's I sorted through new cycling shorts and clothing from Adidas, creams for the sun and bum, and various bike supplies. I hurriedly used the internet, but there just wasn't time for everything and I had to leave things to get on the plane for Medan, Northern Sumatra Island, Indonesia.