I have lived in South Africa pretty much all my life and although there are many great things that the country has to offer, the shit far outweighs the good for me. The main reason I decided to get my ass out of Pretoria was because drivers treat cyclists like they are trash. Every day I rode my bike in South Africa I constantly had to keep an eye over my shoulder just to make sure some redneck wasn’t going to clip me with their mirror, or even worse kill me. The situation has only gotten worse over the years and it won’t change anytime soon. As a result I had to change. I had to leave.
I had been to Thailand for Durianrider’s RawTill4 bike festival in Chiang Mai for 2 trips in 2015 and 2016. The first trip I stayed 12 days and the second trip 30 days. I knew that I had to find a way to live here but I just didn’t know exactly how I would do it yet.
I am grateful for my girlfriend for giving me the push I needed to move out of home and live a life of freedom and adventure, the life that I yearned for. It was at this time that my coaching business also picked up and I was able to sustain my minimalist lifestyle financially in Thailand. All I had to do now was book the plane ticket and go. Goodbye South Africa.
So here’s what I’ve learned after living here in Chiang Mai for 10 months:
Thai people are chilled and friendly
The culture here is so different to what I was used to in South Africa. People treat each other with respect and decency. It may be a 3rd world country but that doesn’t mean quality of life is low. In fact people here love living in general. Wherever you go you are always greeted with a courteous smile. I don’t know exactly why people are this way but I’m not complaining; it is refreshing and even the foreigners from all over the world adopt this attitude. People are your mirrors in most cases. What you give out you get back.
Traffic is hectic in the city but calamity is the norm
The main reason why I came here was for the friendly traffic. You can ride your bike in the middle of the road and people will drive behind you without slamming the horn or aggressively overtaking you with a close pass. Instead they just casually go to the right and cruise past. What I will say is that it is a jungle out here so the only rule is don’t hit someone and don’t get hit. ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION. If you do that you’ll be fine.
Vegan restaurants are everywhere
Fuck I love this food. It is fantastic! Just around the corner from where we stay you can get pizza with vegan pepperoni and cheese. It is said that Chiang Mai has over 140 vegan/vegetarian restaurants and growing. My top 5 places to eat are Home J, Maya Mall Veg Buffet, Imm Aim, Vegan Heaven and Reform Kafé. You can find a nice mix of Thai and Western dishes at these places.
People don’t steal your shit
This is truly incredible. I could leave my bike outside of my apartment when I go to sleep tonight and I will most likely see it again in the morning. Do that in South Africa and it will probably be gone in 60 seconds. I definitely think the world can learn a lot from the culture here. It comes down to mutual respect. That is the culture here.
There is an endless combination of roads to ride
After nearly a year here I still haven’t come close to riding all the roads in and around Chiang Mai. Not only do you have endless combinations of routes but a lot of the roads take you through small villages and breathtaking scenery in the mountains and valleys. If you want to rack up some serious mileage on the bike then this is the place to do it!
These are the top 5 things about Thailand that I value the most as a vegan cyclist. People come to Thailand for all sorts of reasons but these are the most important for me. Will I ever go back? Yeah just to see the family for a month or so but then it’s back to the good life.