3RR Superlatives

When I flip back through my pictures from the last year, I can hardly believe how many places I’ve been, how many things I’ve seen, and how many memories I’ve created. Nearly every single photo brings back a flood of them – show me a shot of the campsite and I’ll remember the tiny little shop we stopped at just beforehand, where I tried my first fermented egg; show me a picture of the clouds from that day and I’ll remember when Mingyu and I took a break to sit atop a small stone wall and watch the river below. It seems like no matter what the moment is, I want to be back there again. The capacity of the mind to store all this stuff away, and to bring it back in response to the smallest of prompts, never ceases to amaze me.

What follows is not a list of specific memories, but rather of general impressions that each country has left with me. I can’t call any of them my favorite without feeling like I’ve slighted all the others, but I still want to document the different varities of awesomeness that each country bestowed on me.

China

It’s hard for me to be objective about China since my Chinese level (mostly thanks to my Korean level) made it easy for me to interact with people. However, even taking that into consideration, I think China deserves the following awards:

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Best Overall Food Award: Hands down – winner in terms of ease of ordering (Walk into a restaurant, point at something in the fridge, and wait for the result. No menus or speaking necessary.), variety (all sorts of veggies, shrooms, nuts, noodles, soups, spicy things, sour things, snacks), street food (fried rice, tofu soup, cookies, cakes, dumplings sweet and savory, roast sweet potatoes). And lots of surprises, like corn fritters and PERILLA dumplings.

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Highest Percentage of College Girls Interested in Cyclists Award: aka Opportunities Squandered Award

Way Richer Than You Expected Award: Cities in the middle of nowhere that you’ve never heard of but which would be megalopolises by Western standards.

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People Everywhere Seem Friendly, but People Here Do Honestly Seem Friendliest Award: Chinese were by far the most likely to buy me a beer or drag me down some back alley and then cook for me.

Noisiest Drivers Award: Their honking gave me anger issues for a solid six months.

Most Rubble Award: I recently heard that China uses half of the world’s concrete.

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Majesty Award: Big mountains, big vistas.

Spent Six Months There and Didn’t See But a Tenth of It Award: Tibet, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Hunan, Hainan…all provinces that I missed. (See Where is 3RR? Page.)

Biggest (anything) Award: Area. Population. Places to go. Buildings. Cities. Mountains. Pumpkins.

Unanimous (4/4) Cyclists’ Choice Award: Within ten minutes of meeting Yongjae, another Korean cyclist, in Bangkok, we were already reminiscing about China. Same with Seungchan. Mingyu agrees too – everywhere is awesome, but China is king.

Laos

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Purity of Heart Award: Oftentimes I could hear the sounds of children giggling and playing several minutes before their village actually came into sight. I’ve never seen so many kids so happy in my life.

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Saddest History Award (at the very least, American Guilt Award): This is a tough one – China’s recent history is also quite gruesome, but I don’t think the USA is so directly to blame for much of it. Vietnam is also a contender, but at least America had a reason (or an excuse) for the conflict there. Laos, though, was just an innocent bystander – and is still suffering daily from the hundreds (of thousands?) of unexploded ordnance dropped on them simply because Thailand wouldn’t let us land at their bases with planes full of bombs.

Kids Most Excited to See Foreigners Award: 99% of the time, 99% of the kids in the villages would shout SABAIDEE! Often they’d run alongside me and try to get a high-five as I passed by.

English On Every Shop Sign Award: Takes a bit of the romance out of traveling, but it does make it easy to find a place to eat or sleep. Or buy “sundries.”

Taiwan

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Just Plain Great Award: Taiwan has the intangibles. Traffic’s better than on the mainland. There are bike paths. The island is tiny but full of national parks. The food is awesome. Organic is everywhere. Local is everywhere. It’s developed, with nice subways and roads, but doesn’t feel too caught up in the madness of modern capitalism. Oh, and it’s a subtropical island.

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Everyone’s So Cool Award: People running cute cafes, playing with DIY toys. Firemen let you sleep in the guest room in their station.

Most Buffets Award: Home of the “Zi Zhu Can / Self-Help Meal” One to three dollars for all you can eat.

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Most Vegetarian Restaurants Award: Even tiny countryside towns have one of these, always marked with the same character (next to last).

Thailand

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Best Clouds Award: Flat land, big sky, killer cumulonimbi.

Easiest Riding Award: Average per day in Laos: 66km/day. In Thailand: 120.

Cheapest Fruit Award: Most tropical fruit cost one dollar per kg ($0.50/lb.). Mangoes on the verge of rotting (but still good for eating, and especially for smoothies) cost half that much. Coconuts can be as cheap as three for a dollar.

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Most Hospitable Monks Award: The never fail to let me crash in their temples, and often laden me down with drinks and snacks.

Most Hypocritical (Or Maybe Disappointing, Not That I’m Judging) Monks Award: But also, they eat meat, eat ramen, smoke cigarettes, watch tv, play on smart phones, and drink bottled water despite having purifiers on hand.

Most Backpackers, Flashpackers, and Hippies Award: Khaosan Road.

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Most Organic Farms Award: Checking the helpexchange site to figure out where to visit and volunteer, there were at least fifty places to check out. There were fewer than ten in all of China.

Why Can’t Life Always Be This Easy? Award: Easy to find places to sleep. Easy to find places to eat. Sometimes they even find me – several times, I’ve been sitting on the side of the road when someone walks up, gives me a bag of fish and rice or a bunch of bananas, smiles, and walks away.

Multiplicity of Spots to Camp Award: Tons of temples, tons of gazebos, tons of parks, tons of gas stations, tons of space.

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Best Drinking Water-Related Infrastructure Award: In big and small towns alike, lots of shops and houses have big water purifying machines outfront. 1 Baht ($0.03) will get you 1.5L

Vietnam

Almost Forgot I’d Been There Award: Said without malice, but unfortunately, it’s true. Perhaps it was because I dumped the bike for almost three weeks in order to visit and travel with old friends, but I didn’t remember that I’d been to Vietnam until…just now.

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Guilt-free Beer Award: Beer on tap all over Hanoi, all day long. Not just in bars! $0.50 per glass, sometimes even cheaper.

Ridiculous Currency Award: $1USD = 20,000 Vietnamese Dong. My cross-country train ticket cost 1,600,000.

Hardest to Find Anything to Eat Other Than Rice Noodle Soup Award: I often wound up eating Pho twice a day. On a good day, I’d only eat it once.

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Most Beautiful Rice Terraces Award: I’m aware that I missed the terraces in Yuanyang, China, so this award is kind of provisional. Nonetheless, they were breathtaking.

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Best Single Vegetarian Meal Award:Some restaurant with a yellow sign in Dalat.

The flood of memories and chains of free-association are endless, so I’m going to cut this nostalgia-fest off. Right. Now.

It’s been an incredible, unpredicatble, unforeseeable year.

When I was in elementary school, my asthma was sometimes so bad that I couldn’t even sprint across an indoor basketball court.

I’d start wheezing halfway through then have to go sit down on the bleachers.

Who would’ve thought I’d grow up to cycle across a continent…

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…or two?

…or six?

Thanks for following me. Stay tuned!

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2 Responses to 3RR Superlatives

  1. wimdog says:

    Thanks for keeping us updated on your journey!