Crossing borders

So, here we are in Lak Sao, 32km from the Laos/Vietnam border. Better still, we have also found WiFi and in looking to write a new update I thought I may reflect for a moment. Border crossing days always set the mind thinking of what has passed and  what will lay ahead.  While never really needing to worry, a sense of trepedation at the form filling and acceptance required to push ahead there are, nevertheless, always slight fears of being stuck in no mans land. Despite this we have never yet had a problem.

I get excited every time we are set to enter a new country. I enjoy noting the differences in buildings and landscape, tasting different food and saying hello in another language. We are fortunate of course to have this ability to travel. For many people borders may mark a sense of what is not available, both flippantly in terms of say alcohol given a difference in law and maybe much more in terms of lifestyle and opportunity.

Border crossings are often hectic places….a real mix of paperwork and efficiency with the hustle and bustle of money changers, queues of lorries transporting various goods, bus and taxi drivers getting people to their destinations and shopkeepers selling all manner of goods and services. As we crossed from alcohol free Sudan into Ethiopia we were soon grabbing a cold beer and it seems with the numerous brothels also in that particular Ethiopian border town alcohol was not the only prohibition. Leaving Nepal quickly moved from well, relatively calm to the mayhem that is India and as we travelled through from France to Italy the long tough climb changed to the most fabulous downhill hairpin bends instead. I sense tomorrow will be much the same…..mountains do tend to form quite a good natural border!

Water is of course another of those natural boundaries and very sadly, while we’ve been away we have also seen many people die in a desperate bid to leave their own place of birth. Running from war, persecution and poverty the chance for a better life far outweighing the risks that lay ahead. I read stories of tunnels built in a bid to reach supplies, again past borders they are not allowed to cross and, in what is perhaps a reversal of not been allowed to travel far or at all, recently read a blog through facebook telling the story of a man it seemed who had been to too many different places, too many times and was now deemed with suspicion when crossing the USA. He was “returned” to Canadian soil.

For now it seems our only concern is the occasional bribe request and the need to find a pen that works as we trot out passport details, destination information and the inevitable dollars required. As we tour we often note that trips like this act as very valuable reminders of our relative fortune. Access to water and electricity while often the most critical we should also be reminded that travel itself is a huge privilege and despite the occasional moan about form filling we must not forget that many people cannot cross borders quite so easily.

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About bikemind

I have spent the past 16 years working hard and building my way up a career ladder: completing my MBA then getting my first CEO role. After 5 years of that I am now embarking on a dream and a new adventure. I have to date cycled in France, Canada, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Lands End to John O'Groats is my longest trip to date. Now 5 months in I have cycled west coast America, Japan, Nepal and India.

2 thoughts on “Crossing borders

  1. ouch! that’s a long way for the next crossing. Very wise words. I remember often feeling quite guilty that the lovely lovely people I met along the way could not even think of doing what I was doing, and I so wanted to take them with me.. let them out of their prison of a country (if they wanted to of course). Most poignant of course in the West Bank but people can still feel trapped in other countries. It seemed the price of a visa was mostly to blame, IF they could get one of course. Anyways, glad you enjoyed Laos, it was one of my highlights. I think you will find V very different. The south is much more friendly than the north I thought. And very expensive compared to Laos – oh and get your dollars ready – wierd that paying for everything in Vietman in Amercian dollars! There was only one border crossing when I was there, so I had to go all the way back down to either the one you will take or the one below, can’t remember now. Anyways, enjoy my lovely xx

  2. Gotta smile. First border crossing today we were turned away from. Road in Vietnam had collapsed in landslide. Soldiers wouldn’t let us go through. 300km south to next border! Bus please!

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