Sunday 23 December 2012

Touring Cyclists are Tempting Treat for Thailand's Dogs

Best Christmas Wishes Everybody!

Current Location: Khanom, near Koh Samui, Thailand

Dead snake count: 13

Odometer: 6,482 km

From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 1,253 km

"With the stick I almost feel brave and fearless," Judy the Stoker on dealing with dogs.

At the end of a long driveway a black dog stood watching us. As we drew closer on the tandem, it became clear there was something wrong with the animal. It was unsteady on its feet, and closer still, we could see the drool, the bubbles of spittle running down its jaws. It never took its eyes off us, but as we came within three or four metres it backed away, slinking to the edge of the driveway where it joined the road. Suddenly the dog’s hindquarters gave way and it collapsed, slewed on its side but with its front paws still on the ground. Its look never wavered, its eyes always on us. With an effort, the dog regained its feet and moved towards us, then away, then towards us again as if testing us. It began to collapse again, but this time managed to stay upright. We slipped past and suddenly the road ahead was clear and we accelerated away, Judy still clutching the walking pole we use as a bicycle stand but now doubles as a weapon.
Alright, so it looks harmless enough,
but just wait till it gets 3 or 4 of its
mates along and they launch an all-out

Did the dog have rabies? We don’t know and never will, but plenty of dogs in Thailand do carry the virus despite efforts to reduce the rabies risk.  

The dogs have put the wind up us. In Malaysia and the far south of Thailand -  Muslim areas - the dogs weren’t a problem. Now in Buddhist territory further north, destruction of stray dogs is often opposed on religious grounds and so they roam and keep on breeding.
At times, the dogs seem to be around every corner, and give chase one or two or three and four at a time. On every occasion, we’ve managed to out pedal them, but with two sets of legs on the tandem we feel a bit like a double Mac nicely packaged and just waiting to be eaten.

"Let's go walkies with the bull."
We’re trying to outwit them with psychology – sometimes slowing down as we approach to allow them an opportunity to move away (occasionally they do). Then there’s the more aggressive attitude where a dog stands firm waiting for us. I try to make myself look as big and domineering as possible - sitting up on the bike, pushing my elbows outwards and yelling in my deepest, most threatening manner. I steer straight for the dog. It’s an approach which doesn’t seem to work, but makes us feel better as our hearts race and we bend forward and pedal as hard and as fast as we can.
The best approach seems to be that walking pole/bike stand. Judy’s taken to carrying it in one hand,  usually on the side that has the most dogs. She waves it about and tries to look menacing. I don’t think the sight of Judy with a stick looks very threatening it all, but it’s working better than anything else we’ve tried so far. The trouble is, it’s hard for her to carry the pole long distances as we cycle so we are trying to devise a way of securing it to the bike so it’s instantly available when needed.

The open road and there's not a dog in sight. We've found the
worst problems are on the smaller roads - the ones we cyclists
enjoy. The dogs are less familiar with bikes and enjoy the thrill
of the chase.
Before we left New Zealand, we both had rabies vaccine shots. It means that if the worst happens and we do get bitten, we only need two more jabs and don’t have to be turned into pincushions. But who wants to get bitten – rabies or not. The only touring cyclist we’ve met in S.E. Asia told us he’s been bitten twice, both times here in Thailand.

Both of us have always been anxious around stray dogs, and before we set out on our travels we knew that at some stage we would have to face up to them. Now it’s happening and neither of us like it. For the first time we have had our confidence shaken.

Judy the Stoker says … 

The only way I could go to sleep last night was to be realistic about ‘the problem’.  The situation was either going to remain the same, get worse or improve - the same number of dogs, more dogs and more risk of being eaten or fewer dogs and less risk. Meanwhile, I’m reading a racy novel and watching the sea roll in at a resort hotel where we have retreated in the hope of avoiding becoming dog tucker. We could be anywhere - there are coconut palms and frangipani and a warm breeze.  I can pretend I’m in Samoa or Aitutaki, until tomorrow when we are back on the road.
Lonely Planet's Thailand guide describes Khanom
as a “pristine region". This is the beach beside
the swimming pool at Talkoo Beach Resort
- one of the book's recommendations.


Banana pancake cook (right) in Trang - a nice little town
with a business heart overlain with a few tourist trappings.
This couple (Kee on the left and Aud) have returned home
recently from five years in Sydney. They have a new baby
and have just opened this restaurant. We were among the
first customers.
"I like you," this woman told Judy and insisted they have
their picture taken.


  1. Hi you two,

    I always read your posts on my email, and when I hit reply it doesn't send you anything, so I've finally got to your your blog.

    What a fantastic journey, but it seems a lot faster than I had imagined. I was just settlinig into touring slowly around France and suddenly you were in Germany, then Greece, the Asia and it only seemed to be a coup0le of weeks in each place. Of course, that's always the way when you are travelling, that time extends for the travellers and compresses horribly for those of us who still work, but I think that us home bodies should get together and set up a fund to keep you on the road.

    I'm planning our next trip - two mountain bikes across America - but I don't think Jill will take to the idea, and I'm not sure my bum and legs would appreciate it either, so with summer here at last I'm painting the last details on the boat and we're going to play with the Gulf instead.

    Have a great Christmas

    Steve Y

    1. Hi Steve, Thank you for your encouraging comments. Great to hear from you. As far as th speed of our trip goes, it has in our minds beeen pretty leisurely - especially since we arrived in Asia with long pauses in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi and now Koh Samui in Thailand. We have a 60 day tourist visa here, so plan to time things so we use up as much of the duration as possible.
      We love the sound of mountain bikes across America - work on Jill, it would be a great trip for you guys.In the meantime, enjoy the Gulf, it's one of the things wemiss most about NZ.
      Love and regards to you both. M n J

  2. Entertaining and interesting, as usual. Merry Christmas!

  3. Oops. That was me, with a blog name identifier. We'll drink to your health and freedom from rabid dogs. Marilyn.

    1. Hi Marilyn, Thanks for your kind thoughts - and yes, we'd appreciate any support we can get to protect us from the dogs. (As I write this, there is a particularly smelly, large and unpleasant mutt which has just curled itself up at my feet.)Somehow I am sending it the wrong signals and it thinks I'm its friend. All the best to you both and best wishes for the New Year. Regards M & J


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