Knock on the Dragon's door. Some travelers visit the Dragon in this part of the world. They think the Dragon can bring them closer to Reality. It is a world of monks, opiates and ancient traditions. In the Golden Triangle all can be found. Lying on their side, in a backroom den, clouded gray with smoke, their heads resting on a pillow made of stone, the backpacker can wisp the Dragon, feel the breath of Death, and wish the Devil away, Reality back.
This is no land for the poseur traveler with Camel Trophy knock-off clothing. It is one of the hard places on earth, a place where thousands die at the hand of the government, and use of plentiful deviates from Reality can land the traveler in a dark place with no key. No one is leading organized motorcycle tours of Burma. Most tourists fly over, or around Burma, claiming they wish not to spend their tourist dollars in a country controlled by Generals. In reality, there are scared, and rightfully so.
Buddhist monks eye you, the same with the cops and military guys. Children wave as you ride by. They see your freedom. Try Highway 999, a flip of Route 666, if you can read the Burmese on the faded sign. Stop at a crumbling stupa, meditate for ten minutes, then jump back on the road, hammer some more hills before the authorities catch you, confiscate your motorcycle, and hopefully throw you and your bike out of the country. Here is where Laos, Thailand and Burma meet. The biggest road from north to south is the Mekong River. Not good riding on a motorcycle, but the way people from the north slip to freedom in the south.
On the paved roadways, they drive on the left, in Thailand, the right across the border, in Burma. It can be easy to become confused, like trying to understand the Buddha: right can be left, right can be wrong. Make a mistake and your family can listen to words over your grave, but not in Burma. Here, your bones are smoked, a Burmese BBQ. What is left will be sent home in a small box, if a box is sent. There is no reason for the government to do anything; you should not have been here in the first place.
A gong is a flat bell. The largest gong in the world is in Thailand, just over the border. Lift the hammer, wang the gong. When you leave you can say you have bonged the gong. Bong is not a bong. It is the dull, resonant, sound of a large bell. Some say a bong is a hookah, and "don't drink the water." I saw some bongs at Woodstock, all devoid of the Dragon stuff. No gonging, just bad water. In Burma, the bong is a bamboo pipe. Lay your head on a stone pillow, suck the bong, get donged.
A month ago I was leaning on my posthole digger, holing up and down fence postholes. It was the job of Job, but when repairing fence, holes must be dug. Sweat was dripping in my eyes, my back was tired, and both gloves had holes. Blisters made me stop. It was cold, a dark fall day in the Big Horn Mountains of Montana.
For the last months I had been decompressing. After finishing my ride around the world in May, I had fended off the "end of adventure" depression of going from solo global road warrior to working stiff. To do so I had moved around the United States, often under the auspices of work. My efforts to avoid Prozac included an extended canoe trip, a few days of the Burning Man, some road trips and immersion in spinning words for sale to keep MasterCard from forcing me to take a job in an airless cubicle lit by florescent.
Now I was faced with a gray Montana winter. Twelve months earlier I had been dodging errant TATA trucks and buses on the roads of India, trying to avoid becoming Hindu road kill. In the coming months my toughest challenges would be to not slip a disc while shoveling snow or becoming too friendly with Yukon Jack.
Above me were geese. I could hear them as they flew south, goose yakking back and forth. Geese mate for life, until one dies. As I looked up, I saw a solo goose, flying apart from the rest of the V formation. Male or female, I could not tell, but I felt it was honking at me, saying "Fly to a warm spot on the globe when flakes of snow start to float." The solo goose and I were at one for a few moments.
The medical guys broke my bones some days ago. It was an old break from years ago that needed to be re-broken because I had not let it heal correctly. As I went under, I smiled, knowing they could bong my bones, dong my stones, but days later I would be wanging a gong. I had taken the advice of that single goose, booked a flight, and was headed for Burma to recover. There I would rest and regenerate, listening to gongs being bonged and donged.
I would pass on visiting the Dragon. I had knocked on the Dragon's door before, and found it home. I heard no chime, just the clanging of a heavy metal door after I was admitted to the black hole that is the Reality of the dark side. Instead, I would recover lying in fields of red flowers, under a warm sun and sleep at night on top of sheets with an open window.
The solo goose in Big Horn Mountain airspace, as it flapped south, had honked from the distance, "You will fly again, without being donged by a bong in the gong."
Gregory, on the road again
July 27, 2000, Going Out Again - 'Round The World
October 4, 2000, Why Another Long Ride, The Plan, and Mr. Fish
October 10, 2000, the beginning, in America on an Indian
November 6, 2000, AMAZONAS-Tamed By Beasts in Brazil
November 22, 2000, Monster Cow, Wolpertinger and Autobahn Crawling Across Europe
December 22, 2000, Enfield 500 Bullet, India Motorcycle Dementia, Ozoned Harley-Davidsons and Gold Wings
December 25, 2000, Yeti on a Harley-Davidson, Nepal By Enfield, No Carnet Sexpedition
January 1, 2001, Haunting Yeti
January 25, 2001, Monkey Soccer, Asian Feet, Air 'em Up: Bhutan and Sikkim
February 12, 2001, Midgets, Carnetless, Steve McQueen on Enfield, Bangladesh
February 20, 2001, Higgledypiggledy, Salacity, and Zymurgy - India
March 20, 2001, Road warriors, sand, oil leaks - meditating out of India
April 8, 2001, Bike Cops, Elephants, and Same-Same - Thailand
May 1, 2001, Little Bikes, Millions of Bikes, Island Riding - Taiwan
May 15, 2001, Harley-Davidson, Mother Road and Super Slabs - America
June 8 , 2001, Crossing The Crazy Woman With A Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Amazonas, Enfield, Hartford, SYM, Honda
January 1, 2002, Donged, Bonged, and Gonged - Burma
January 20, 2002, Secrets of The Golden Triangle - Thailand
March 31, 2002, Bear Wakes, Aims Green Machine Around The World
April 10, 2002, Moto Cuba - Crashes, Customs and El Jefe (Fidel)
May 20, 2002, Europe and The Roads South to Africa
June 10, 2002, Morocco Motorcycling, Thieves and Good Roads
July 30, 2002, Russia – Hard and Soft, By Motorcycle
August 30, 2002, USA – American Roadkill, Shipping Bikes and BIG DOGS
September 30, 2002, Good Times Roll Home, Riding With Clothes On, Team Green - USA
November, 2002, Mexico By Motorcycle - Gringos, Little Norman Bad Cock, and Bandits
March 2003, Laos by motorcycle - Guerrillas, Mekong Beering, and Plain of Coffins
July, 2003, Alaska by motorcycle – Deadhorse, Fish Story and Alaskan Bush
January 2004, Angkor, Bombed Out Roads and Dog Eaters - Cambodia
April, 2004, Minsking, Uncle Ho and Snake Wine
August 2004, Around The World Again, 1st Tag Deadhorse
February 2005, Colombia To The End Of The Earth - South America
January 2006, My Marriage, Long Strange Ride, Montana Nights
May 2006, Cherry Girls, Rebels, Crash and Volcano - Philippines
September 2006, Break Bike Mountain Ride – United States
March 2007, Kawasaki Cult Bike “No Stranger To Danger Expedition” - Thailand and Cambodia
November 2007, Lone Wolf Wanders: Bears, Moose, Buffalo, Fish
April 2009, Global Adventure Roaming: Burma through the USA to headhunters on Borneo
February 2010, Adventure Motorcycle Travel: Expedition to Alaska, then Java
Copyright © Dr. Gregory W. Frazier. 1999- All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author,
and not necessarily Horizons Unlimited