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Ben Oostdam's letter of May 23, 1955
from Bangkok to his fiancee and parents in Holland
(translated from Dutch), page 7


Happily we meet, so now and then, a few men with who we can verify that our course is correct. Sometimes while riding across a homestead, where people are busy making plows which here are beautifully curved. What a wonderful life!

And then we suddenly have to stop for a life elephant who is just walking around there helping pull. To make certain, we first ask if he is scared, but no, there he advances courageously and it is we who get scared. No, not for ourselves, but for the scooter which suddenly appears very puny next to this giant other means of transportation. High above us sits a small boy on the neck of this "Chang of the Siamese Jungle", not unlike a fly on one's neck. He keeps up a steady stream of commands, and in response Chang waves his trunk.

In order to make this mighty creature stop, the boy uses a large meathook which he touches to the animals forehead. This personification of gentleness allows that and poses for a photograph together with the scooter and Mom. Then he rushes on, really at high speed. We also continue, across a creek where you'd go panning for gold if you had the time.
And then follows the type of terrain where I really feel like Brown the Bear. I do not know exactly why, but it is unreal. We only return to reality when we fall on our noses in the mud. The Vespa roars angrily for a moment, but with much persuasion we manage to pull it out of this mud-bath, which in this case certainly is not a beauty bath. By now all three of us look scrumptuous. I have tucked my pantpockets into my boots, put on my fighting cap, camera around my neck and a bandaid on my ear. That was because we tried to go around the mud by struggling through thornbushes for a quarter of an hour before hitting the trail again, ending up not beyond the mud but right back into it! Anyhow, skidding beats bleeding...
We pass some fields where women in blue jackets and with high "hats on sticks" -as I call them - are picking cotton. These are shaped as follows: (see original letter which uses typed letters) The centerpart consists of a woven straw "wall" which fits around the head. When the engine runs too hot, we stop, and I leave Mom as a guard. I myself walk into the forest with my bamboo staff and find the village of Bandon after about a quarter of an hour. (Back)


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