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Disco lights on the jungle highway08.04.2008

Tags: Thailand       Comments: 0

From the land of mosques to the land of temples in one day. The Solar Taxi races through tropical rainforest and heavy rains from Malaysia to Thailand, with garish buses and horn-honking motorbikes for company.
Before we leave Kuala Lumpur we visit a building site and promptly get bogged. Excavators are busy digging up the ground here for our sponsors, solar cell manufacturers Q-Cells, as fast as they can. A new factory with 250 employees is due to start operations here by the end of the year. It can't happen fast enough for the solar industry. Last year global solar cell production increased by over 70 percent and producers can barely keep up with demand.
We want the people at Q-Cells to help us push our machine to its limits on the Formula 1 racetrack at Sepang. We won't burn any oil, just some rubber, and we won't be working on our valves, but on the parameters of our control electronics. The new settings help. It takes us just one day to drive the 422 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur to the island of Penang - a new record.
Warnings about Islamist terrorists slow us down at the Thai border though. More than 3,000 people have been killed here since 2004. We can't see any soldiers and when I finally find a sleepy policeman, he just says, "Thailand, no problem!" Unfortunately we can't really communicate with the people. Cars honk their horns, motorbikes follow us, and we're asked lots of questions, but English is no use to us here, so we just smile at each other.
Brilliant blossoms, chirping grasshoppers
We enjoy the Thai food, but the heat is unbearable. We struggle along the roads through the humid jungle, passing dripping palm forests, wooden huts and colourful markets on our left and big temple complexes, rice paddies and ‘improvised' power cables on our right.
Our constant companions are luridly decorated busses, whose red and green neon-painted motors gleam in the dark, making them look like rolling discos at night. The fun's over though when a gawking driver next to us hits a dog, almost flinging the howling animal under our wheels. Driving in these countries is always tense. You never know what's going to happen next.
We stop in Prachuapkhirikhan to rest for a day and explore the thick jungle. Flowers glow in all the colours of the rainbow, huge grasshoppers chirp, and brightly coloured fishing boats bob on the warm sea. On a temple mountain we run into a horde of hungry monkeys. They follow us, hissing at us, baring their teeth and grabbing our legs. Sorry guys, we haven't got anything to eat. They calm down when we talk to them though, almost as if they understand.



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