Day 75 Songkhla to Pattani. No bombs.

105km/5hrs, 408 road leading to the 43.
A day in Songkhla would have been nice to see the museum and sit around drinking coffee and reading the sunday papers but by the time I hit the border I will be a day over my visa even now.
The girl working in the hotel told me she is from Chiang Mai and came here to find work. 1,800km.
She didn’t know how to get out of town towards Pattani so after waiting for the rain to ease I went to the tourist services which was a mistake. I think the woman was a little deranged. Our conversation went like this:
‘Can you tell me how to get to the 408 road to Pattani please. Is it to the right, left or straight at the end of this road? ‘
‘Mini bus to Hat Yai leave….’
(I had a bike helmet and gloves on and a bike behind me. )
No, I do not want to go to Hat Yai. I want to go to Pattani. Is it right, left, straight on at the end of this road?’
‘Pattani no good. Bang bang!’ (with fingers together as a gun)
‘Thanks but which way do I go at the end of this road?’
She got out a map and after me pointing a few times found the 408 and traiced it south until she came to the end of the map which was only of Songkhla. I pointed this out so she would stop looking for Pattani.
‘There is 408’ she said with satisfaction.
‘thanks but where do I go at the end of the bloody street?’
‘Over there’ she said waving her hand covering all three directions.
I thanked her still talking and guessed the direction correctly.
A bit strange seeing women in jilbabs and covered up again to help men resist immoral thoughts after the freedom of the Thais in shorts and short skirts.
Check points maned by young solders who grinned at me as I passed. Military also passing on motorbikes. Sighs saying end the violance and bombing. In Pattani I felt no threat but some military in the shadows and an armed police presence.
I stopped at a muslim beach shop and was charged double for water which of course means they are all dishonest.
Pattani is not an unpleaent place. Fishing boats moored in the river with washing and fishermen hanging all over them. I am probably the only western person in town but people only stare politely after I pass and I can hear the word ‘falang’ as I am pointed out to others.
Paradise GH is not but ok for a night at 400B. Can be hard to find. Go to the city pillar and cross the river. Immediately turn left and it is 10m on the right behind Sea Fresh shop. No english sign and set back from the road.
There is a night market with mostly food five minutes walk away and nice restaurant to the right when you cross the bridge which has changing coloured lights at night which is pleasant in a tacky way.
I tried speaking Indonesian but found people I talked to did not understand. There language is Yawi. Yawi language predominantly used in verbal and written language (Yawi has roots from the spoken Malay language and uses consonants and alphabets of the Arabic language one can see on the signs)
Managed to fix my bike lock clogged with mud and my right hand is loosing more sensation.

dark clouds seen from my GH in Songkhla

dark clouds seen from my GH in Songkhla

museum from holland House room balcony

museum from holland House room balcony

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mosque, chinese temple and wat

mosque, chinese temple and wat

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Bridge with colourful lights seen from a riverside restaurant

Bridge with colourful lights seen from a riverside restaurant

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Day 55 Sukhothai to Kamphaeng Phet

80km/4 hours. flat busy road. Less busy and more pleasant in 2nd half of journey.

One can see the historical park from the road around it and it costs 100B t enter. That’s two meals, five ice creams and one and half beers. Historical parks are great but one needs some perspective.

Seems to be a lot of fighting in south of Thailand. Only targeting security forces but may get a train to miss it out to avoid the wrong place at wrong time scenario. Activists complying of security forces rapping Muslim women. The other news is Thailand is bracing itself for potential floods such as in 2011.

Nice town with some action in the form of night market, coffee shops and live music bars.

A couple of days ahead of over 120km a day.

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No idea what this is. Buddha’s mother?

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Shiva and Ganesh statues with Buddhas

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Kampheng Phet historical park UNESCO.

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city moat

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city pillar. cars beep when they past it to show respect

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city pillar housed in this

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ancient clock tower from twelve century

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Chinese don’t hold back

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intrepid cyclist with ping river in background

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my accommodation. another wooden hut

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Day 52 Thoren to Sisawankhalok

95km (cycled around Sisawankhok to get it to 100) in 5.5hrs. 1048 road all the way. Left out of hotel and first left. One 30 min hill but after that undulating and no problem. last 25km flat and bit boring. Plenty places for food and water except about 20 km around hill area. There is a resort at about 53 and 55km from Thoren.

Shinny wooden houses and lots of butterflies. Some killed by careless motorists.

Sisawankhalok is ok but not the charming town Lonely Planet talks about. Also no need to go far out of town to find the Chinese restaurant they recommend. LP used to be written by travelers but now it is by journalists used to a different standard and have gathered some information without visiting the place. The Saengin Hotel (360B) is fine but not on the main road as LP states.

When one is very thirsty and hungry and after managing to order and is about to stuff it down a nudge on the leg and, ‘Hello friend where you from’ is not always welcome. One is apt to forget normal decorum but I politely conversed with him through mouths of chicken and rice. Glad I did as his interaction with other customers made it clear that he was a simple friendly man unaware of some of societies customs.

On the way a stopped in front of me and a woman got out of the passenger side and waved me down. In many countries I would have immediately been on alert and passed but as it was Thailand I stopped. she asked me if i was ok because she had seen me holding my side up in the mountain. I assured her I was find and we parted with smiles and thanks. This puzzled me and only later did I realize it was probably when I was wondering why I had not lost that ring of fat from my guts.

Not a lot of nightlife in town but my hotel does have a coffee shop until midnight where there is karaoke which requires a beer or two to deaden the pain. But today is Vesak:
‘This festival celebrates the Birthday of Buddha. In one day, the Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. This festival takes place on the first full moon of May.’ Quite neat really but means in respect the hotel coffee shop does not sell alcohol.  Luckily the reception five metres away is happy to sell as much as one wants and the singing reaches my room.

jungle again

jungle again

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If only car drivers know what they did

If only car drivers know what they did

empty road

empty road

worth rushing to get to

worth rushing to get to

a cyclists favorite

a cyclists favorite

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a special rock with an interesting story about how it got there. Think I've seen it before

a special rock with an interesting story about how it got there. Think I’ve seen it before

another rock with a story. Usually it is said to look like an animal it has no resemblance to.

another rock with a story. Usually it is said to look like an animal it has no resemblance to.

Sawankhakok railway station

Sawankhakok railway station

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they really trust their customers

Feel a bit achy so a fairly short day tomorrow and around Sukhotai historical park should be good.

Day 50 Chiang Mai to Li (139km)

Different routes are possible. 108 and then turning right and going via Lampun and taking the 1156 is the best along the river but I went further and took the 1080 from 108nto 106. Was ok as neither road was busy after 10km past CM. Flat until Ban Hong when undulating. Good surface all way. Some accommodation in Ban Hong. I decided to go on to Li on 106. In Li two places to stay I identified. One on left as you enter town and second on right more in middle of town where I stayed for 350B including breakfast but I do not have high expectations.

So the intrepid cyclist got up and dawn and was on the road at 6am making good time. Well not quite. A leisurely breakfast and a mug of coffee finishing off yesterdays papers brought some internal discussion about returning to bed. But us cyclists are made of sterner stuff. I had a bit of a disagreement with a the guest house owners Chihuahua. The staff found it amusing when it jumped around snapping at my feet saying,’Oh it’s playing with you’. I had visions of the embarrassment of explaining that I needed rabies injections after being bitten by a Chihuahua. I let it follow me out of site behind the counter and gave it a little kick. Well more of a tap or a nudge really. It hardly left the ground. It ran to hits owner and licked his ankles. I smiled and  sighed with the others at this as the dog looked up at me with apprehension. 

Road was unexciting. Just a long slog in the heat.

Li is a nice small town with two places to stay as far as I could see and the Bamboo Restaurant and Bar with good live music nearly opposite the second place. Also has a market and coffee house. There was a little confusion at the market when I tried to explain that I wanted to eat there rather than take the food away in plastic bags like everyone else there. The message got out that a falang was in town so Sugar came to practice her English after just graduating with a degree in tourism. Very sweet kid of 23 with lots of plans and optimism about making Li a tourism capital.

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keen to be on the road again

keen to be on the road again

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intrepid cyclist feeling a bit knackered

intrepid cyclist feeling a bit knackered

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Even live music opposite my accommodation

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my accommodation to help those trying to find it

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Day 49 would you believe still in Chiang Mai

The Chiang Mai vegetarian restaurant I go to daily has some of the usual backpacker notices. For those not visiting isolated tribes and learning how to survive in specially made bamboo houses can find and heal themselves. Not sure which is best first the healing or the finding. I would prefer to find myself already healed. You can find, ‘inner peace, wisdom and love’. My wisdom tells me not to waste my money. ‘Living an in-spirit life. a journey into your heart’. And pocket. Of course lots of meditation, yoga and belly dancing classes as well as Reiki. A Swiss girl used Reiki well I fell over on a mountain in south America. She summoned the power of the universe through her body and into her hands that passed it on to me. She was just a tool. Made me feel a lot better. Hadn’t laughed so much for a long time and completely forgot the pain. One can also take courses in palm reading by an expert so you can identify someones problems before giving them a healing course. Plenty of healers around. You can be healed from just about any physical, mental or psychological problem you did not know you had.

Also a great talking point with other backpackers looking for enlightenment and healing.

Cycled out to Wat U Mong (the forest Wat) with Graham and Vic.

hope to leave tomorrow:)

In new colour coordinated outfits. Guess the nationality.

In new colour coordinated outfits. Guess the nationality.

Change your life courses that finance someone elses

Change your life courses that finance someone elses

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Oliver the French/Swiss who once met Masood in Afghanistan. Still wears the hat

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Oliver’s daughter

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Wat U Mong

Wat U Mong

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monks residence in forest setting, wat U Mong

monks residence in forest setting, wat U Mong

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Vic and Graeham buying more fruit shakes

 

Day 45 – 47 Chiang Mai

Been making plans. Though of staying in CM and taking a language course but decided to cycle through Thailand to Malaysia. Bought a bike computer for 450B. If I had known how cheap they are I would have got one two months ago especially as it has a clock.
Found a nice bar called Sudsanan with bad service but fine until the band started playing ‘Country Road’ when I had to leave. Perhaps it was a technique near closing time.
Met some interesting people such as Sombat who was brought up in Switzerland, Farid, a Kuwaiti American computer programmer who now travels and buys and sells things like furniture. I tried to sell Indonesian wooden puppets in the UK which was not a great success. People wanted to know it it was a man why was he wearing a dress. I asked a young backpacker what to do in Chiang Mai. They reeled off a list of tours they had been on such as Tiger Kingdom where one can touch a tiger, visit to primitive tribe and another tour to see the long necked women. Apparently the latter was not so good as the women were not displayed very well. I mentioned that the tigers are drugged and that women were brought up with rings of metal around their necks as it brought in tourist money. She was unconcerned. Voyeurism without empathy. Another problem a backpacker identified is that some people don’t speak English. ‘ I say, ‘Av you got warer’ but they understand nofing’. After she repeated it a few times for emphasis I released that she had been asking for water. A man from Yorkshire found even less people understood English or that is what I think he said. Kevin was a nice change. He is a journalist working on Myanmar.
Saturday market has good food and lots of craft work. A bamboo toilet roll holder was particularly hard to resist but I had already given all my money to the poor dogs home.
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Before they started singing ‘Country Road’

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Think it’s a Buddhist thing

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Missionaries trying to convert someone

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Zoe in Yellow. Group of bars open late and popular with backpackers. Interesting to watch

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Street I am staying in

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Traffic around the moat is a nightmare

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A cause close to my heart

Day 44 Chiang Mai

Very little sleep due to the prats in room above me having a party until 5am. Thus moved to Kavil GH (350B). A less caring person might have considered knocking loudly on the ceiling, to wake my friends upstairs, before leaving.

Oliver who met Masood in Afghanistan in the 1980s. I saw a man with a Chitral (northern Pakistan) hat and commented on it. He said he got it in the 1980s in Afghanistan when he went to the Pancheer Valley to deliver money from a Swiss NGO to Masood to help fight the Russians. He had met and talked to Masood. The Northern Alliance in  Afghanistan were fighting the Russians. Masood was a famous commander of the alliance groups for the Pancheer Valley area and was known as the Lion of the Pancheer. He is a national hero in Afghanistan with his image on large concrete display structures at major traffic junctions in Kabul. Just before 9/11 Al Qaeda sent two suicide bombers posing as TV journalists with explosives in their camera to blow him up. They knew he would come after them otherwise. Oliver was with his two young daughters who live with their mother in Ubud Bali most of the time.

the guest house I left

the guest house I left

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if you believe in reincarnation and that you will be back soon why spend so much on a coffin?

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just bumped into this in the middle of CM. No idea what the story is. Empty but still with a table and couple of chairs as if the occupants had been sitting around having a conversation before abandoning the place.

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good veg cafe near where I am now staying. I vegged there a few hours today

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Kovil GH room. Some things tend to fall off in your hand such as wardrobe door but good at the price

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fantastic buildings like this empty. Must be a story

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this is the only habituated place amongst the grand buildings

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