120km/9hrs. Flat and frustrating as got lost a lot trying to stay off the highway. Palm and rubber plantations. Bit hilly the second half of day just when one doesn’t want it.
Lot of dead ends but meant I discovered a number of beautiful beaches a secluded resorts.
Day started after 1km with a bloody puncture. Tire came off so could not even push it. Stopped and some men came out from a community party of some sort. They were looking for entertainment rather than the desire to help. Then prodded the inner tube and squeezed the tire and discussed the gears and generally got in the way. After fixing the puncture under the close scrutiny of the audience I was not able to pump up the tire. After a while of watching me dripping in sweat they got bored and wandered off. I then dismantled and greased the pump. Becoming a real mechanic. Then managed cycle to the nearest air pump with a very helpful and friendly woman and a disinterested man who seemed disturbed from his soap opera. A common occurrence. Woman working and man lounging.
Although delayed about an hour due to the puncture I still decided to get off the highway and get lost for another hour trying to find the route. When busy cycling north instead of south met Willy on a motorbike wearing an American Air Force uniform. It wasn’t his uniform but good for riding bikes but strange that the name and rank was still on the uniform. He speculated it was from Afghanistan. Did the owner loose it or are uniforms sold when a soldier dies? Willy had been in Vietnam which he considered as much of a mistake as future American wars. We discussed US foreign policy for a while and then he gave me poor directions and I got lost again. When eventually on the correct road and feeling good after a good lunch and thinking I only had 70km to go I went around a corner and saw a sign saying ‘Champhon 98km’. When on the highway hours earlier had only 85km to go. This was impossible and would have made 150km day so I resolved to cycle until 6pm and then try and find somewhere to change. As often happens my luck then changed. I think it was karma for living such an exemplary life. I found a new road that reduced the distance and then later a sign saying ‘Short cut to Champhon’ so I arrived before dark having cycled 30km less than feared and it didn’t rain.
When studying my town map German Ralf stopped and gave directions. He said, ‘Pity you did not arrive an hour earlier. We could have cycled up a mountain’. I suggested that after 120km I may not have been too enthusiastic.
Hotel Sri Champhon (440B) is conveniently on the road entering Champhon and not bad. Friendly, although the room boy looked a bit shocked when I rode my bike into the hotel and up the corridor but he still waved friendlily.
Met Ralf later for a drink outside his friend’s shop. His friend is seriously sick and has no insurance and thanks to the new 7/11 two doors away little business. He lay on a bed at the back of the shop looking very pale. Ralf had been in Thailand 20 years and speaks fluent Thai. Not the usual expat. He first came to Thailand as a student with his to be wife and they fell in love with it. Their son was born here and speaks without an accent. Ralf is fully integrated with no western contact and lots Thai friends. He makes money from buying and selling old bank notes which used to be a hobby. Lovely to meet someone who does not want to be here just for the women and cheap drink.