Day 74 Ranot to Songkla. Puncture & friendly locals.

74km/6hrs. Bloody punctures and also rain held me up.

Nice people in GH lent me a pump to pump up my front tire to full capacity. I left feeling the bike was going at optimum speed until after 2km I had a bloody puncture. So much for getting to Songkla early and having a look around in day light. I stopped outside a cafe which had some shade and started repairs. Two old men came in and found it interesting so offered advice and wanted to prod and poke things. I think my body language stopped that. The restaurant owner brought me ice water and a smile which cooled me off. I fixed it and then fixed it again and then when putting pressure in the tire it blew a hole through the patch I had put on. I then used my spare, also patched, inner tube. that took over an hour and left me with no spare inner tube and as it is 27 inch wheel difficulty in finding one. A couple of km up the road I stopped at a workshop to get air put into the tire as a hand pump can not put enough in. I was greeted by the owner, his wife and two girls. They just felt like a nice family. One girl was very excited and practiced her English while the father inflated the tire to maximum and refused payment. Few foreigners pass this way and while I was just getting my tire inflated it was a big thing for them. nice experience for me also.

Knowing I was going to be late in Songkla I cycled the next 50km without stopping except once to see if a bike shop had an inner tube for my bike. It didn’t.
I saw lots of posters of a politician superimposed on photos representing presumably what he was going to do. Cable car seemed a bit over the top as it is extremely flat here.

A wat with a huge statue of an old monk which people pray to. In the west we have old people and the cost of homes while here they are monks.

I tent to forget that while normal for me to suddenly cycle into a restaurant is quite normal but for many people in this area they probably have not met a falang and having one appear on a bike is probably a bit of a shock. I mention this because I saw the shock on the woman’s face when I stopped for lunch. I told her that her pork noodles were very delicious and she grinned. The coffee that followed had three tables spoons of sugar and condensed milk with a hint of burnt coffee.

I had 26 km to go and then followed signs for a ferry that  for 3B took me directly to Songkka just in time for the daily downpour. My pannier covers are cleverly designed to collect water from falling rain or from puddles…

Tip: put a spare set of clothes in plastic bags (duty free ones are good), twist them closed, fold them over and tie them.

Songkla has a tourist help centre not far from the museum which gives maps and advice on accommodation. Holland House (350B) seemed the best deal. Three other hotels in same street. Night market has good food and better than most for food. First impressions are a nice town. A string of bars 5 in walk from the hotel with lots of oil workers. Usual Scottish and Texas accents. Some of the bars and restaurants and bars are not dominated by. ‘Hello you handsome’..Beach area looked good when cycled in even in the rain.

one presumes a politician. As Thailand is flat except for the north I am not sure about the cable car

one presumes a politician. As Thailand is flat except for the north I am not sure about the cable car

the lonely road ahead

the lonely road ahead

found a ferry that cut 25km off the day

found a ferry that cut 25km off the day

on ferry

on ferry

clever pannier covers that collect water

clever pannier covers that collect water

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museum

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painting

band in night market

band in night market

in centre not far from museum and helpful. maps

in centre not far from museum and helpful. maps

a previous presidents home

a previous presidents home

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the hotel behind it must have been a nuisance

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Day 58 Wat Sing to sing Buri

Day 58 Wat Sing to sing Buri
79km/6.5hrs (lot of time lost due to rain and punctures)
3183 road all the way. Flat, not too busy, hard shoulder and not too interesting. The centre of Thailand is the rice basket of the country. Paddy fields and now the rain has started water pumps along the canals and rivers irrigating fields.
Woke to another puncture. A veranda overlooking a lotus pond and sink with a plug was not a bad place to repair it though.
Saw a resort at 18 and another at 20km that both looked ok.
No rain for two days so was expecting a storm and not disappointed. The temperature dropped and the wind started. I ducked into a nursery (plants not children) with a cafe as the rain started. A SUV drew up and a monk with a helper and a driver came into the cafe. The helper handed the monk a piece of saffron cloth to sit on and served him while the driver sat at a different table. Buddhism is about giving up material things and being humble and serving. After 40 min of only light rain i decided to move on knowing what would happen. Within 300 metres it opened up and poured in bucket loads. I found a bus shelter and sat there for an hour until the storm had passed and it was only English rain. First time on the trip I used my old gortex jacket bought for $5 second hand in Malaysia in 2008. It socked up the water.
The rain stopped and with only 3 km to go I looked forward to a shower food and a cold beer. Then I had another puncture. This was the third in two days while previously I had one in two months. The guest house owner in Kampeng Phet gave me a lucky charm which may have been a clever revenge for me barganing down the price of the room. It will have to go. While pumping up the tire hoping it would get me to Sing Buri a local came over. My pumping the tire furiously and cursing was probably more interesting than sitting and staring into space all day. He told me the tire was flat, poked it and generally got in the way. However, he did point me in the direction of a puncture repair place. I walked a few hundred metres down a small lane and just as I was going to give up I found a wooden house with a tire on the gate post. A nice old man in Thai fishermen trousers looked a bit apprehensive but we were soon laughing and joking offering to swap his bike for mine. A great job for 20B and a pleasant experience from an unpleasant one. He looked ok in his Thai fisherman trousers which backpackers also favour in the effort to go native. They just look silly especially as the trousers are usually brightly coloured and of material such as satin.
I left the old puncture repair man in better spirits were further lifted when cycling around Sing Buri to get orientated I found a cafe selling papaya salad grilled chicken and sticky rice. The sun started to shine.
Sing Buri is a nothing special but I liked it. There are a number of hotels around the centre which is convenient. I chose the worst but still had bed, AC and shower that all sort of worked. I also spotted a tap and hose at the back of the hotel so washed the bike. The hotel guard/helper suggested I might want a women come to my room for a massage, saw my look and left smiling weakly.
Sung Sing Bar had live music and friendly staff. Don’t think they get many falangs. The singer welcomed me in English.

woke up to a flat tire but nice place to fix it

woke up to a flat tire but nice place to fix it

second puncture fixed by a very nice profesional

second puncture fixed by a very nice profesional

puncture fixer's wife

puncture fixer’s wife

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the lucky charm that brought storms and punctures

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my hotel in Sing Buri. not the best

 

Day 15 Ban Phaeug to Bueng Kan

84km  4.5 hrs. first 45km in 2hrs. 212 all the way. storm later

So much for early starts. Left 10.30 without breakfast but just up the road was a nice lady with BBQ chicken, sticky rice and a great chilli source. Her husband in hospital with 3 to 6 months to live with cancer. She has two children. ‘ Life is just money. Only work money for food’ she said. I guess that can be said for most people in the world and most it is just to live not for luxury items. We do not seem to generally to have advanced much.

Few resorts on the way as usual. Most not on google maps. I nearly stopped at one when could see storm coming but it was too pink.

I could see the dark clouds ahead. Then the temperature dropped and wind picked up. Only 9km to go so speeded up to get there before the storm hit. I failed. The storm was coming at me. Two km from destination I could see it ahead and dived into a food stall just in time to the surprise of the owner. As usual the main part of the storm hit with very heavy rain followed by lighter rain as it passed over. I sat in silence with the owner waiting for it to finish. Twenty minutes and all over. One can not cycle in the middle of the storm. It is like a 100 fools throwing water in ones face shouting, ‘Happy!’.

Just before the turning right into town is a Tesco Lotus store. Biggest store since BKK. I needed new gloves and sun block. This time bought gardening gloves for 55B as they cover the wrist and also bought factor 110 sun block for 495B. Expensive and it hurt but the factor 50 is not strong enough and it is cheaper than skin cancer. I convinced myself.

Tip:

  • put hydration powder in all your water
  • do not buy cherry hydration powder. Its horrible.
  • use a nappy pin to fix a pannier. (I wondered why I had been carrying it for years).

Seem to be more westerners or to be mores specific more old western men drinking sitting around. I asked then about hotels and was interrogated by a blotchy faced man from Birmingham about where I was from. Maenam Hotel costs 450B for a room with a great view of the Mekong on 400B for a room with a view of a wall. Nice Chinese restaurant next door.

Steve, from an ice cream selling family in Coventry, found me enthusiastically. His girlfriend who he met in a bar in Pattyia spoke very little English which was ok as he talked enough for both of them. He wanted to get her a visa for the UK which I think she understood. She is 21 and from a small village. Should be interesting. We celebrated our meeting with drinks in the evening. He likes his girlfriend as she cooks and cleans and likes to stay home. She said, ‘He happy, I happy’.

  • broken pannier before nappy pin

    broken pannier before nappy pin

    Important cycling equipment

    Important cycling equipment

    I thought i would be roughing it

    I thought i would be roughing it

    Stone smashers. Women.

    Stone smashers. Women.

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    sheltered here from storm

    sheltered here from storm

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    view from hotel window of Mekong

    view from hotel window of Mekong

Day 12 That Phanon to Nakon Phanon

55km 2 hrs 35min. 212 all way.

Tha Song Resort in That Phanon they have free coffee, toast and pineapple jam for breakfast but can not guarantee the same type of jam. On has to be flexible. They also play country music which tends to mitigate the pineapple jam. ‘Country Road’ blaring tends to make one struggle with food.

I cycled 20 metres up the road and then glanced to my left to see a laughing girl with a bucket of water. We both laughed and she was merciful. Others were not similarly inclined and he shout of, ‘falang falang!’ was frequent and quickly followed by a soaking. Even when watching the side of the road pick ups with tanks of water and lots of kids passed and got me on the other side. Some people might have got a little bored after the first 30 buckets but not me. I chuckled every time. Nakon Phanon was dominated with water throwing kids at every corner, along every road and in almost every pick up. Talc was also smeared on faces. An old Thai tradition. In town one street was condoned off as a party street where the water was more intense.

Delha Renovtel hotel is nice on a quiet side street but no sign in English. Not easy to find when every time one stopped to look at a map a bucket of water hit one. O-HI-O bar/restaurant is a good space to relax with live music. The bar near the clock tower run by lady boys over charges. The Vietnamese clock tower was the centre of the party with a live band and a large shower of mayflies.

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copy of That Phanon

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scratching your bum when wearing a short skirt

scratching your bum when wearing a short skirt

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mountains in Laos

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Songkran party street

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songkran party, band and mayflies

songkran party, band and mayflies

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Day 9 Hadsaleng to Chanuman

Day 9

10/4/13

Hadsaleng to Chanuman

74km in about 5 hours.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Tried to leave before 09.30 but couldn’t find anyone to pay. They are starting the new year early here. Should be 13 – 15th.

After 1.5 hours a resort on the left with pink heart shape on the sign.

Tip: do not smile at pretty girls on motor bikes when going through pot holes

Khemarat looked ok and stopped for lunch. Couple resorts just before it. Take road to right into town and then turn left to get back to main road.

First water plus yellow flowers today i.e. water poured over me and flowers put on my handlebars to celebrate the coming New Year. Expect to get wet 13th to 15th.

Chanuman festival 2013 started today. Music, food and stalls and of course drunken fools.

‘I love England. (Attempted hug.) I love Liverpool, Manchester, I love you.’

Ban Rai rimkonk resort is in nice location. Owner,Youpin (spelling) is a great host and strong independent woman in a very male dominated country. She spent 17 years in Constantine, Germany.

 

Day 3 Kantharak to Ban Phum Saron

Day 3

04/04/13

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49 km.

Arms burnt and back painful. Lot stretching for legs also which are used to being under a desk. Covered all exposed bits in factor 50 and left at 10am. Not keen on the early starts. Flat, straight and hot again. Paid 100B for the ticket for Khao Pra Wihan national part which has the famous disputed temple complex and after some discussion with the border police it was decided I could cycle 8 km to the visitors centre and then walk the remaining 100m to the view point. The temple complex was closed to visitors. Everyone was smiling and friendly. Then the terrain changed and I struggled up hill. High military presence with dirt roads with check posts from previous conflict over the temple. Reminiscent of the dirt roads and check posts in Northern Sri Lanka. At Mo I Dong cliff people smiled and nodded to me and an old man came up and shock my hand. A border policeman offered to guard my bike while I went to the view point. The cycling down hill and back to Ban Plum Saron was good and the border police asked if I wanted a lift as he passed. Drank litres of water but not pissing at all. Leaves my body as soon as enters. Recorded 43 degrees today. The typical Issan lunch of grilled chicken, sticky rice and papaya salad again. This time not a whole chicken.

Stayed in the only place in ‘town’ which I later realised is a ‘resort’ (Lisat resort) meaning a place for sex workers or illicit sex with girlfriend or someone else’s wife. The giggling of the women showing me the rooms and the mention of another price should have given me the clue. The free condoms with the usual soap in the room clarified things. So saying it was comfortable and the only hassle I had was an old skinny man with a north of England accent who tried to get in thinking it was his room. I went in to ‘town’ , a few small shops and grass roofed eating places. Not even a 7/11. The place I went in to served food and had barbers at the back. A woman invited me to join her. She spoke English due to a previous American air force boyfriend. Besides the language he also gave her a son and was now with a younger woman. She felt no bitterness and boasted at his ability to drink until 4am. We discussed the disputed wat and she agreed that as good Buddhists they should form a committee and share it rather than fighting. We also agree that this was very unlikely while more fighting was. She said that people come from Bangkok for the day and go away and locals have to face the circumstances to the local economy and injuries due to shelling. A good friend of hers died from a Cambodian shell in the last outbreak of fighting.