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 68 Somewhere to Champhon. Frustrating but ended well.

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.

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Ralf

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A pleasant dead end

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another pleasant dead end. Many more and they would loose their appeal