Day 76 Pattani to Narathiwat. Lots of security

100km/5hrs. 42 road and later 4136 coast road towards Mai Kaen. 42 was not too busy with hard shoulder and tree shaded and country road was much nicer. Follow signs to the airport.

 

Slept badly and too little but the correct sized inner tube at LA bike shop made me feel better. Means that I have security if one of my inner tubes is unrepairable.

 

Saw blue sky and sun for the first time in days. Only managed 35km before an early lunch and 1.5 lites of water. Now cycled over 2,000km fron Chaing Mai and over 3,600km in total. Only planned to cycle about 1,00km to Nong Khai but then just continued.

 

Locals waved, thumbs up, grins and shouted hello. Don’t think they get many foreigners around here especially cycling through villages. A couple of boys on a motorbike swore at me but that is just teenage boys. A big military presence and a number of check posts. Most soldiers in black (not sure it that means a particular regiment) and grinned, put thumbs up or saluted me. Seemed very nice people. The sort you would not mind having a beer and a chat with. Unfortunately the Thai military has a bad reputation and was recently criticized in a US State Department report for human rights abuses, summary executions and rape. US military ironically trains them. As the largest arms dealer in the world America does not ignore Thailand especially as their raising economy means they can afford more weapons.

 

Saw a wat with a military post inside and barbed wire covering it but a short distance on a wat that had monks and was open. Some military look out towers again with grinning young soldiers. One soldier asked where I was going but only to then wish me a good trip. Saw a couple of helicopters over head. Security seemed tight.

 

Just as I was thinking that dog attacks were a thing of the past a few dogs started running after me and two more joined them. I speeded up and they kept following but silently without the usual growl or bark. I then took a stone from my old pocket bag and threw it back in their direction and they stopped. So the dog saga continues. If they knew I have not managed to hit one dog with a stone so far they would be less wary.

 

Narathiwat: charming small town with two main parallel streets. One next to river and other leading to clock tower. Few roads linking these. Pacific Hotel is near the clock tower o n Worakakhampipith road (try asking for that in Thai)and costs about 500B. Ocean Blue Mansion is right on river. 400B for non river view and 500B for great river view where one can watch the fishing boats as one dries ones socks on the balcony (see photos). They also sell beer.

 

Everyone seems to speak Malay here which makes it easy for me. I can again interat and joke with locals rather than struggling over a few Thai words badly pronounced. Chatted to receptionist who said he hears many stories but just stays in the middle and says nothing. His way of staying safe. He just wants peace and get on with his life which is 12 hours on reception and then with his family. I suspect that is what most want. It was interesting that he was looking around to see if anyone could hear us talking.

IMG_1262

fortified wat

IMG_1263

check post

IMG_1264

unfortified wat with monks living here

IMG_1265

a dead end but it isn’t raining

IMG_1266

typical scene

IMG_1268

decided against this road

IMG_1269

clock tower, Narathiwat

IMG_1267

empty beaches

IMG_1270

view from ocean blue mansion

IMG_1272

view from hotel window

IMG_1273

fishermen preparing for nights fishing

IMG_1274 IMG_1275 IMG_1276 IMG_1277 IMG_1278 IMG_1279

 

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.

IMG_1176

Ralf

IMG_1175

A pleasant dead end

IMG_1174

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

 

 

Day 66 Prachuap Khiri Khan

IMG_1119

Food poisoning last night meant waking up late and  feeling a bit weak.

While Hua Hin has made a lot of nothing much Prachuap has not made much of what it has and it has more. It is a nice small town with attractive beach and coast line.

Went to veg cafe next door for brunch and met 70 year old hyperactive American who had escaped twice from a Colombian prison in 1970s. He has written a book on his drug smuggling, prison and escape. One does not tend to meet drug smugglers and prison escapees in the local cafe at home.

IMG_1120 IMG_1121 IMG_1122

IMG_1123

town at night

Thought, unwisely, to adjust the gears to stop some slight rubbing I should have learnt from previous experience at anything even remotely mechanical. An hour later the gears did not work at all but after watching a few utube videos on how to adjust gears and another hour I managed to get the gears back to as they were previously. and went out to celebrate. I met two more English teachers. I wonder how many are in Thailand. One was from Ireland and the other from Yorkshire but with a few, Sorry, what was that’ I understood most of what they said. Paul told me about the Rohingya extremist coming from Burma to southern Thailand and causing problems. There are not any as far as I know! Barry had just build a house with three bed rooms for £25,000 which was lucky as he and his wife were not getting on.

Later watched a Frenchman try and teach a Chinese girl English. ‘ I have name

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.
IMG_0775

IMG_0776

Before they started singing ‘Country Road’

IMG_0781

IMG_0783

Think it’s a Buddhist thing

IMG_0784

IMG_0787

IMG_0790

Missionaries trying to convert someone

IMG_0793

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

IMG_0794

IMG_0803

Street I am staying in

IMG_0804

Traffic around the moat is a nightmare

IMG_0805

IMG_0807

IMG_0808

IMG_0809

IMG_0810

A cause close to my heart

Day 43 Chiang Mai Visa extension

I love Asian bureaucracy. They have great ability in making something simple as long, complicated and confusing as possible. However, if one tries to apply logic to the process it just causes frustration. Getting to the immigration office near the airport involved shouting and gesticulating at a few drivers that nearly hit me or expected a bike to stop for their car. A large crowd at the immigration office of course with no instructions of the process. Luckily I had downloaded and completed all the forms I thought needed from the internet. Then through discussion with others I found I had to get a ticket with a number from one desk and wait, and wait and wait until the number was called. This took three hours. Why? They just have to check the docs and fee, and pass them on to another official to stamp the passport. Simple, in theory. Best to bring water, food, a book and lots of patience. When I eventually was called I found that my original visa needed to be transferred to my new passport and then I should start the visa extension process all over again. The smiling official also told me that as it was late I would have to come back the next day. I went the the visa transfer desk and pleaded. A lovely girl then took my visa transfer form and sorted it out in only 20 min. Then at 16.20 with them closing at 16.30 I gave my visa extension forms to the official and begged. Of course I needed a photocopy of my new transferred visa which I ran out and sorted. Ignoring the line and numbering I then went back and smiled a lot. I got the 30 day extension.

I then did a survey of about 7 guest houses to move to as mine is like living in a drum with drunken youth upstairs. I chatted to two travelers in the one I chose and found they were cyclists. Only the second I have met in Thailand. Phil ( philsbiketour.wordpress.com) has cycled from the UK via Nepal and Jenny works in Bradford, UK promoting cycling.

 

Day 10 Chanuman to Mukduhan

3hrs 35km.

more stops than usual when realized 35km not 72km. lunch of cat fish, sticky rice and papaya salad at Nana’s food stall at side of road. She has an Austrian boyfriend who will be returning in six months. Close up she looked older. Shaved eyebrows with painted ones that were slightly smudged in the heat. She quizzed me as to how long I was staying and then when finding it was only a night advised me of the place to stay and offered to take me.

Stayed Riverfront Hotel 650B. Can get good room in hotels such as Sabmuka Grand Hotel for 400B but not the great views of Mekong from Riverfront Hotel or such a big room. Had a debate about if I could put bike inside at night. i could not. First time been refused. A girl helping me lock it to a fence crushed her finger with a rock and walked around all day with ice hanging from it and giving me unpleasant glances. The lady boy swinging his hips exaggeratedly bit annoying. Submukda Grand hotel is 400B but smaller room and not the view.

Booked accommodation for the next three days as Songkran (New Year). I expect to get very wet. A falang on a bike should be irresistible.

Mukdahan has Indo Chinese market and a night market. Nice town. Even has country music in a bar called Friends! What more does one want. ImageImageImageImageImage ImageImageImageImage