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THAILAND

 (1766km -  36days)

 

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20 May - Hat Yai – Phatthalung - 110 km

I left Hat Yai on the back roads, and what an exciting day it turned out to be.  The road led me slap-bang through the centre of the Friday market, to the great amusement of the locals. I knew I was off the beaten track as not only were all the road signs in Thai, but the kids were scared of me, the people I spoke to thought it impossible to reach Bangkok by bicycle, and not even the mange dogs chased me. The real indicator, however, was the “reading tree,” where a pair of communal reading glasses were hanging from a branch at a roadside tree—clearly for the use of anyone who needed reading glasses. The road continued past large rubber tree plantations, small villages, and a multitude of temples.

 

I even managed to fall off my bicycle, something I have not done in years! It was more a case of sliding off the road than falling off the bike, as somehow, the road sloped so severely that I just slid right off! Oops! All of this occurred between bouts of rain. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find shelter each time the heavens opened up. Around 5 pm, I cycled, dripping wet, into Phutthalung, found a room for 250 baht, and set off to the night market for food. Never go to the night market hungry! I also discovered that it was an important Buddhist holiday, and therefore, no beer was sold! *Sigh* I will just have to drink water tonight.

 

21 May - Phutthalung – Thung Song - 90 km

A rather important document I had sent via HDL from India never arrived in Cape Town. Now, more than two weeks later, still nada/nothing/niks! Oy, the Indian post and I don’t seem to gel very well. Of course, I had a tracking number, but its status is “number not activated.” I have searched the internet but could not even find the telephone number for the DHL Fort Kochi branch. The DHL customer care was equally useless, and my only remaining option was to email Henry from Kevin's Homestay (where I stayed) to ask him for the number. In the meantime, I scanned the area for a courier company to resend the document; the closest DHL office was it Krabi, 220 kilometres west!

 

This morning, I headed out, hung some flower garlands on the bike for good luck, pulled my cap down and headed down the road; what must be done, must be done. Seventy kilometres down the road and 20 kilometres before I had to turn off the main road for Krabi, an email came in from Henry. Not only did he get me the number but he physically went there, spoke to them, and got all the details about the document as well as the new tracking number. There are some amazing people in this world!

 

Apparently, the document has arrived in Cape Town, but it is on hold as they had not charged sufficiently to cover the delivery. Have you ever!?  I wonder how long they were going to leave it before contacting me. Again, it boggles the mind. I could never thank Henry enough for his effort. I found a room in Tung Song just to make sure all was sorted before I continued.

 

22 - 23 May - Thung Song

I decided to lie low in Thung Song to double check that the document had, in fact, arrived in Cape Town and that it would not be necessary for me to cycle to Krabi. I did just about nothing the entire day except eat. I ate everything in sight and only stopped short of going into KFC. I started at the morning market and slowly ate my way through the day, all the way up to the night market. In the process, I came upon the most fascinating Chinese festival in Thung Song. Devotees walked the streets with cheeks pierced by metal spikes, accompanied by a whole procession of dancers/actors and, of course, the ever-present fireworks. It was a colourful and very noisy affair, not to mention bizarre!

 

As the day wore on, I felt increasingly weak, and by night time, I had quite a fever. I feared that I could be coming down with dengue fever again, as my whole body ached, and I had an upset stomach. I tossed and turned the whole night but finally fell sleep around 3:30 am. I woke again around 6:30 am, as there was quite a racquet going on outside, and found that the fever had subsided. I decided to stay put and hoped that I would feel better the following day. That was so weird, having such a fever in the night and all gone in the morning. I was not complaining; I just found it odd.

 

When off the beaten touristy track, I always find it surprising how little English is being spoken. Not that it is surprising, as English is not one of their official languages, so why would they speak it? English was not even spoken in the hotel I was staying at, but then again, it is not too difficult to indicate your intentions when walking through the doors of a hotel. As I was not feeling too well, I thought of ordering a basic pizza instead of eating my usual fried noodles. Now, that proved a lot more difficult!  In the end, I gave up and had my standard fried noodles. I also got word that the document I posted in India had been traced and (after many phone calls) had, finally, arrived at its destination. Hallelujah! I was ready to move on again.

 

24 May - Thung Song – Surat Thani - 110 km

Someone recently asked if I still found cycling touring interesting and exciting after nine years on the road. Needless to say, I love my life and still find a new destination as exciting as the first day. This morning, on leaving Thung Song, I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of my reflection in a shopfront window. It put a big grin on my face as I thought I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet. It may not always be easy or comfortable, but then who’s life is without its ups and downs and saddle sores, figuratively speaking?

 

The two days rest did me a world of good; I felt full of energy and not even the rain (or roadworks) could damper my spirit. It rained the entire day, but I clipped in my flashing lights for more visibility and was flying down the road (I must have had a tailwind, ha ha, as I seldom “fly down the road”). At the intersection of Route 44 and 41, I found roadside accommodation next to the petrol station which suited me just fine. Time for a shower and dry clothes.

 

25 May - Surat Thani district – Roadside cottage - 110 km

It was another 110 km day, and I was burning up the road. LOL. The weather was cool and although there was a constant drizzle it did not bucket down as it usually does. I met the most wonderful people along the way. Firstly it was the friendly lady selling the steamed palm cakes. They were delicious! Next stop was the coconut sellers, where they gave me one of their special coconuts, consisting of the coconut with jelly inside. Again, it was delicious, and she wanted no money for it. I stopped a good few times to fill up with water but was soon on my way again. After 110 km I spotted roadside chalets which looked perfect for my needs; the price was right, and it even had a small shop where I could buy crisps, a beer and cup noodles. I love it when a plan comes together!

 

26 May - Roadside cottage – Chumphon – 90 km

It rained throughout the night and was still drizzling by the time I wanted to leave. I waited a while, but I’m not very good at waiting, so I pulled on my plastic raincoat (now cut in half for cycling) and headed for Chumphon. The weather fortunately soon cleared, and it was a pleasant day on the road.

 

I did not have to go far before encountering the ladies selling the steamed palm cakes, which made for a perfect breakfast stop. Thailand is aptly known as the land of smiles, and along the way, I met tonnes of smiling faces; from the fruit sellers to plastic bottle collectors. What a friendly nation it is. The road continued past beautiful temples and the ever-present durian stalls. I tried a few selfies with the remote shutter release, but it did not work. There was either a bad connection or the batteries were flat.

 

I pulled into Chumphon and found a room at the “Farang Bar,” which is by now looking a bit worse for wear. The rooms are as basic as they come, but one cannot complain at 250 baht. I needed to find a bicycle shop as my back wheel picked up a severe wobble, which needs sorting out. First things first; I set off to the food stalls. Again, I did not have to go far as I could smell them miles away. In the process, I found both the bike shop and a new battery for the remote. I was, however, not very successful at the bike shop as no one spoke English. I may have to stay another day and take the bike there in the morning. What I did find was the biggest array of Dim Sum I have seen in a long time! I could not help myself and immediately got stuck in. It was another successful day.

 

27 May - Chumphon

“Don’t have,” is the first line of defense when I walk into a shop. I was off to find a bike shop first thing in the morning—a task that sounds far easier than what it actually turned out to be. It's only when one starts to do business that one discovers how difficult it is to communicate in a different country. They get nervous just seeing a Westerner heading for their store! I persevered and, in the end, found a secondhand rim, which I hope will last till Bangkok.  I also found that the keyboard for my brand new laptop was faulty and that the bottom row of keys didn’t work. I had no option but to purchase a remote keyboard (if that is what it is called). It was more money spent and more stuff to carry, but I dearly need to be able to type as that is how I keep my journal and communicate on social media. It is, however, rather odd to type with a keyboard on my lap, and the screen is somewhere else (ha-ha). I guess one can get used to just about anything, but I have a suspicion that this one is going to take some time.  I thought the Mercury Retrograde was over!

 

I made use of the time to, half-heartedly, clean the bike that is in an utter mess after the rain, did the laundry, and also half-heartedly cleaned my water bottles, which have by now got a lush growth of fungi. In the meantime, I ate more Dim Sum and made some friends with the staff and other travellers at the Farang Bar. I felt sorry for the French couple next door as it sounds like the girl has dengue fever; she is really ill, but there is little one can do about it. Hopefully, I will be ready to roll out of here in the morning.

 

28 May - Chumphon – Thungwualaen Beach – 20 km

It was a short and easy ride to Thungwualaen Beach where I have stayed before. Now out of season, the place looked a bit forlorn, and in a way, I was sorry I did not continue on. My room was not too bad for 300 baht, but I could tell by the droppings and the hole gnawed in the table that I was not the only occupant.

 

29 - 30 May - Thungwualaen Beach – Bang Saphan Beach – 95 km

I felt lethargic but soldiered on, past a whole host of beachside accommodation, all looking rather inviting as they were right on the beach. Again, the road led past many a temple, all so very colourful and ornate. I found the Naga Buddha statue kind of interesting. One can often see a Buddha sitting in the shade of a multi-headed King Cobra. It is believed that the snake had protected the Buddha from the elements after he attained enlightenment. I was following the coastal road which had recently been resurfaced and was in perfect condition with a lovely bicycle lane for most of the way. I passed numerous rivers where fishing boats were laying side by side, sometimes 3 or 4 deep, and where smoke was rising from roadside stalls selling grilled fish and other delicious looking eats. The smell was enough to make anyone hungry.

 

I reached the Bang Saphan Beach early even though it was a slightly more hilly day. I only mentioned this as Thailand is pan flat, and it is not often that one encounters any hills. I was happy to find a 300 baht room right across the beach. Job done for the day! Time to go looking for food.

 

I stayed in Bang Saphan the next day as well as there was no rush to get to Bangkok. I was only meeting Tania there on 13 June for her 6-week cycle tour of South East Asia, so had plenty of time to get myself to Bangkok on time. I went for my little jog but did not go very far, maybe only 5/6 km along the beach. It was already boiling hot, and the locals must have thought me insane. If they find me strange cycling (while they all have bicycles) you can imagine their surprise to see me running. I spent the remainder of the day catching up on much-needed internet stuff.

 

31 May – 2 June Bang Saphan Beach – Prachaup Khiri Khan – 93 km

I woke up tired as I spent half the night chasing cockroaches! As soon as I switched the lights off, they started crawling over me. Sandal in hand I gave chase, but they gave me a good run for my money. The wee buggers are as fast as lightning! In the morning, I left Bang Saphan Beach with a pack of dogs in hot pursuit (that woke me up!). Cartoon style, I gripped the handlebars, pushed my elbows out, made myself as flat as possible, and gunned it as fast as I could down the road, ha ha ha! It felt like the entire neighbourhood's dogs wanted a piece of me! I soon found a small road and could breathe a sigh of relief.

 

For most of the way, the road hugged the coast, and I'm sure I found paradise. Low-key accommodation lined the beach, consisting of bungalows barely visible behind bougainvilleas and frangipanis. Often the only sign that there was any kind of development was a lone hammock strung between two palm trees, lazily swinging in the slight breeze. Bliss!! It was a real rural area; chickens darted across the road, men fished in small dugout canoes, and temples, shrines and the ever present snakes abounded. I’m sure that Thailand has the largest population of snakes in the world!!! How I have managed not to cycle over one of them (yet) is anyone's guess. The weather looked ominous, but I pushed on, wondering if I could out cycle the storm. Amazingly enough, I made it to my destination without getting caught. This is what I call a lucky day—neither the dogs, snakes nor rain could get me! Pity about those darn cockroaches!!! I swear I’m not making this up. LOL.

 

I woke to a beautiful morning and went for a run instead. The promenade stretched for a good few kilometres, both north and south, making for an enjoyable run. I jogged along, past the pier, past the resident troop of monkeys, and past the hill temple of Khao Chong Krachok, before turning around and heading back to Maggie’s Homestay. A cheap (200 baht) but a sociable place to stay. I stayed another day in Prachuap Khiri Khun, especially after rumors of torrential rain for the area.

 

Many people may wonder why I am back in South East Asia, as I was here only a few months ago. The reason is that I’m meeting Tania Bouwer, a friend and third cousin, in Bangkok for a 6-week cycle tour of South East Asia. We have arranged to meet on June 13; I am therefore in no rush to get to Bangkok.

 

3 June - Prachuap Khiri Khun – Khao Sam Roi National Park 70 km

I hang around Maggie's Homestay, shooting the breeze with the other “long-termers”, two Aussies, one Kiwi and a French guy. They all seem to do long stints in Thailand. We drank a few beers and just talked complete nonsense. I was debating whether to stay another day, but moving on is what I do.

 

I loaded up my bicycle and headed for the nearby National Park. The park is only about 25 km off the main road but worth the little detour. It's also home to about six caves, and I was interested in seeing Phraya Nakhon Cave. Along the way, I met a family on bikes - mum, dad and three kids ranging between one and six years of age! How cool is that? Mum had the littlest one in front and the middle one behind her while dad was on a recumbent with the eldest; needless to say, they were rather loaded! I tip my hat to them!

 

I found myself a room, right on the river, offloaded my stuff and set off in the direction of the cave. It is a bit of a walk, but it’s a rather scenic cave as there is a beautiful temple inside. Unfortunately, there was no light coming in through the cave roof. I may try again in the morning, although getting there is a bit of a mission.

 

4 June - Khao Sam Roi National Park – Cha-Am – 80 km

I had difficulty in dragging myself out from under the white linen (a real novelty), but it was time to get going again. It is, however, seldom that I have a room that gives any form of cover, let alone white linen! It is just too hot, and there is no need for any cover.

 

I set off through the hills of the National Park with my African music blasting at full volume. Oh, what a pleasure, I was truly happy! It was a rather indecisive day as I could not make up my mind where I wanted to overnight. I reached Hua Hin early and continued to Cha-Am. At first, I thought of giving it a miss as well, but then I turned around as I was a comfortable 2-day ride from Bangkok. I was not happy finding a tick on me, even though it is unlikely I’ll get tick-bite fever; it's just something I don’t need right now. More worrisome are the reports of rabid dogs in the area; now there is something you don’t want!

 

5 June - Cha-Am to Samut Songkhram – 90 km

The stretch of road between Cha-Am and Samut Songkhram was rather varied and scenic. Not only was the road scattered with interesting food and drinks stalls, but it also passed salt farms, small fishing villages, temples, and mangrove swamps. Crab fishing was at the order of the day and almost every stall had cooked crab for sale. To top it all, the road was in excellent condition with a cycle lane; one cannot ask for much more.

Although it was a blistering hot day, I rolled into Samut Songkhram early and headed straight for Hometown Hostel. Hometown Hostel is a lovely place to stay with modern air-con dorms, clean bathrooms, and very friendly staff. Once off-loaded, I made a bee line for the markets as they were already in full swing. Samut Songkhram is home to the fascinating railway market that spills onto the railway line, and canopies get hurriedly taken down when a train comes along. Once the train has passed, the stall owners replace everything and continue as if nothing had happened.

 

6 -12 June - Samut Songkhram – Bangkok – 90 km

One good thing about cycle-touring is that one gets to travel along the smallest and most rural of country roads. I’m truly amazed at just how rural it is on the outskirts of mighty Bangkok. Here, people live along and from the many rivers, and taxi stands are still longtail boat jetties. Along the way, I met a broom and feather duster salesman and an elephant carer, but in both cases, our conversation was limited. All went well until around mid-day, after which I started feeling feverish and everything started aching, from my hair follicles to my ankles, and just like that, I had no energy. I pushed on, remembering my motto that if I keep going forward, I will eventually get there. I did not think that I would be able to finish the last 20 km; I even reverted to my last method of counting!

 

To top it all, it was a most terrible road, as I somehow landed up on the road where they were busy building the new Skytrain. What a mess! Once in Bangkok, I headed for my old go-to guesthouse, just to find that they are no longer operating. I had no energy and simply found the next place around the corner where I flopped down, shaking like a leave and vomiting up all the water that I thought I so needed. Phew, what a day. In hindsight, I really don’t know how I managed to do that 90 km from Samut Songkhram.

 

In the days to follow I did not get any better, in fact, I got worse and worse. The cold facts are that Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease, and there is no treatment for it as yet. It is characterised, true to its name, by a high fever, severe body aches and pains, headaches and the distinctive pain behind the eyes, nausea and vomiting. The body aches and pains came as shooting pains leaving the best of us moaning and groaning at the slightest movement. It is virtually impossible to eat anything as it comes straight out again. The only medication available was for treating the symptoms, and I stocked up on painkillers and something for nausea. It felt like I slept for 40 days and 40 nights, LOL, and woke up with half the weight I went to sleep with. I do, however, not recommend it as a weight loss programme.

 

All the time I was aware that Tania was arriving on June 13 for her cycle tour of South East Asia, and there I was lying without even being able to walk to the corner store, let alone cycle around South East Asia.

 

June 13-15 - Bangkok

It looked like I finally turned the corner and felt marvellous in comparison to the previous days. I had breakfast that miraculously stayed down and even managed a cup of coffee, something I was immensely happy about. Of all things, I missed my coffee the most! Around midday, Tania arrived, and I was impressed with her packing skills; all her stuff neatly fitted into the bike box and one other bag. All I needed was to get myself into cycling shape so we could explore Southeast Asia. Arggggg! I wish I was feeling 100% already. As the days wore on, I felt stronger and stronger; we explored Bangkok and its alleyways by eating food from the many street vendors, and in general just enjoyed the craziness of Bangkok.

 

June 16-17 -  Bangkok – Ayutthaya – 83 km

At last, it was time to leave Bangkok, something I was extremely happy about as I just about had enough of that place. We woke early with the result that we got underway much earlier than usual-- a good thing as well, as it was still nice and cool and the traffic not too hectic.

 

As always, it was stressful and slow getting out of the city, and it took forever to clear the city limits. Tania did extremely well on her first day, and we managed to get out of mighty Bangkok without any major problems. Soon we reached the outskirts of the city, and then it was an easy ride to Ayutthaya, past luminous green rice paddies and delicious-looking roadside stalls.  With its magnificent ruins, today a UNESCO world heritage site, Ayutthaya made a perfect stop. We found ourselves rooms at the well-known Baan Lotus Guest House, a beautiful, old, converted teak schoolhouse.  We spent the following day exploring the ruins and just eating our way through the day.

 

18 June - Ayutthaya - Lopburi – 63km

Once again, we were immensely lucky with the weather; it was a moderately overcast day of around 30/34 degrees Celsius, perfect for cycling. In Thailand, there is never a shortage of interesting things to see, and first up was the elephant kraal, which I had not expected. The elephants and trainers/owners were getting ready for a day with tourists, and the elephants were dressed in their Sunday best before heading out.

 

Next up was a rather bizarre, if not somewhat kitsch, temple with a humongous dragon or rather dragon tail surrounding the entire property. We followed small roads all the way to Lopburi, which made for enjoyable cycling. Again, a friendly woman flagged us down and gave us a bag of bananas, for which we were grateful and which kept us going the entire day. We were by no means passing any of the villages unnoticed as white women on bicycles don’t easily manage to do that, and mostly, we were stared at by slacked-jawed locals.

 

We passed huge Buddha statues, incredibly ornate temples, bamboo forests and, of course, the ever-present roadside stalls selling interesting nibbles. Once we reached Lopburi, it was easy to find the popular Noom Guest House where we booked in and then set off to explore the town and all there is to see. Tania seems to have taken to life-on-a-bike like a fish to water, as no sooner were we in the room than she had her shirt washed and a line strung, MacGyver style, on which to hang it.

 

19 June - Lopburi – Pak Chong – 103 km

In a haze of smoke from the breakfast BBQ we left Lopburi, which turned out to be a much larger town than expected. The touristy bits are in the old part, and the new city is a large area that I only discovered on cycling out. It felt like we cycled and cycled and never really cleared the city limits. Eventually, we turned off the big road and headed along farm roads to where we eventually met up with the highway again.

 

It was a beautiful stretch through the countryside and past small villages. The highway came as a bit of a shock as it was incredibly busy, but it was the easiest way over the mountains. Not only was it very busy, but it was also rather hilly, and we cycled over the pass in the midday heat, which did not make matters any easier. As always, all uphills come to an end, and eventually we sped downhill reaching speeds of nearly 60 k/h.

 

Clouds came in, making for a much cooler ride towards the end of the day. In Pak Chong, we spotted a hotel just off the main road and thought it a good place for the night. It came in at a bit more than what we normally pay, but it was mostly the sight of the mashing machines outside that made up our minds for us. I needed it really badly as I have not washed my clothes since leaving Bangkok and even the stray dogs retreated when they smelled me.

 

20 June - Pak Chong – Starwell Bali - 107 km

The stray dogs seemed to respond well to the word “voetsek,” and if it was uttered with enough conviction, they would retreat to a safe distance, or maybe it was just our smelly clothes that kept them at bay.

 

Along the way, we passed many statue-making areas where one can buy any shape, size, and colour Buddha that the heart desires. We passed more small villages surrounded by luminous green rice fields where locals keenly offered us exotic fruit, but the strangest of all was the elephant waiting for its lift at the bus shelter! Only in Thailand!

 

Again, we followed farm roads, but this day the road became more and more narrow and went from OK to just a muddy track, and in the end, it petered out completely, and we had to backtrack to the main road. We gave the big city of Nakhon Ratchasima a miss and followed the bypass road to try to escape the traffic. In the process, we found the most wonderful accommodation for the night. Beautiful wooden chalets surrounded by lush greenery were enough to make us stay put. I love it when a plan comes together. (www.starwellbali.com)

 

21 June - Starwell Bali – Phimai - 60 km

“Did you see the weather?” Tania said with a frown, as we woke to bucketing rain.  Fortunately, the weather cleared, and we had a short and easy ride to Phimai, where we went to see Prasat Hin Phimai, one of the biggest and most important religious sanctuaries in Thailand. Constructed around the 11th–12th century, it must have been a really important town in its day. Inscriptions found on one of the doors indicate that the town existed since the time of the ancient Khmer Empire and that it was built a century before the strikingly similar Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The town of Phimai also marks one of the most western outposts of the Khmer Empire's holy highway. I find all this fascinating, and I'm so pleased that we turned down to see it.

 

We found ourselves a room at the Phrimai Paradise House, a lovely hostel with wooden floors and high ceilings; I wish all hostels looked like this one. We just dropped our stuff and then set off into the park to explore the ruins after which we cycled to Sai Ngam, a 350-year old Banyan tree that by now resembles a horror movie where trees come alive and strangle unsuspected passers-by.  On our way back we stopped off at the night market to have our fill from the very large variety of food on sale.

 

22 June - Phimai

Phimai turned out a lovely laid back little village, and we decided to stay one more day. We went for a jog around town, just to explore by foot, and for me to get back into jogging after being ill. I have not been for a run for at least three weeks and needed to start getting back into it before it was too late.

 

I also had plenty of catching up to do – organising and re-organising my photos, which took about the entire day, laundry and a few long overdue phone calls. I walked around town and in the process met the (retired) town photographer; now, at the age of 78, he is still an avid photographer and collector of antique cameras. We had a lovely chat, and he insisted I take a photo of him with a self-portrait, taken 50 years ago, in the background. Before I knew it, the day was over and it was again time for the night market.

 

23 June – Phimai – Ban Phai – 119 km

We got away nice and early, and once again, we were lucky with the weather as it as an overcast day, so we ambled along quite happily. The northern part of Thailand is fairly rural, and we passed a multitude of small villages, each with its own temple and herd of buffalo.

 

We turned down to a small silk village where local women still weave silk threads by hand. Not a word of English was spoken, but they were more than happy to show us around. It was a day of roadside farming, and once back on the main road, we passed women cutting reeds by the side of the road and understood from hand gestures that they were using them for mattresses.

 

Locals even plant rice on the road reserve, and it seemed that using the road reserve for farming activities is what people do here as, just a bit further along, they were harvesting lotus flowers and seeds. Just before we reached Ban Phai, the area once again changed, and it seemed to be a bee farming area as the road was lined with stalls selling honey and honey combs. We turned off the main road into the small village of Ban Phai where I, amazingly, found a rather modern hotel for 600 baht. As soon as we off-loaded, we headed for the food stalls for our usual Thai noodle soup.

 

24 June - Ban Phai – Khao Suan Kwang – 115 km

It rained all night but, fortunately, it stopped in the early hours of the morning, leaving a lovely fresh day for us to cycle. We cycled along the highway until just after the town of Khon Kaen, where we turned off onto farm roads as we spotted a sign stating “King Cobra Village.” It sounded rather interesting, and we headed in that direction on the most beautiful of rural roads. It always surprises me that even along the rural roads, there are so many interesting things to see. I had my Google directions on “walking,” which always turns out to be rather interesting, sending us along the smallest of roads. At times, the road disappeared completely, and other times, it took us through peoples' backyards! Finding the way like this is always interesting, and today was no different.

 

Some people were drying thin slivers of meat in the sun; others invited us in to share their lunch. Farmers tended to their rice and buffalo. It felt like it took forever to reach the village we were looking for, and once there, it was rather disappointing. In a way, it was quite sad as they tried their best to make a little show out of it, and I thought it would have been much better if they just left the snakes in a natural way. In any event, it was a lovely ride there.

 

Again, we consulted Google maps, and it appeared that there was some kind of accommodation about 20 kilometres from the village. Once we reached the resort, it turned out that it used to be a resort, and once again, I thought it sad that such a lovely place went to ruin.

 

We headed for the highway, where we were sure to find some kind of accommodation, and no sooner were we on the main road than we spotted a 24-hour joint, normally let on an hourly basis, but we managed to get a good rate for the night. I think Tania was a bit shocked at the state of the room and that it only had one bed, which we had to share! Fortunately, it was a rather large bed, and neither one of us is very large!

 

25 June – Khao Suan Kwang – Udong Thani - 68 km

It was a short and easy but typical cycle-touring day. I stopped to take a picture and no sooner had I put the bicycle down when the roadside stall owner presented us with an already cut watermelon. Delicious! On top of that, she wanted no money for it. I felt so bad about them giving us all these things that I invested in 3-in-1 coffee sachets, which I can give to them in return. I know it sounds a bit odd, but they do like their sweet stuff and one sachet is the same price as a watermelon; it's also just the thought, not the value.

 

It was a beautiful day, scenery wise, butterflies darted around us as we peddled past large cassava plantations and sugarcane fields. We popped into one of the many monasteries along the way for a chat with the monks and to take a few pictures. Next stop was the durian stall where Tania (obviously) sampled some of Thailand's most famous (or infamous) fruits. The woman eats bugs so, no doubt, she will eat Durian as well!

 

We even tried our hand at some fishing along the way, but that was rather unsuccessful. Thai ladies fished in large ponds next to the road, using earthworms as bait, but we never saw them catch anything, so either there were no fish, or the fish did not like the earthworms. 

 

We slowly made our way toward the big city of Udon Thani, passing more monasteries and lakes with fishing platforms that looked a bit more promising for fishing than the roadside ponds. We had one final stop to buy sticky rice cooked in segments of bamboo tubes.  The bamboo tubes are filled with the sticky rice ingredients and plugged with a piece of coconut husk wrapped with banana leaf to keep in the steam for cooking the rice. In Thailand, this dish is called Kao Lam, but in Malaysia, it was known as Lemang.

 

In Udon Thani, we found the King’s Hotel, not much of a hotel for kings nowadays, but it came with the right price tag of 350 baht for a huge double room. I had some business to see to, and Tania wanted to stock up on some stuff that we may not find in Lao, so the early day suited both of us.

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