Archive for April 14th, 2009

Tired

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

53 km, 3h 10 min, max temp 41 deg

We left early expecting more Songkram chaos today, but only saw a few groups of kids with water and they did not even try to get us wet (well one of them missed Becky and got Scott quite nicely).

Today was either going to be a long day or a short one, as there is a large gap in places to stay between Khura Buri and Kapoe. As you can see by our mileage, we opted for the shorter day. Becky bonked just before we approached the Khuraburi Green View Resort, so we stopped for a couple of cold drinks, a snack, and a rest. We decided not to stay though, since their least expensive bungalow was 1800 Baht (about $60 CAD), quite a bit above our current budget, and their (slow) Internet was an 100 baht/hour.

After an hour and half rest, we got back on the road to Khuri Buri. We saw signs for the Khuriburi-on-see Resort, so when we approach it, we stopped. They had spacious, clean rooms for 500 Baht with AC and hot water although we aren’t sure why it is a “resort” or what we should “see”. Scott bonked shortly before we arrived, so rather than venturing further into town (we are about 2 km from town) we decided to stop here for the night. It turns out this is the same place the Michelle and Dave stayed at during the grand opening last year.

Not two minutes after we were into the room, the heavens opened up and the rain came pouring down. Maybe our bodies were telling us they didn’t want to be wet today?

After the rain, we went looking for food, and found that we were in a small village. We walked down one of the two streets and discovered a large open-air restaurant. The food was excellent and our server helped us with our Thai pronunciations, which was very nice. As has often been the case, the food was quite bland in comparison to Thai food back in Canada. We guess they prepare it specially for Western palates. We certainly see more peppers appearing in the dishes made for locals, but we’re not complaining!

Walking through the village, we noticed that the houses all appeared very new, and many had a small shop or restaurant on the main floor, with more rooms above. The entire front of each house was open, with a rolling door to close it off when necessary. We have seen this construction elsewhere, but this was the first time we noticed both a living room (with couch and TV) and bunch of restaurant tables in the same house. It seems like an efficient design to us, but would likely be impossible in Canada due to zoning regulations. We also noticed a World Vision Community Development Project banner over one of the shops, and we wondered if the houses were built as part of the tsunami reconstruction work? Unfortunately our Thai isn’t up to the task of asking, and no-one we met spoke English well enough to understand the question.

The Khuraburi-on-see Resort is one of the best value places we’ve stayed all trip. Large, clean rooms and good food nearby, the only thing we missed was Internet access.

We have noticed a pattern in our energy levels over the past few days. When we sleep in rooms without AC, we tire much quicker the next day. We aren’t sure if it is that we are heating up sooner, or if we are just tired from not getting quality sleep. Either way, we’ll try to ensure we have AC at least every other night from here on.

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Songkram – a country-wide water fight

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

69 km, 4h 20 min, max temp 38
(Note the slow speed is directly related to slowing down for the accept face smearing and water pouring from well meaning Songkram celebrants)

A group finished dousing Scott, and ushering Becky forward

A group finished dousing Scott, and ushering Becky forward

We left shortly after 8 am and it did not take long for our first Songkram experience – as we were leaving Phang-nga a few teenagers were on the side of the road poised to douse us. As we passed they threw buckets of water at us. Fortunately, the day was warm and we were dressed expecting to get wet. All of our panniers are also waterproof, which allowed us to relax as buckets of water were poured over us.

As we climbed a steep 2 km grade, we discovered what a benefit Songkram can be. The sun was hot, there was not even a hint of a breeze, and no shade to be found. As we crawled up the slope, Scott was thinking “too bad there’s no group of kids on the side of the road to cool us down.” Well, no more than a minute later, the universe provided. A large pick-up truck with laughing kids in the back slowly passed us – giving the kids a great opportunity to douse us with water from the huge barrel they had with them. They seemed quite surprised at our effusive thank-yous, but we were very grateful. We continued to greet the passing pickups cheerfully for the rest of the day, since for the most part they were moving much too fast to get much water on us.

Becky, enjoying lunch and showing off her stylish powder-face

Becky, enjoying lunch and showing off her stylish powder-face

After riding for 40 km, we stopped for lunch in a small town, thinking there was nothing ahead of us for 20 km. The weather was looking a little threatening, so Becky wanted to seek cover in case of heavy rain. There was a small café on the side of the road – where the kids out front and some of the adults as well ensured we were covered in pink powder, flower blossom scented water, and lots of just plain water. We ended up stopped there for over an hour, and enjoyed a wonderfully delicious (and very cheap) meal. We enjoyed taking pictures of the kids and watching as they doused the passing motorcycles and scooters.

Us with the kids at lunch

Us with the kids at lunch

In Phang-nga, we picked up a Thai for Beginners book and a Thai phrase book. The phrase book was very helpful when we stopped for second breakfast and lunch – we’re finally in an area of Thailand where people don’t speak English! Now we can try to express what we want using more words than are in the back of the guidebook. Becky is also enjoying the Thai script lessons in the Thai for Beginners book – hopefully by the end of the trip she’ll be able to read some of the road signs!

We did not expect to see much of civilization today, but were quickly proved wrong. After the first 20 km, we rarely went for more than 2 km without passing by a house or a small village, where our map shows nothing but the road. Of course each small village meant riding through the gauntlet of kids, teenagers, and the young-at-heart with buckets of water or powered poised to soak or paint you. It was quite entertaining and a lot of fun for the first 3 hours – but then began to get a little tiring.

Scott wearing multiple colours, later in the day

Scott wearing multiple colours, later in the day

When we reached Takua Pa, the Songkram celebrations got really serious. Now we started to see high-pressure hoses, bigger buckets, and powder in more colours. Scott also got to enjoy hearing Becky shriek as we got hit by the first group of celebrants using ice water. He did run the gauntlet first, but cruelly didn’t warn Becky of the freezing experience to come. Some of the older kids delighted in dousing us, and powdering us more thoroughly than necessary, but at least a few did offer us a drink – either of beer or something stronger…

By the time we found a hotel in Takua Pa, we were glad to be off the road, and able to relax, without wondering what the next corner might bring.

(For those following the GPS track, it appears the altimeter was quite unhappy with the frequent dousing it got – the elevation appears much more variable than it actually was)

(Also, for those who may be wondering, the unrest in Bangkok is very localized – no sign of anything here other than people enjoying Songkram. We’re keeping a close eye on the news though)

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