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)
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.
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.
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.
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)