Author Archives: Andrew

Upcountry day trip

Bangkok can be pretty stinky at the best of times, and Bob was riding around north of here, so I decided to meet him for a day of riding from Phitsanulok to Phichit. These two towns aren’t remarkable for much other than being on the train line which makes for easy access from Bangkok.

I sent my Grand Bois on ahead from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok, praying it wouldn’t get damaged in the process. Then caught the train on Saturday morning to Phitsanulok. The rapid express had air conditioning and “only” took five hours.

After finding Bob and checking in at the glamorous Amarin Nakhorn hotel (350 baht), we had some dinner at the local Mediterranean fusion restaurant where I ordered a Greek salad. Expecting it to be awful, I was pleasantly surprised that it actually tasted great, had nice olives and feta and was considerably better than some that I’ve had in Sydney.

Being Phitsanulok, there is absolutely nothing to do once you’ve eaten dinner so we just wandered around town, visited the 711 and went to bed.

The route the next day was largely on quite roads, not too hot and at about 60km, exactly enough cycling. My original plan was to catch a train on Sunday night back to Bangkok, but the timing of the sleeper trains would have had me arriving back at Hua Lamphong at 4am which isn’t much of a sleep. So we found a new hotel in Phichit, ate dinner at the MK and once again went to bed early.

Monday morning I tried to get an “express” train to Bangkok and send my bike on a slow train later in the day, but the guy in the station either didn’t understand what I was trying to ask in my primitive Thai, or they simply didn’t send cargo from there, so I had to wait for a later, slower train. An exercise in patience, this train left Phichit at 10.30am and arrived in Bangkok at 6pm.  A mere 7.5 hours to travel 300km. The train actually moved at a decent pace, I clocked it doing over 90kmh most of the time, but it would stop at stations for an eternity and go slow in the middle of nowhere, and stop for who knows what all the time. I suspect the driver is told to stretch the trip out to the required length so that someone at the Thailand Authority of Trains doesn’t have to recalculate the timetable that was developed back in 1987.

 

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Phattalung to Hat Yai

strava stuff here

So this morning I woke up feeling rather bleagh. Yesterday’s ride was probably a little too much too soon in too much heat and I got too tired so I wasn’t feeling too well today.

I hung with the other guys for 30km at which point I decided a train ride would be the sensible course of action. No point getting sick again. And staying with the others would have been over 100km so no way Jose. The train was nice. Hat Yai is pretty civilised considering that it’s almost a border town.

Food consumption today consisted of pork on rice followed by chicken on rice and a few eggs for breakfast followed by a can of premixed milo followed by kana moo grob (fried pork belly with kale) and a whole pineapple for lunch, a whole packet of spicy salty sweet tamarinds, potato chips, milk, green chicken curry for dinner and some papaya. I’m getting fat.

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Trang to Phattalung

https://www.strava.com/activities/1521887549/

Somehow it took us all day to ride the 66km from Trang to Phattalung today. It may have something to do with the two hour lunch stop, a handful of leisurely drink stops and a failed attempt to ride on a bike track that lasted 200m. Frank was right.

Considering I’ve been poorly I felt pretty good for the first 45km. At lunch I would even say that I felt excellent. But the last 20km into town completely finished me off. I’d eaten plenty of food but started to bonk regardless. No doubt my metabolic machinery isn’t quite back in order after being sick.

Fun riding with a bunch of friends though. It makes the riding more of a social event than an athletic one and that’s not to be sneezed at.

Fortunately for Frank there were no Thai men admiring his legs and handing him their addresses written on scraps of paper, unlike last night at Swensens in Trang.

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Fear and Loathing in Trang

So you’ve three days to kill in Trang. There’s almost nothing to do here other than drink coffee at the Amazon coffee shop and take photos of weird tuk tuks. You have no energy for riding as you’ve just gotten over a nasty infection and still feeling the effects of two courses of penicillin.

So you put the time to good use and write some music on your OP-1.

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Trang

Sometimes it feels like an eternity of flights and buses and transfers before you actually get your bike out of its cardboard box, assemble it in the arrivals hall of the local airport and annoy the Muslim cleaning lady by getting in the way of her bin which she seems to fiddle with every two minutes then you leave your box right there and cycle out of the airport. Trang seems nice.

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I replaced my Muse Headband battery

Further to my original post where I complained about my Muse meditation headband having a dead battery, my new battery arrived in the post this week and I managed to replace the old one successfully.  I even made a video of the whole procedure.  Check it out here:

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My Muse EEG meditation headband has a dead battery

I bought a Muse EEG headband a couple of years ago on an Indiegogo crowdfunder thing. Which means I paid for it about four years ago because it took two years for them to get into production. But they did get it into production and good on them because it actually works. If you’ve never heard of the Muse, it’s an EEG device that tracks brainwaves while you meditate and relays audio feedback via an Android or iOS device to help you regulate your meditation.  Various sounds represent your level of calmness so that you can stay focused on the meditation.  In my experience it works very well and seems to accurately track your mental state via brainwave activity.

Anyway this isn’t a review of the Muse it’s more of a complaint. The thing has worked very well apart from the odd dodgy iOS app update but recently the battery has turned to shit. I’d get a couple of hours use out of it in the early days but now it can’t even get through a single 20 minute session after a full charge. I wrote to Muse giving them the chance to redeem themselves by offering me a new one for free but they merely offered to sell me another whole device with a bit of a discount. Umm no thanks.

There are a couple of problems with the battery setup in this device. Firstly it’s not easily replaceable as it’s a small lithium polymer battery soldered to a PCB inside one of the pods on the side of the unit. Secondly you can’t even run the device while it’s on charge with a USB cable plugged in. So now that the battery hardly holds a charge I need to do something.

There’s a tear down video on YouTube so after watching that I realised it’s actually pretty easy to open up the thing. And having done that the battery looks reasonably straightforward to replace with a bit of soldering. And after considerable searching on eBay I found a battery that looks like an exact match for the original in Hong Kong (3.7v lithium polymer 552030 20mm x 30mm x 5mm in case you’re wondering).

I’ve ordered a couple since I’ll need to replace it again in two years time. $12 each including postage wasn’t too unreasonable and considerably less than buying a whole new unit. Shame on you Muse!!

Stay tuned for part 2 where I bring the Muse back to life or kill it for good.

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The Year of George

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza is to get a payout from work at the start of summer. George then realises that he will have a fully funded summer of doing whatever he pleases. The “Summer of George!”  Thanks to Tony for pointing out the similarity to my predicament, only my summer of George is planned to be a year, and I didn’t get a payout, so I’ll call it the Year of George.

After two weeks of seaside idleness on the north coast of nsw I’m now back in Sydney. The first day back at work for many, but snorkelling with the blue groper at Clovelly for me.

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Villedoux to Nantes 120km

Last night’s camp site was a rest area at the edge of the village of Villedoux, and the two main advantages of this were the relative luxuries of a picnic table and a bin. You get pretty tired of squatting to cook, squatting to eat, squatting to shit when camping, and I can see why George lugs around the additional weight of a camp chair that allows him to sit in comfort.

After breakfast at our picnic table we headed north toward Nantes. The weather early on was blue skies and clear. I put sun screen on. But then it turned nasty after our morning tea break. We held this break just off the road at a factory that supplies components for graves. There were pallets of gravestones from India strewn all over the forecourt. George was quick to search the deserted premises for a power socket as he is now permanently on the lookout for power to charge his precious ipad to keep it alive. He’s been collecting mentions of tears in books for some time now but I think he may switch his obsession to finding places in France where he can surreptitiously charge his tablet for free in between wild camps. Charge number one today was in the old barn of a warehouse at the grave factory where we sheltered from the rain.

We left the grave factory just before noon, hoping to get to the next village about 10km down the road before the Intermarche closed. This is Sunday in France where most shops are closed all day and only a few supermarkets open in the morning. We rode through half an hour of pissing down rain to make it to the Intermarche before 1230. Unfortunately they shut at 12 so we were too late anyway. Even the dumpster was off limits to George, being locked behind a barrier to keep out the likes of him.

After a morning of being rained on we were keen to get out of the weather for lunch and also seek out free ipad charging for George so we tried a McDonald’s. it indeed had a power point so George was able to charge his ipad while I ate a Big Mac meal, followed by a second Big Mac. Did you know that a Big Mac contains 510 calories? And if you eat two of them and some fries at 2pm you’ll be able to ride a loaded touring bike until about 7pm covering about 60km or so, all while savouring the flavour of that delicacy as it repeats on you over and over?

Our third charging episode was just an examination and not an actual connection to power. George has discovered that all (well, both the ones he has checked) of the cathedrals in France are both always open to the public and have a power socket in there somewhere. George will be taking up prayers from now on in order to keep his fix charged up. But he may have to eat his pork liver pâté outside the church to avoid offending other pilgrims.

And apparently cows can detect the smell of one of their kin being fried up. At least that was what it looked like to me.

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Champagnelles to Villedoux 120km

After a night of tossing and turning I finally crawled out of my pint sized tent to make breakfast when rain brought a halt to play. So back in the tent to drink coffee while stooped over like the old lady I saw in the supermarche yesterday.

We are making our way north to Brittany where George wants to check out a ville etape north of Nantes. The terrain has flattened out and there isn’t too much wind so progress is good.

The highlight of the afternoon was an afternoon tea stop where I gorged on pastries. All manner of horrible deeds are forgiven when you still have another 40 km to cover.

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