Thailand

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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Phitsanulok – Khon Kaen – Udon Thani

With limited days remaining and terrain ahead of us that we covered on our trip last year, Bob and I decided to catch the bus from Phitsanulok to Khon Kaen. This decision is never taken lightly in Thailand, considering that bus rides are usually lengthy, uncomfortable and dangerous.

As it turned out this particular ride wasn’t too heart stopping, apart from the gentle clunking of the suspension and the occasional corner taken at too high a speed. Then magically, six hours later we arrive in KK. Average speed 60kmh.

Khon Kaen is centrally located in the North East and is famous for…. well nothing much. We spent most of our time escaping the ferocious heat by hiding in the shopping mall, Starbucks, MK, Swensens etc. Riding was mainly limited to night time exploration when the conditions were cooler.

Two days in KK seems to drag on forever so we got back on the bikes and headed for Udon Thani, a city that we had also visited on our trip here last year. The ride there was broken up into two days, riding via Ubolrat which has a large dam and hydro power station. Our “resort” accommodation here was overpriced and particularly crappy, but the riding through this area was pleasant, with a good variety of scenery and not just endless rice paddies.

The second day to Udon featured a couple of hills, one of which was so steep that it had me standing up on the pedals and straining in granny gear. The only other hill of the trip to challenge this occurred back in Belgium when the trusty gps put us on a farm road that went vertical. But it isn’t 36 degrees and 90% humidity in Belgium.

Udon was pretty much as we left it last year, though they have reconstructed the large Central plaza shopping mall which is now huge and features many western brands that Thai people seem to like to look at but not necessarily buy anything.

One evening while in the seedy falang area of town we happened upon Ray, the proprietor of Sinatras cafe. Ray is a London chap who has been living in Thailand for eight years, half of which have been in udon. He claims that Thailand is a very dangerous place, but Bob and I haven’t seen all that much evidence of this, except for perhaps some of the road usage practices. “Pattaya is the most dangerous city in the world. You can look that up on your computer”, he claimed. Bob actually did look it up later in our stay and there are several cities in the world that are considered more dangerous than Pattaya. Places like Kabul and Baghdad.

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Phrae – Uttaradit – Tha Pla – Phitsanulok

After a nourishing breakfast at our hotel in Phrae, Bob and I made a pre ride stop at the 711 to stock up on snacks. The street cleaner we met thought that Bob was my father, which he found very amusing.

Our ride to Uttaradit featured one decent hill but with a mild grade and a nice view from the coffee shop at the top. The rest of the ride was mostly downhill and apart from the heat was not particularly taxing.

“Oot” as Bob calls it is another mid sized city in central Thailand, just big enough to have an MK restaurant which means that we can have a decent feed in refrigerated comfort. There’s not lot else to do other than ride your bike around and stand in front of the 711 watching the town watch the falang.

Our next day was a short 40km ride out to Tha Pla which was so small that the only accommodation was bungalows just outside the township that lacked both aircon and functioning insect screens. But dinner made up for that, with a huge fresh water fish and hot pot costing us less than ten dollars and providing the locals with some entertainment as they were able to examine the bicycle tourists at close range.

Another day back in Oot proceeded a longer ride to Phitsanulok of 111km. We made an early start and managed 55km before 11am, but our rest stop dragged on so long that the sun was out by the time we restarted and made the rest of the day a hot ride in the sun.

For some reason there are other tourists here in Phits but we can’t work out why. If you’re not riding a bicycle on the way to somewhere else why are you here?

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Lampang to Phrae

A change of country, time zone, side of the road and temperature as I start a small tour in north Thailand. It’s good to catch up with Bob again.

After flying to the buzzing Lampang yesterday, we hopped on a train today to skip an unpleasant stretch of road them rode the last 40km to Phrae. There were a couple of hills but the only thing that made them difficult was the heat.

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