La Ngu To Katang 109km
Katang to Khlong Thom 103km
I remember as a ten or eleven year old, in Social Studies, doing a special project on Thailand. One of the things I remember was that Thailand produced rubber, from trees. I envisaged some sort of saggy, bouncing, Dr Seuss type trees. There was no Internet way back then, and we only had our imagination to visualise stuff. Fifty years later, and I get to ride through rubber tree plantations, watch the guys taping the trees, collecting the rubber in buckets, and get to smell the product. Its white, rubbery, and it stinks, enough to make my eyes water. And the trees are not saggy and bouncy.
What I didn't learn way back then, was that Thailand does not use the same script as we do. It's all symbols, like I've never seen before. I've been trying to figure them out. I thought that the two squiggly apostrophe thingies might mean river, as they appeared near bridges. Then I saw them on a Hospital sign.....water works? I know now what it must be like not to be able to read, or recognize letters. Nothing is easy. What does a Bank sign look like? I've yet to find a hotel myself, after riding past several. If you're lucky you can recognize things in shops, and I'm lucky, that they have 7-11, and Tesco, with signage written in English.
So after the blast up through Malaysia, where there wasn't too much choice of route, I'm trying to stay off the main roads here in Thailand. It means a bit of weaving to and fro, and sometimes a slightly longer distance, but oh my, it's paying off.
Within 10 minutes of leaving the main highway yesterday, I came across a huge bull being lead down the road. He has a toggle through his nose, with a rope attached. This big fella was off to play. Just around the bend were about 30 guys, with another massive beast. It was village vs village, bull fight morning. The bulls were led so they were head to head, and then it was all on. Pushing, shoving, bellowing, roaring, mud flying, snorting, cheers and yahoos(in Malaysian). Eventually one of the bulls collapsed onto it's front knees, and three guys on each bull pulled them apart. No blood was spilt, but the spectators had a great time, money changed hands, and the crowd dispersed. I had just had a very lucky encounter.
I continued along these tiny roads, engaging locals with hellos, photos, and being cheered on. It was very nice. Whenever I stopped at junctions to check my map, someone would appear to give advice. Lovely people, relaxing on their Sunday morning.
I hadn't really planned my route, but on my map, had seen a ferry crossing, across a river, so decided to go in that direction. This took me to Katang. It's an inland port, and has just had a ten day festival. They were just dismantling all the stages and covered ways,( some great ideas for Hanmer's next festival.) Along the river bank was the Sunday afternoon market. Very busy. I got to talk to a gentleman who ran a "drinks" stall, every night from 6 to 10pm. It's great learning stuff from locals....yep kids, I'm 60, and still learning.
So far in Thailand I've been pretty lucky with my food choices. I'm getting the message across that I don't like spicy, nor chilli hot. Last night dinner, rice, was really yummy, until the last mouth full. Oh my goodness. Talk about burn. Something in there blew my head off. It took at least 30 minutes to cool my lips. Yowey. And to think, I was just contemplating doing seconds.....
Today, I've continued following off the beaten track routes. But I have meet four other cyclists. Basile & Simon, a couple of French lads, have been on the road since they cycled out of France in January. They fly out of Singapore on 11th December. Their year of adventure almost done. You can check their blog (probably in French, just for you Julie) asleviensonyva.com. They were really motoring, and look swelth and strong, and not wearing tops. It was hot, so I took the hint, and removed mine as well. It was glorious. The breeze actually cooled the torso. Don't worry folk. I put a shirt back on every time I went though a town, and then it rained, no poured, no it fell from the sky in buckets, and it cooled down a bit, so I left the shirt on for the rest of the day. Pity, because I reckon I was getting some looks from the females......
The other couple were from France as well, although he was British, they live in France. They are cycling for just over a year, in Asia, but focusing on Thailand. They eat mainly fruit, and have their, maybe three year old, daughter with them, and are loving the freedom, and huge quantities of fruit and vegetables available here. They had just been to some sort of vegetarian festival, and had met our very own, Hanmer Springs, Simon Wolf there. Small small world.
I'd managed to reach the coast today. Parts were outstandingly beautiful, but oh dear, the human race is so, so untidy. Apparently the weekend had been really busy, and the amount of litter lying around some of the car parking areas was not attractive. In the towns and resorts, the locals, gardeners etc, we're sweeping and cleaning, and things were not as bad. Seems like a Monday sort of thing, around the world.
So a really nice couple of days. Got very wet both days. Meet some lovely people. Saw some great sights. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to Skype Ju. But did I tell you that today I passed 10,000km since leaving Hanmer's Springs. Kinda proud of that. (Might even be worth a couple of dollars donation to Prostate Cancer or CanTeen. See the first page of my website)