Thailand – Day 232 to 237

Day 232; Surin to Satuek.
47 miles
16 miles past the Elephant Village

Last night we went for a little walk, our intention was to have a beer in a local bar/restaurant neither of us were hungry so we didn’t intend to stop for food. However we couldn’t resist when along with our beers came a big bowl of uncooked meat and fish. We looked round the restaurant and realised that everyone was eating the same dish what was more they were cooking the food themselves. I have to admit I was a little reluctant at first mainly because I wasn’t hungry and secondly because of the sight of the raw meat but Gary was keen to have a go at cooking so rather than turning the food away we agreed to participate. As I went up to the large vegetable table to fill a tray with raw veg and noodles a man delivered a pot of coals to put in a hole in the table on top of this he put a metal pot with an upside down dome. To cook the food you had to place water in the bottom of the pot and put the meat on top of the dome to steam. I have to admit we needed a little help from someone sitting at the table next to us as we were making a bit of a mess of things, but we soon got it right. It was a lovely atmosphere in the restaurant, there was a band playing and it was packed out with local people of all ages. It was a great way to share a meal but for health and safety reasons I don’t think it would ever catch on in the UK, can you imagine them allowing people to walk through restaurants with pots full of burning coals?

We set off fairly early as we were awake and hungry. Before we could stop for breakfast (breakfast was in one of the cleanest smartest small cafes we have been in for a long while) we had to carry our bikes over a railway line (I say we, you know I mean Curly Locks carried the bikes, Gary, cheeky alien cow). Breakfast was a simple affair of rice and veg for me and Gary had some chicken with rice.

The road was fairly flat all day, we both commented on how green Thailand looked in comparison to the rest of South East Asia but other than there being more trees we can’t quite figure out what the difference is. The crops seem the same and the weather and season hasn’t changed.

We stopped a silk weaving village, we were hoping to see silk worms and lava but only saw old looms and bored looking ladies at said looms.

We then stopped at the Elephant Village before having lunch, it was virtually empty as the elephants were still in Surin so we didn’t have to pay. The museum was interesting it contained lots of information about elephants and the local villages. Whilst I was reading one of the displays I could hear an almighty noise outside so I went to investigate and it was about 12 manky dogs having a right old fight, what a noise.

Lunch was served in a street cafe similar to the ones we stopped in, in other areas of South East Asia, it was full of flies, chickens roaming freely and rubbish, that said the food (rice and veg again) was very nice and at £2.40 for both of us not badly priced. As we were leaving the chef asked us where we came from and where we were going. She was most anxious when we said we were going to Chang Mei, she was rather insistent we took a car or a bus. We’re not sure if she was concerned about the roads, the hills or the people but we tried to assure her we would be fine.

As we cycled to our next destination we were really excited to see elephants in the wild (where they should be) our first sighting was of them in a field opposite us roaming freely. Our next sighting nearly had me off my bike as Gary spotted one right by the side of us in the bush, I hadn’t seen it and didn’t realise Gary was stopping and nearly went into the back of him. Once we realised they were in the bushes we saw another 2 of them, it was amazing, they seemed totally unfazed by us, but as one started coming towards us i made for my bike.

Other points of interest from the day, the people we saw on route were really cheerful and we had lots of shouts of hello, there were lots of big dead snakes on the road, there were also a lot more lorries than we’re used to.

Gary
Its harvest time so the farmers have laid all the seeds out to dry in the roads, we have seen this before all over Asia, they sweep the seeds to ensure they all dry in the sun and once dried fill it into sacks. I was beginning to think that my pronunciation of sai wat dee krap “hello” was way off but in this rural area we had many happy exchanges with the locals all happy to hear our attempts at their language. I have stated this several times before but the people are so much more friendly as you get away from the towns and cities.

Once we reached our destination we struggled to find a hotel, even though there were 16 in the town very few had signs up, at one point Gary’s phone said we were outside 3 hotels but we couldn’t make any of them out. We stopped and asked the locals but first we struggled to find anyone who could speak english and then when we did she pointed us back to the main road. Eventually we found one for £8, a big clean room with a/c, bathroom and free wifi. Now to find a bar and a restaurant.

Now for something silly.
As a male I need to end my sentences with khrap. pronounced crap so imagine desperate poor little Johnny in school talking to his teacher.
Johnny; Please sir I need to have a crap, khrap.
Teacher; I have told you before Johnny, don’t use the word crap use the words no 2, khrap.
Johnny; Please sir I really need a no2 crap, khrap.
Teacher; No Johnny I didn’t mean you can say no2 crap, just no2, khrap.
Johnny; oh crap too late sir, khrap.
Day 233; Satuek to Borabue.
62 miles

Last night we went for dinner in a little place across the road from the hotel and had the same dinner as we’d had the previous night. This was not intentional but it was obvious as we entered what type of restaurant it was, being a little wiser to the format we managed to order a fish only dish and feeling a little more confident we enjoyed our meal.

I had an a really interrupted nights sleep, I don’t know what is causing it but that was the fourth night in a row that I have been up at least 3 times in the night. It may be the air conditioning units, I have a tendency to throw the covers off and may be getting cold or it might be sharing a bed with Gary, who has a tendency to throw himself in the air before turning over. Whilst we have been travelling we have often been given twin beds which we objected to at first but it does have some advantages. Gary; it could be that aliens don’t need as much sleeps Ginette has always been able to sleep like a baby.

As we set off from the hotel we were past by a carnival like procession which seemed to be celebrating the dragon, with a traditional dancing dragon also several people dressed as dragons and some of the children carried banners with dragons on them. On one float there were some older guys who called us over, I ventured across the road to see what they wanted and was duly blessed, at least I think that is why I waved a wet plant over me. It was a great way to start the day, we were tempted to follow them to see where they were going and what they were doing but we had 62 miles to cover and it was already getting hot, so reluctantly we hit the road in search of breakfast.

We stopped for breakfast in a garage and had a very unhealthy pot noodle, bag of crisps and a packet of biscuits all for less than a pound and this included a cold coffee and a cup of tea. Gary, oh yes the food of athletes.

At one of our morning stops a big lady in her 50’s stopped at the cafe we were in, she was riding a big motorbike (probably a little too big as she struggled to put the stand up on her own) She was a larger than life character and was keen to have a conversation with us but unfortunately due to the language barrier we were limited in what we could contribute this did not stop her nattering away to us, but it was difficult to maintain eye contact as she had really bad teeth and was chewing betel leaves which left her mouth and teeth really red which was really distracting and not very pretty.

We stopped for lunch at about 1.30 and had rice with an omelette, not very exciting but it filled a hole and only cost £2.00 with drinks.

It was a long flat day on a mixture of dual and single carriage ways, fortunately I had downloaded some good podcasts to while away the day. The scenery was pretty and consisted mainly of paddy fields some with men and women harvesting the crops, we also passed a number of buddhist temples and cattle with big floppy ears.

We arrived at our destination at about 4.00 O’clock, the first hotel seemed to be going through some sort of renovation, we stopped on the opposite side of the road and could hear a lot of drilling and could see men working in the foyer. In addition on one side of the hotel was a motorbike repair shop and on the other some other industrial unit. It was really noisy so we decided to see if we could find one of the other hotels listed on the iPhone. A further mile down the road we saw signs for what looked like a hotel and went to explore, we did find a motel like place but under no circumstances would you call it a hotel. It was really grim, but we were tired and at £5 a night so we agreed to stay. The room was like a box, it had dirty pink walls and a very hard bed. The bathroom was alive and the toilet had no flush, we have stayed in worse but we’ve kind of got used to a little luxury now so I think it may be an uncomfortable night especially as we have no wifi.

After we’d showered and changed we went in search of food and beer, neither of us were hungry so we decided to look for food on the market. Gary loved it and had lots to choose from but my tummy turned at all the flies on the food and the smell of uncooked meat. It was really popular with the locals many buying dishes that they could cook when they got home.At one stall a man was selling live baby chickens that had been dyed bright colours very strange. In the end Gary had some calamari with chilli sauce, and a bag of pineapple and I had an apple. Although I wasn’t hungry I felt I needed more than an apple so we went to a local store and I bought some crisps and a yogurt to go with a small bottle of fizzy wine.
Day 234. Borabue to Khon Kaen.
48 miles

Another restless night I even read my book between 3 and 4.30am.

As the hotel room was dirty and smelly I decided no morning yoga routine and quickly got dressed and encouraged Gary to do the same, so we could leave before contracting some awful disease. Gary; A bit melodramatic don’t you think!

We stopped for breakfast in another service station but this one sold real food not just pot noodle. I had rice and omelette whilst Gary had some spicy fish concoction and rice which repeated on him for the rest of the day.

It was an undulating cycle ride but the scenery was a little bit boring, lots of paddy fields and sugar cane fields. Fortunately I had lots of good podcasts and music to entertain me.

Due to the cost of taking money out of the ATMs we’ve decided to book hotels in advance using the saga card (the same card Ginette refused to even have in her purse when we left the UK). Unfortunately as we arrived in the town where we’d booked the hotel the iPhone decided it didn’t want to work and it was the only device with the info on it, so we were forced (I said forced) to go into a McDonalds to use their free wifi system, to do this we needed a receipt which meant we had to buy some drinks and mcflurries yum yum. Once we’d located the hotel a mere 1.6 miles away we went off in search of it.

The hotel was mediocre a big improvement on the previous night but not luxury but at £9.00 with breakfast not bad. As it was early (2.00pm) we had a leisurely wash, exchanged emails with home and looked on line for something to do. Trip advisor recommended a local Wat (temple) with 7 floors which looked interesting so off we went to explore.

We had a lovely afternoon, to get to “Wat Nong Waeng Muang Kao” we took a beautiful, leisurely walk through a park next to a lake “Bueng Kaen Nakhen” . The Wat was stunning far better than I would have imagined and free (always a bonus). It was 9 floors high and on each floor there were pictures depicting buddhist stories, unfortunately we didn’t have a guide so didn’t fully understand them, but they were interesting to look at. The carvings on the doors of the building and on the windows was so detailed. We could have spent all day looking around and enjoying the views from the top of the building and listening to the wind charms and soft music being played throughout the building but we were hungry so after about 1 hour we headed off in search of some food. We agreed we would wander back once the sun had gone down to take some more photos as it really was an impressive building.

We had dinner in a local open air restaurant, fortunately one of the members of staff could speak some english so ordering was made easy. We had barbecued fish, mango salad, sticky rice and some noodles and green salad. Not long after we’d started to eat our dinners than the waitress came over to show us that we were supposed to wrap the fish, noodles and sauce up in one of the green leaves to eat. Although a little messy, she was spot on the food was delicious. By the time we’d finished the sun had gone down and we returned to the Wat to take some more photos before retiring to the hotel.

Day 235
Khan Kaen to Chumphaw

I had yet another bad nights sleep, I hardly slept at all, air conditioning is great unless you have to sleep under it, I spent the night either too cold or too hot.

We had breakfast in the hotel, fried eggs with bread and biscuit, Gary is back to his normal healthy self and had lot and lots of biscuits he especially liked some bite size jammy dodgers.

Another day cycling on the main road which was long, fairly flat and boring, we passed through several industrial and retail areas but nothing of real interest to mention.

We stopped for lunch but only had snacks, peanuts, cake, raisins etc which came to less than £2.00.

We arrived at the hotel for 2.00pm it was a good 8/10 hotel, other than no-one could speak english it had everything we needed and was clean and modern.

We spent the afternoon down loading books and researching the next couple of days

in the evening went in search of a bar called Joes we had hoped we would be able to order some food in english and get a beer we were not disappointed. The bar was run by a man called Joe who was from NZ, the bar seemed popular with ex pats which generally means old men and their thai wives and girlfriends. Joe informed us that most of the bars in the town were closed because families were celebrating the Loi Krathong Festival which meant they would be launching offerings….We were intrigued so went to explore. By the lake we found lots of families lighting incense sticks and candles on little boat like floats, making wishes and pushing their offerings out onto the water. There was a real carnival like feel to the evening. Lots of people selling offerings for people to buy and launch, lots of food stalls and clothes stalls and a fair with a stage lit up in preparation for a show scheduled for later in the evening. We boat a little boat, made a wish and launched it on to the water. It was a lovely evening, there seems to be a festival or celebration every week in Asia – we love it.

Day 236
Chumphaw to Nan Nao National Park

At last, I had a much better nights sleep and woke up with a lot more energy.
Gary; just as well as we had a lot of hill climbing to do today.

We had agreed that we camp at our next destination so the first job for the morning was purchasing supplies, Gary was practical and got water, bread, cheese etc whilst I got the essentials crisps, biscuits and snacks. I couldn’t resist standing on some scales outside the grocery store, I was shocked to see my weight had dropped to 8 and a half stone.
Gary; I dont know how she eats like a horse, an alien horse at that.

We had some stir fried rice before setting off on our ride, we were feeling upbeat as we knew that we would hit the national park later in the day and we could say goodbye to the dual carriageway and traffic.

We stopped several times during the morning to ensure we had enough fluids and food on board to tackle the 5 mile climb up the mountain. We needn’t have fretted although it was a long climb there were plenty of places where it levelled out and we could take on water. The national park was full of signs warning of us snakes, elephants, deer and buffaloes. The only thing that causes us any concern is the snakes as we had seen a very big road kill earlier in the day and it looked like a python it was huge Gary; yes really huge, biggest I have seen in the wild, shame it was road kill.
Gary; I think the hill climbing is made less painful when you are constantly looking in the forest and listening out for Elephants, we didn’t see any but we did see there droppings and what we presume are there tracks where the forest sides have been squashed to show a track either side of the road.

Once we arrived at the camp site we were provided with leaflets that also mentioned tigers and a range of other creatures I didn’t recognise. It costs a staggering £8.00 to enter the park and a further £2.00 to camp this was more than the price of the hotel we had stayed in the previous evening. On the up side as we had climbed to over 2,000ft it was much cooler than the previous times we had camped and we had access to toilets, showers and a shop selling cold beers.
Gary; cooler yes but still 27degrees, dropping to 15 degrees at night. The campsite has an electric fence all around it to keep the elephants at bay, I don’t suppose this works to keep the snakes out!

Day 237
unplanned day off.

The campsite had been really busy during the night so we had not slept well. We even got up at 11.30pm (after going to bed at 8.30pm) for a walk as I had heard elephant noises, we didn’t see any elephants as the campsite had an electric fence around it but we did walk to the lake which was really noisy, the frogs were having their own little party.

When we awoke in the morning our quiet camp site was surrounded by Honda cars, apparently a lunch was taking place opposite our tent for staff.

Gary; During the night the tables and chairs and cooking equipment was put in place in the field next to us for some sort of Honda corporate event, this went on well past midnight.
After a cold breakfast of jam cheese and bread, as the stove wouldn’t light we went for a forest walk. Ginette and I were like ancient hunters prowling as quite as possible so as not to disturb the wild life, in hope of spotting huge snakes or elephants, however maybe we are not as stealthy as we thought as the only wildlife we did see was frogs and a viscous looking centipede. The walk was great though knowing that exotic species may be just in the brush next to you really heightens the senses.

We had intended to go for a walk in the national park and to move on to our next destination but as the park was so quiet and tranquil and the Honda team planned to leave in the afternoon we decided to stay another night. We did have two walks in the park the first late morning which was lovely, no mosquitoes (or very few) and the anticipation of seeing some wildlife the second walk was a little disappointing not only did we not see anything but the mosquitos were out in force.
Gary; I am not sure about the quiet and tranquil bit by our tent, we had about 100 Honda cars coming and going with all the occupants having dinner in our view, however when they had all gone the we did get some free coconut ice cream, and the crew managed to pack everything away early so no midnight clanging around tonight. (they were only on the camp site between 10.00am and 3.00pm)
Another reason for the delay in leaving was that the Omni stove had stopped working, so once the forest walk was done I took the time to strip it apart and clean out all the internals, its is now working again.

We had a really chilled out day, we did nothing, it was not planned but much appreciated we simply read all day and sat back and enjoyed the day.

Day 238
National Park to Lom Sac
38 miles

We had breakfast at the campsite (scrambled eggs, tinned fish, chewy mushrooms and baby onions – not the best but enough to keep us going)

I found the day challenging, I felt a little queazy and Gary had led me to believe it was going to be an easy day, but it was far from it. Although we only cycled 38 miles it was very hilly according to Gary’s garmin we climbed a further 2,000 ft and descended 4,000ft.

We stopped at a couple of viewing points, I was not impressed with the first so chose not to walk up to the second one, which depending on your point of view was a wise decision. Gary said the views were really good but he had to walk up 270 steps to view them. I chose to read my kindle in the shade, I’ve seen the pictures and to be honest they’re no better than the views we’d seen through out the day so I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on anything. Whilst Gary was taking pictures at the viewing point I went for a wee in the woods, it was really spooky the trees sounded like they had uprooted and were walking through the forest very eery. Gary experienced the same feeling and had taken a video on his way back to try and capture the noise.

Gary; The first view point was “Sunrise view” (we obviously was not their at sunsrise) it was not far from the road so wasn’t anything special. But it did have a tall steel observation tower which I climbed to the top off on very dodgy ladders, the towers swayed in the wind so the vertigo experience was one I really enjoyed, it certainly got the old heart racing.
the second view point “sunset view” was far better in that you had to walk down the scary creepy lane, as Ginette points out the bamboo trees rub and squeek in the wind and it sounds really haunting. then the steps right to the top of the hill which is crowned with natural rocks on which you can climb to enhance the view. so not only do you get a view but also you get the thrill of the steep drops, the photos don’t do it justice.

We stopped for some water at the top of one hill and I came off my bike on some gravel, no harm done, just a dent to my pride.

We arrived at our destination at about 3.30pm and found a hotel, it is called the Grand Hotel and although it looks very smart from the outside it is a little dated inside (I dismissed it as being too expensive, but Gary thought it was worth a try and at £12 a night for B & B it is not bad.)

As we had been without Facebook for a few days one of the first things I did was log onto face book and i was shocked to see a friend from school had died, my thoughts are with his wife and children RIP Jason