Monday, 29 November 2010

Week 4 - Bangkok to Sukothai, 235kms cycled.

Highlights: Great scenery, friendly people.

Low blows: The 6 month visa Id been promised turned out to be a 30day visa.   
                  .     Discovering a road you’d cycled a long way to get to doesn’t exist!

Music of the week: Sodade – Cesaria Evora


Went to pick up visas only to discover theyd only given me a double entry 30day and not 6 months as Id requested. After lengthy discussion it turns out you cannot get a 6 month without an invitation letter. Woman eventually gave me back 700 baht and apologized.
Back to hospital for final dose of Cholera vaccine then onto bike shop to get a new cycle computer, some new bar grips and a bottle cage. Spend, spend, spend. Loads of monitor lizards sloping around the park, really tame. Some huge crows too! Changed money into US dollars, Dong and Yuan then popped into art museum. Met with Glen and Steve for farewell beers at night.

Caution lizard crossing.

Bangkok to Nakhon Sawan by train.

Rode to train station in about 10 mins, ate lunch and lazed about till time to put bike on train. Got there and workers taking all cargo off it – problem with the engine. A new one was found and we set off 40 mins late. My carriage right at opposite end of train so humped all stuff down there to reclining fan chair – loads of leg room too!!
Great to be leaving Bangkok – Im really fed up of the place just cos its really hard to find decent and reasonably priced food in backpacker area and all Thais there are really jaded with it all. Saw some pigeons at SamSen station all perched on the ends of vertical steel wire in the concrete column, rather than the tree opposite. Lovely scenery along the way – loads of birds in the wetland/rice paddy areas around Ayuthaya, storks, egrets, drongos, doves. Further on rice ready to harvest/ been harvested/ stubble burnt, and paddies prepared/replanted. Big limestone mtn in distance with a cement factory at the base. Arrived Nakhon Sawan an hour late at 19:30. Ask bloke in ticket office where a hotel was. He started to tell me but then just beckoned to follow him so I went into carpark and he pointed 100m into corner. Had to call number on sign as no one there (a bloke staying here helped me and he was instructed to show me a room). Nice little room 200 baht (so he said) with tv, fan bathroom. 

Hualamphong train station

Waiting for the new bits of the train to arrive

Trees not good enough for Bangkok pigeons

Nakhon Sawan to town on way to Umphang 130kms

Slept well. Easily found breakfast in a large food market set up outside train station in a long strip. Had thai food over rice and then went and sat at stall across from there to have coffee. People very polite here and can feel a more harmonius existence in this place. Pleasant to sit and watch and be part of it. Cant beat real Thai style. An old man arrived singing and in good spirits, who sat with me. 2 of the old mans friend arrived so talked with them a while until time for off. Went to pay for coffee, but one of the men had already signalled he was gonna pay for it. Said thankyou and left. Still no sign of gh owner so left key and money on table in room. Set off, wide busy road, passing army base training helicopter pilots, some hovering and maneuvering in the field, others out over the town. Probably quite dangerous around here? Hit the main highway, and glad to have hi-viz bands on, which I leave on all the time now, as fast busy road (but didn’t seem too bad after my Bangkok conditioning). 25kms in stopped for snacks at 7/11, then turned onto quieter road. Lots of bird life, drongos, storks, egrets, the odd heron too, and some kestrel-like birds of prey hovering looking for victims.
Heard a twang and a rear spoke had gone. Few minutes later another twang and another spoke. Wheel now got a wobble in it and Im imagining the whole thing collapsing in a heap beneath me, so took it steady for rest of ride. Beautiful countryside, mainly rice paddies. Stopped at Ban Lak for lunch and looked for a bike shop but no one had spokes for my ‘super’ bike. Lathered up with sun screen, hat, long sleeved shirt, and carried on. Grain warehouses and some vast areas of concrete for grain drying, set out in pretty swirls.

Harvested rice drying in the sun

Friendly folks along the way

Had a rest stop and chatted with a bloke and other people in village until ready to carry on. At 78kms got to a crossroads with a few shops motel, and gas station. Bloke in gas station said there was accomodaton 25kms further up the road so carried on as not tired enough yet. Nearer the hills now, road undulating gently, and crops becoming mixed – some tapioca too. This area has so many wats, literally one every 10kms. Must be peaceful to be a monk out here. The village where Id been assured there was accommodation had none, so would have to continue to next town. Road has been smooth as a babys bum all day and after lunch, virtually deserted- very pleasant after Bangkok! And scenery beautiful – sun going down over silhouette of low hills and flooded paddies in foreground- which kept me going. Eventually arrived in a town. Asked some people for gh, but turns out all resorts are out of town, arse. On my last legs and did the 8kms (locals said 4) to a resort. My dream of nice chalets and a food place were misplaced as it was basically some rich persons grounds with a few bungalows in it. A/C starting at 600 and mattress awful. Only other alternative was going back 16kms onto other side of town. Asked bloke if I could have it for 400 with no air. He went and asked and they put me in a room down the bottom, toilet outside for 300. Room clean and nice sheets. Had refreshing shower and then Mr O the lad that worked there sorted me out with some dinner – a plate of pig shins, with boiled eggs, vegetables and a huge portion of rice. Cant say Ive eaten pig shins before, but they were ok after such a long ride. Knackered.

To Kampheng Phet 65kms and onto Sukothai by songtheaw

Slept like a log, although had to put net up as mozzie munching on my knuckle. Turns out the road that used to go from here to Umphang no longer exists – despite it being a think yellow line on my map! Thanked Mr O for helping me out, then breakfast in towns market. I like out of the way places cos you get farmers size portions!! Called probike in Bangkok and they said there was a bike shop in Sukothai so that’s where Im headed. Farming more mixed here, rice, sugar beat being harvested and some corn and tapioca fields too. This area has the longest straightest roads! Hayfever making me sneeze a lot. Hit main highway and thought Id be clever by taking a shortcut into the town away from busy road. Ended up doing a circle and probably up highway about 2kms from where Id been  to bus station (should have learned from Chumphon that bus stations aren’t in the town!)  Had dinner then got a songtheaw to Sukothai, a lovely tree lined road and chatting with woman driver in front. Sky hazy from burning off stubble. Found farang gh 250 baht for cute little bungalow with bathroom. My sandals are stinking! Gave them a wash.

Around Sukothai 40kms

Dropped my bike in to the shop, then sat by the river and ate the pinapple Id bought from market. Lots of ants appeared as they sniffed out this sweet tasty treat. Let my sandals dry properly in the sun. Picked up bike, wheels straight as a die. Went to have a look round World heritage park in afternoon. 12kms away. Sat and watched people feeding catfish in a big lake, there was a large turtle in there too jockeying for position but he kept getting sunk by the mob. Had a cycle round ruins, but looked more like a building site to me as all that remains are the laterite foundation blocks, no stucco or murals or anything. Bagan wipes the floor with this place! Not impressed. Somehow Id managed to bypass the toll huts, who now want 100 baht per section. Pleasant to ride around the shady tree lined roads and large lake things. Had a big plate of food in nightmarket for only 25baht -aroy aroy.

Sukothai world heritage site

Sukothai world heritage site
Catfish freeding frenzy! Anyone for a fish spa and foot massage?

Probably the best looking building in the whole heritage site - the tourist office.

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