Saddle Time II


Did I mention that we stop to eat along the way?  Constantly and continually there are rest stops almost always where there is food available, and where there isn’t someone produces a few bags of things purchased earlier: like chicken on a stick or bananas or specialty pork-wrapped rices wrapped in banana leaves. I almost missed this photo op and the treats along with it when I started down the opposite side.  Only

IMG_5294after hearing shouting from the summit did I realize they were gathering once again for food and fotos. Over their shoulders is the reservoir shown below where only a few minutes later did we stop once again for chicken and rice drawn from a saddle bag.  At this point in the ride I couldn’t tell if this was lunch, or


if lunch was still ahead.  No, Lunch was still ahead and it was a much longer break at a road-side cafe in a village of about five houses and a Wat.  And when we finally got to lunch, I couldn’t eat any more.





Wats are Temples, and they can appear or pop-up anywhere.  Since we were in the mountains this Wat had a sacred cave associated with it.
IMG_5299And the loveliest of orchids gracing the cement block walls wrapping the entrance.  Of course I had no clue what was behind the walls, but quickly knew that I needed to take off my helmet and shoes before stepping too much further inside. Even an atheist can sense the feeling IMG_5304of reverence in this locale.  The usually boisterous cyclists became hushed and solemn, several taking solace and prayer in front of the many Buddhas.


I hadn’t taken a glance at the odometer up until this point and was surprised we’d managed 56 miles already and still hadn’t turned homeward.  No worries, we still had most the day left and probably a couple more food stops.  Suffice it to say we did another 30 miles most of which was on totally empty two-lane asphalt roads thru rolling hills, coming in the shorter “back way” into Trang.


And yes the last photo is of the mobile ice cream cart we ran down that provided the Wonderbread ice cream sandwiches shown the the last blog.



IMG_5310 IMG_5317

Sunday Saddle Time


IMG_5274Headed out with about 16 Thai “3T” (Trang Touring Tigers) touring cyclists Sunday for a ride to the “Dam”. ( I’m hoping they’ll tell me how to get one of their blue 3T jerseys). Fortunately for them I never ask where, why, how long or how far, as we’d never get on the road. Past blog followers know the Thai Sunday rides are an all-day event punctuated with frequent meals, and this ride was no exception. This time we made it the City Limits before stopping.  But the real breakfast wasn’t until the first town outside of Trang. Kow Man Kai – Chicken on Rice with Chicken broth was the fare there ($1.10).


Then off again on vacant asphalt roads to the Dam.  For the cyclists reading I can’t emphasize how wonderful it is riding two lane asphalt roads winding thru groves of rubber trees, palm oil trees, villages and along karsts. We can ride two or three abreast, even slide all the way across and take photos from the saddle of the string of cyclists. Of note: only one of the bikes on this ride was a road bike.  Thais in Trang tour on mountain bikes, and generally with various racks &


bags and one even has a full music sound system with horn speaker. The motorcycle-sized battery lasted all day and all the electronics are mounted on the handlebars next to the bell.

IMG_5287It’s pretty different cycling at a leisurely pace on un-trafficed roads with your own sound track.  The only time we’ve seen that is watching the RAAM riders (Ride Across Amercia) coming over Wolf Creek Pass with their RV trailing the rider with speakers blaring his favorite music.

Anytime I hear Dam or Waterfall mentioned as a ride destination you can anticipate some climbing.  Imagine climbing Coal Bank but steeper (they don’t have any 7% rules for roads).  Everyone waits at the top IMG_5297of hills and often someone breaks out a treat like chicken on a stick with sticky rice, or mini corn on the cob (which should never interfere with lunch – I learned).  I just couldn’t even think about food at the lunch stop, however I was up for the bananas mid afternoon and especially the ice cream sandwich which needs a little explanation to go with the photo.  An Ice Cream Sandwich from a three-wheeled motorcycle-cart vendor traveling rurally house to house or village to village is just as popular as the American Ice Cream van playing that noxious jingle.  I’m sure they have various serving media but our group preferred the “sandwich” version,

ice Cream

which is literally a slice of white “Bimbo” bread folded taco-style and filled with five mini scoops of home-made ice cream.  They even include a micro spoon for those that want to save the bread for last. Ugh! two selfies in a row, guess I’m keeping with the current social media trend. Just enlarge that sandwich to get a feeling for the treat.

Think I’ll leave the rest of the ride for a mid-week blog.



ADL’s – Activities of Daily Living.  A term used in health care for a number of activities older people can accomplish each day in their extended care facilities.  We first learned of the concept while cruising, in that we’d try to get in a certain number of ADL’s each day on the boat. It was always the nagging question folks asked about life as a cruising live-aboard sailor, ” What do you do all day?”  For anyone who’s already retired it’s an easy answer:  ADL’s.  I guess for those still working or confused, it’s what people do before and after work: read the paper, check Facebook, watch the news and then they cram in all the chores on the weekends; wash clothes, mow the lawn and clean house.  In the Health Care realm I’m sure they include things like social activities: exercise class, crafts and games.  I know that 5 ADL’s is a good standard and 7 about max.


In Thailand we include eating in the ADL count, because it always includes getting to the dining hall which is exercise, communicating what we want to eat which is social and educational, so that’s three ADL’s all by it’s self.  Since we do hand washing of our clothes each day (cuz we’ve a limited number in our self-imposed bike travel allowance) that’s another.


Some days there are added unexpected experiences such as figuring out how and where to get the flat tire on your scooter repaired. ($4 for the higher in-town price – includes the new tube). Fortunately we have a friend to visit where we get great stories about Thai social and cultural traditions and history.  He’s also great on practical things like explaining how to put minutes on your cell phone or where to replace the wind-shield visor on the scooter helmet ($1.75).


And of course there are the other mandatory ADL’s like blogging, studying Thai, texting back home (iMessage on the iOS system – free, fast and fun) and the occasional FaceTime (Apple’s Skype).  The guesthouse router is right above our porch table and has 6MB ups and down if you want to try it.



IMG_0406We’re back “home” and loving being in Trang. It’s been two years since we last visited Thailand and many things have changed, but not our friends.  Baan Wassana, the guesthouse we’ve really enjoyed, has added still another building (an office/community center), carports and landscaped everything that wasn’t before.  From Durango we requested an older unit on the ground floor, and we are back in style, one unit over from the last time we stayed.  IMG_5251These units are preferable for us since we have bikes, we can roll them in just like in Durango and they also have a front and rear porch where we can enjoy our meals out front and wash clothes out back. The little desk serves us well as does the frig.  We nest in the unit by purchasing a few dishes, utensils and left-over containers.  We can buy German Muesli and yogurt for breakfasts and pick up meals at the various markets or stands along the way home.  One of our favorite lunch spots is actually inside the Siriban mall at the Food Court where we can get a Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum – spicy with only one chili) and deep fried vegetable leaf batter with shrimp and side plate of lettuce, cabbage and cukes for $2.90 for two (prices have gone up in two years, it used to be 30 cents less).IMG_5261 IMG_5256We hadn’t forgotten our friends and they didn’t forget us.  We’ve been so busy in the first 3 days “catching up” we’ve barely had time to blog.  Even the Som Tum lady in Tesco remembered us and insisted on pushing aside the new salad lady and making ours special.  One of our cycle club friends and his wife have a soup stand downtown and we stopped in to surprise him our first day back and enjoy their pork and wide noodle soup – A-Roi. They speak as little English as we speak Thai, but we always have a great lunch laughing and sharing photos of our exploits on our mobile devices.

The best reuniting was with my touring Trek road bike I’d left here two years ago.  It almost brought tears to my eyes to see it rolled out from Sunsern’s house.  This is the Craigslist bike I bought for our North Thailand tour two years ago.  I wasn’t really looking forward to riding with the Fassong (morning pre-dawn) group on my mountain bike, because they go really fast and don’t wait for anyone at the top of the hills.  Having the Trek for the go-fast group and the mountain bike for the weekend touring will be wonderful, because that weekend group goes off road much of the time and even though I did it last time on the Trek it just doesn’t feel right climbing mountains and dirt trails on a skinny-tired road bike.

TrekIMG_5262Speak of the Fassong group we managed to get a photo this morning at their favor breakfast haunt.  This is the place where they bring out a tray of Dim Sum and you choose what and how much you want, or just order large soups, chicken or pork and rice plus your favorite beverage and everyone throws in 50 baht ($1.60) and the club keeps the change for a monthly party.  I’m not the oldest, one guy is 70, but he doesn’t ride the hills


 we do each morning: some guys take a short-cut but they end up in the same place.  There are probably 18 to 20 riders of which 8 to 12 show up each morning at 5:15AM.  Not all come to breakfast and only one can understand me when I try to talk.  But they always take good care of me, insuring I’m well fed.  By 6:30 they head to home and work and I usually ride the loop back to Baan Wassana


which is almost exactly an hour.  So my workout is almost exactly the same time frame as in Durango except that I still need to do yoga when I get home.  Routine at this age makes for happy old folks so after mid-morning snack, washing our exercise clothes, some web surfing, & studying a couple more Thai words it’s time for scootering into town (Baan Wassana is out in the country, just inside the


highway loop – 7km from center of town) for lunch and more visiting friends and shopping for our dinner.  Our favorite restaurant with Panang Curry and Cashew Chicken moved almost as far out of town in the other direction so we won’t be going there quite as often.  But we just learned of a new place we’ll try for lunch today and test their Panang.

Big Day – Rolling Hills

IMG_5197The next suggested destination from a cyclist on the net was about 92 KM from Bang Saphan and Stanna was up for another 60-mile day.  The route map showed that we would be going along the coast once again. So we headed down the highway and quickly switched over to the coast road where we found an official bikepath. Most of the shoulders are pretty wide but this shoulder was painted red and had bike signs every half-kilometer. As you can see from the photos the roads were virtually empty and we could ride almost anywhere we wanted. In this case I was riding down the center of the road taking photos with my iPhone.
IMG_5198It wasn’t as glorious as it was the day before because we started encountering rollers or hills in a different kind of vernacular. But fortunately they were short, not like what we find around Durango. We soon got to the coastline and we could see that the predicted 17 mile an hour winds out of the north were really chopping up the seas. The very high wind Marine effect brings in a lot of mist so the photos of the sea and the sky are not very clear as you can see in the photo with the karst popping up in the background.



We’ve been fascinated with all the shrimp farming going on along this coastline. And I actually looked up online certain facts about shrimp farming: it appears that Thailand exports 80% of the world’s shrimp. The photograph below shows one of the more professional shrimp ponds lined with plastic and has all of its aeration equipment down on the bottom because the pool is empty at this point. Not all the shrimp farming is this professional, it varies from just small or large unkempt pools to more open and less well-appointed ones, to this very large and upscale example below.


We had never really seen them harvesting the shrimp. We understand that they drain the pool so they bring in a lot of local people to grab the shrimp up off the bottom but other than that we have never seen the actual operation until today. We saw this heavily laden truck with 50 gallon barrels overflowing with netted shrimp. If you count them there are about 15 to 16 50-gallon barrels of shrimp in the back of that truck.
IMG_5206And just on the other side of that truck they were dumping the 50-gallon barrels into the large green tubsIMG_5208 and then taking a small laundry basket of shrimp over to the sorting tables. These weren’t small shrimp, these were really good-size shrimp. Think from your thumb all the way to your index finger. In the foreground below you can see the large blocks of ice that they’ll pack with the shrimp in the non-refrigerated trucks just behind the shed.
IMG_5207IMG_5219We could see this Buddha from a long way down the road. One thing that we since  learned is that the Wats (temples) are always at the top of a hill. This Buddha was way larger than any that we normally see and in fact it was still under construction with scaffolding all the way up to the top knot. Only when you count levels of scaffolding can you put it into scale, I’m thinking 12 to 15 sets of taller than our height scaffolding. That would make it somewhere around 50 meters high. We really could not understand why they put such a large Buddha in this location until we actually turned to see what the Buddha was looking at. You will just have to imagine a beautiful large bay probably a couple of kilometers across, in the lee of a number of towering karst hills with lots of fishing boats sheltered in the bay. Unfortunately the winds and the atmospherics made the whole photograph unusable.
IMG_5222Our rule of thumb is that there’s always food along the Thai roads, but on this lonely stretch of highway (actually a back road) we really challenged that understanding. So we had to jump in the first time we saw a small little eatery off the side of the road.
IMG_5223Yesterday we mentioned the Australian charity ride of 50 riders coming down the same Coast roads this week, but here’s picture of a few of the stragglers with the sweep van following.  Much to Stanna’s credit we kept up with this group for two days, leap-frogging back and forth, and they had no baggage and were at least 20 years younger.
IMG_5227This photo should fit in my Thai peculiarities gallery page included on the Blog. The contrast here is a rural simple rubber farmer with his 2-day’s worth of rubber mats drying in the sun in front of the shacks that they live in and of course out front is the dish TV.
IMG_5229And finally because I’m fascinated at how things are done in other countries: this is a photo of a crew installing a cell tower. I watched them bring up that next segment with the gin pole and a four-horse Honda Motor attached to a tug-sized capstan on the ground.

IMG_5231This was a welcome sight after 9 hours and 72 miles on the road.  Rest day is planned for Sunday in Chumpon.

Glorious coast ride

20140117-162002.jpgWe’ve been uncertain about accommodations on the ride down the Thai peninsula and today was no exception. Internet searches showed us that other cyclists have gone this direction, so we’ve tried to tailor our ride around those places in hopes that we might also find accommodation. Today was very ambitious and we would have to ride 90+ Kilometers before we would get to previous bicyclists’ destination of Bangsaphan. We chose to do the first half of the ride on the major highway before cutting over to the coast, because the first back roads kept veering back to the major highway, we might as will just stay on the major highway for at least 30-35 km.

A couple hours down the highway at a convenience store/gas station resting up and snacking on wonderful chicken treats, we met the first fellow cycle tourer. This fortysomething native German who was educated in the states was a lot more ambitious than us because he was cycling Bangkok to Singapore in 17 days. He was three days from Bangkok and we were seven, including a rest day. His bike appeared to be a hybrid bike with lightweight touring tires and rack and panniers on the back. I didn’t think to take his picture.

Shortly after leaving the four-lane highway we were heading to the coast down virtually empty roads, that is until we ran into a group of 50 Australian cycle tourers. Their supported ride was a charity ride for an orphanage in Phuket. It was pretty surprising to see 50 riders at a small food stop on the side of the road all with identical bicycles, identical jerseys, along with the pilot car & sweep truck. Sure enough once they got back on the road the tour leader, an American from San Diego, rode alongside us for 5 to 10 minutes and explained what was going on and give us a recommendation on where to eat in the next town.

Probably the best info was that he told us about his website where he posts rides, gpx tracks and information about touring this part of thailand. I hope to check into that as soon as I finish posting this blog. His restaurant choice was excellent in Ban Krut, run by an ex-pat New Yorker and his wife. We actually had our first hamburger of the trip.

At this point we really understood why there were 50 Australian bicycles doing this stretch of road. The seashore turned wonderful, it wasn’t the shallow seas that run out hundreds of yards when the tide goes out, this this stretch of water had big strong waves coming into long sandy beaches for ten’s of kilometers to the south. I was thinking that the Aussie’s probably wish they had their surfboards with them. We thought the beach at Cha Am was pretty wonderful but this long long beach topped even that place by a longshot. This is a place we would highly recommend and even consider coming back to.

And probably the best thing of all in this 63 mile day was that we learned of the hotel recommendation in Bang Saphan which worked out to be just right at $12 for two. Stanna thinks the best thing of the day was the 15 to 20 knot tailwind we had which made that 63 miles much easier.

We’ve taken quite a number of boat photos in the different ports and inlets along the coast but just have to show you this one little tiny 20-25 foot fishing boat, that has large lighting booms hanging over all four sides of the boat, which they must use to attract fish at night as they net them up.


South toward PKK

View Points

View Points

We had met a road-biking Thai on our way into town the day before, who rode along with us for a number kilometers, speaking perfect English, and he mentioned that there was quite a large cycling club in town, and they were pretty helpful people. Because we weren’t certain of the availability of accommodations between Huahin and PKK, our next route south, we decided to stop at one of the bicycle shops in town and see if some of those cyclists actually knew about that countryside on the small roads between the highway and coast.

We didn’t find the cyclist we imagined at that the bike shop, but a young man was absolutely certain there were “many many many” hotels down this long stretch of road near a National Park. So we took off on the blue roads, hoping that, in fact, this young man wasn’t wrong. Traffic was almost nonexistent on these back roads, and we were able to see and talk about things along the way (always a cycling pleasure). Shrimp farming seems to be the predominant agricultural feature of this low-lying land right next to the Gulf of Thailand.

20140116-141149.jpg Questions abound while you’re riding along: just how they do their shrimp farming, what’s the procedure, why are some ponds aerated and some ponds not? Still others are totally dry and why do they plow the bottom up before they flood them, and just how long do they lie empty and fallow? I’ll have to look this up in Wikipedia after I finish this blog.


As we said many times in the past, there are plenty of places to eat along the side of the road in Thailand. In this photo, Stanna and I have stopped at a little place with a cement table in the dappled light, to refresh ourselves with a cold soft drink. When we finally approached the National Park, limestone karsts pop-up out of the flat delta spit of peninsula. (A karst is a pillar-like formation of limestone that has not yet eroded into the land or sea – Thailand is famous for them). From what we can tell, just about anywhere there’s high rising karsts there are monkeys, and this park was no exception. They even have signs approaching park headquarters saying, “do not feed the begging monkeys”. As we cycled along, I probably took 10 or 15 photos of monkeys and here’s just one taken from the saddle right next to a mileage marker.

I told Stanna by 2, or definitely by 3 PM, we would start looking for a hotel or guesthouse along the way. And lo and behold, just past the last junction in the road we found a Thai language sign above a row of bungalows with English words at the very bottom saying “little home beach”. We are real fortunate that the teenager in the bike shop knew about accommodations down this way. Most of the places we had seen were twice the price and in the resort category. This one was just down-home enough for us.

Everything along this resort coast has been a little higher priced than we were used to, but we figured $25 a night this one night would work out just fine. It had direct access to the beach, hot water, clean sheets and we were the only ones staying there. Far better than those up-scale places we were passing by.

Before dinner we took a long walk along the sandy crescent beach which was littered with soft sea shells, plus a couple of unusual seashells we had never seen before. On our beach walk we discovered further down the beach was a nice little restaurant that we later visited for dinner.

20140116-142820.jpgOn these back roads towards the park there were a great many thorn bushes reaching out into the roadway. Evidently Stanna picked up a thorn, causing a slow leak. I pulled the tube out in the shade of a shrimp farm shack, but couldn’t find the leak. We pumped it up, continued riding another 45 minutes until we decided to pull into this nice little row of bungalows, where after dinner I took the tire apart again in the bungalow sink and found the leak.


Breakfast can be problematic in Thailand since we don’t read or speak Thai, and they don’t often serve granola and yogurt, even if we could. This morning we decided to start out cycling & see what we can find along the side of the road. We went about 30 or 40 minutes when I noticed a newly built restaurant down off the side of the road. We cycled down to their surprise, the man in the small truck garden & the woman behind a small counter. My very limited Thai is coming back and I tried to bluff my way into scoring a Thai omelette. Well that didn’t work, but we did get pork and rice, soup and more pork, two fried eggs, and a lot of good friendly times joking each in our own language & photo taking of each other. I imagine those photos will be up on the wall somewhere, as their first (and possibly only) farang guests in that brand-new restaurant.

Cha Am to Hua Hin

20140116-132542.jpg We took a rest day. Yes we’d only been three days on the road, but we finally got to the East Coast of the peninsula of Thailand and decided we needed to take a day at the beach. The town of Cha-am was a wonderful surprise for us as we weren’t expecting to find a reasonably quiet community right on the beach with lots of accommodations that were fairly reasonable. There was an entire beach full of tourists but it wasn’t over-the-top like some beaches we saw later down the line that had so many “farang” (Thai for tourists – like Gringo) that we felt like we needed to get out of town as quickly as possible.

The main road fronted the beach directly and there were about a hundred plus feet of sand from the curb to the water. At least half of that sand was filled with a virtual forest of umbrellas chockablock all the way down with beach chairs and table underneath every one. Because it was a weekday there were not very many tourists on the beach. We think that this beach community is mostly used by Thai’s from the big city of Bangkok which is only two and half hours away by their expressway. Nevertheless there were several hundred Europeans in the community all of whom were either riding bicycles or motorscooters to get around from the various attractions at the seaside resort. Our hotel had a pool and served a buffet breakfast in the morning which was great to get us going once we finally started back down the road south.


20140116-133849.jpgThis stretch of coastline is favored by the royalty of Thailand in fact all the way back to the time of Siam. Halfway down our route for the day was a palace that was used from the 1800s to about 1925. We took a diversion off the highway into a military camp and checked in at the gate of the palace for Rama the sixth. This palace is on it’s second complete renovation, very beautiful on it’s quiet and peaceful grounds on a beautiful bay.

20140116-134157.jpg In our bicycle shorts we were inappropriately dressed to visit a royal palace, so we were provided with wraparound sarongs for our self-guided tour. Absolutely everything of the single floor palace was one story on pillars not unlike the Florida houses that are raised at the seaside 10 feet above the land to provide for better ventilation and in the event of high tides and flooding. The king and his family even had a several hundred yard elevated walkway all the way to the sand beach with a changing room at that elevation and stairs down onto the sand.


One thing we found very fascinating in the small museum at the front gate was the mandatory requirement for all servants to wear a particular color outfit for each day of the week. In glass cases they showed the color combinations for both the court and the servants

Because of our longer side trip on the coast at the palace we had a shorter day’s ride and found ourselves in the bustling seaside community of Hua Hin. For some reason unknown to us, this is a very popular resort area for farang tourists. It was so crowded and so chaotic that we felt like we couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Many of the guesthouses and budget hotels were packed and after looking at several we just took the first one that met our price range. It was a rambling old turn of the past century fisherman’s house and you had to stoop and step over a number of thresholds just to get from one section to another. The walls were paper thin, it wasn’t one of the most pleasant places we stayed. I’m sure we could’ve done better but we were too tired to keep looking.

Down the Peninsula

IMG_4814We’re well down the Thailand Peninsula at this point, about 150 miles from Bangkok. We couldn’t avoid all the highways leaving the metropolis, but we finally got onto some back roads along the eastern coast of the peninsula. It was good to get away from all the traffic like these scooters coming down the interstate shoulder against traffic. Just before we finally left one of the major interstates, I passed by the turn that would take us down the peninsula closer to shore and not on the major north-south highway. I missed the turn by about 3 1/2 miles but once again by looking at Google maps  on the iPad we determined that we could go cross country and catch up with that coastal road. Ariel satellite maps led us through a bunch of dirt roads in and around rice paddies and shrimp ponds. It was on one of these dirt road so we saw our first exotic animal, a crocodile crossing from one pond to another. He was probably 50 yards off but it was easy to tell that the crocodile’s tail and nose almost reached both sides of the dirt road, so was probably 6 1/2 to 7 feet long to tip to tail.

I’m not sure exactly where we had  our first sighting, but at this point we have probably seen three or four groups, I should say troops, of monkeys in various towns and communities we’ve passed through. Last night’s troop was particularly large, we guess it was at least 50 in the downtown streets in Petchaburi. Petchaburi backs up to a karst mountain (large sun limestone domes that poke up out of a Delta) and I’m sure the monkeys come down out of those hills to search through the trash cans for garbage. They were quite a sight seeing them swing on all the telephone lines, going up and down the various business awnings, and running across signs and up and down the streets and shop tables that were abandoned after hours.

The Gulf of Thailand not unlike the Gulf of Mexico has lots of fishing, we saw plenty of fleets in the ports and river openings. One port must have had 20 shrimp boats, all wooden, three decks high, on the hard at a marine railroad, in for painting and refurbishing. Must’ve been off-season for the shrimpers. It wasn’t long after that we took a side road to a town we saw on the map that was along the river, and we had lunch at an apparently popular waterside restaurant. From the high-priced cars we saw in the parking lot we figured that a lot of people came down from Bangkok just eat in this restaurant. We were able to FaceTime with my sister Donna right from the restaurant, with the iPad, showing her the environs as we ate. With unlimited data and good solid five bar 3G connections we’ve been able to face time and message just about anywhere along the road as we been cycling along.

One of the things of this eastern coast of the Thailand peninsula is famous for is harvesting salt. We are fascinated to see salt beds up close and even look into some of their salt drying sheds built entirely with bamboo.

Of course being a seacoast most of the local people are fishermen and we saw lots of varieties of fish drying on racks along the roadside. What surprises me the most was to see so many racks of squid, four inches long, stacked evenly a couple hundred to a tray.

One other animal item worth noting is that this coast is famous for harvesting guano from birds. They build these very large apartment- house-sized buildings with no windows only small little pigeonhole openings in the building, said to be for the sole purpose of collecting the guano from the birds who nest inside.

We managed to cycle about 60 miles, 100 km, the second day and were even more tired than the first. For our third day, were going to take about half that distance and end up at a beach resort town called Cha Am.

We didn’t we have room for any more on our bikes or we might have been tempted by one of these colorful kites which we saw along the road approaching the beaches.

This is from Stanna:  Dead-snake-on-the-highway-shoulder count:    Day one: 0;    Day two:  3;     Day 3: 10  This is still many fewer than we saw in Dec 2012 when we biked thru Central Thailand right after the major flooding of the Chao Phraya River.  One other contrast to 2012:  that year I managed to crash twice on the first day.  This year I waited until the 2nd day to lay my bike down 🙂  No injuries, just skinned the same left knee.

Bangkok with Bikes

It’s a wonderful thing when you see your bikes at the other end of the line. In this case it was the Bangkok airport. This time we had to look at two different oversize baggage claim centers before we found them at the second one. We knew they were on the airplane because we had seen them loaded both in Durango and again in Denver. Just a matter of them making it on to the airplane in Seattle and since we had a delay due to two hours worth of weather delays in the East Coast. We were completely confident the bikes should make it from the Denver airplane in the Seattle airport.

20140111-033814.jpg Since we know our way around the Bangkok airport, we knew the first thing we wanted to do was to get our electronic devices hooked up to the local network. The Internet provider that we liked has a booth right outside the arrivals door of the airport so we just rolled our cart directly up to the counter and got unlimited Internet for one iPad and we got phone service for our iPhone. Cost for both was a whopping 1000 Thai Baht. I haven’t done the math yet but that’s about US$30.

This year we decided to assemble bicycles outside the air conditioned lobby of the Bangkok airport because it was just a little bit too chilly for us at 68° inside, it was 72 outside at 3AM. We had left the bicycles in their boxes while we rolled down to the food court where we had rice and chicken for a 4 AM breakfast. This was good, cheap and just what we needed in preparation for our dawn departure.

After a quick test ride of the bikes and a readjustment of Stanna’s panniers,we headed out the airport road and quickly were reminded of the peculiarities of the Thai drivers. Lots of people visit Thailand and often remark about the chaotic driving in Bangkok. But until you’re actually on the road yourself and trying to navigate the traffic, do you realize some of it is flowing in the opposite direction in your lane. Scooters are the most common violators of this basic traffic rule, that being driving in one direction on your side of the road. In Thailand they drive on the left and therefore all the vehicles should be proceeding on the left side of the road. However it is not uncommon and not legally enforced when scooters drive the opposite and wrong direction on the shoulder in order to take a shortcut to their destination. And to be perfectly clear, that means when you’re riding on the shoulder you have to navigate past obstacles, parked cars, and scooters coming right at you. All this of course is perfectly normal for the drivers in Thailand. Everyone expects it, everyone anticipates it, and is as soon as we, the foreigner, get used to it, everything flows along perfectly.


We start on the road at first light before the traffic was building to it’s urban rush-hour capacities. Our plan was to head directly from the airport south and west, trying to get away from the city of Bangkok as quickly as possible. The only real obstacle that we knew about is trying to get over the very large river that flows from Northern Thailand into the Gulf of Thailand. The Chao Phraya river is so large that ships with thousands of shipping containers can make it up the river to offload their containers in Bangkok. We are navigating on our iPad with the aerial maps provided by both Apple and Google. It wasn’t quite evident exactly how we could get over that extremely high double span bridge over the river. We decided to proceed directly to the river where the Google map showed a blue dotted line across the river itself. And lo and behold there was a car ferry, much to Stanna’s relief.


We were trying to avoid some of the highways on our way to exit the metropolis of Bangkok, through a couple of very very small back roads one of which was a dirt path through rice paddies and banana fields (Ariel Google maps allow you to see those dirt paths through banana fields) and as we passed a group of families living in stacks of shipping containers, we could see the huge IKEA sign and building looming just over the banana leaves. We couldn’t see inside the giant doors of the shipping containers covered with colored cloth like curtains but we were certain they couldn’t afford even the cheapest of the IKEA furniture.


We only managed to ride about 53 miles the first day, but we are very satisfied with that since we traveled 30 hours by air with only limited sleep, and had to navigate with numerous stops and checks of the iPad and Google maps just to get out of Bangkok itself. That 85 km took us eight hours and we were happy to find a small motel adjacent one of the major highways on the road south. For $15 we found a very comfortable and clean all tiled room with hot water, air-conditioning and TV plus wireless called the New Friend Motel.

House Happiness

IMG_4794 Could another household happiness besides a washer & dryer be a Roomba? We’ve known about these robotic devices ever since seeing them in action at Casa Bonita in Port Royal, Roatan. They seemed perfectly suited to maintaining that humongous, all-tile-floored house, but we never ever considered one for our condo with wood and tile floors with a large variety of throw rugs, many of which have fringe.

We recently visited Erica in Portland who acquired the pet version of the Roomba when it was featured as a sale item at COSTCO. Her family has three cats and it seems perfect for their household, and we were amazed to see it navigate carpets, tile floors and various rugs in the house. When this Scotch gadget fanatic learned the discounted price he had to have one, and so we now do.
The first time we used it, we couldn’t stop watching it roam aimlessly thru the condo and, wonder of all wonders, find it’s way back to the docking station when it gets tired and needs recharging. We haven’t had that much laughing entertainment since the last time McKenney visited the condo. Not to imply he aimlessly wanders the condo, just the laughing part.

What’s most amazing is that the dirt drawer on the Roomba is filled every time we run it, and we’ve probably run it everyday since we opened the box. Where do all those dust bunnies come from?

We have decided not to let it prowl the premises while we’re traveling — no one around to empty the dreck out of the dust bin. So now we’ll have this un-named pet to greet us when we return.

I’ve looked for a remote App to drive the Roomba to really qualify for true geekhood, but the current app required more add-ons than I want to contemplate before our winter sojourn.