StatuaryAt the end of a sparsely populated paved road which crosses over and terminates at a river estuary, is a newly constructed Charcoal Kiln Museum. Everything excluding fictional the accounting office is outdoors or under that same office.  Life-sized characatuers of the people involved in the traditional harvesting and production of charcoal are Charcoal Muesumrepresented. Evidently major charcoal production has just recently been made obsolescent in southern Thailand as this outdoor museum depicts.  One question was unanswered by the museum (It was lacking in any written information or text) was just where was the forest of trees used as raw materials.

The museum was located in a clearing charcoal accountingof high ground along the densely overgrown Mangrove swamps lining the river. As TigerSong, our cycling companion and personal guide explained, “Mangrove trees are best for making charcoal as they are dense, grow rapidly, and use salt water for hydration.”

This all made sense when considering a similar location we’d seen in Cuba IMG_5352where the Granma came ashore along the southern coast with 81 rebels and Castro, in November 1956. Running low on fuel, Castro ordered the Granma to run around, unfortunately they landed on a spit of Mangroves where they labored for almost a kilometer to reach solid ground.  On that solid ground was a small charcoal producing family whose property and facilities are now memorialized. Cubans must have regarded the Mangroves as a fertile charcoal resource as well.  Shown here are only a few of some 20+ life-sized cement statues in a remote riverside park that surely few visitors aside from school children on field trips ever get to see.



This diversion was on account of our going south to join, the following day, a Trang District bicycle ride with some 300+ cyclists and the local governor who would inaugurate a IMG_1585cave as an tourist attraction and recognize a very remote school with gifts of bicycles, soccer balls and school supplies.  TigerSong took us sightseeing on our way to camp overnight at a police guesthouse aka the municipal police gymnasium.  They often arrange accommodation for us cyclists in schools, gyms and temples.District Ride
Highlight of the 200 km weekend camping trip was discovering a tiny two table village restaurant that had the best shrimp I’ve ever eaten. It was served to us as a lark, since we’d ordered chicken fried rice for the four of us, and just as we’d finished and pushed back from the table a platter of this juicy buttery small shrimp appeared.

Best Shirmp yet

Shrimp & SeaweedWe said we were full but after swallowing these shrimp whole and in most cases with the heads on we ordered a second platter and TigerSong went across the road and brought back the very best fresh raw seaweed imaginable. Our very small group included a British family mentioned in earlier posts.  Hanna the five-year-old loved the shrimp and 5 year old eats seaweedwas like a little bird swallowing the seaweed.  What a treat eating Thai foods we’d never think to order.  Shrimp platter was 80 baht, about $2.10.  Palm oil, garlic, sugar, fresh shrimp and fish sauce.  A Roi.



Facie and another photo

FacieI had one of those transliterative generational freudian slips and inadvertently called a “selfie” a “facie” with my Thai friend, SunSurn. He obliged the photo, but really questioned my term with all his body language.  Even Thai folks know what a selfie is, and here I go calling it a “facie,” showing not only my age but my lack of millennial jargon and basic tech expertise.

I’m not that far out of it, as I’m reading Exponential Organizations, by Geest and Ismail, but like Kurt said, who recommended an interview in the Wall Street Journal by the author, it’s a totally different world of business for the innovative disruptors. Just reading the book makes me quiver with anxiety trying to come up with my own disruptive innovation. Pushing 70 doesn’t seem like much of an excuse not to try to form an organization with a “massive transformative purpose.”  Then chapter 10 notes that the best visionaries for these tasks are in their 30’s.  However, the section on Boards is really illuminating; specifically not just that they should provide oversight, but direction. I’m eager to finish the book.

Big race in neighboring town last weekend, and since I’ve set a prohibition about racing in Thailand (decided rewards don’t justify the risk) there weren’t any social rides this weekend. Easy to reflect on Al’s accident in England and 70-year-old bones. So just a loop around the ring and more time for reading and podcasts.


Finally had a scooter flat tire and this time we just rode it to the mechanic (actually Stanna hopped off for the last 6 blocks).  For $4 they replace the tube without removing the tire.  That’s the total price of parts and labor, done immediately, and takes less time than repairing my bike tire.



Google Street View is now on the iPhone as an App.  Check Wassana Guesthouse our home in Trang.


If you click on this image (larger file to load) it will actually fill your screen and another click and it’ll enlarge again and you can pan around the photo just like Street View in Google Maps

After latest iOS update (9.3) there suddenly appeared a new Google Street View app which allows, and in my case encourages, you enter in a Street View 360 photo of any place you want.  I noticed that Wassana Guesthouse didn’t have a Street View, so in experimenting with the new app I followed the “click on the orange dot” instructions and took 16 photos rotating in place as instructed. Above is the photo and I’m curious to see if it’s viewable in this blog.  Update: success!

Sukorn 2016

Boat to island

Bikes in boatSukorn Island is one of the favorite places we like to bike.  It’s only 60 km (36 miles) to the pier where we can chain-gang-load all our gear and bikes onto a long-tail boat and take a 30-minute passage to one to Thailand’s southernmost islands in the Andeman Sea.  It takes a couple of boats to get riders, bike campingbicycles and gear across and then we load the dunnage on a three-wheeled cart for the short trip to our destination on the island, while we tag along on our bikes.  In the past trips to Sukorn we’ve not had our traveling chef and provisioner, Go Cho, so we’ve supped on the local fare.  But Cho, who has one of our favorite restaurant in Trang, goes all out on these seafood panotrips bringing the kitchen to the camp, not to mention all the things we might tote along on a raft trip, like pots and pans, utensils, condiments and wash up supplies.  Of course he can’t go anywhere without a 4-liter rice cooker, 3-liter electric kettle and a Seafood Supperblender, a couple of 25-meter extension cords, fans and power strips for charging devices. He has at least 8 courses of foods and seafood is his passion, so this trip we had two sizes of shrimp (lunch and breakfast sized – Shrimp2″) and dinner sized (4-5″), plus a large crab for everyone, grouper, squid, octopus, sea bass and a number of other unidentifiable sea creatures.

Lunch, dinner and breakfast is the standard menu with snacks for the ride over and back, two 20-liter water bottles and a 100-liter cooler full of ice cubes for cold drinks, chilling the fresh foods and beer.  All that can be said is that no one goes hungry, left-overs are recycled for the next meal and I can’t believe how much Thai’s can put away.  I can do one and a half, maybe two full servings, and these men and women, go two and three times plus grazing on the tastiest items after they’ve put down their spoons.

Triptych of our lunch

Lunch 1Lunch 2Lunch 3


GOPRO photo of island cement road

Sukorn Island doesn’t allow vehicles (only construction trucks and cement mixers) so cycling is ideal.  All supplies and materials are “carted” around on 3-wheeled scooters (basically a scooter with a one-wheel side car).  Since we last visited Sukorn they improved a number of crumbling roads with double-wide cement roads so it’s even better.  All minor pathways are meter-wide cement paths such that two scooters can pass traveling thru the fields and rubber tree plantations.  Besides fishing the main products coming from the island are rubber, rice, watermelons, and beef.

beachside batikOne other product is Batik cloth: we only know of one artist whose studio is a high road-side table on the less populated windward side of the island. Fortunately she’s there every time we visit and after purchasing a few items she happily gave us a demonstration of how she works the cloth.  I took several short videos which we hope to show back home.

Batik Lady



A couple of things I haven’t photoed before:

A man cutting 40′ planks with a chainsaw.  Most likely to build or repair one of their long-tail inter-island boats.

And although watermelons are ubiquitous during the time we’re visiting Thailand, it’s very rare to ever see a watermelon IMG_5289patch.  My Belgian friend, Rik, spent several years looking for one on all his weekly scooter excursions.  We found several on Sukorn, and even sampled some of the fruit left in the field as unsuitable for sale. These melons are said to be extra sweet because they are so close to the ocean and the ground water used to water them is slightly different.  Our group only took 30 melons home with them on the boat.

Chillin’ and Dancing

BackyardWe aren’t always cycling to sites hither and yon. Quite often we get to relax and keep up with the world, thru our online resources.  This year we’ve added a back porch table and chairs, plus they’ve shifted a lounge chair to my pond-side spot that only I and the neighbor’s cows take advantage of.

Monitor Lizard
There are small fish in the several ponds behind Ban Wassana and the most interesting visitor besides the cows is a Monitor Lizard who we’ve never seen before this year. This guy is over 6′ long and moves very cautiously when he’s out of the water.  We’ve read that his diet is fish, small rodents and snakes, which is of particular interest to Stanna.

Muslim Traditional Dance

On Monday we cycled to the White Dragon Spine beach just south of Hat Yao, where the governor was promoting his plan to get tourists to visit this remote village and 5 other spots that have “spines.”  A dragon’s spine is a sand bar or shell bar that becomes exposed when the low tide (especially around full moon) drops the water level over 3+ feet.  According to local lore, it’s good luck to walk on the dragon’s spine and if you could conquer all 6 of the spines, the governor suggests you’ll be very fortunate.  Since this was a muslim village they had a performance of the local women dancing to an ensemble of drums and a fiddle.

White Dragon Spine
About 200 people showed up for the ceremony which included a walk on the spine filmed by the newly requisite drone. This spine goes out over a kilometer into the sea and very nearly reaches Koh Libong across from the coast.



New WheelsThe rest of the week was consumed by visa extensions and getting my road bike upgraded with new shifters (eBay purchase and brought over), plus a new chain and a set of upgraded (used) wheels.  And, not to forget, reading the latest Economists and New Yorkers on the iPad. We should mention that this week’s temps are 38 C, and a clue to conversion is that the human body is 37 C, so shade and a cool breeze are very important.Chilax'n





Not Quite…


Mini Gold Bananas $1 – Aroi

… bananas, but still fully involved in things Trang.

Besides getting in the pre-dawn rides, which this week have been a little more brutal than normal, we’ve been strategizing how and where to get our visas renewed, plus working on a new project of recording backroad cycling tracks around Trang for prospective day tours.



A Ridley ringer showed up this week at the Fashung meeting point on his new Ridley Team carbon rocket ($3,000). Powered by a 150-lb 28-year-old, the group of old men (average age late 50’s) set Strava records trailing in his wake. Not satisfied with our normal ride after the first day, he shamed the group into challenging the pass the next morning for our 5 AM effort. All I can say is that Strava thinks I bettered my time to the summit by 2 minutes in 30-km head winds that almost stopped me cold rounding the first corner uphill.  His taillight wasn’t even visible after the half-way point.

Audax 200 TrangTrang cyclists, besides their individual daily routines, have a number of opportunities to support various community events. This weekend there were two events where local cyclists offered support. Trang hosted it’s bi-annual Audax 200 Km where 250+ riders test their mettle on a course with a cut-off time of 13 hours.  I did this last year on the east coast of the peninsula and Durango actually hosted one recently. I didn’t enter but was part of the governor’s escort out of town. a number of reasons not to sign up this year; I’ve already done it, El Nino has brought very strong summer winds three months early, and mostly I didn’t know about it until after registration was closed.

Anti-Corruption paradeAlso this weekend, Stanna and I were asked to “ride in a parade” for Journalists Day, which ended up being an “anti-corruption” rally that we had not a clue about until we saw one of the many Thai banner’s printed in English. The Trang cycle club followed the 200+ walkers at a push and glide pace. Not something we’d normally do consciously, and will seriously avoid in the future.

Pro Mechanic

I took my road bike in to a pro-mechanic (another unsecured outdoor shed-style workshop) to get the rear derailleur tuned (jumping up a gear while climbing with increased torque).  Tune up took less than five minutes, but subsequently he discovered the rear hub was bad and I had a broken spoke up front. So when he gets back from racing this weekend he’ll install a new set of “used” high-end wheels and a new chain.  Don’t think Mr. Ridley has to worry about competition, but this 30-year-old Trek should run a bit quicker.  I’m keeping the old wheel set for those Sunday rides where we go “everywhere” a two-wheeled bike can go.

Thai Omelette

Thai Omelette

In the TL;DR category: This year, because we only came to Thailand for 3 months, we didn’t obtain two sixty-day visas as is customary.  Last year we’d heard, from a inspecting Immigration Officer checking visas at our guesthouse, that we could easily get 30-day extensions at his office at the port town 20-km to the south.  However, since our return this year, reports have conflicted on this opportunity, saying that we could only get 15 days.  With the second 60-day visa they have to give you the longer extension, albeit that still requires you to check out and come back into the country at the border.  Foreigners without a visa, that would include us after our first 60-day visa obtained prior to coming to Thailand, can only get 15 days at a border or 30-days if they fly into the country.

Dory & Waffle Chips

Dory & Waffle Chips

Hence the dilemma, as you have to do the complete “visa dance” on the same day: either renew easily for 30 days, or find a way out of the country and method to return securing the last 30 days. We had two offers to drive us to any of the three border crossings in southern Thailand, we just didn’t know whether to take travel gear and how we might get back.


Update: Fortunately, just yesterday a Thai Trang friend offered to call her friend at the port town immigration office and confirm that we don’t have to leave Thailand, we can get an extension stamp without leaving the country.

Update 2: We were able to extend in Kantang, but it did required two extra trips for additional requirements: photocopy of passport and entry card, plus a color passport photo.  5 things in total.