Snippets: Ranong to Bangkok

Ranong - Kra Buri

God I'm stuffed. Pissed down with rain all day, starting shortly out of Ranong....I headed for a tree and just when I was so soaked I couldn't be soaked any more it stopped. Call me a sunny weather cyclist but this rain was so torrential I did dashes between the downpours and made it in to Kra buri.

Very weird to look across the river and see Burma just there, looking poorer but just 400m away. A cruel world that your life can be so different depending on which side of a river you're born on.

Phra whatsit cave on the way in: a long walkway through magroves amongst sheer limestone cliffs, all overgrown with vines. The cave is occupied by thousands of bats, it sounded like the sea roaring when I disturbed them. Steep steps led right up to where light came in through a hole in the highest point of the cave, jolly spooky.

Internet shop crammed with 50 schoolkids screaming and playing very realistic network shootemups.

Found little bungalow place...still can't find cheapies! Annoying. Nice anyway to be snug and warm after a shocker day.

Kra Buri - Chumphon

I had the glooms this morning! After ringing my home the day before, even hearing from my mother about problems with the council drains made me wish for just a bit of time somewhere snug and warm with people I knew around, most of all staying put for a bit. I just felt lonely.

The solution to being lonely was not to be alone...I found the market at Kra Buri and its coffee stall. Unfortunately, the owner gesticulated that her coal-fired coffee water wasn't hot yet. She did yell out to the other side of the market and motion for me to sit down, though. Hey presto, five minutes later another woman turned up with hot coffee and water. Beautiful! Sipped away, dipping in some crunchy doughnut things I'd bought.

A very busy world went by around me. School kids, three to a motorbike, pulled up for their barbecued chicken breakfast. An ancient (super-wrinkled) woman went past, regally, in the sidecar of a moto-taxi, and bought noodles.

But the doughnuts must have been the wrong thing to dip, as the doughnut stall owner came up to me with another packet, this time of flat, sticky round rice things sprinkled with sesame seeds. He motioned dipping them into the coffee. Refusing payment, he left me with a smile. I sat back, gloom gone, relaxed with the buzz of coffee and the tasty smoke of the chicken stall.

For the next twenty kilometres I pedalled beside Burma, which lay 500m across the Kra river on the left. A tailwind turned into a blast, the hills weren't noticeable and now suddenly I've covered most of my day's ride. Sheltered for the moment under a nursery owner's "gazebo", I'll ride the last twenty kilometres into Chumphon as soon as this downpour stops.


Khung Maha

A tired day...but here I am in Khung Maha, and I'd just been given a whole house to stay in. I'd asked at a local shop if there was anywhere to stay. The son and daughter led me on their motorbike to their 'spare' granny shack, where they launched into a flurry of cleaning. I was flaked out on the balcony as the cleaning went on inside, when a cyclist went by, none other than a guy called Benji from Melbourne. Small world. Quite weird to be talking to another cyclist after so long by myself. He's on his way around the world on a great sounding five-year trip, no flights.


Fishing boatBan Saphan

There were 26 squid boats out at sea, we could see their greenish fluorescent lights from the pier at Khung Maha.

Earlier that day I'd arrived in mid afternoon and found the pier a great place to sit down with just the lap of water below instead of the hubbub of a rural Thai road. Around me then, the fishing boats were really colourful; lots of red and green. There were open longboats, with outboards: these outboards were small uncovered petrol engines mounted on a swivel. Directly off the drive shaft a long tube extended to hold a propeller on the end. The whole pole was swung around and placed in the water to drive the boat, and steering accomplished by swiveling the whole contraption from side to side.

Snooze timeThe other boats were like your normal single-owner Australian coastal fishing boats, but as if they'd had a discount on the brighter end of the paint shop spectrum. They looked great on the water.

The other day there had been lots of these boats boats on the road. True story! I'm not kidding you - crossing the Isthmus of Kra, the skinniest part of Thailand between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, the highway was the best place to bung one's boat on a truck and swap seas. It was a little odd to cycle along and find boats coming my way.



Benji and I threaded our way through a tenuous series of tiny coastal roads, trying to avoide the big Bangkok highway...with varying success. When we did find them, these roads were magical - 10 metres from the lapping sea, and sleepy coastal fishing villages. The end of the line was Samut Songkhram, home of Thailand's fish sauce bottles and the beginning of the train line into the city. Half an hour on the highway was total craziness!

Hmm! Where to cycle?Bangkok, hey. It's busy. And full of farangs. To see foreigners everywhere was a little of a surprise, having taken two trains and two ferries into the city, cycled up impossibly busy streets and suddenly arriving at Khao San Road, the hub of Bangkok backpacking.

I felt out of place. For one thing, I was soaked in sweat, and stank. Everywhere, there's a mix of beach bums, spaced out hippies, bikini babes, fat white men, business types. And that's just the tourists. I suspect the city Thais have seen it all, and just can't be bothered smiling at another tourist. I feel naked without Sputnik - a bike is such a good excuse for someone to smile, to open themselves. A bike sets me apart from everyone else. Without Sputnik I feel like a walking ATM machine, and everyone wants to make a withdrawal.

Chinatown: the hardware departmentNow it's day three in Bangkok. The best part of Bangkok is finding a narrow leafysoi and being reminded that there's a beautiful human-scale world out there, that I'm looking forward to exploring some more. Go down one street, turn a corner and there's always another surprise....wandering around in Chinatown district I was thrilled to find an entire section devoted to hardware and industrial supplies. People making gears and cog; enormous industrial valves, hardware shops, extrusions.

I'm also enjoying the pleasure of finding a good book in English, some coffee and a good old slow afternoon. I also had my first ever filling at the poshest hospital I've ever set foot in: it looked like an extravagant hotel, complete with Starbucks. The filling was to fix up the tooth I smashed in my Australian tumble.


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