Laughter ripples across the water. Children are at play in the Mae Nam Kok, some of them floating in rubber tubes the size of tractor tyres. A few parents are in the water too, others have lines attached to the tubes so they can haul in their offspring if they start to drift too far - towards the Mekong, now way downstream.
|Simple fun in the Land of Smiles
Current Location: Fang, northern Thailand
Total Distance Cycled: 9,936 km
Maximum Recorded Speed: 70.0 kph
Squashed Snakes Seen on the Road: 35+
Weird Moments Number 1:Taking control of the music in a Laos restaurant to play Van Morrison’s “Days Like This” followed by Ryan Adams’ "Oh My Sweet Carolina". Several guests left immediately after the latter.
Weird Moments Number 2: Being hosed down with water as we walked and cycled during the Thai New Year.
|No-one escapes the water over
Thai New Year.
|We're in Thailand, but behind us are Burma
(Story continues here) Whatever the reason we are in an ideal position to watch the fun.Tonight's guesthouse in Tha Ton is located on the river’s edge. When we arrived, Judy asked to look at one of the cheaper rooms - our usual practice as we try to stay within our budget of NZ$50 a day. But while she was looking at the room - set back from the water and with no view - I slipped around to the front and spied the super duper deluxe versions - each with their own little balcony and river view. We had a quick consultation and Judy entered into negotiations to upgrade.
|View from the balcony upgrade
When the young woman handling the transaction turned to her father for advice, he laughed. Yes, he said, we could have the balcony room for TB500 instead of the usual TB600.
The family then proceeded to get back the extra TB100 as we lunched in the guesthouse restaurant - Chang beer poured over glaciers of ice and the inevitable rice with vegetables and pork or chicken. For a pair of hungry cyclists it was perfect, and we didn’t care.
For us, this is just another day on the road. They seem to have a simple rhythm about them which suits us. We rise early and usually cycle for an hour or two before finding breakfast. We try to reach our destination by early afternoon, to avoid the worst of the oppressive heat at this time of the year (mid April). We relax, eat and drink, take in the sights if we have the energy, eat some more and retire early. The days roll into one another, but each one is different.
Today we cycled just over 60 km through citrus trees,
paddy fields and banana palms. We climbed several hundred metres but didn’t
have to push the bike (something we had to do three days ago for the first time
since Malaysia). We could have made it much harder for ourselves. At a police checkpoint,
we ignored the turnoff and stiff climb to visit a tea growing area settled by
Yunnanese Chinese. It was several hill climbs too far.
|Just another day on the road. Northern Thailand.
Instead, we coasted downhill and walked part of the way to minimise the chance of another flat tyre caused by overheating brakes. On the descent we were greeted by a toddler - “hello” she called from the side of the road, then “goodbye” followed by “I love you”. We chuckled and rode on and thought those Thai kids watch too much English language tv. But after the barren landscapes and obvious poverty of parts of Laos and Cambodia it’s nice to be back in the Land of Smiles.
|Snake charmer at work. Chiang Saen.
|Thai New Year (Songkran) celebrations in the
northern town of Chiang Saen.
|We spent a week in Chiang Khong, just inside the Thai
border and as usual Judy was making friends. The woman
beside her worked at a Hainanese restaurant where we had
steamed chicken rice for breakfast every mornng.
Judy the Stoker’s Quotable Quotes
“Chian Saen is melting pot city Arizona,” as hill tribe people arrive in town to celebrate the start of the Thai New Year.