Archive for April, 2007

Family Dinner

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Sarah and I left Chumpon very early this morning. We were on the road by 6am and we were lucky we got such an early start because today was another blistering day of sunshine and humidity. The highlight of the ride was probably the fat little Thai boy at the restaurant where we stopped for breakfast. He was literally cracking up every time he looked at us, we guess because of our sweaty, white bodies. He brought us our drinks and then sat down at the table right next to ours and stared at us, chuckling to himself. His mother kept sending him away on errands to distract him, but he always returned to catch one more glimpse of the strange bicycle tourists.

After 100+ sweaty kilometers, we arrived at our destination of Bon Sapphon Noi on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. This area is full of beach resorts that are popular with Thais but that don’t see as many farang as the main tourist areas. We were surprised to learn that the accommodations are a lot more expensive around here; the rooms at the beachfront resorts ranged from 800 to 1600 baht! Those prices are way out of our range so we when saw a sign for a resort about 400 meters off the beach we decided to check it out. As we rolled up, the owner was sitting in front of one of the bungalows. Our conversation with him went something like this:

“How much are your bungalows?”
“400 baht”
“Can we see –”
“300 baht”

After unpacking our gear, we sat down for a beer with him and began with the usual smalltalk. The owner told us his name was Mr. Bong, “you know, like beer.” After about five minutes of pleasantries, he told us he made bead jewelry and then immediately took off the two bracelets he was wearing and gave them to us because “we were his friends.” I usually get nervous when people start giving us stuff because I worry that they are going to ask us to pay for them later, but we thought Mr. Bong seemed a little eccentric but genuinely friendly so we continued to drink with him and a short while later we were served fried prawns and squid from his restaurant. Delicious! Half a dozen beers later, he blurted this out, “I have hormone problem. Married ten years, no children, wife say goodbye.” Our guidebook says that Thais are very open people, but wow, we weren’t expecting that! He said he loved babies and loved making them fried eggs and tom yum soup. Awww! He wanted us to come back to his resort in 2008 with a baby. Maybe we will! He also told us he was having liver problems and was waiting for his sister to arrive to take him to the hospital in Bangkok tomorrow. We weren’t surprised given the amount of beer he was drinking but we were a little shocked when he told us he drank a bottle of Johnny Walker Red and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black last night Is that humanly possible?! Maybe we misunderstood and those are his two favorite whiskeys. In any case, we kept him company for several hours while waiting for his sister and he seemed happy to have us around, saying before we arrived he was “home alone.” He showed us a giant mango tree in his backyard and taught us how to pronounce many Thai words, which is always entertaining for us. Lately a lot of people are thinking Sarah can really speak Thai – she is getting pretty good! Mr. Bong showed us a photo album of his niece and nephew, and told us about the upcoming water festival called Songkran which celebrates the Lunar New Year. People line the streets all over Thailand to splash each other with water. If we understood him correctly, it is permissible to get water on someone’s face but if someone gets your body wet you can tell them to “go to the police station.”

Around dinner time, his sister arrived with her husband and daughter. They didn’t seem too happy with his drinking and some strained discussions ensued that we could not understand. We went off to our room to shower and to give them some privacy. When we came out a while later to find some dinner, he invited us to eat with him and the family. The family seemed a little uncomfortable but they didn’t speak enough English for us to ask them whether or not it was alright and he was insisting so we went. Dinner turned out to be very nice at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. We dined on fresh squid, prawns, soft-shell crab and a variety of Thai dishes. The family was friendly, but very shy – especially the nine year-old daughter. She buried her face in her hands when we used our phrasebook to ask, “What is your name?” and “How old are you?” Her mother kept encouraging her to practice her English with us, but she did not want to talk to strangers! After dinner we thanked everyone and headed off to bed while they got ready to drive back to Bangkok. A few minutes later one of the resort staff showed up with a TV for us to use in our room. Another gift from Mr. Bong! What a generous host and friendly person.

Looking Ahead

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Stats from Thailand Week 2
3.26.2007 – 04.01.2007
3 days cycling, 4 days resting
185.38 kilometers
61.79 km / cycling day
10 hours, 33 minutes, 51 seconds in the saddle
3:31:17 / cycling day
US$31.81 / day

Sarah and I have spent the last two weeks in Thailand trying to decide where to go next on our trip. This is the first time where we have no concrete future plans. No onward plane tickets. No hard dates to meet. It feels a little strange not knowing what is going to come next and we are struggling to figure out what to do. We have discussed whether or not we should try to find the best places on the planet to tour on a bicycle or should we really try to get remote and adventurous? Maybe Southern China, northern India, France, Argentina? Should we stick to our original plan of one year or travel for longer? We have talked about teaching English in Taiwan or volunteering in India too. It feels like everything is up in the air.

We spent today resting in Chumpon, which isn’t that great of a place but it does have a large, interesting night market where they sell everything from fruit to fish to dishes.

We are staying in a guesthouse in Chumpon called the Farang Bar. Farang is the Thai word for foreigner and the owner even has a fat little Pug named Farang. Not sure what that says about his opinion of us!


Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Our hostess with the mostess in Kra Buri had asked us if we wanted breakfast in the morning. We said sure, and told her we’d be ready at 6am. Unfortunately our alarm malfunctioned and we didn’t wake up until 6:20! We rushed out and found her waiting for us…we felt awful for having her get up so early with us still sleeping. Oops. She served us each a sunny-side up egg, some toast with jam, cheese slices (first time we’ve seen these in Thailand!) yogurt, instant coffee, and tiny green oranges. It was all very good, but cost a bit more than we’d expected. Oh well, she was so friendly and we were happy to give her some extra business.

We started the day a little later than usual – around 7am. We knew we had 65km to cover and had heard from the Thai bike group that it would be mostly flat which was very nice. The morning started out with extremely dense fog. When Jamie was only 15 ft ahead of me I could just barely see him.

We rode through the Isthmus of Kra today, which is the most narrow point of Thailand. We rode right alongside the river that divides Thailand from Burma, which means we were only 100m from Burma! We stopped and took some pictures, of course:

Jamie with Burma in the background:


Me with the Kra Isthmus sign in the background:

Myanmar (Burma) only 100 meters away! Who knows what the rest of the sign says:

We stopped for a Pepsi halfway through the day for a short rest in the shade. Another hour later I felt like I was being roasted alive. It was SO hot and whenever the breeze started it didn’t feel refreshing – it felt exactly like I was riding in a convection oven. I’m not exaggerating at all. We stopped at another roadside restaurant for another rest in the shade. My limited Thai came in handy because I was able to understand that two dishes contained fish and the other was pork. We tried one fish dish, one pork, and then Jamie ordered a small whole roasted fish (skin, eyes, everything intact) coated in chills and spices. He loved it, here’s a picture:

We arrived in Champon at 11:30am and started our search for a guesthouse. Then Jamie’s back tire went flat again!!! Ack! Some guys on a moped showed us where the guesthouses in town were – we walked along behind them due to the flat tire that we didn’t feel like fixing. They seemed a little odd, like they were leading us on a long ride to some obscure guesthouse that they’d get paid for, so we thanked them for their help and said goodbye. We checked into our cheapest guesthouse yet – only $4 and change! We’ll spend the rest of the evening exploring Chumpon. Looks like there’s a big night market which promises lots of tasty food.

Fun Fact: I am drinking a beer as I write this and I just took a drink from my glass and felt something weird on my lip. It was a fly, trying to crawl up my lip in order to avoid being swallowed. So gross!