It is hard to describe what defines a day when travelling by bike in a foreign country – or travelling by trikes in our case. Today was a mixture of delight and niggling frustrations. I had my first puncture – and then failed for an hour to be able to put the tyre back on wheel as it was too tight (even following all the tips in the you tube videos). The best of the day was the unexpected kindness of strangers – as to which below. As always, the positives far outweighed the negatives.
We woke late. Our basic hotel was made more basic by being next door to a bar where Thailand’s loudest rock band were playing a gig. They persevered through to the end of the set to great applause – or was that cheering because they had finished. Anyway, the noise kept us awake so we were relieved when it ended.
That meant we woke about 8.15 – not having set the alarm – and were not off until 9.30. That is a late, late start for us but we were not 100% over jet lag and the uncertain nature of our route meant there was no need for a very early start.
The small town of Ang Thong is mega busy at 9.30. It is plainly rush hour here and we went straight into competing for road space with people going to work, people travelling for work and numerous others, all bigger and faster than us. But Thai drivers are possibly the most courteous in the world and no one came near us, everyone gave way to us (and to others) and there was no road rage. It was still a relief to get the other side of the town.
Outside town we followed the road through a small part of this irrigated delta. Agriculture here is totally dependant on irrigation. The land is flat, criss-crossed with dykes feeding from the rivers and numerous paddy fields are irrigated from the dykes. Rice is a labour intensive but productive crop where the methods seem the same now as over hundreds of years. We passed numerous farmers weeding, sorting and caring for this staple crop – and did our bit by eating the rice when called on to do so.
After about 15km we came to Wat Khun Inthpramun. A “wat” is a Buddist temple site (but you knew that already of course). It has a 50m long reclining Buddha, which was originally housed in a temple hall but the hall was destroyed by fire, and the Buddha is now out in the open air. It was impressive and is a centre of devotion, albeit there were only a few devotees there on an overcast Monday morning.
Khun Inthpramun was a local tax collector who was too enthusiastic in his collecting and amassed enough of a fortune to be able to construct the temple. Khun Inthpramun was a local tax collector who was too enthusiastic in his collecting and amassed enough of a fortune to be able to construct the temple. Unfortunately for him, it was so splendid that it drew the King’s attention to his actions in over-collecting taxes (and not passing everything on to the King). Khun Inthpramun’s vanity led to his execution, but the temple remains. Equally impressive is the brand new building at the rear – probably a monastic centre but really impressive architecture merging the modern and ancient.
We plodded through flat agricultural land after Khun Inthpramun and, sorting out a few niggles on the trikes, arrived at Wat Pikul Throng Aram Luang, which has a massive seated Budda outside – even larger than Wat Khun Inthpramun. We felt a bit “watted out” so admired from afar, but tried to mend a puncture, failed to get the trye back on and were guided by a lady collecting rubbish to a roadside motorcycle mechanic who had the right tool and got it back on within seconds – and would take nothing for his expertise. I was humbled and grateful – and resolved to get a metal tyre lever.
After that the day got a bit hotter and, as we were going along, we were passed by a smart white car which pulled in at a roadside stall, a woman jumped out and bought two bottles of water for us from the vendor’s fridge, and held them out for us. All she wanted was for us to know we were welcome in Thailand and to appreciate the kindness of people in Thailand – which we did profusely.
We cycled on and experienced more flat, irrigated farming land, quietish (but often straight) roads and km to cover. I hope I can download a video of the landscape which is pleasant but not stunning.
After 67km we got to our hotel for the night, tucked away down a series of back roads and not even on www.booking.com. So we were relieved when we found it existed! A late start and lots of stops meant we did not arrive until 5.15pm, but the owner (who spoke some English) directed us to a basic restaurant where we got a meal (with the hotel owner translating on the phone for the “Maitre D”. Yes a beer was possible – no problem – all he had to do was jump on his motorbike to go to the local shop to buy it! The food was delicious – almost a given here – and we made use of our bike lights on the way back.
Finishing this now, we are both very tired but feel some measure of fitness and strength is emerging. The trikes are heavier than bikes and so a bit slower but they feel far more stable, the views are much better and the ride is more comfortable. So we feel content with our choice of transport but need to get stronger before we can tackle the mountains.