Day 11: Sunday 15th January: Ban Tak to Thoen : 88km

I am typing this under a shelter near a fish pool, in the company of Uwe and Nok, with a view of hills around three sides whilst we wait for the barbecue to cook.  Uwe and Nok are our Warmshowers hosts who have kindly offered a bed for the night to two passing cyclists.  The food was delicious, the company excellent and we learned not to feed fish to turkeys and how to cut open a coconut with a machete.  Both of which will be useful to know back in Shropshire.

The day started with a cool morning – so cool at 7am that I was tempted to dig out one of the two jumpers I packed for this trip.  I resisted as we warmed up once we started to exercise and, in any event, I had forgotten where the jumpers were packed.  They have not been used since we arrived in Thailand but we have been warned that northern Vietnam can be cold and wet – so they may still come in useful.

A Budda towering over the countryside

This morning was still, with a clear sky and quiet roads as we left the town of Ban Tak, following our friend, the Ping River, going northwards.  The Ping rises in the very north of Thailand and is 658km long.  It  is one of the two main rivers feeding the Chao Praya river which goes through central Bangkok and is a major source of irrigation for the farming areas we have been following for days.  Last wet season was longer and wetter than for many years (no doubt related to global warming) and so the river has retained more water in it than for many years.  It varies from about 100m to 200m wide at this point, even though we are now about 450km north of Bangkok.  

Our route took us through a series of villages and small towns.  These have a now familiar feel about them.  There are small general store type “shops” selling everything from crisps and packet junk food (quite a lot of that) through to all the essentials to keep a home running.  They tend to have no doors on the outside, just a walk in covered area with produce piled high on every side. 

Almost all villages have their own Buddist temple – the local wat – with a variable range of outbuildings.  There are plenty of schools and an amazing number of police stations, even though the crime rate here must be miniscule.  Ah – you may say – having lots of police leads to a low crime rate!  I am not sure the causal relationship is quite as clear as that, and high police numbers may be for different reasons.

The ppppppower of the river shown in this close up

Most places are clean and tidy, although the use of plastic bags is very common here, and the debris from the reliance on plastic is more apparent than on our previous visits.  It will be a long time before Thailand removes single use plastics.

Today was Sunday and most shops and businesses appeared to be closed and we saw many family gatherings.  People remained friendly and welcoming; with lots of smiles breaking out onto people’s faces once they saw the trikes and worked out what they were looking at (and it always took a few seconds).  

Uwe and Nock are  German/Thai couple who live on a small homestead near the town of Theon.  They are about our ages or slightly younger.  Uwe is a keen touring cyclist and gave us all manner of useful advice about cycling in both Northern Thailand and Laos, especially at this time of year.  He has the same desire as us to avoid the main roads, but is at his happiest when riding a gravel bike on a dirt track.  The trikes can manage some off-road but they are not set up for going along rutted tracks for hour after hour.  

We had a lovely time with them, saw round their amazing homested with its chickens, newly born geese, pond with large fish and turkeys.  Nok cooked a barbecue – giving instructions to Uwe from time to time (which he dutifully followed) and then we chatted until we felt the need to lie down – and then discovered it was only 7pm! Cycling plus socialising left me exhausted.

Nok working magic with coconuts

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