Thursday, February 4, 2010

A secure start

We get in to Phitsanulok station during the mid-afternoon siesta, collect our bikes from the baggage wagon, load up and cycle about 400 metres to a cheap and cheerful guesthouse. It's probably the easiest day's ride we'll do. The bed in our room seems to be designed for longevity rather than comfort - oh, I do hope this isn't a 'hotel for homeless lovers'. No, there's a few other tourists staying here too, thank goodness. Our first day and I have already lost the keys to my cable lock - a great start. We are self-conscious about our bikes - people have been giving them the once over and asking about them. Usually the first question is How much did they cost? An innocent question perhaps, but an unnerving one too. If we're honest then the questioner understands that our bikes are quite valuable (and that these farang will pay a huge sum of money just to ride a bicycle - stupid fools). What we need to do is make them look less new and shiny - I guess this will come with time and use. Oh, and maybe we should lie about the price.

road signs for the saddle-conscious cyclist

The town looks like a big one on our map but it feels quite sleepy and provincial. There's an important wat here, so we take a look to check out the unique bronze Buddha, along with quite a few other tourists. There are devotional prayers taking place, the monk's chanting being broadcast on loudspeakers and the temple floor filled with the kneeling faithful. But our priority is finding food, which we do in a busy night market selling lovely fresh take-away grub at good prices. We retire early after our dawn start and in anticipation of our first real ride in the morning.

Fortunately the skies are grey when we awake - postponing the blistering heat of the day. Our guesthouse owner kindly directs us out of the city, sending us the wrong way up a one-way street. Hey, it's Thailand. Soon Gayle is setting a ridiculous pace along the highway. We have only 57km to ride, but we're both concerned about the heat - we break sweat just eating. After a couple of hours and one long water break in the shade of a bus-shelter we stop for a refreshing noodle soup and cold drink. The ride hasn't been particularly interesting - but critically for us it's flat. The road is in good nick and there's even a bicycle lane. This is used by motorbikes too, and cars, going in either direction. A bit freaky. We are wearing our padded shorts - referred to as diaper shorts by Canadian friends - which feels like fancy dress once you step away from the bicycle. I'm sure we'll get used to them and the looks we get too.............

Sukhothai comes just in time before the midday heat exhausts us. There's a comfy guesthouse where we learn an important rule for cycle touring - if there's a ground floor room take it. Carrying our panniers upstairs is a pain in the arse. In the morning we cycle off along to the ruins of the old city. This was the Kingdom of Siam's first capital, built in the 13th century and with quite a few brick and stone religious buildings still standing (everything else was built of wood and is gone). What draws us here are the particular style of Buddhas, quite a few remain in situ, large sitting and standing Buddhas and some unusual Buddhas in walking postures. We spend a happy day looking around the main site before heading back to the new town and filling up on lovely food. We seem to have acquired larger appetites
. Fortunately Thailand is one country where you never seem to be far away from good food. We have just heard from our tenant at home that she'll be moving out soon. This comes as a bit of a blow to us as our savings are dwindling. However, we can't complain too much. She has been in our house most of the time we've been travelling and maybe it's better that we won't be asking her to leave. However, it suddenly adds some impetus to our journey plans. We also realise that we need to get our China visa in Vientiane before the embassy closes for the Chinese New Year holidays. This is an oversight on our part and so, after only one day's ride, we are planning again to take a ride, this time by bus towards the Thai/Laos border. At this rate we'll never find our legs..........

No comments: