(written by Dave)
We are not riding in Burma, but today we saw it. Our route took us along the Thailand/Burma border (Burma is Myanmar now, as they call themselves). The border here is water (Moel River, becoming the Andaman Sea), so you can see right across. We’ve met a few Burmese here in Thailand and as you might expect, they are just normal folks. We met a crazy taxi driver at lunch who really wanted to take us to the actual border dock – he was quite insistent, to the point of grabbing our Thai phrase book and jumping on his scooter taxi to get us to go. I eventually wrestled the book back from him and we got back to eating lunch. Anyway, it does feel a little strange to look out across the water and see a place where at least the western press would lead you to believe has a pretty evil government; sort of peering into a dark cave where you dare not go.
After yesterday’s downpour and subsequent aborted cycle, we were a little apprehensive this morning when it was raining hard at 6AM. Had it not stopped and somewhat cleared by 7AM we probably would have rolled over and gone back to sleep. Eventually I got up and the lightening skies convinced at least me that riding was worth a try. Nancy (as you can see from the photo below) was considerably less convinced. By 8AM we were dressed, packed and downstairs eating breakfast at the hotel and it was almost sunny, almost. Had we planned better, we would have been ready to ride at 8AM to take advantage of the weather but it is hard to get motivated when it is dumping. Hotel breakfast was good but we both just wanted to get rolling and the wait was a little excruciating. The hostess was running with our dishes when she served us – I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that she may have sensed a wee bit of tension! Anyway, the food was good and the double espressos were outstanding. And we still managed to make it on the road by 8:30.
We had been warned that today was hilly but really weren’t overly bothered. There was one good climb about 10k out of town but it was still pretty cool and the climb pretty gradual. On the decent we got our first view of Burma and spotted a nice waterfall. I negotiated photo stops at both but in both cases when I lingered a bit too long, I was given the hurry along. Nancy, was now ok with riding but had a real burr in her saddle about moving along so that we could miss the rains when they eventually came. A little later while passing a roadside stand selling clams and crabs, Nancy insisted that we stop for a photo. By that point the adrenalin had gone down and we were back in trip mode (editor’s note – I think it was just that the double espresso from breakfast had worn off).
It was only a little ironic when we got caught 9k from Kraburi in a mini downpour. Had we gotten out earlier or not stopped for so many pictures, we probably would have made it here completely dry. Oh well, the ride was beautiful and by the time we arrived, we were both in good spirits. Had we not been, our host would certainly have soon fixed this. Kraburi is a small town and the Pannika Guesthouse is about 1k before town. Our hostess, Aungkana met us on the road, standing under her umbrella waving. She knew we were coming because her cousin had seen us some ways back and had phoned Aungkana to tell her that there were bicyclists on the way. She was excited to have us and most welcoming.
We checked into one of her bungalows – quite an interesting place here. The bungalows are covered inside and out with broken tiles so they are very ‘colourful’ to say the least. Comfy though (we got one with air conditioning) and after we got cleaned we took a trip to the town market and lunch. We shared a motorcycle taxi with 2 other folks for the 1k ride to town. It was our first such taxi ride and quite exciting. There is really no place to hang on and you are never really sure on corners how far to lean. It turned out ok and we were happy to catch one for the return trip.
After lunch, we came back to the guesthouse. While I started working on the computer, Nancy went out to take some photos of our bungalow. Well you don’t walk around Aungkana’s place without a visit. Nancy took 20 minutes to get a photo and returned to tell me that I needed to go outside for group photos as well. Aungkana is like many people we’ve met in Thailand, very happy to have you visit and pretty interested in hearing your story. I should note that her English is pretty good, mostly through self study on the Internet. It appears that many other cycle tourists have stayed here – the guestbook is quite interesting reading.
We are planing on cereal and market fresh fruit for dinner. We have another 60ish k tomorrow to Chumphon. We’ll ride from the western border of Thailand, all the way cross country to the eastern border, cross -country in a single day, our second daily crossing of a single country (Malaysia being the first). Hopefully we will have weather like today so we can get there without any torrential downpours. Chumphon is a relatively big town and it looks like there should be lots of places to stay so it will be a matter of picking a place rather than trying to find out if one exists (that always makes Nancy feel better).