(written by Dave)
Today was mostly a nice quiet ride through the rice fields of northern Thailand. This part of Thailand had some flooding a few weeks ago but it was minor and the rice crop seems to have come through ok. Today we saw folks transplanting crops, harvesting corps, drying rice on the back roads and lots of trucks full of rice heading to the mills I guess. We had a few navigational challenges but found our way through some really quiet roads so I think it was worth it.
They have these great farm trucks here. They look like an oversized lawnmower engine mounted on the front of a truck frame. There are no fancy hoods or body parts. Some have mufflers but many are pretty loud. All of them have fancy paint jobs on the frames. They all seem to be made by the same manufacturer but the owners also dress them up. We even saw one today with Austin Martin painted on the front part. I guess that owner was a bit of a British car buff.
About 15k from town we diverted from the direct route to swing into Si Satchanalai historic park. This is basically the sister city park of Sukhothai that we saw yesterday. Si Satchanalai is not near as restored with more buildings decayed to the rough rock state. And if yesterday was empty, today was even more so. We saw a couple groups and some monks but mostly had the park to ourselves. The Buddhas here have not been restored leaving some interesting rough rock shapes.
We made it town around noon and Nancy spotted a nice little restaurant to try for lunch. It was pretty small, maybe 4 tables and run by the a family of two girls and their parents. The mother was in some sort of bike club and her husband proudly brought out a photo of her and the rest of the group. Only the older daughter spoke English so it took some work to place our order. But it worked out great. Not only did we have a great plate of Pad Krapao Moo but we also got the dish names written in Thai script. We’ll be hanging onto that page of our notebook for some time. Two fantastic plates of food, and two iced lattes, all for 90 baht (about $3). I have no idea how some of these places make money.
With the help of the lunch staff, we learned that the hotel only in town, 59 Hotel, had changed its name to Mukda Resort. It’s the same place that we’ve seen in several bicycle journals and the rooms are survivable but not a place you would want to spend much time. But, when there are no other options you take what you can get.
While Nancy showered, I went about sourcing some afternoon snacks. This helped me also suss out the dinner options. Our hotel is at the far north end of town, pretty much beyond all the food. There are a couple karaoke joints which could be problematic later, we’ll see. We lounged in the room the rest of the afternoon. There is not much to do here.
Armed with the Lonely Planet and some vague idea of where to eat, we headed out for dinner. It was after sunset and pretty dark so we were quite surprised to be passed while walking by a couple dozen kids on fixed gear bicycles. One of the J’s at ThreeJs guesthouse in Kamphaeng Phet had a fixie so we know that they are the hip thing for young Thai boys. Still, this is a rice farming town and we certainly didn’t expect to see them here. Each bike had a flashing rear light which made sense as it was after dark. When I yelled, “allez, allez, allez” at them, they seemed to get a kick out of it.
Next stop was the servo just next to what looked like the restaurant that was noted in Lonely Planet. The basic drill here is wander up to anyone, customer or employee, and start asking “does anyone know of fill-in-the-blank”. There is almost 100% certainty that the person you first approach will not speak English and they will either run from you, or burst out laughing. This is not a big deal as you are only using this person to get “introduced” at the servo and to further your efforts towards finding the one English speaker that is almost always among the folks you find there. The first person will forward you to the next person who will probably repeat what the first person did. Again, not to worry, the point is to create enough giggles and chaos so that eventually everyone is looking at you and the one English speaker is pushed forward from the crowd. Works a charm – before long we confirmed our suspicions on the restaurant and at the same time entertained 30 random people in Thailand.
So, we ended up finding and eating at the Kulap, noted as authentic “Northern Thai” cuisine. It was great. I asked for my jungle curry to be only a little spicy. It came out so hot that it was right on my limit. Nancy stayed a little safer with a chick/cashew dish that is never hot. Both were quite tasty and we again proved that you don’t have to read Thai to get by here.
Tomorrow we are riding to Wang Chin. It is somewhere between 65 and 80k, depending on what map you believe. Lonely Planet has a few errors in it regarding Si Satchanalai and the maps are all slightly different, so a short day is good – less stress about getting lost should the first navigational error in weeks occur.