(written by Nancy)
We ate dinner at the restaurant at the hotel last night – our first pad thai for dinner in quite some time, very tasty. I think we were both asleep by 9pm, no arguments about turning off the light from me. This morning we were pleasantly surprised by the breakfast that was included with our room. No plain white bread for toast with some kind of red jam – instead we had two nicely cooked eggs with a bit of sausage, ham and the ubiquitous hotdog, all cooked in a little skillet. Even the toast was actually toasted – not just warmed up, and wheat bread as well.
We left the hotel by about 7:15 and headed back a few kilometres to catch Hwy 317 going south for about 5k until we went west on Hwy 359, which we followed for about 45k until it intersected with Hwy 304, the major road into town where we ended up. We had expected to have a bit of a headwind, based on the winds yesterday but we actually had a bit of a tailwind, a nice surprise. Along the roadside we saw mostly tree plantations and more fields filled with tapioca plants and sugar cane. Lots of burning going on too – looks like they burn the fields after harvesting the cane just as they do (or used to do) in Australia. We made a stop for an iced coffee – nice to find those everywhere – and ate the banana bread Dave bought yesterday in his fit of excitement at finding a proper grocery store.
The traffic picked up quite a bit once we hit Hwy 304 but like most Thai roads we had a decent shoulder so it wasn’t too bad. It is mostly just a matter of avoiding the various scooters and other things coming at you on the wrong side of the road that you have to pay attention to. We thought we were beyond the unappetising things on a stick but no – we passed by a section where there were many stands selling rat on a stick again! These were rats were BBQ’d but were already off the BBQ and lined up in glass containers just waiting to be selected by someone driving by. Fortunately neither of us were hungry enough to brave trying one.
After one final stop for a drinks refresher and a couple of banana muffins (another one of Dave’s purchases yesterday) we made our way into Chachoengsao. Just before we came into town we were stopped at a traffic light and a delivery truck pulled up next to us. A woman jumped out of the cab, opened a little door on the back of the truck, pulled out two ice cream bars and handed them to us! A very nice treat and very appreciated in the heat.
We headed first to the railway station to try to figure out the situation with the trains – what times they departed and which ones would allow bicycles. While I went in to talk to the folks inside the ticket office Dave went to talk to the folks at the information desk about possible hotel options. Good news on the train front – we can catch the 7:05 train tomorrow morning with the bikes, or the 12:30 train. It is only about 1.5hur train ride to get to the station closest to the hotel we have booked in Bangkok.
We thought we had a place to stay picked out and headed toward where we thought it was. Well, over an hour later we were still wandering around town trying to find the bloody hotel. We stopped multiple times to try to get some help but couldn’t really find anyone who could speak English and everyone kept pointing us toward the big wat that is the main tourist attraction in town. By this time we were very hot and very hungry as we had not stopped to get lunch (thinking we were just a few blocks from the hotel). We finally stopped to ask a motorcycle taxi driver if he could help. He seemed to be saying he could take us to a hotel – we weren’t sure it was the one we were looking for but at least it was a start.
He took off and we followed him, pedalling like crazy to keep up until he finally looked in his mirror and realised that perhaps without a motor we could not go quite as fast as he was going. He wound his way around some neighbourhoods and made a sharp turn to stop in front of a very old building, pointed triumphantly and said hotel! Hmm, we thought as we looked up at it, wooden shutters open on the windows with no glass and a steep staircase up to the rooms – it looked very rough. Well, that didn’t quite go to plan – this was clearly not the hotel we were trying to find. We pulled out the Thai phrase book and tried to ask him again using the name of the hotel – the River Inn – that we were trying to find. This hotel he had taken us to was on a waterway – kind of a canal really, so I guess there was some logic to his actions but it wasn’t quite what we were hoping for.
We tried to ask him for a better hotel – heck even the best hotel in the town. We tried again to explain that the name of the hotel we were looking for was the River hotel – we think he got that, kind of. He talked back and forth with an old fellow who appeared to own the hotel we were standing in front of, and then seemed to be saying to us that the River hotel was no longer. We knew the town was flooded in the recent floods so perhaps the River Inn hotel had been hit and was not operating right now. Anyway, after asking for a better hotel he said he would take us to another one – of course, if we would pay him a bit more baht. By this time we didn’t care how much it cost as we just needed to find a place to stay. Off he went and we continued further out toward the edge of town – not really where we wanted to be going, given that we needed to get back to the train station early in the morning to catch the train.
Finally we pulled into the Pha Mansion hotel. Well, it looked a bit better than the first one and at this point we were too tired to care. The sign out front had various prices for various time segments – clearly a pay-by-the-hour rate was available. Fortunately the whole night rate wasn’t too bad so we checked the room and said fine. The proprietor hustled around and made us a cup of coffee and also made us lunch, which we ate while she finished getting the roomed cleaned. It is a very odd place but the main downside is that we now have a 7k ride back to the train station in the morning. Not a long ride but a bit of a pain to get there and get things sorted to catch the early train.
We cleaned up a bit and Dave spent some time looking at maps trying to make sure he knew how to get to the hotel in Bangkok from the station we think we need to head toward. Hopefully that will all work out okay – it may be a bit challenging as there is only about one minute between arrival and departure at the stations and we have to get us and the loaded bikes off the train in that amount of time…
Given our late lunch we were not really too hungry for dinner but Dave ventured out to the roadway to see what there might be to eat. He came back with noodle soup, sodas and even yoghurt for breakfast. So now it is just a matter of surviving the night and getting to the train station on time in the morning! Looking forward to having a few days off in Bangkok to relax – in between trying to find bike boxes, get the bikes packed up and try to reduce our luggage as much as possible. We don’t fly until the 30th so hopefully we can get a few days of relaxation in before we plunge headlong into French immersion class!