Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nakhon Phanom to Sakon Nakorn

We enjoyed our brief one night stop in Kong View Hotel. Apart from the view of the Mekong river, the restaurant too was sited with the view of the Mekong. For dinner, we requested for plain rice delivered to our room. With our instant kurma ayam and generous spread of serunding, gulped down with the Nescafe-three-in-one, our dinner was relatively satisfying in comparison to the last 3 days. Later we went down to the restaurant and took seats overlooking the Mekong. A singer was serenading accompanied by an organist who would just be a few years younger than me. The songs were the era of the organist, translated to my era too! We were tapping our feet to Cliff Richard's tunes while savouring Honey Coconut, served cold in the coconut. Had to resist taking the mike from the singer for fear of signing a long term contract with Kong View Hotel. Do not want to feel guilty making the resident singer redundant too!  Ha ha

After two cycling tours with me, Khailani had been accustomed to my early-to-bed regime. So, reluctantly we gave a friendly nod and thumbs up to the singer as we went back to our room.

Breakfast, included in the room charges, was quite a good spread, but limited in choice for us. So, it was rice and fried eggs, fruits and coffee. Khailani took the initiative to request the waiter to tapau two packets of rice and fried eggs for our lunch. I guessed they knew how little we ate. Packing two packets would not hurt their bottom-line.

With lunch secured, we were ready and looking forward to cycle to our final cycling destination today. This would be our last day of cycling before we bus back to Bangkok for the return flight home. Our destination would be Sakon Nakorn.

105 kms ride to Sakon Nakorn

A quick pose by the hotel entrance was the usual ritual and we left in the cool morning air of the Mekong. The esplanade that hugs the Mekong was empty. A lone lady was jogging and acknowledged us as we stopped to take pictures. The esplanade is relatively clean, however some commercial fish-rearing activities were located by its bank. If I was the mayor of this town, I would not have allowed the commercialisation of this otherwise serene esplanade. A pity really.

We cycled out of town, headed westerly on the same route we came yesterday. The junction to our destination was about 10 kms from the town.

At one of the traffic lights, I snapped this gentleman selling flowers. With some spattering English he was asking where I came from and where I was heading too. Should have bought one of these garlanded flowers, a favourite of my late mother who used to wear them in her curly hairs. And that's where I got my curly hairs from. I now had no more curls in my hair (hmm).

During my motorbiking days, I had traversed northwards several times to the Burmese border of Mae Sot in Chiengrai. I had always enjoyed their roads, which are of a high quality, comparable to our highways. However, Thai roads are several notches up as there are no tolls and the toilets at the petrol kiosks are much cleaner than ours. What they lack are the R & R stops.

This is the first time I experienced their roads in the north-eastern provinces of Thailand. They are equally great roads with generous road shoulders for cyclists. Superbikers would certainly enjoy these roads.

We made good progress before the temperature started to rise. Unlike the rainy spells in Laos, the temperature was rising along this stretch as we ate up the mileage. My Garmin recorded a max temperature of 41 C. With no cloud cover, we decided to stop at every 20 kms. 

77 kms to go
The decision to pack lunch was very wise indeed. It would have been very tough looking for an eatery. By noon, we were looking for a shady hut to rest. We were looking forward to our simple lunch of rice and fried eggs (compliment of the hotel), our serunding and plain water. What a satisfying lunch, simple but satisfying, indeed when less is more.

Our great lunch
We rested at the hut for quite a while. Then we moved on in the afternoon heat. We were cycling by the padi fields and though hot, we could feel the breeze from the fields. The breeze was fanning my mind to find another cool spot for a siesta. And we found one!

Having found one, it was just too good to resist putting my head down. My cycling buddy is a very understanding man. He is a patient man too. So, he patiently "waited" while I took my forty winks that lasted almost 30 minutes. I thought it was only a quick 10 minutes. Sorry buddy but thank you anyway.
I had always been thankful that sleep comes easy, almost anywhere.

Fresh from my siesta, we posed for a picture before we continued. A farmer obliged to capture our pose

another stop at a bus stop

We journeyed on with the sun inclining at a right angle. We could not find any shelter by the roadside. The sun's angle was not to our advantage. When we reached our scheduled every 20km stop, we took a short deviation when we saw a hut in a village.

Just as we removed our gloves and helmets and settled in to rest, a lady came and placed a coke bottle with ice-cold water and a clean glass. She caught us by surprise. It was just out of the blues! She then went about doing her own chores.

Moments like this gives meaning to my cycling tours. Too often well-meaning friends would ask whether my cycling tours could be risky. My answers had always been predictably positive. I had toured solo, in pairs and in groups. Even on my solo tours, I had never felt threatened at anytime. On the contrary, I felt secure with the sincerity of the people I meet on the road. 

On a bicycle, one is a silent traveller. One does not intrude in the lives of the locals. One arrives quietly, and leave quietly. Stopping often, out of necessity to rest means greater chances of meeting people on the roads. One does not necessarily stop so often in a car or on a motorbike, missing the opportunity to be with the community. Again - Less is More!

The lady with the heart of gold

one for the road
We arrived Sakon Nakorn about 5:30 in the evening and after several queries for a hotel, we were directed to one.

This was our longest ride for the entire journey. We end our cycling here and tomorrow we would be looking for a bus to ferry us back to Bangkok.


Distance : 105 kms
Total Ride Time : 6 hrs 8 mins
Avg Speed : 17.2 kph
Avg Temp : 32.4 C
Max Temp : 41 C


Al-Manar said...

I have not been around thinking you had stopped blogging. I believed this because I did not see you visiting us. That made me very certain you were tired of writing.

Things look better. Your pictures are somehow are better than before - change of camera? Or let us say the cycling photographer has acquired all the skills.

Hope you and family are around. And hope to see you back roaming the blogsphere.


ARZ said...

Salam Pak Cik,

A pleasant Sat morning for me indeed, opening my mail and noting an email from Al-Manar.
Thank you so much for not "giving-up" on me, inspite of my absence, both from visiting your blog and updating mine.
I truly appreciate your kind gestures, and it's time I rolled up my sleeves and get active once again.
Thanks for the compliments too. Guess the cycling photographer had gradually improves...hahaha
Salam to Mak Cik too.