Thai Wun On Adventure Tour

Hi Everyone!

This page will follow some of our Godpsoke Cyclists taking part in the Thailand Cycling Adventure Tour from January 18th thru February 13th 2010. Be sure to register (email subscription to the right side of blog)  for updates as they login and report on their adventure as often as they can find a computer and /or  they are not too exhausted to remember us in the frozen North!

Have a Happy New Year!

Lyle

by lgarstad

Well Godspokers… We made it. After 23 straight hours of Airports and Airplanes (27 for the Greers) we were picked up by our tour guide, Aum (short for his real and difficult to pronounce name) from Spiceroads our tour company. He is a very nice guy with reasonably good English and we are getting along well with him. The Montien Hotel , our home for the first three nights, is very International. If you listen while wandering this vast building you will hear languages and accents from probably dozens of countries. There is a lot of staff in the hotel and businesses we have visited so far, all the better to employ the 13 million or so inhabitants of Bangkok.

Day one (Wednesday Jan 20th) of our trip started with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel. Marv spent 2 hours and 5 plates stocking up on nourishment for the day. Who says you can’t have Kim Chi, Pancakes, Sushi, Deep fried chicken balls, and yogurt on the same plate. Then we were off for a 40 minute van ride to the Spiceroads office to size and outfit our Trek model  7200 rental bikes. Struan and his staff are awesome and very helpful in getting these very needy Canadians set up. Then off again through the busy and very interesting streets to MBK, a huge 6 or 7 story mall in downtown Bangkok that is a consumer’s dream. An uncountable number of shops, with people milling around grabbing some great deals.

8 of the 11 of us then took a quick trip to the Thai Square Tailor shop (recommended by Aum) to get fit for some custom clothes. High quality suits, blazers, shirts, slacks, a dress and jacket made from Cashmere, Silk, Egyptian cotton, and wool were all acquired for very good prices while we were plied with beer by the shop keepers.

Next we all regrouped at the River City center to board the Grand Pearl. This 3 deck 150’ (or so) ship cruised the Chao Phraya River while we, on the top deck under the stars, dined on a very good buffet dinner and enjoyed looking at the amazing Grand Palace, bridges, various Temples, and other buildings of interesting architecture, all back lit to emphasize the Gold and other vibrant colours. Truly beautiful to behold.

For day 2 we are off for a shakedown (15km) ride on the bikes followed by walking tours of the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, and who knows what else. We’ll report back on that as soon as we can.

We have decided to share the blogging to give everyone a chance to contribute. As such each days update will likely be done by someone different. It will be great to have different viewpoints presented throughout the trip.

Godspokers! Ready to Ride!

A beautiful Dinner Cruise in Bangkok.

The Grand Palace at night.

Thats it for Now. Thanks for following us!

Lyle Garstad

by lgarstad

Sawadee Kaa!

The adventure continues…We had 2  guides today;  Aum and our new Thai friend, Mr. Yo. They picked us up after breakfast and drove us through the traffic-clogged streets to China town. This area of town is over 200 years old. If you’re looking for shoes or swag, this is the place. Store after store was stuffed to the rafters with beautiful bracelets, hair accessories, watches etc. The food stores had interesting things to offer including deep-fried goose (head still attached) and flattened deep-fried pigs heads (snout still attached). Lottery tickets were available from numerous vendors on the sidewalks, along with gorgeous silk blouses in the traditional Chinese style. If only we could have smell-o-vision for the blog…

And then…Surprise! We’re going to ride through these streets with belching buses, tuk-tuks, pink taxis and cars all jockeying for space. We put on our big girl panties, strapped on our helmets and started a white-knuckled journey toward the river.

Along the way we picked up some Thai treats of jellies, coconut custards and fresh lychees. Mr. Yo led us through back alleys so narrow  that they could only accommodate one bike and a one skinny cat at a time. We went winding along the canals, through neighbourhoods where we could look right into peoples’ doors and windows at their daily goings on. We ate our snack at a park which is also the birthplace of the King’s mother and then continued on through the city.

Exquisite architecture abounds throughout this bustling city. We visited the Sitting Buddha Temple, the Reclining  Buddha Temple and the Emerald Buddha Temple. We also enjoyed a tour of the Grand Palace  and the Temple of the Dawn. Gold, gems and ceramics clothe temples and monuments in sparkling grandeur.

Lyle enjoyed his own personal adventure after realizing he left his money belt (complete with traveller’s chqs and passport) on top a van where we left our bikes and changed clothes. Fortunately, he had rubbed the belly of the laughing monk at the temple (for good luck) and upon frantically returning to the scene discovered his belt hanging on the side mirror.

A long boat ride back to the hotel revealed a side of river life that we had not seen during our evening dinner cruise. While not as magical as the night before it was amazing to see how this river lives, breathes and moves during the day. Ships of every shape and size, water hyacinth choking the waterways and catfish abound in this busy place.

We returned to the hotel for a quick change and then we were off to the tailor’s shop for fittings. Marn was stylin’ in his floral shorts and plaid blazer. Murray and Lyle were looking very dapper while Shauna wowed us with her beautiful silk suit. But Sandy’s dress was not ready, so we would have to return. Fittings complete, we headed to the Hard Rock Café for the world’s most expensive hamburgers and Hurricanes. Lyle and Rosie have new glasses for their collections and Marv and Shauna graciously shared their chocolate brownie sundae, with spoons for everyone! Back to the tailor’s where Sandy appeared as a Thai goddess in her new dress. It was worth the wait!

Mr Yo’s Thai treats

Out for a safe calm ride in the city

Is this Taber corn?

Bangkok secondary alleys

Temple of Dawn (aka Thai Stairmaster)

Grand Palace

Reclining Buddha Temple

Our long boat ride back to the hotel.

Chai yo (cheers!)

Carol Garstad

by lgarstad

Two days have passed since the last update and much has happened since.   Our last day in Bangkok  we were transported to the outskirts of Bangkok to a park area bordering an agricultural community  where we undertook to traverse a series of  ‘smallways’ or what looked to us like elevated sidewalks that ran in and around the community. I don’t remember anyone telling me to take a flying leap but I tried it just the same.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone though.  Now I’m doing Thai massage to try to fix my sore knee.   We rode through residential areas, small communities and even a floating market (although it wasn’t open.)  We had to return to the hotel by 1:00 in order to check out and take our belongings to the train station.  Unfortunately though, we were left with one van and had to fit all of us and our bikies into it…a cosy ride.  Upon leaving the hotel for the train station one of the vans blew a motor on the freeway,  so we piled 13 people and all the luggage into one 10 passenger  van for the remainder of the trip, something which our Thai driver did not believe possible.  After depositing our luggage at the station, our shoppers returned to the tailor’s shop by tuk-tuk for final fittings.  A few of us opted to remain at the station and there experienced the 6:00p.m. anthem to the king, where everything stops, people stand and listen to the anthem on the P.A. system.  Apparently this happens twice a day, morning and evening.

The night train to Chiang Mai reminded me of the ‘slow boat to China’, taking almost 15 hours to travel the 800 or so kms to Chiang Mai.  Good thing someone thought to shop for drinks and snacks before we left the station!  This made it possible to have a small social (with our Hong Thong rum), and entertain our fellow travelers.   I must say I found my converted bunk area to be very comfortable and the gentle swaying of the train to be relaxing.  The bathrooms however were another experience, although I avoided the one where you could see the track underneath!  By early morning it was like running an obstacle course to get to the bathroom with assorted pieces of luggage and shoes that had fallen into the aisle.

We arrived in Chiang Mai at least an hour late (common here) and were taken directly to the hotel to freshen up before the ‘long and winding ‘road trip to the temple at Doi Suthep.  A trolley ride up to the temple instead of the 450 stairs was a good alternative.  George and I stayed back as I needed to rest my leg and he partook of his first hour long Thai massage for the princely sum of 150 baht or roughly $5.  Needless to say we will all be lining up tomorrow for our turns!  The day ended with a traditional northern Kantok dinner.  Once seated at our floor level table (thankfully they  have a recess  underneath for our legs) we were presented with a series of Thai dishes and entertained by dancers and musicians for the whole evening.  Of particular highlight were the maitai drinks, served inside a whole pineapple shell.  We could have stayed longer but the long days were starting to wear on us and the prospect of a quiet room and bed was inviting.

We rode 10 kms of these elevated walkways.

Bangnamphung Floating Market

It only took Marv two tries to get the coin into the “Smiling Buddha’s” belly button.

Judy tried off-roading…fortunately it wasn’t serious, nothing a little Thai massage couldn’t fix.

Nine bikes and ten people in one 10 person van.

Next challenge, after one van broke down we fit 13 people and all the luggage into one van!

Catching a tuk-tuk to the tailor’s shop.

Marv in his stylin’ new blazer.

Our sleeping car on the night train to Chaing Mai.

Today’s reporter,

Judy (Step and a Half) Reynar

by lgarstad

 

Slicing through the fresh warm water of Mae Ngud Reservoir, energetically paddling ourselves around the lake, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the surrounding mountains.  The day was sunny and hot, in other words like every other day here and encouraged lots of paddle splashing!  An hour and a half of vigorous work was rewarded by a refreshing swim and a delicious lunch at a floating restaurant, of fresh Tilapia and many other weird and wonderful delicacies.  Lyle and Marv decided to be paddle pals and had their kayak floating pretty even with the water level and left an impressive wake.

Our faithful drivers, Sanit and Charlie drove even more aggressively to get us to our hotel in time for a 20 minute clean-up (vigorous schedule) and then off to our Thai cooking school named, “A Lot of Thai!”  Yui was a wonderful, knowledgeable and humorous instructor.  We each had our own stove and cooking gear in her well equipped outdoor kitchen.  We mastered (I think . . . ) a dish of Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup and Green Curry Sauce with rice.  Our new grocery lists include such items as lemon grass, fish oil sauce, tamarind and Kaffir lime leaves.  I said, “I think I’m using my chopsticks upside down,”  which she giggled and said, “I wasn’t going to say anything but you’ve been doing that the whole time.  Hee hee hee!”  Then we put a bowl on the table to put all the parts of our soup that you don’t eat like the Kaffir leaves and shrimp heads.  She was shocked and said that was her garbage can and laughed more at us.  She informed us that the proper technique is to always watch what you’re eating and only pull up what’s edible onto your spoon.  The rest is to stay in the bottom of your bowl.  yui gave us a Thai cookbook she wrote herself so we can go home and prepare these delicious meals for our families and friends!

It was a struggle to choose between shopping at the night market or going for a Thai oil massage.  The group split in half and I opted for the massage.  We were led upstairs into a group room with little mattresses on the floor.  With some very rose scented oil we were rubbed, pressed and chopped all over.  For $7, I might do it again.  Marg and George seem to be committed!

Aum, our wonderful Thai guide and new friend has been trying to teach us one new word a day and today we learnt, “Thing(ting) Thong(tong),” which means crazy!  We are trying to get Aum to relax a little as he is like a mother hen trying to keep us from getting hurt and trying to keep us wearing enough clothes, especially at temples.  We tease him a lot and explain away our idiosyncrasies and mistakes as being “Thing Thong!”

Happy & Tired Kayakers at Sri Lanna National Park. Rose, where are your pants?

Mastering Pad Thai! (We think?)

Night Market in Chiang Mai.

From Sandy Cyclist,

RIDE ON

by lgarstad

Today was the first real ride we went on. After an enjoyable stay in Chiang Mai we jumped on our trusty bikes and headed through the city and out into more rural areas. We started out with a pretty slow place but before long we were encouraging Aum to pick up the pace. He is quite surprised with how fast we want to go. Not bad for a bunch of 40 and 50 somethings!

Along the way we stopped to look at a fish farm in the river. Several pens of tilapia of various sizes followed us hoping to get fed! We drove past an ice plant and endless little stores selling everything from fresh fruit to grilled meat to automotive parts. Quite an olfactory experience. There is a dog around every corner, so possibly the biggest hazard we have is trying to dodge them.  Life goes on at a much slower place as we move away from the city. People are friendly and don’t hesitate to say hello or wave.

We passed numerous orchards of longun (sp?) trees that produce a fruit that looks like a large, hairy raspberry. Actually, these fruit come from the same family as the lychee and have a sweet juicy fruit inside their prickly coating. We also passed a few rice paddies and saw large grass hut-like structures that turned out to be Thai hay stacks. Upside down wicker baskets contain roosters waiting for their next cock fight. A tamer version of the sport is emerging as the roosters owners are required to wrap the claw on the back of the feet and no razor blades or sharp weapons are allowed to be attached. Still not my cup of tea.

Our ride concluded in Lamphun with a visit to a temple and lunch at a traditional noodle house. The iced coffee was a welcome treat and delicious bowls of noodles with pork and vegetables quickly appeared from the kitchen. Thankfully, Aum asked the cook to hold the blood jelly. Ick.

An hour-long ride ended in Lamphang, our destination for one sleep. Everyone appreciated some down time after the flurry of activity over the past few days. Murray and Sandy tracked down some Hong Thong rum, a new group favourite recommended by our guide, Aum. Cocktails in the garden alongside the koi pond were followed by a horse-drawn carriage ride to the Riverside Restaurant. Deep-fried fish, spring rolls, curried chicken, and a spicy sausage were a few of the tantalizing treats we enjoyed. And, of course, the ever traditional Thai blueberry cheesecake (!) to finish off the meal.

Cycling along the river

Tilapia Fish Farm

Fighting Roosters enjoying the sun!

Thai hay stacks

Gold leaf doors at temple

I kissed a fish and I liked it!

Carriage ride on the way to dinner

Today’s scribe,

Carol

by lgarstad

Our day started with breakfast and beating Lyle wishing Carol a Happy Birthday.  She can celebrate again if she sticks to Canadian time.  Whoopie!  Today we started our 60 km trek through the hills of Maenang to Phrae to Uttaradit.  We have cycled approximately 130 km already!     Our first stop was to fix Lyle’s bike.  While we were waiting, the rest of us did a few exercise stretches. Our first rest stop was at a temple.  What was interesting there were some little houses which at first a few of us thought were chicken houses.  Nope, they are not even though the chickens use them as their roost.   They are “spirit” houses for the Thai peoples’ ancestors.  The other highlight was a green bird (a paradoc?) that landed between Carol and her bike.   Cycling through the windy countryside was beautiful; lush green trees, numerous teak trees, peanut crops, rice crops and villages.  Several homes a combination of higher class homes mixed with lower class.  The roadway we followed was similar to travelling through our mountains (higher elevation). Did I tell anyone I don’t like hills ….!!  Equivalent to the Bow Summit.  We ended up going up a brutal hill (actually a monster pu….king hill).  Our next big rest stop was at the Maharat Rock Garden.  Another beautiful stop.  Oh, but it was hot!  After taking off we welcomed the little bit of rain that came down as brief as it was and after another incline the windy downhill.  A couple of us were dragging our butts up the hill so Sanit, one of our drivers and Marg went ahead to order lunch  in Phrae.   We enjoyed Snake Head fish, an egg omelet , pork dish, fishy soup consisting of tofu, seaweed and pork balls. After lunch we loaded up our bikes to be transported to Uttaradit.  Motorcycle helmets or moped helmets are $180 baht.  Our dinner was at an outside restaurant down some back alley.  A very nice setting.  We ate Kermit … we had frog legs (taste like chicken), deep fried morning glory, tasty chicken and snakehead fish (again).  We celebrated Carol’s birthday with cake for dessert and a night cap and begging to go to bed by 9:30.  Maybe… it might be midnight again!

oow!, oow!, OOOWWWWW!

Quaint! Don’t you think?

Village Life in Thailand

Spirit Houses, aka Chicken roost

Man! That was a big hill!

Salt encrusted Snake head fish anyone?

Snake heads kiss good!

Privacy, Not an option!

Reporting from Uttaradit,

Rose ( Rosie) Good

by lgarstad

I have been asked to record a few thoughts, sort of a ”day in the life” kinda thing and since my days seem to be comprised primary of eating I’ll see if I can share a couple of other experiences. Here’s to hoping I can fill at least a paragraph or two.

Well we’ve been in Thailand for about a week now and my all too common fear of travel constipation has not seemed to be an issue.  In fact the Thai food, with all of those amazing flavors and spices has had a different effect.  Yes the peppers can be hot but the other ingredients also have had a natural metamusil, fiberey effect.  In fact I would have to say it more accurately has what I would call a “Colon Blow” effect.  Also please beware if you ingest too many of those hot peppers that it can often be followed by the dreaded Johnny Cash Syndrome. (Just think about that one for a second, it will come to you)

While I have everyone in the toilet for a minute, let me share what my bathroom looks like. I should just tell you I have had a few issues with the amenities in my room. My last room had lights that went out every 30 seconds after I turned them on making using the bathroom a little more difficult to use than I am used to. Luckily there is a drain right in the floor that I guess also serves a dual purpose in this case and also to help in cleaning (very convenient). The only other problem in my room was when I would try to brush my teeth in those 30 second windows of opportunity was that I noticed my feet were getting wet.  It would seem my floor drain must be plugged somewhere because as the sink would drain the floor water level would rise.  I had to plan the brushing and water flow carefully to get it all in during those quick intervals of light.

Quick question? I have a hand held showerhead in the last few toilets but the hose is extremely short, only about 3-4 feet of hose, and it is situated right next to the toilet and not in the bath tub as I am usually used to. It is a little odd for me but have quickly adapted and have been showering on the toilet these last few days, sort of one stop shopping, if you get what I mean.

Anywho, after many early hours to contemplate Thai electrical and plumping issues my body clock is finally getting used to the 14 hr swing from home and I have been able to sleep through the night. This is welcome news as our riding component of this trip has started to kick into high gear.  We did 60K yesterday and 80K today and also celebrated Carolina’s birthday with a great dinner and wonderful BD cake. Carol apparently has a few boyfriends from the trick candles Aum put on her cake.

The riding in rural Thailand is more down my alley as all the local farmers working the fields, burning leaves, they all take time to wave and share the Thai greeting of hello (Soo Wat Dee Khrap) spelled phonetically.  Have you ever wondered why phonetic isn’t spelled with an “F”? Just a thought. The greeting is a little different for ladies making Thai a challenging language to pickup.

The ride today was a tad warm as we were in training to see if we could fire walk on the sun.  The temp was in the low to mid 30’s and definitely cookin’ for this white boy from Canuck land.  It’s hard to imagine a 50 degree swing in temperature from home but it is true, it was minus 20 something,back just a few short weeks ago.  I gotta say I much prefer the plus Celsius temperatures over the minus.

That reminds me of a point of interest on the houses that we are seeing.  Most of the homes are built on stilts, but do you know why? No it’s not because the houses are afraid of the mouses. (Had to fit that in because it rhymes).It is not because of the rainy season or insects but because of the frickin’ lovely Thai heat. By keeping the home elevated air is permitted to flow around the home and helps to keep things cooler when things really get hot.  I still think there might be something to the mouses  theory though.

The ride was amazing as we ended at the Sukhotthai Ancient City and Temple, the first capital of Siam. Way back when this country spanned from Cambodia, Loas, to parts of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and all the way south to Maylasia and Singapore. Times have changed in 700 years and so has the Temple. Impressive even as ruins but to have seen them in their original splendor would have been something to behold.

Mr. George Reynar had our first flat today and I can only attribute it to all the extra weight he has gained from the Thai menu we have enjoyed or the fact that he was actually on RosieO’s  bike (inside joke, please ask Rose when we return), maybe more the latter. Well I think I’ve exceeded my paragraph so I should just finish by telling you that I also saw amazing rice paddies, Banana plantations and varieties of trees and other vegetation all making the cycling an extreme pleasure. The End. Okay that was a little too abrupt. Let’s try this:

The cycling today was pleasurable beyond my attempts to describe but suffice it to say that as we venture through this land of people with beautiful hearts and smiles. That the Thai people have touched my heart as they all seem to be the consummate ambassador for their country they make me feel like Thai Royalty.

I just hope they have better plumbing.

Just another day in the life.

Her third attemp to blow out the candles, LOL

Farmers working a plantation of Shallots

Aum pointing out the map of Sisatchinalai, capital of the 1st Siam Empire (Est 1285 ad)

Carol at the the primary “Stupa” in the Ruins of Sisatchanalai

Fixing the first flat of Georges cycling career of almost 20 years

I tried to launch a bunch of kids off the teetor tooter at a Thai School playground

Here are my Shins with 2nd degree sunburns after our Kayak trip. Who says Sunscreen is Important!

WHO LUVS YA BABY!!!

Boy am I gonna have to pee after this!

Who’s your buddy?

Who said size is not important?

“Stylin”

Eat your heart out YAN CAN!

Laundry Day, Ala Marv!

Luv from Thailand.

Chang Marv

PS. Spiceroads had this writeup of us in their most recent newsletter

North to SouthCanadian Group
Escaping the winter of Canada, a group of 11 riders from Leduc, Alberta recently started their bicycle journey from Chiang Mai to Nakhon Si Tammarat. Members of Godspoke Cyclists, the group is keeping a blog of their 20-day trip which started January 21. Besides cycling, the group has already been kayaking, learned to cook Thai food and of course indulged in Thai massage. If you have a group, be it a cycle club, family, friends or work colleagues and are looking for a memorable cycle trip, we can easily customize any of our existing itineraries. Just provide us with some information here and we’ll respond with a unique trip for your group.

by lgarstad

First of all please excuse the late posting of this and the next few updates. Due to special circumstances like medical emergencies and bathroom crises which deserved special updates and then not having internet in a couple hotels coupled with a very tiring schedule of late we are way behind. Our humble scribes have been toiling over the keyboard and we plan on being all caught up within a day or two. Please bear with us.

Now back to last week!

We rode out of Uttaradit about 9 am heading for the city of Sukothai which happens to be the first capital city of Siam Est 1248 or so. We rode 86km (Our longest ride so far) in a very hot sun with temperatures topping 36C. Wow! Riding in these conditions demands drinking massive amounts of water to keep up with dehydration. Marv reports easily drinking 4-5 litres of water on a day like this with hardly a pinklepausa stop required. All I know is I drink constantly & I sweat even more. The route took us through many little villages as we toured the countryside on quiet roads bordered by an amazing variety of crops. (more on this in a later post.) Very beautiful to ride through. We take a water/fruit break every 15 to 20 kms as we ride and Aum often has us stop at either a public health center or a school as both offer clean washroom facilities for the ladies and George. Today we stopped at a primary school and were greeted by very excited and friendly kids eager to try out their English. We took time to have fun with them and they were so wound up when we left I am sure the teachers were glad to see us go (It is amazing how many kids Marv can lift up on a Teeter-Totter). On that note I have to share how incredibly kind and friendly the Thai people are. We are constantly greeted(many many times per day) by big smiles, waving hands, the shouts of HELLO! (they love to try out their English), or Sawadee Kaa (F)or Sawadee Khrap (M) (Thai for hello). At times, especially in the countryside, we feel a bit like celebrities as we are the only “Farange” (foreigners) around. These people truly live in community with one another and are happy and peaceful in doing so. We in the western world can learn a lot from them.

We finished our ride at Sisatchanalai historical park. Which was filled with ruins from the ancient city of Sukhotai. It is a very large walled area where at one time all the major buildings were covered in Gold.

Once our ride was finished we took a van transfer the rest of the way to the Ruean Thai hotel, a lovely piece of paradise that we enjoyed for two nights (nice to unpack the suitcase for two nights instead of one). We were greeted by our long lost Linda as she flew out of Bangkok that day to join us for the rest of the tour.  We enjoyed supper at the Dream Café (Full of Thai Antiques and artifacts) where Aum went out of his way to treat George with a clubhouse sandwich and fries (George is getting even skinnier on his diet of cheezies and the odd cup of chicken broth as he is having trouble stomaching the spices and flavours of the Thai kitchen).  Everyone was ready for an early night (again) and off to sleep.

Marg cleaning up our morning rest area, a vacant roadside stand

A Thai river fisherman working on his nets.

Yound water buffalo at the roadside.

A few of the kids escaped the classroom to visit with us!

Marvin Teetoring!

Playground Fun

Sandy playing soccer with the boys!

Dog Day afternoon

Aum showing us the Map of Sisatchanalai

The Main “STUPA” where the king is buried

Belatedly reported by

Lyle G.

Edit This

by lgarstad

Hello again, we are just a day away from week 2 in Thailand and I along with a few others have had an eventful  last couple of days.  We have just completed a 90K day of riding in 37 degree heat and enjoyed the view of the Ping River. I am guessing it must join the Pong River somewhere down the line but I am not entirely sure.  As I said, we had a great, challenging ride and I had enough time to explore the local market.  You can never get enough of Pig Parts in an open air butcher shop in 30 plus degree heat as it has its own unique charm.

I had a chance to come across the market vender that was preparing bullfrog, yes bullfrog, but wasn’t as fortunate as the Greer’s and Garstad’s to witness the actual process, frogoside I think it’s called.  That reminds me that we did have a chance to try some frog legs the other day but ours were prepared in tiny chucks and deep fried a tad, a big tad. You know, I would never have believed until I tried it, but it really does taste like chicken.  Georgey Pordgy Reynar was hogging all the frog parts but I did manage to get in a taste or two.

I should just take a moment to describe the accommodations. I have to say that SpiceRoads has selected some of the most quaint hotels, very clean, with tons of character and I have to say it’s just what the doctor ordered. I did have that one place that had a few glitches with the plumbing and electrical issues but it just added that much more to the quirky character.  Now really, how often do you get your feet washed every time you brush your teeth? It was sort of a twofer, kind of deal.

I’m now sitting at the Uthai River Resort and we are situated on the beautiful banks of the Uthai lake reservoir/ river.  It is truly picture perfect, in this heavenly, but hellishly hot climate with these great Bamboo Chairs. The chairs remind me of this very cool and functional small travelling collapsible bench, or sort of like a portable stool, that I bring along and it is great to reach the odd difficult height but primarily I utilize it as a bench to put my luggage.  Only problem is that I seem to have lost or misplaced it and it is causing me some angst. More about that in a minute.

I should just backtrack a second and explain about yesterdays 90K ride. We have now achieved 300K total to date and it was not the reason but we went out to an amazing riverside restaurant.  We had the view of the Temple across the river along with the colorful neon lights of a Ferris wheel right next to it. Before we arrived I could see fireworks from my room in this area but Aum was unaware of any specific celebration. We had a live band performing and singing their hearts out and another abundant meal ordered by our gracious guide.

Out came the shrimp cakes, the catfish, the bass, the chicken, pork, beef, it’s all in there, enjoyed with everyone’s beer of choice, Chang. I definitely had my share even though I was fighting George for most of it, but as per usual I managed to eat waaaaaay toooooo much yet once again. Since we were close to the Riverside Hotel, we walked back along the river enjoying the sites and warm evening saunter and hopefully burning off some of the many calories I just consumed.

For the events I am about to share I would suggest that if you are uncomfortable hearing about bodily fluids I would suggest you skip to the end as this next section is rated R for Runny.

My night of Hell in Room 427

After that leisurely half hour walk back to the hotel I sort of excused myself and was heading up to my room retiring for the evening.  As the elevator hit the 4th floor I began to experience an uncomfortable pressure and began a brisk, yet determined, walk toward room 427. It was a focused effort to calmly put in the key and enter the room without crapping (or is it khrap over here?) my pants right there at the threshold of Rm 427 but I made it in alright. I began to disrobe for the upcoming ordeal and tried not to rip off all the buttons on my prized yellow travel shirt. I understand at this point a shirt is the least of my worries but I didn’t want to take any chances okay. With sheer determination, bowel control was barely maintained as I was able to negotiate the many obstacles of clothes thrown vicariously around the room and situate myself for the upcoming tsunami or as I like to call it, “My Thai evening Marathon”.

After expelling quantities of things I will not get into, I had a feeling of relief not experienced since my last prostate exam. Huge drops of perspiration beading on my forehead but I made it and all I could think about was what the neighbors in 426 were thinking? I was soo happy that it was over because it could just as easily have gone the other way and all that would have been remembered is the “round eye” who crapped his pants in the hallway of the Kampheng Phet Riverside Hotel. Fortunately that crisis was averted.

I thought I might have me a shower but instead just went back into the room to contemplate what had just happened.  Did I eat one too many deep fried fish? Did I really need that ice cream after a filling supper? The contemplation as to the cause was very short lived as round two was just about to begin.  As round two passed, no pun intended, I had convinced myself I had no more to give. But I was unfortunately wrong and round after round ensued.  Then I began to think that maybe it was heat stroke as we were cycling in 37 degree heat and I must have consumed 8-10 bottles of water. It may not have been the cause but it might begin to explain the quantity. During my times of reflection on my new favorite friend, mister commode, I had some time to examine the finer details in the bathroom. With each subsequent visit I would notice something new, a chip in the bathtub or a small crack in the tile but most disturbing and distressing to me was that my toilet role was becoming dangerously low on supply. I may have had a bathroom where the lights worked this time but in this bathroom there was only one quarter roll of toilet paper left with no reserve in sight. The sweat was beginning to bead on my forehead again but for a completely different reason this time. Would Chang Marv run out of fluids before the TP? Tune in tomorrow! It was just too dire an event even to contemplate.

After a couple of hours of wearing a path in the wooden floor and the TP barely holding on, I just decided I needed to lie extremely still until the storm passed.  I was spread eagled on the bed with the air conditioning on full blast just praying that this cramping would be over. I continued to roll one way then the other and things just seemed to get worse. What could possibly happen next I thought? Then it hit me, a gag reflex right out of nowhere and here I am some 13 feet from My Thai Toilet, but it might as well have been back in Leduc. I focused and again negotiated the thrown clothes from episode one and made it to the can almost in time. For the next few moments I continued to call frantically and quite forcefully for Ralph, but unfortunately no one by that name came to my aid. I was convinced at this point that my neighbors might call the Thai police for all the strange noises coming from 427 but maybe this is a common occurrence in Thailand? Since I haven’t practiced puking in awhile my aim was a little off the mark and I unfortunately made a bit of a mess. I knew that toilet hose would come in handy? Thank goodness that 4 foot handheld showerhead was close by as I was able to hose things down and clean up my new home away from home.  Well that must be it! I have successfully utilized my two primary orifices, it must be over, right? The human body is an amazing machine and obviously it had to purge whatever it was that was causing me a wee bit of a problem. I was hoping now that all should be rectumfied. Or so I thought.

I must admit, I did feel a ton better after, but during, I must say those crazy hot peppers burned just as much on the way up as they did on the way down. I had fought the demon, wrestling these last few hours to finally arrive here.  Proud that my projectile vomit had mostly gone were it was supposed to but mostly that the sweat beads on my forehead were beginning to subside.

It would seem that I may have counted my Thai Currie Chicken’s before they hatched.  It was back to driving the “Big White School Bus” and every time I signaled to turn, the toilet would flush. Just like clockwork or more like Old Faithful, but instead of a geyser going up, well you get the picture. I was also beginning to contemplate putting my pillow next to the toilet paper dispenser that was holding that last few  remnants of paper that were more valuable than gold at this point. I thought it would just make more sense to just stay in the toilet as I could see no end to this perpetual anal leakage.

Well let me just finish by saying that I did survive the night a little dehydrated but with a healthy new aversion to mystery fish dishes. Food poisoning affected 3-4 us last night and aside from the trauma sustained I could probably stand to lose a couple of pounds after all the stuff I’ve been eating here anyway.

The night did pass and what did I learn? I became quite proficient at what Lyle called “threading the needle” last night, I discovered Imodium is not a suppository and I’m currently focused on trying to refrain from coughing or sneezing. You know what the only other issue that would really solidify things for me now and make life really good, is if I could get my stool back.

From Thailand

Chang Marv

(Editors Note: Thankfully we have no pictures to post pertaining to Marvs Story. In this case the words are sufficient)

We do however have a couple of potty pics to entertain you!

Finally, I can understand the sign!

Wee have to wait in line sometimes too! (After Chang beer)

Edit This

by lgarstad

I was an unwilling but grateful participant in Thailand’s medical system.  On Friday January 22, only three days into our journey, I had the misfortune of falling off my bicycle and seriously injuring my left leg.  We were on a raised pathway that connected the locals to the roads.  There immediately were several local residents offering to help; one provided a cart and a pillow for my head, another offering medical supplies.  I was loaded onto the cart and parked in the shade until the van could pick me up.  Into the van and off Shaunna, Aum (cycling guide), Sanit (driver), and I were to the hotel to pick up the necessary insurance information, and then on to the private hospital (Thailand has both a public and private system).

I was immediately wheeled into emergency.  Ten minutes later it was off to x-ray and within an hour the bad news…a crushed tibia; surgery would be required.  Sometime during this flurry of activity my guardian angel for the next five days, Rat, appeared

While the orthopedic surgeon went off to see when I could get into surgery a smartly dressed gentlemen arrived with a brochure showing me choices of rooms.  The lowest priced room looked like one in a luxury hotel so that was good enough for me!  Then the cashier arrived with a request for a deposit of 50 000 baht (about $1600).  Out came the mastercard and I was wheeled to the orthopedic treatment room to stabilize my leg in an inflatable splint and informed that I would be in surgery the next morning. Up until this time, as long as I was allowed to sit up with my foot hanging down, I was not in any pain.  Not good for my leg, though.  Stabilized in the splint the pain was bearable, but most definitely there!

My room consisted of a typical hospital bed, bedside meal table, and nightstand, but also included a table with two comfortable chairs, TV, telephone, loveseat, a bathroom with shower, and a balcony with table and chairs and a view of Bangkok.  Lovely nurses dressed impeccably in uniforms (variety of skirts, tops and shirts, jackets optional) were at my beck and call.  Vitals were taken and one nurse immediately had an IV inserted and a painkiller was administered.  It seemed that in no time a Western meal appeared.

The nurses all had enough command of English to administer to all my needs…pee pee, poo poo, ‘Clean the body, Madame’ (a phrase I learned to appreciate more and more as days went by and I grew wearier and wearier of lying on my back).  Most were quite fluent so communication was never a problem.  If we ran into a snag, someone was called in to help.

I was down in surgery by 5:30, wheeled into surgery at 6:30 and awoke in my room at 11:00 pain free (drugs are wonderful) and no cast (I’d forgotten to ask if I would get one).  The surgeon said I would be discharged as soon as the drain in my leg stopped leaking fluid.  Twenty-four hours later the nurse said the drainage had stopped, the surgeon agreed and said he would be back in the afternoon to remove the drain and if all was well I could be discharged the next day, Tuesday.  Rat and I booked my flight to meet the group in Sukhothai on Wednesday expecting that I would stay in a hotel on Tuesday night.  Lo and behold, he was very busy that day so the drain didn’t come out until Tuesday morning when he made his rounds and only because I told him I had a flight booked the next day, otherwise it would have waited until the afternoon, again.  A walker was produced and I was finally freed from my bed!  No more bedpan!  An assisted shower!  Clean hair!  Reading in a chair!

The next morning I checked the drainage site and there was no leakage so I knew I was able to leave.  Rat and I had both told the nursing staff and the doctor about being picked up at 1:00, so by 10:00 I was getting antsy because I still had not received my crutches.  A chat with a lovely nurse and within half an hour I was practicing with my crutches.  Rat came at 12:00 and in time I was packed up a down to see the surgeon for last minute instructions on care.  With Rat’s assistance we did make it out the door at 1:20 and I did make it to the airport on time.

So how would I sum up my medical experience.  Outstanding service and care, but there seems to be an unwillingness to let you go once they have you in their luxury rooms!

And a last word about meals.  There was a menu that you could order from at any time.  Three meals a day were provided that were large enough for a farang (Thai word for foreigner).  For each meal you were given a choice of two oriental and two western meals.  I thoroughly enjoyed the oriental selections.

After the fall, waiting for the cart.

Need medical supplies?

I can bring a cart & pillow!
Being muscled into the cart.
Waiting in the shade.

Being loaded into the van.

I landed there?!

Many thanks to Rat & all the Spice Roads crew for taking such good care of me.  And thanks to to my cycling mates for their patience and help as I continue my journey with them.

Limpin Lindy Chapelsky

by lgarstad

Sukhothai is the original capital of Thailand (dynasty lasted 200 years).  The hotel had a lovely, quaint setting …. with a swimming pool!   Thursday (28th) we took the day off from cycling and toured the city a bit.  We started in the bike shop where Marv bought a new helmet! (with yellow on it).  Lyle, Carol, Murray & Sandy ventured off into the streets and markets.  Aum took George & Judy, Shaunna, Linda, Marv  and Rose to the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum and the ruins of the ancient town of Sukhothai.  The museum houses archaeological finds and art objects from the ancient town of Sukhothai as well as archaeological sites from lower part of North Thailand.  The ancient ruin site has the largest Buddha monument  (32 m wide x 15 m high).  Leaving the ruins we stopped a vendor who was selling crochet tops which most of us purchased and ended our tour with ice cream.  Aum had the six of us dropped off at a local market not far from the hotel.  By the way there are a lot of 7-11’s throughout Thailand.  Back to the market … a really fresh market …. with you name it!  Shaunna and George chose not to stroll through the market because of the smell.  If pigs could fly – then what? …. fish, pig heads …. Marg didn’t like the eels even though they were in a pail, her sharp scream got a lot of attention from the Thai vendors! …. frogs – later from Lyle & Carol.  Ohh!  we saw a rat running through the market.  It was so biggg!    Point being, one has to have an open mind and strong stomach to handle the strong aromas of the markets as everything is fresh, real fresh, like real fresh (slaughtering pigs, cows, frogs, etc.).  Instead of walking back to the hotel, all six of us piled into a songtao (a little crowded) that apparently we paid too much (20 baht/person equivalent to .60 cents).  No wonder the driver was willing to take us elsewhere.  We all spent the rest of the day enjoying the amenities of the hotel and the company of each other.  After a lovely dinner a few of us experienced a Thai massage (not the guys).  Lyle still isn’t sure about a massage that is designed to make you cry out from pain(what a wimp!).

Thailands largest buddha

Group Massage at the Ruen Thai Hotel

Market Comments:

A cacophony of sights and smells – some worse than others.  We ventured past assorted vats of pig parts including entails and hog heads flattened out – live fish in buckets – eels (snakes) in one designed to make Marg scream.   (Judy)

Notice a resemblance?

Eels & frogs and fish, OH MY!

Frogs!  Murray & I watched a lady butchering meat frogs in the fresh market.  She was very quick and efficient with the cleaver and I must say, the cleaned carcass looked good enough to eat, after sautéing with some butter and garlic.   (Lyle)

Meat Frogs, ready for butchering

The axe coming down.

Finger lickin good!

Grubs!  A street vendor was selling deep fried grubs along with assorted fish products.  I wasn’t tempted!   (Murray)

Squash!  A sweet little Thai lady gave me a sample of deep-fried squash.  It was too yummy and I had to have a whole bag to eat with lunch.   (Carol)

Sweet Lady & sweet squash

Thai Candy Shop – huge selection of dried fish and other salted delicies of indescribable nature all packaged under the Thai Candy label.  Not a sweet in sight!    (Linda)

Rosie

by lgarstad

We left the Ruean Thai hotel on the longest ride of the trip, so far, headed to Kampeng Phet  the “Diamond wall city”. In its heyday, this military fortress was used to protect Sukothai from invading armies. The ride was again thru the countryside which was busy with farming activity. With everything done by manual labor you need many more hands to get things done. On a whim, Sandy decided to ride into a tobacco field for a photo op with 3 laborers. Unfortunately two were too shy to pose. We then came upon a Tapioca plant were for some silly reason we decided to weigh ourselves on the truck scale. I sure hope that scale was broken! After a very pleasant morning ride we stopped for lunch at a quaint roadside noodle shop that doubled as the family home of the proprietors. Our dining table was right beside a bed with 2 other mattresses leaning up against the wall. Around the corner was the makeup table and clothes rack. The open kitchen bustled with the activity of our 3 cooks. The noodle bowls were very much enjoyed by all (except George) and in fact this has become our preferred type of lunch.

We hit 37C on this ride and hit a total of 89km’s before we landed at the Chakungrao Riverside hotel. Marvin indulged me and joined me for an additional 11km jaunt along the river and through some back alleys in the local neighborhoods so we could complete our Thai century (100km ride). After a nice rest we went to supper at yet another riverside restaurant. We are really getting spoiled by this. However… it was this restaurant that caused Marv, Linda, Marg, Rosie, and maybe George to have upset tummies for a few days. The rest of us must have just got lucky to stay healthy.

The next day started with a 2 hour transfer to our cycling starting point. This turned into more than 3 hours as our sickie van (us healthys made all the sickes ride in one van) had to make a few unscheduled bathroom stops. Our ride this day was only 22km out of the kindness of Aum’s heart before we vanned it to the River Lake resort in Uthai Thani. Along the way we passed by many rice paddies and a few water buffalo.            Lunch was enjoyed on a River barge as it cruised up and down the Ping River. We ate delicious chicken and veggie dishes as we passed many, many house boats/barges with people living right on the water. What a great way to see another way that people live in this world of ours. Of interest every dwelling, new or old, ramshackle or not, had a TV antenna as this is a very popular pass time for the Thai people. Also common were computers even in some cases in dwellings without actual walls, kind of open air living.

Water hyacinths were introduced to the rivers here to help add oxygen to the water and improve water quality for the fish to grow in however it has taken over and we actually had to plow through one island of the stuff to get upriver. After lunch we wandered the small town and explored yet another market area. We are getting quite used to being the only white people around as we tour these backroads and small towns. It is neat experience skipping the tourist traps. The River Lake resort is a wonderful oasis of peace and tranquility set at the point of two rivers meeting to form a small lake. Carol & I, Murray and Sandy and George and Judy spent the late afternoon sitting at tables and chairs perched on a rise with a view of the rivers and the lake. Very Serene! I know I had a thought that we were like British Colonialists 100 years ago looking out over the countryside. Kind of weird.

A tobbaco labourer with Sandy

The Greers making Miles!

Our Noodleshop of the day.

The Inside.

Wet Noodle Bowl

The Kitchen.

Thai Century.

Thai Century!

Lunch Barge on Ping River

River house c/w Fish trap

Where do you suppose the septic tank is?

Water hyacinth filled river

River Lake Resort view

by lgarstad

We left the River Lake Resort Sunday morning and quickly fell into a steady cycling pace, going past orchards and rice paddies in various stages of growth.  We must have been going at a good clip because we finished all 50 kms before lunch!  Lunch at the floating restaurant ended with all of us feeding buns to the catfish in the river.  Good merit we understand.  Those fish know where to hang out, they like lunch too.

On the evening of Jan. 31 we arrived at Ayutthaya, staying at the Old Palace Resort.  We questioned the hotel rating considering some of the issues with the rooms.  We were greeted by a column of ants from underneath our bathroom sink.  We used a little Scope to discourage them from staying with us.  There also were some problems with air-conditioning, apparently the controls on a few of them were wired backwards so the more we turned them down the more we were really turning them up!!  At about 12:30 I awoke to a rather warm room and tried turning the control to what I thought was the maximum setting.   When it didn’t cool down at all, the only solution I could come up with was to wet a towel and put it on my chest.  When that still didn’t help I remembered the cold drink bottles in the fridge.  So I took out two water bottles, gave one to Judy, who placed it down by her feet, and put the other on my chest.  That gave me about another hour of sleep before I had to substitute a cool bottle of green tea and then orange juice to get me through the night.  When I found out the next morning about the backwards air –conditioning I immediately wondered , “Where are all my plumber friends when I need them.”

Marvin and Lyle both got wake up calls by the low clearance bathroom door frames.  I think Marv still has a bruise on his forehead because he didn’t learn his lesson the first time!

Thankfully it was a sleep-in day, as we decided to wait for Marg’s taxi pickup at 10:00 for her transfer to her flight to Yeoser’s Beach Resort, to make sure that she got away okay.  We started touring the ruins of this ancient capital of Siam (from 1350 to 1767), including a number of temples with their Buddhas, stupas (burial monuments) and assorted ancient city buildings and walls.  It is hard to imagine the ability to construct these large structures so many years ago.  Many of these structures have been vandalized during assorted wars and the original gold coatings have been melted off and removed by invaders.  As interesting as this is I am getting to the point where if you have seen one stupa, you have seen them all!

We set off cycling toward Kanchanaburri, stopping for lunch at a riverside restaurant. According to my polling of the group the food was excellent, although I have been eating very little but what I had was good.

We continued cycling, reaching 23 kms before we had to load the bikes for the transfer to our hotel.  So far the terrain is easier than Italy but the heat is something else!!!! At least 35 to 37 degrees each day and with the humidity it feels considerably hotter.

That evening we stayed at the very remote River Kwai Resotel.  It was like an oasis in the mountains as there were no large communities nearby.  It was very peaceful and jungle-like setting, including a myriad of different kinds of ants.  Here we had a supper that was a combination of Italian, Thai and Western dishes.  I’m having trouble getting used to the Thai food so I am thankful for the Hawkins cheezies I brought with me and for the Cheezie Fairy that sometimes drops bags off in or near my room.  We ended the day with a traditional dance show by a group of Mon and Burmese dancers of varying ages.

Stupa #2548 (I think)

Sitting is better than climbing all those steps.

Spice girls toast Angela’s birthday with Mai Tais…Chai Yo!

Mon and Burmese dance show at the River Kwai Resotel

So long for now,

George H. Reynar

Esquire

by lgarstad

Another glorious day in Thailand and off we go on our bikes for an action-packed day…

After a good warm-up through some undulating hills (gasp, gasp) we headed down the highway. As we were gliding down a nice little downhill, shouts of “stopping!” rang out as a 5’ cobra crossed the highway in front of us. All I wanted to know was which end was the tail, ‘cause that’s the side I was going on. Lyle, fearless wildlife photographer, went screeching right toward it for a picture, which, thankfully, just caused the snake to hurry on its way into the ditch. (thoughts of “dumb tourists and elk in Banff” crossed my mind).

Our fearless leader, Aum, led us on our way and everything was just ducky until it was time to cross the river on…a suspension bridge. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have an aversion to heights and water and it was clear to me that this bridge was NOT approved by Parks Canada. Not only was it high and over water but in the 25 years since this bridge was built it appeared that no one thought it necessary to do any significant maintenance on it. Well, that might not be entirely fair, since the spaces in between the boards were only occasionally wide enough for me to slip through and someone had thoughtfully nailed saplings 2-3” in diameter  across the places where the boards had completely rotted. Aum offered to take my bike for me, but I desperately needed something for my shaking hands to hold on to.  As I alternately shuffled and goose-stepped across the bridge my crew had the good sense to keep quiet until I was safely across and had whispered a little prayer of thanks. I looked backed and to my amazement a couple of locals were riding their scooter across. How do they do it?

Continuing on our relieved and merry way we rode over rocky paths past banana plantations and tamarind trees being harvested.  During our break Aum and one of the drivers produced some “magic beans” and placed some in a cup of water and some on Sandy’s open hand. We waited with baited breath for the surprise, and then SURPRISE the pods exploded and showered us with seeds (can you say Himalayan Impatiens?) We all giggled like a bunch of school kids.

Now the real work started. We huffed and puffed our way up several hills, drinking water by the gallons and accepting that our deodorant had long expired in the sweltering mid-day heat and humidity. 24-hour wetness protection?  Methinks that ship sailed long ago.

Our ride ended as we rode into the parking lot of the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. It was a humbling experience to learn about the brutal conditions that thousands of British, Australian, Dutch and American POW’s suffered under the cruel hand of the Japanese during WW II to build the Burma-Thailand Railway. It was also startling to learn about the Asians that were recruited or conscripted to help with this ambitious project and faced even worse conditions that the POW’s. Over  100 000 (12 800 POW’s and 90 000 Asians)people died from disease, illness, starvation, exhaustion and beatings. Hellfire Pass was so named because of the gaunt bodies working the night shifts lit by bonfires and bamboo torches that made it look like a scene from hell. Walking the paths and touching the walls carved by these souls was a sobering experience.

Our next stop was the Suiyok Elephant Park. I was as excited as a 5-year old on Christmas morning as we climbed onto our beautiful elephant, Sidau, and our mahout headed for the river. As we headed down a steep bank Lyle and I hung onto our seats for dear life and were very grateful for the strap holding us in. Water break was over and we headed along the paths for a very bumpy ride.  Our mahout kept asking if everything was okay and we replied, enthusiastically, “Dee ma! (very good!)”, but I said that I wanted to sit on the elephant’s neck and steer her like he was. No problem. The mahout jumped off and I climbed onto Sidau’s sinewy neck, glad to be wearing my padded cycling shorts. I don’t think Sidau was quite as excited as I was, judging by the way she slapped her ears against my bare and slightly sun-burned legs.  I’m sure I didn’t stop grinning for the entire ride as we made our way through the park. I kept waiting for Sidau to rub me off on a tree, since I was clearly a novice rider and completely non-threatening, but she was kind enough to keep us onboard. After our ride we fed her copious amounts of bananas as our way of saying “thank you”. What a thrill!

A full day of adventuring was followed up by dinner at the Jolly Frog where we were treated to some comfort food in the form of pizza, cheeseburgers and steak. George was in heaven and relished every bite!

Murray braving the suspension bridge

Glad to be safely across!

Walking through Hellfire Pass

George & Judy on an adventure!

How the heck do you steer this thing?

Apple pie and icecream, a little taste of home for George.

by lgarstad

An early morning transfer delivered us to the historic Bridge over the River Kwai where we remembered the hardships and efforts of the POWs building this bridge, made famous by the movie.  Walking across the bridge, shopping, bartering and enjoying iced coffees and cocoas was a wonderful way to spend the morning.  Many of us bought some light weight cotton clothes to manage the heat as well as many other special treasures.  This became a rest day from cycling giving various body parts time to rest and recover.

At the city of Samut Songkram, we enjoyed lunch at a beautiful restaurant on the river where we enjoyed soup, morning glory and rice.  We also fed and marveled at the tame river fish.  (We actually are guessing that we did this but that’s what happens every day!)

We arrived at our most authentic Thai hotel yet, Chotika Riverfront, a warehouse conversion Bed & Breakfast.  It was on stilts in the river and our rooms opened onto a walkway along the river.  We were fascinated watching Thai life on the river.  The families lived and worked on their boardwalks.  They would take their dishes and clothes down to the river and clean them up and then jump in and bath themselves. The river was the very life and heartbeat of this community.  We held out for a long time from jumping into the water as our travel nurses had warned us against but eventually the refreshing satisfied looks of the local Thais compelled Murray, Lyle, Marv and Sandy to jump in and join them!

Shawna, Murray, Sandy and Marv went for a 2 hour walk-about.  We walked along the river, on main roads and windy and twisty paths by temples and schools.  All of a sudden, thundering booms!  Guns shots? Explosions?  No, fireworks that the Buddhists use to signify that someone has died and is on their way to enlightenment. We tried to take a little path through the palm plantation/jungle for a shortcut but some guard dogs and a local who stepped out with a machete stopped us short in out tracks and caused us to retrace our steps out.   We couldn’t recall the name of our resort but cleverly Murray had our room key which said, “Chotika Riverfront…” Thankfully, our guardian Thai angel came along on his bicycle and since we didn’t speak each other’s language we just showed him our key and he pointed which way to go!  When we arrived at the corner he was waiting for us and again pointed the way.  We made it back just in time for a terrific ride on a long tail boat that Lyle arranged to take us to a riverside restaurant up the river.  We enjoyed another dinner of rice, soup, morning glory and other Thai delicacies.  For a total of 900 baht, or about $30, our boat waited for the 11 of us and then took us on an amazing evening tour with a small light on the head of his boat.  We snuck through canals that wound themselves through the jungle, homes and businesses on stilts.  It was incredible like the jungle ride in Disneyland!  Then to make the evening even more magical we stopped and watched fireflies twinkling in the trees!

The Infamous Bridge voer the River Kwai

River Life in Thailand

Long boat ride to see the Fireflys

Cooling their Heels at the Chotika B&B

Sandy, Shauna, Murray & Lyle

Special Report!

We have to take a minute to share with you how key Aum(our guide) and Sanit & Charlie (our drivers) have been in making our trip a joy. These guys are the perfect example the word service. Based on our experience with the spiceroads crew we now have a whole new set of expectations for our weekly Godspoke rides. Larry I suggest you start preparing now.

Drivers

1)      Start and complete each day with a friendly smile and playful attitude.

2)      Bikes prepped daily c/w water bottles full of cool water or ice water depending on your preference.

3)      Our helmets are laid out with our bikes in the morning and collected at the end of the ride.

4)      Support van to follow the group with flashing lights to help keep us safe. It is also fully stocked with spare parts and tools for repairs. If you have a breakdown the drivers quickly complete the repair, without you having to get your hands dirty.

5)      When we have our 15km breaks the drivers hand us each an ice cold & refreshing lemon scented facecloth to wipe our brows and clean up for the snack. Then they quickly ready our snacks (4-5 types of fresh cut tropical fruit, 2-3 types of chocolate bars, cookies, often a local freshly made sweet treat purchased right off of a street vendor, and an ice chest full of water bottles, electrolyte drinks, coke and sprite.

6)      While we rest and feed ourselves they are again filling our water bottles for the next leg of our ride.

7)      If anyone is tired of riding they quickly load the bike(s) on the roof rack and give the rider a comfy seat in the air conditioned van for the duration of the ride. Also when one of us breaks our leg they wait on us hand and foot, helping us in and out of the van, getting drinks and snacks, pillows, whatever we ask for.

8)      Bikes washed at the end of each ride and mechanically checked to be ready for the next day.

9)      Make themselves available after the ride to chauffer us around as needed.

10)   Back track as needed (as much as 1.5 hrs one way) to retrieve forgotten articles from a previous stop.

Charlie handing out cold facecloths

Charlie & Sanit with our snacks

Loading up the HOSS!

Guides

1)      Shepherd us from site to site without losing anyone. (Okay, Aum only lost six of us one time. He was very happy to find them before the end of the ride)

2)      Keep us safe as we ride, and deal with hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and irate family members when we get hurt.

3)      Translate as needed, which happens to be all the time.

4)      Order our food for our meals and deal with all the whining.

  1. It’s too hot!
  2. There is too much fish!
  3. More morning glory please!
  4. Can I have a cheeseburger?
  5. What is that?

5)      Be an amazing problem solver, and be too busy doing it.

6)      Share his religion & culture with us

7)      Answer questions, endless questions, all day!

8)      Find us Hong Thong Rum. Very important!

9)      Fan us when we are too hot! (Really)

10)   Lie to us about the distances and terrain. Hills, what hills?

Aum fanning Linda!

Aum leading the way!

Mr Yo!

All four of these fellows were godsends for us. We were truly blessed!

Larry, the bar has been set VERY HIGH!

by lgarstad

The day began with a bang!  It was almost enough to wake the dead although it was meant to send them off!  Vick, our personable hotel owner and host, led Judy in offering merit to a monk in a paddle boat who was gathering his daily alms.  He had already received baskets and dishes of curries, soups and other items.  In a spirit of international respect, the monk said a blessing for Judy.

A highlight of the day was our time spent at the oldest floating market in Thailand, Damneon Saduak.  Without wasting a moment, a Thai sales woman ran up to Judy and Sandy and quickly massaged Tiger Balm into their temples.  Carol and Lyle bought coconut drinks from one of the floating boats and they exchanged drinks and money in a basket on a long pole.  Rose read up and was prepared to offer half price for her merchandise from the price typed out on their calculator.   The sales lady suggested 600 baht and Rose countered and was successful with 200 baht!  We all shopped to our hearts content, especially Linda!  She hobbled along with her crutches and the shop keepers ran out and brought her a stool, fanned her and brought items for her to see!

Stopping at stop signs, speed limits, lanes on the road and stopping when police signal for you to pull over , we have discovered are just suggestions and are optional.  We now just ride right through with the best of them!  It’s amazing how fluidly the traffic flows and it’s a credit to the cooperation of the Thai culture!

Passing through pineapple fields and random low lying mountains today, we were blessed with our first viewing of the breathtaking Gulf of Thailand.  The bathtub warm turquoise waters, lined with an abundance of coconut palms and pristine sandy beaches, ebbed and flowed with rolling little waves.

Uh oh, 3rd flat tire of the trip!  Our 52 km ride, putting us over the 500 km mark, brought us into the beautiful “Dolphin Bay Resort.”  Many of us jumped into the warm waters of the pool or ocean to cool off!  We ate at our hotel and indulged in various meals from schnitzel to grilled cheese sandwiches!!

Judy making Merit.

Damneon Saduak floating market

Judy gets balmed!

Sandy, Rosie, Judy, Shaunna Et Al

Special Report

Conveyances

There are many different vehicles in Thailand. Here are a few of them.

Thai freight truck!

River Buses

Long Tail Boat

Street vendor cart navigating traffic

College school bus

Tuk Tuk, New type

Tuk Tuk, Old Style

Pony Carriage

Rural Bus

Scooter truck

Three wheel motocab

Multi purpose 2 wheel field tractor, works as a truck too!

Pedal Cart

Pull cart

Yet another type of Bus

Moto Street vendor cart

Rice Paddy trac vehicle pulling a float to smooth field for planting

Long Tail Ferry

Big Girl rides!

Thai Gas station, for Moto’s

Bicycle, Here you go Larry, He finally took his short off!

Moto taxi

Pachyderm

Thai Ambu cart!

Thai Agri Truck. Multi purpose engine can power pumps, pulleys etc via belts

Mopeds & Scooters, There are millions of em here.

Many types of little boats in all the canals, rivers, ponds and lakes

Whew!

by lgarstad

Day after day, we check out side our patio doors to decide what to wear only to discover once again the weather is very constant, something between sweltering and blistering.  That is an exaggeration as only Marv blistered with 2nd degree burns!  We have some very interesting tans going one with tiger stripes on our feet and raccoon eyes from our sunglasses.

We were all astonished to come upon many mobile shrimp processing plants that were set up right on the hi-way.  Murray, our in-house food specialist, was amazed at how 25 workers hand sorted the shrimp and got them quickly cooling in ice.

Cycling into Sarm Roi Yat National Park, the moment many of us had been waiting for, we saw MONKEYS!  Big baboon like monkeys and little monkeys, curious monkeys, shy monkeys, mamma and baby monkeys!  We later saw monkeys riding on mopeds and hanging on the back of trucks.  We learnt some are trained to climb the tall palms to pick coconuts.

We experienced many other cultural highlights such as tapping and collecting rubber, palm oil trees, tapioca farms, various fruit orchards, crews working on fish net repairs, the lights of the small sea weary fishing boats out catching squid late in the night, families burning coconut shells to make charcoal for cooking and grounding coconut shells to recycle into cushions.

What a lifestyle, starting every morning with an inspirational message and prayer and working out hard cycling 42 to 110 km (Carol and Marv did 110!).  We feel like celebrities passing through villages as adults and children alike yell out their hearty hellos and wave and smile!  George is often hoarse from yelling out, “Saw wa dee crap” all day!  This sweaty exercise is followed by hearty Thai meals in beautiful ocean side cafes, refreshing swims and snorkeling and often a little rest in the lounge chairs.

Victoriously we arrived at the enchantingly beautiful Yoeser’s Beachfront Resort with our friendly hosts Kalaya and Gordie. Kalaya lived in Leduc previously and is friends with some members of our group.   This spread is beyond our wildest imaginations with little glass walled cottages on an immaculately manicured white sand beach, the warm blue ocean only meters away, lovely pool, patio restaurant and flowering gardens.  Kalaya prepared a bountiful and delicious western style meal for us and we bid farewell to our 3 faithful Spice  Roads’ friends.  We had lots of fun serving them and plopping potatoes on their plates like Aum always did to us with rice!  We shared lots of laughs and then with perfect timing, Marv asked Aum to share a funny story from his tour guiding AND just then Murray’s chair fell apart and he crashed to the floor, causing us to all break out in peals of laughter!  Some things are funny in every culture!  A few tears were shed as we said goodbye and even the next day as we reminisced about them.  Some of us  finished our evening off with a refreshing swim in the pool, admiring the starry sky and listening to the nearby surf.  C’est la vie – it’s the life!

MONKEYS!!!

Amazing Rubber tree plantation ride

Rubber tree giving up the latex for Murray

Morning Devotion and Briefing

Sandy and the crew!

My Thai Goodbye (AKA Bye Bye Thai Thai)

I thought maybe I would record a few last thoughts as our Thai 2010 Travel Adventure is swiftly coming to a close.  It’s hard to believe that over 3 weeks have passed and it seems I have lived a lifetime in this brief period.  An unfortunate observation, is that in the routine of home life there is that danger of our lives becoming the cycle of sleeping, eating and working with a little television thrown in to distract us from the mundane.  Wow that’s a bit depressing; I must be suffering from the onset of post vacation blues a little early? I suppose that is always the challenge, to cherish each day that you are given and enjoy all the pleasures of this God given Life. The amazing thing is that they can often be found in the smallest of things, we just have to be looking for them.

As I sit here recording a few thoughts, the birds are singing outside my glass room/hut, definitely don’t through stones, and I can hardly believe that not so long ago back home I was listening to the howling wind outside my window with only the snow drifting over and through the barren yard and leafless trees. Even the birds have taken shelter or gone south. This break from our winter has been a welcome respite but home is still home.

I seem to be philosophizing more than usual if ever, so I’ll keep it to a minimum. As I am sitting here my legs continue to molt like a Mongolian Yak in rutting season after my brilliant day of receiving severe sunburn by not applying sunscreen.  My beautiful tan, of fire engine red, has long since subsided and what is left is shedding like a cobra’s snake skin (we’ve seen one or two live ones but mostly the “tape worm” variety).

So how does one even try to condense all the new experiences of this last month? It has definitely been a blur.

Well we’ve seen Ancient Temples, explored past capitals, cycled cities and country sides, been by rice paddies, morning glory fields, tobacco plantations, morning glory, banana, morning glory, pineapple, morning glory, sugarcane and did I mention morning glory? And other crops I can’t even remember.  We’ve ventured by rivers, through villages, narrow alleys and markets, on top of 4 foot smallways (there is a whole chapter on this section). Been on planes, trains, trams and Toyota’s, jumped on ferries, barges, river cruised on Thai long boats and some short boats, explored the MacLong River adjacent to the MacShort River named by a Scottish Highlander Explorer.  Ok, I may have embellished a bit on that last fact, it was about this time I was still in recovery from my food poisoning episode (The nightmare in Rm 427) and the biggest part of my day was concentrating on not coughing (“OH! My Kingdom for a Popcorn Fart”).  The food reminds me of the amazing buffets and the peppers remind me of the smokin’ hot weather (Frickin’ Ron in Thai). We have definitely been blessed with sunshine and scenery. We have seen hospitals, taken x-rays and I’ve suffered a few minor concussions, Thai Toilet design definitely has to be re-thought a little bit. I can’t even remember half the stuff we’ve done but I do know I’ve seen lots and experienced things I could only experience in Thailand and for that I am extremely grateful.

I’ve whacked my head a few times on low Thai toilet door frames; George has tripped and stubbed a few toes on that small Thai step in every Thai toilet, I’ve contemplated life in several unique Thai toilet designs the most interesting of which required a “how to” sheet just to get situated, but once you did how refreshing it was to rest you chin on the sink and then sing a duet with George in the next room.  Thailand the land of no sound proofing, Jar Jar Binks cattle, and the lines on the road only being a suggestion has touched me deeply.   Thailand has been an amazing country to visit; the people and culture have made this trip one I will always remember, unless I get Alzheimer’s (Sorry, I guess nothing is sacred).

The sun is beginning to set outside my room, the concrete is beginning to set under my arse (have I mentioned that the beds in Thailand are a bit firm), George’s Hawkins Cheesy Supply is running low and he has started to negotiate that Thai toilet step. We have all learned a little Thai, we have gone 24 consecutive days without visiting a hospital, I’ve stopped wearing my helmet to the can, and come to think of it I do not believe there is a Thai word for constipation. So as the light of this day fades and the reality sets in that these are all indications that this Thai 2010 Adventure is coming to an end.

As I said, Thailand is an amazing place, the people, beautiful, the culture, unique, the language, complicated. As complicated as Thai is we have all learned a few phrases and words. The Thai people have been so gracious and kind to us that George has made it his personal mission to return everyone’s greeting. The Thai greeting for hello/goodbye is like Aloha and for men is So Waa Dee Khrap (Yep, just like it sounds). Which reminds me for those that are interested I was able to find my stool before the end of the trip, thank goodness. So until next time, to everyone who has followed our little journey I hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have.

So Waa Dee Khrap from Thailand.

Toodley-Doo Neighbor

Chang Marv

by lgarstad

Just when we thought our trip was over…for 6 of us we were awarded an extension thanks to the terrible business run by Air Canada. George & Judy, Linda, Rose and Carol & I showed up at the Bangkok airport at 6am saturday morning to checkin for our 8am flight to Tokyo only to be told by the Thai Airways ticket agent (Air Canada’s partner airline) that we did not exist in their system, therefore had no tickets, and guess what… the flight was sold out so even though we waited for 2 hours on standby we were stranded(Marv, Marg and Shaunna did in fact exist and made their fights). Even worse due to this weekend being Chinese New Year, a big deal in asia, the Air Canada office in bangkok was closed for the weekend and the Thai Airways folks could not book us onto any other flight(s) to get us home, and they had no phone number for Air Canada in Canada so they could not help us call anyone for help. So back to the hotel and onto the internet to get phone numbers, and Skype for an hour with an AC rep to get us booked on  flights home sunday, this time thru Hong Kong. Sadly, due to the Olympics the flight was very full and all that was left were middle seats all throughout the plane. My request for a bump up into business class (to help make up for the inconvenience) was met with disdain as no one with any authority was available to make a decision, even when I explained one of our party had a broken leg and wes unable to move around easily. PEOPLE, do not fly Air Canada if you have any other choice. IT IS NOT WORTH IT!!!

Oh well with another day in paradise we relaxed until 5pm and then took Taxi’s to Chinatown to take in the New Years festivities that night. It was really cool withbanners, lit red lanterns, signs, music and dancing, and a lot of people all adding a vibrancy to the streets. We walked, watched, and ate our way around for 3 hours and then cabbed back to the hotel for 4-5 hours sleep before out flights this morning. Happily I am writing this update as we lay over for 3 hours in Vancouver, so we did make the flights today although the Gate agents, and head purser again ignored our requests for better seating, citing various inane reasons which left me angry enough to start a boycott Air Canada campaign on the internet.

Anyway, we will be home around 1:15 this afternoon and will be happy to sleep in our own beds once again.

Take Care!

Lyle

Edit This

Adventure SDG Back home

This entry is submitted just 24hours after landing back home and I thought I would share a couple more few last thoughts.

Fact is, I can’t sleep cuz my system is so screwed up. So I thought trying to write something might help me get back on this time zone and back on track.  The last time I jotted something down we were in the last few days of our Thai Adventure and now having completed it I thought I might be inspired by a few new incites, a rare occurrence in my case I can assure you .

Looking back at this last month, I know it may sound strange but many of the things I experienced and places we stayed have all sort of blended together and I would be hard pressed to pick out a particular place or when and where some of the event filled days happened other than to admit they happened and somewhere in this last month. For me, mostly I will remember all the people that impacted my travels.

I often joke that our little travel group has two names, one is SDG Adventure and the other is Adventure SDG. At first glance they may seem the same but there is a difference. SDG Adventure stands for Some Dam Good Adventure and I’m not sure who first coined that phrase but I have heard others mention it. Now Thai 2010 has definitely had its share of good adventure, cycling, kayaking, elephants, waterfalls, and singing on a secluded beach on the Gulf of Thailand with the waves softly caressing the beach and only the roar of a campfire, one billion stars (give or take) and one rambunctious firefly to illuminate our night as I was surrounded by 10 friends and beginning to contemplate the reality of the end settling in (gasp). As I listened to the surf and gazed into the heavens noticing the Big Dipper is almost upside down here, it made me reflect on the real reason I was here.  I couldn’t help but look in awe at God’s Amazing Creation and barely comprehend what I was seeing and hearing and to be blessed to share this experience with friends is still something that stirs my soul.

Now that is why when we say our group is Adventure SDG it has a different meaning.  I was asked at the end of our Italy Adventure what the SDG stood for and I explained that it is from the Latin, Soli Deo Gloria. It was a common acronym used in Christendom not to long back but as many things in our modern culture have tried to eliminate God from the picture, its use in recent times has been lost.  For those of us not as fluent in Latin, me included, and I believe it is based on the scripture of 1 Corinthians 10:31. So SDG means that whatever you do, Do it all for the Glory of God Alone or Soli Deo Gloria, get it? It’s not some kind of spiritual mantra, it is simply acknowledging and understanding that the foundation and undergirding of everything Thai 2010 was to be, whether it be adventure or anything else in life for that matter, that if we bring Glory to God first the rest will work itself out.

We’ve definitely had some challenges and bumps along the way, hospitals, some “Thai Tummy”, my bike missing in action until a few hours before the flight and some botched airline reservations but they all seem to pale when I look at the big picture. One example that comes to mind was our tour of Hellfire Pass and the 100,000 men who lost their lives in terrible conditions to complete the railway including the bridge over the river Kwai or that Linda could have hit her head instead of breaking a leg. I know these are extreme examples but they do remind me not to sweat the small stuff. Carolina put it best , or should I call her cricket, when she said that it’s part of the adventure and I agreed that the adventure continues right until the end.

Which makes me ponder why I think the adventure should end because the holiday has? Maybe that’s the challenge for all of us, not to skip back into the day to day, but to live the Adventure of Life with All Glory to God. I can only begin to imagine what glorious events that would transpire with those kinds of expectations. I’m sure it would’nt be easy, but I am sure going to try, so come with me and let the adventure continue.

From Home (Our Beautiful Canada)

Marv

Adventure SDG


Edit This

by lgarstad

1 Broken Leg

2 Hospital visits

4 Flat tires

10 Elephant rides

11 Very happy Godspokers

14 Snakes , mostly dead

20 Thai Massages

23 Bottles of Hong Thong

29 Marv baked Chocolate Chip Cookies ( Gaak)

35 immodium, 2 taken incorrectly

37C Temperature

514 Dogs, 68 limping

680 Km’s ridden

700 Bottles of water

792 Meals

1246 Sawadee Khraps/Kaas

Countless experiences in Thailand…Priceless

We are relaxing at Yeosers Beach resort for the rest of the week. We fly home Saturday the 13th and should land at 3:06pm if Air Canada is on time.

Thank you very much for following us on our SDG Adventure Tour. We can’t wait to see you again.

Sexy Bobby(Marv), Curious George, The Recipe(Marg), Cricket(Carol), Step & ½ Judy, Limpin Linda, West Coast Woman(Shaunna), The Closer(Lyle), Murray & Sandy-The water Bugs, and Under the Radar Rose.

That’s a Wrap!

4 thoughts on “Thai Wun On Adventure Tour

  1. Have a super time to all of you. We’ll be praying for your safety and for you to have wonderful new and exciting expiriences. No plaster!

  2. wow great pics everyone!!!

    nice suit MArv LOL.

    who broke there leg??? yikes thats bad luck.. hope u werent praying to budda LOL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s