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Ron Mack!

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The jet-lag has worn off and it's HOT here!! ("Ron Mack" is "Very Hot" in Thai). Still not as bad as last trip, since this is after all, "winter" in Thailand, which means that the temps are barely breaking 90F during the days, and the poor Thai folk are pulling out the sweaters and blankets as the temps drop below 60F at night!

We packed up all our stuff, loaded up the bikes and headed for Chom Thong on Monday morning. Jeanne's uncle happens to bike a fair bit and told us how to take back roads to Chom Thong ("stay by the river") which was a welcome alternative to the highway. Made it out of Chiang Mai without getting killed by a moped, followed a detour and then found the river to stay by. Did I mention that they drive on the wrong side of the road here? One unforeseen difficulty is that my cycling mirror is now mounted to the wrong side of my helmet. I see lots of landscape, but not much of the road. Another is the intermittent, involuntary panic which comes from looking up and seeing a car coming at me "in my lane!!" This isn't helped by the bit that country roads are a rather narrow, and everyone just drives down the middle until an obstacle appears. What's interesting though is that despite the rather insane driving, I have yet to see so much as a fender bender. Not even at the busy intersection which was flashing-yellow in all FOUR directions! Try that in Seattle and you'd have a 6 car pile-up in about 3 minutes. Imagine all the spilled coffee....

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Another novelty is being illiterate. Thai script is beyond comprehension to me, and to make matters worse, the Lonely Planet road atlas we packed has no Thai names - just the romanizations! Bad choice, should have known better. This leaves us trying to pronounce city names and ask random folk if we're going the right way. Worked pretty well overall though - even got directions from the passenger of a moped, neither of us slowing down! On the plus side, my Thai vocabulary has come flooding back with re-exposure to the language. All 12 words of it :)
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Not an overly eventful ride; slathered on the SPF 45 sunblock and mostly avoided the lobster syndrome although Gretchen's wrists are a bit pink, as is my nose. 60km into the trip (the Uncle said "about 60km") the real heat of the day was kicking in, we were late, and Chom Thong was nowhere to be seen. At 70 km, and now definitely pushing heat limits we rolled into town, found the 7-11 (agreed on meeting place, and ubiquitous western influence in Thailand) and called my friend Katsuya Fukuyama san

A quick explanation; 3 years back I did a couple weeks volunteer work here with Stacy. Fukuyama san ran the camp, which turned out to be otherwise entirely Japanese, so we had a little Japanese family experience in Thailand. For his part, Katsuya had married a local woman named Mudee, and works with the student hostel full time. They have an 18 month old now as well, name Mirai. A very cute kid, but I have yet to meet a not-cute Asian baby. Katsuya had warned me that they moved since I was last there, hence the need to call. After a short lunch we headed back to the new house, I feeling thankful that Katsuya's English was not as bad as I remembered. The new place wasn't so nice as the old, but again is only temporary since both have been subject to the whim of landlords. Katsuya showed me the grand plan to obtain their own land and build a real hostel just outside town. We visited the land this morning and it's a gorgeous spot. I'm a little unsure on why they needed two big, deep holes in the ground for fish farming, but lovely spot nevertheless!

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Katsuya remembered my vegetarian quirk and was ready with some rather convincing fake meet. Unnerving imitation of sausage actually. Another fun food bit for dinner was coffee - grown by Mudee's parents, and roasted that morning! Not bad stuff, they gave me a lb or so (green) to bring back with me. Jet-lag was still lingering and I only managed to stay awake until about 8:30 pm. I might have actually had a chance to sleep until 6 however, were it not for the rooster which must have been right outside my window. That bit about "rooster crowing at dawn" is a load of bullpucky - this one kicked in at 04:30 and full volume. (Perhaps it's a Japanese rooster and marking daybreak in Tokyo?). In any case, damn loud. Where's the re-set knob on a rooster? Do you whack it on the head for snooze??
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Eventually I gave up on sleep and wandered around watching the students getting ready for school and generally feeling out of place. Breakfast was leisurely as we talked while Mirai spread bits of breakfast all over everything he could reach. Very very mobile child; doesn't talk much yet, but I can't blame him since he gets Thai, Karen and Japanese all thrown at him on a regular basis.

After a short tour of the new site I presented Katsuya with a donation to the cause and we headed back for Chiang Mai. We dutifully tried following the river again, but going upstream is harder than down, and eventually we were off on the wrong fork. A too-long stint on the highway got us back to a landmark, and eventually another detour back to the river. Very hot by this time and on we went, trying to find lunch. However, all the little road-side noodle stands waved us off when presented with the "we are vegetarian" sign. Not a good omen. The problem seems to be that everything starts in meat broth, no matter what gets added. What happened to just plain rice & eggs? Or sticky rice and green curry for that matter? used to live on that stuff last trip, and haven't even seen any yet.


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On through the heat. legs are turning fine, but the buttocks are damn sore. Just a matter of getting in shape I suppose. Although I do wonder how this process works. It's not like adding muscle tone (I think), or calluses (I hope), so perhaps the only real process to "getting the butt" in shape is deadening all the nerve endings down there.

Tis late and I've accomplished my objective of staying up past 9:30 to beat the jet-lag. Tomorrow we've decided to stay one more day in Chiang Mai - visit the bit Wats (Buddhist Temples), perhaps ride an elephant and finish shopping. And then on with the trip.

cheers, ya'll should be waking up soon ;)

M<

P.S. I have discovered to my horror that Starbucks is now here in Chiang Mai! I think I will have to try it tomorrow morning; in the name of "research" naturally. What does a soy latte taste like here? Do they use real, fresh soy milk? Will it really cost 165 Baht like it does in the US?? Stay tuned for this vital information....





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