Thailand 2010 #2 to Phu Phrabat National Park

Hello from northern Thailand #2

The amazing balancing rocks at Phu Phrbat National Park

I have been off the Internet highway for several days now, riding by myself. Since no one here in remote Thailand speaks English, I have been mostly silent for the last 4 days. I do not read Thai script either, so reading the directions on the sign post is a challenge. I find I must read up individual words in the dictionary, translate them, and then, with lots of hand gestures, try to explain where I want to go. It usually works, but it takes some time. The Thais generally are most helpful with tourists.

I rode my bike on a 70 km side trip and up a steep climb up to the Phu Phrabat National Park. Earlier I had met a cyclist who said that it was a must-see. The park consists primarily of some incredible stone formations on a mountain overlooking a deep valley. The rocks balance in some unlikely ways. You could imagine them falling any moment. Within them are many natural rooms where early hunters lived and painted on the walls. Later (2300 years bp) the first Buddhist sects came here and treated it as a holy site. I wandered by myself thru some amazing stone mazes and grottoes. Then I sat on the edge of the gorge with the wind blowing upward and watched far below a timeless scene of water buffalo and rice fields. This was a thoroughly enjoyable side trip.

Earlier this week I had ridden another 150 km from Lop Buri (monkeyville) when I saw my first cyclist on the road. He was flying by me in the opposite direction. I flagged him down and we spoke. He was Renard from France. He spoke very little English, so we got along in French. He said he had ridden from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi then across Laos and now was rushing back to Bangkok for his flight. He had done it in 25 days. Yesterday he had done over 320 km, with the wind to his back. Wow. I checked his bike out. It was a very customized 700 mm and really stripped down. He only had 2 panniers on it and an extra tire. Nothing else. His physique looked like a Tour de France rider. Renard said that the ride thru central Thailand in the dry season was ‘boring’. Just 500 kms. of dry rice paddies and cut sugar cane, with all the smoke of them burning it. He said I had a boring ride ahead of me, with 25 kms of smoky wind in my face.

So, do I ride into the smoke for 5 days, or get to the northern parks? I rode to the train station and bought a ticket to north central Thailand. For some reason, the station master insisted that my 3rd class seat would be free. But my bike had to pay $3.00 I boarded a train filled with uniformed children heading off on a long field trip. Oh did they practice their English on me, along with hide-and-seek and tag. Beautiful, cheerful, well-behaved kids having fun. They were thoroughly delightful. In general, I do like uniformed children. The uniforms postpone that day of status reckoning, when they must one-up their peers in clothes. I am completely fashion-impaired and do not care. Functional cottons and quick-wash travel clothes work well for me.

I got me a good seat on the train and watched the country side go by. They came by selling beers, and I sat there buying. Being a 3rd class train, it stopped every 10-15 km or so. So it never got over 80 kph. I watched the countryside go by. Central Thailand during the dry is not like a jungle. I saw mostly dried up rice paddies and smoking piles of sugar cane refuse. Later I will pile off at Udon Thani, closer to some National parks.

I rode around Udon Thani for a day. The city has two very large lakes around which it has built very pleasant parks. Lots of cyclists and joggers. Actually, I am surprised at how similar the urban activities are here and in the US.

Perhaps the major difference I see is in who controls the food here. Yes, there are fast food chains here, but they are dwarfed by a complete community of street vendors selling delicious, inexpensive fresh food of all types. On every street are several vendors selling food. Sometimes whole streets are covered with vendors. There seems to be no licensing of them, and it all seems to work out very well. At 2 am the streets are completely clean, but ant 5:30 am they are bustling. You will find whatever food you have a taste for, if you are willing to walk a bit. But as I write this, I was passed on the road by a truck that had painted on its side CARGILL MEAT PRODUCTS. Can Monsanto be far behind?

One Response to Thailand 2010 #2 to Phu Phrabat National Park

  1. wow it must be great to have the time to get out like that i remember meeting a guy from Holland in India who had cycled there i thought at the time he must be nuts but what achievement real adventure
    i see you passed buy udon thani and issan i do a few small rides a round there from are home out there see you out there sometime regards john

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