(Rich’s 2nd post)
The cool night air and even cooler night forest sounds are the perfect accompaniment for our sleep. Cicadas that sing a solitary soprano note dominate the song, while frogs, birds and lizards provide a fascinating harmony. In the morning, the extremely peculiar call of the tokay gecko starts our day out on a smiling note. “Toe!-ka-ay”
Breakfast at 8:30am, Linda, Janel and I join Lek and Nang at the table. My morning ritual lime juice is excellent, following by 2 fried eggs (with very golden yolks) and bacon.
We’re readying our bikes by 9:15am or so – the schedule is pretty relaxed. The plan is to avoid the van today in entirety if possible, and Linda makes it her goal to try it. Janel, still on antibiotics, decides to invest further in her flu recovery and avoids the bike today.
Gunther and I take off right away. Gunther has shown yesterday that he wants to keep up a healthy pace, and since Lek and James are staying with the girls, I decide to pace with Gunter as long as I can. We pedal eastward on 401 over a stretch of sustained rolling hills, about 20 km or so, finally stopping at a shady clearing. The scenery is stunning southern Thailand: limestone mountains jutting skyward from the rolling hills covered in foliage, orchards of banana trees, orchards of palm trees, orchards of rubber trees.
The girls join us in about 25 minutes. The ride has been quite warm and humid, and Linda’s face is getting pretty red. Still, she is fit and I’m proud she’s made it in good shape.
Our stop is located at a cave considered as a religious site by Buddhists.
After another 27km or so, I’m just about to pass out. The day has gotten hotter and steamier, and I’m actually getting dizzy from dehydration. I’d been rationing my one water bottle for many kilometers now, and finally I’m at the break point. “Water stop,” I call out and we find the shade of a big tree. Gunther is less affected because he is carrying 3.5 liters in a Camelbak. After I gain my wits and down the last of my water, we roll a few more meters up the street and find a tiny store that sells me a cold bottle. Sweetness!
We ride only a few more km and roll into a town, I believe it is called Ban Ta Khun. Decidedly not a tourist site, we are especially oddballs in our cycling clothes. It is a typical Thai town with sidewalks full of shops and food stalls. We find some shade on a step and Gunther tells me much about his career as a scuba diving instructor in Italy and then as a tourism manager in United Arab Emirates. While we spoke, I was thinking to myself, if Linda comes rolling up on her bike, and not in the van, I’m really going to be impressed.
James, Lek, Vicky, and (drumroll) … Linda! They pedal into town and stop for us. I am really impressed that she’s made it. She says she drank about 7 bottles of water on the way.
By the way, the temperature on record for this date was 38C (100F) and up to 94% RH.
James says that our restaurant is just around the corner, about 5 minutes. We take off and the 5 minutes turns into about 15, another 2 or 3 km further. We’re all ready to get out of the sun.
Pretty soon, James is getting concerned as the table fills up with plates to the overflow point. It turns out that our 8 dishes have mistakenly been prepared as 16 – we have twice as much food as intended!
Final mileage for the day was around 65km, or around 40 miles. But what great miles – you couldn’t ask for a better way to see this part of the country. May be the sweatiest ride we’ve ever done.
We load up bags, gear, and bikes onto a long boat. We won’t need the bikes, but there is no secure way to store them on the van in the parking lot. Then a real treat – a 35 minute ride on the glass-smooth lake, complete with wonderfully cooling breezes.
Mostly Thais are here, and one tour group. It feels like only those really in-the-know would come to this simple idyllic place. James lets us know that we can take out our long boat for a cruise of the lake at sunset, but since it’s already 5pm, we all elect to simply get settled in our rooms, pop on swim suits, and dip into the warm water, which feels somewhere around 88F.
Linda brings out some shampoo and we take turns lather each other’s heads, trying to stay afloat. Other visitors are doing the same, and in tranquil evening waters, there seems to emerge a very comfortable cameraderie with all on the lake.
Among the conversation, a comment is made that the community bathrooms have no paper. They have only a flexible tube with a dishwater nozzle on the its end plumbed somewhere behind the toilet tank, used to hose down one’s bottom. Gunter comments that he used paper for a few years, but switched to water, which is much more efficient and ecological. James proposes that he’d like to patent the concept of the “bum gun” worldwide. I state that I’m a 53 year-old paper guy myself.
Gunter then takes the stage, and says he’d like to show us an old army trick about how to properly use only a single square of paper. It’s a visual demonstration but I’ll try to describe it here…
Take the square and fold it in half, then again, then into a triangle, then into a thinner triangle, etc. Tear off about 1/2 inch of the point. Unfold the square. You should now have the origianl square with a hole about 1 inch in diameter in the center.
Place your index finger all the way through the hole. Insert finger in bum and complete all maintenance required, using the paper as an apron for the rest of your hand. When finished, use your opposite hand to remove the paper, wiping upward to clean your business finger. Use the remaining 1″ circle of paper to clean under your fingernail.
The stars promise to be great here, but the cabin lights are just bright enough to impair the stargazing. James says they’ll go out before midnight and Janel wants to stay up for it. But Linda and I are pretty tired from the day’s activities. We take a final dip in the lake and swim out a ways to find the stargazing improved. Then a 15 minute drip dry on the dock (no towels) and we’re ready to pass out.
I awaken numerous times throughout the night, hoping for the lights to be out, but they seem to stay lit the entire night. The cabins are very rustic, but comfortable enough. We hear the sounds of other people swimming and walking on the dock all night, but everyone is quiet and respectful, and we sleep pretty well.