Day 28, Koh talu TO saplee

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Today we continue our wonderful 24 hours “off” from our work of bicycling. Resort manager Mr. Joe was in the water during breakfast, giving fish snacks to a green turtle who is showing up there regularly. She is about 5 years old, and they call her Cindy. While we missed the photo, it was cool to see her with lots of ocean fish all around her. She clearly trusts Joe and enjoys the fish snacks! Many of us went snorkeling this morning. Koh Talu resort puts much of their revenues back into conservation, and they are collaborating on coral reef restoration just off the island. We saw some of their structures using PVC piping – similar to techniques used by The Nature Conservancy in Florida collaborating with Cuban marine biologists on restoration. MJ and Barb enjoyed swimming with big schools of fish today!

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Look up there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

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No, it is batman!

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This tree was filled with large fruit bats that were hanging there in broad daylight, stretching their wings, relaxing. Hope they didn’t mind us! They did not seem to.

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After a good morning of lazing around and enjoying nature, it was time for … lunch! There is always a big buffet here. There were lots of other guests today so we had to share.

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Our 20 minute boat ride was a bit exciting because one of the motors failed about halfway through our ride. So we puttered back on one engine, which took a little more time, but hey! We are on holiday! Back on the mainland, we were whisked away by Mr. Rin and associates to our home for the night on Nana Beach. We are working our way down the Thai coast.

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Another lovely restaurant on the beach awaits us!

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Choice of swimming in the hotel pool, or in the ocean just beyond.

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Our spot for the night! Tomorrow is a big ride, so we have got to rest up.

Day 27, ban krut to koh talu

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Today we set off for a 22 mile ride to a pier. More about that later! It was a beautiful morning for a ride along the coast.

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As we left Ban Krut, MJ wanted to stop and buy traditional clothes baskets from this vendor! Lots of options.

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The entire group screeched to a stop to look into this roadkill.

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Woody said it was a native, poisonous snake, although not quite as poisonous as a cobra!

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Sweet potatoes are on the menu for today.

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These ladies were planting new sweet potato shoots. In the background, you see some already established. They had a sprinkler system for watering. The soil looked pretty good! The potatoes we saw vendors selling were nice and plump!

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Sliced sweet potatoes ready to be deep fried.

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Are we really bicycling in Southeast Asia?!

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Yes, dear we are! Holiday photo for 2020?

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Today we rode on a brand new blue bike lane along a coastal road. But what is that other contraption?

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This is a net to catch crabs – the animals get into the “mouth” and can’t get out.  This one has been repurposed as a trash receptacle! And decorated with eyes, too!

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Fishing boats seen as we bike over a bridge.  Being a Sunday, the fleet is in for the day.

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Shrimping boat.

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Clever artists along the coast using this dead branch as their canvas!!!

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Where do old phone booths go to die in Thailand? The local phone substation now serving as a cell phone tower area..

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Yippee! We are headed to the Koh Talu Island Resort for some R and R . . . OFF of the bikes!

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We piled into a speedboat that really was a ‘banana boat’ !!!

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We slowly puttered through the sheltered port, then the captain opened ‘er up out in the ocean waters.  The shoreline looked like Lake Michigan!!

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And in just 20 minutes we pulled up at our home for the night. This island, Koh Talu,  and area around it had been abused, including by dynamite fishing practices. Then Khun Prida Chareanpak, a successful shrimper, discovered the island and purchased it. Now it is an eco-tourism destination.

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As we departed the craft on the island I noticed it’s name . . .glad our ride didn’t turn into a three hour tour !!!!

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The island is crescent-shaped which provides lovely views.

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We met for an orientation led by Joe, who shared the available amenities.

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He also beseeched us NOT to feed the cats! Seems they have a little problem with ferals. On of them sprayed Anne’s pack that was sitting on the floor while we ate lunch. As you can see, they nap just about anywhere the want. This one had it’s head down in the corner pocket until we woke it up!!!

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After a nice lunch we headed up to our villas.

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This will do! Spacious and sunny.

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Even with fleur de lis folded bath towels.

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And a sunny outdoor shower, clothing optional!

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Once we got settled in, some of the gang went on a trek to the high point of the island, stunning, some went squid fishing, no luck and most went swimming in the ocean!!!!!!

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We went swimming and walked down tot he turtle hatchery , , , ,

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. . . where Mom and Dad had their own pool . . .

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. .  the six month olds were looking frisky . . .

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. . . and the three month old babies were just so darn cute!!!

See the baby turtle mania movie here.

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. . . soon it was time for another great sunset . . .

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. . . and a great meal AND dessert, oceanside!

Day 26 Kui buri to ban krut

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As we headed out to our bikes after breakfast, we noted another bike group was also staying at the hotel and their bikes were ready to go.

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Their helmets and shoes were neatly laid out. Geesh, I wonder if the tour company buckles their helmets and ties their shoes for them too!!

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Today’s ride was mostly near the coast.

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The Thai model of a “little house”?! Quite nice!

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This is the Thai version of what Rick did early in his Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources career in Tomahawk!

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As we cycled toward our first snack break, we could see these buildings on top of a small steep hill. No doubt it housed a Buddhist Temple!

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Today is Chinese New Year. We learned that Thais believe a female spirit protects their cars, and they honor her with flowers at the New Year! Probably helps get the year off to a good start.

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Bringing in their haul at about 9:30 a.m. Looked like bags of mussels.

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We stopped by a beautiful carved teak temple, built in the traditional Thai style. The odd numbers of 9 and 7 are very important here. This is a 9-headed sculpture of Naga. Naga needed to protect Buddha from the rain, and one head would not do the job, so Naga grew 8 more heads. Naga is a snake and his body for this sculpture curled all around the temple grounds.

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Spice Roads is such a great touring company that we all hope to be biking with them still when we get to this age!

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We enjoyed iced teas and lattes from the cafe, along with our usual riches of fresh fruit, fried bananas, and cookies. And Lay’s potato chips for salt!

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Mr. Yo, an aspiring photographer, stopped by to chat with Rick and trade photography ideas. He snapped photos of us, and we of him!

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Today the macaques cooperated with Rick for a photo. The fact that these folks were feeding the troop might have had something to do with it!

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We rode on nice bike paths along the scenic coast.

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This was a big work-around. The railway lines from Bangkok to the coastal areas are being improved, primarily for tourism. An extensive bridge system is being built to ensure that locals can still get past busy tracks!

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We had to four-wheel it a bit after the bridge and railroad construction project! The site was rough but nothing we couldn’t handle.

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These are berries on the palm tree but don’t think of eating them! As our guide Bird told us, you can eat them once in your life!

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We cycled along the Royal Thai Air Force grounds, the Fifth Air Wing. This plane looked like one from the US!

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Palm trees, bike lanes, a strong breeze blowing off the coast…sigh…

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We crossed the runway at a 90 degree angle. Look both ways for airplanes! First to the right…

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…. and then to the left. CLEAR!

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Of course the air base would have to have a golf course!

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The topiary figures at the base just went on and on. Fun and creative!

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Lots for sale! Build your dream home on the ocean.

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After quite a few days with no lost-time accidents, another rider went down today. A speed bump in dappled shade was the culprit. Rick can relate from his Ireland trip in 2018 where a speed bump got him!

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Barb was well cared for and did not seem to mind the attention from our support team!

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One of the many happy but skinny cows we have seen the last several days.

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Wonderful riding through coconut plantations.

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We came across rows of drying anchovies, which you could smell! They are boiled prior to drying, and the birds are not attracted to them. So no snacking!

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Lots going on for Chinese New Year, including this vendor with more baskets than his tuk-tuk could carry!

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MJ and Barb rolling up to the lunch stop along the sea promenade on the Gulf of Thailand.

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We shared our lunch shack with families celebrating the new year. Lunch on the coast, not bad! It is snowing and cloudy back in Madison. And 28 degrees…

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First graffiti we have seen in Thailand. This tagger is prolific! We saw his work in town, in the country, on the roads, on buildings. He is having a good time!

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…. and on civic improvement project signs too!

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Funny face on the roads, both sides, many times.

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Curiosity strikes Rick to visit the local crematorium.

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We have seen many of these buildings along the way, and here is one actually ready for use. Buddhists believe in cremating the bodies.

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The funeral pyre goes right on top of this cart.

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More awe inspiring scenery along the coast. We had 12 miles to ride after lunch until we could relax and get tidied up. We rode 60 miles today, a metric century!

Great hole tonight Ban Krut. Beautiful grounds . . .

. . . climate controlled bike storage . . .

. . . and a nice outdoor restaurant bar area.

By the time we walked down to the beach for happy hour and dinner, here was a nice breeze and the daily temp had dropped . . . what a great time with lots to drink and some some of the best food yet . . . nearly all seafood!!!!

Woodie knew  fellow from Pakistan that pwned a roti stand so on the way back to the hotel, emJay and I enjoyed a plate of banana roti, hot off the grill,  with chocolate sauce . . . a perfect way to finish the evening!!!

Day 25, HUA HIN to KUI BURI

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Morning was tranquil at the Putahracsa Resort.

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After a nourishing breakfast, the hotel owner asked us to pose for a group photo.

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It is still Christmas somewhere!

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We were on trails and small roads a lot today, and livestock were tethered along the road. Don’t get stuck in the rope!

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More cows…

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Horses enjoying the Gulf of Thailand beach…

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And this woman herding her cattle to another spot.

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The Airstream Cafe Bar and Restaurant is an inventive use for an old Airstream! But how it got to Thailand, we don’t know!

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We rode along the Royal Coast Road for part of the day today.

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Happy!

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Beautiful beach and hills ahead.

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Fishermen’s colorful wooden boats were anchored along the Royal Coast Road.  The fishermen go out in these boats at night.

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Someone out enjoying the Gulf of Thailand waters.

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Beautiful riding through palm trees.

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Great idea for a B and B …. but it would have been tight for the 13 of us!

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We went along the edge of Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park, a coastal park in this the narrowest part of the Thai peninsula.

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Buddhist temple in the distance in a lovely mountain setting.

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The name of the park means “mountain of 300 peaks” for the distinctive limestone pinnacles that rise from the surrounding marshland to a height of 2,150 feet.

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Passing through pinnacles.

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The landscape was dramatic.

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Do Not Feed Monkey! When MJ passed this sign later, there was a monkey beneath it and about 8 more individuals in a nearby area! Crab-eating macaques are native to this park.

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Don’t even think of bringing your buzzing invasive drone here! The Thai Park Service has issues like we do of people misusing public lands and feeding the animals.

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This park contains Thailand’s largest area of wetlands. Millions of migratory birds pass through between August and April. Unfortunately, illegal shrimp ponds had been built in an area we cycled through. The Park Service has drained the ponds and removed the infrastructure.

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Here is a shrimp pond, currently drained and not in use.

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Another shrimp pond (these must all be legit) with aerators going.

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Brahmans, Charolais, and cock-fighting — this farm has it all!

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Mr. Pree considers trading in his luxury van for a bicycle tuk-tuk!

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Some Thai families are doing very very well….perhaps the shrimp business is excellent?!

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We stopped for a seaside lunch with a refreshing breeze blowing!

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Oh no! Now Mr. Rin considers escaping on a Vespa!

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Mr. Pree and our restaurant helper point out “thank you”. We have all learned the Thai phrase for thank you, very important!

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Lunch was another big success. We counted seven different dishes! And we consumed them, for the most part.

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But there is always room for an ice cream bar. The waitstaff brought a photo board to help us make our decisions.

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Everyone went up to the photo board to excitedly make their selection.

Watch some of the Spice Rods our He-Men help out some stranded Chinese New Years picnickers here.!!!

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One stop shopping: washing machine and dryer on the left; purified water in the middle; and your choice of diesel or regular gasoline on the right. Bring your quarters!

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Happily we had a very short ride after lunch to our hotel, the Dhevan Dara Beach Villa.

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The bikes went into the former business office for safekeeping.

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We enjoyed our welcome drink and Woody sorted out the keys.

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Might be a British influence because they have a snooker room! Anyone up for a little game of snooker?

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Little cabana shade houses await us on the beach.

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The pool is inviting so let’s relax! Some of us wanted to go back to the National Park to go bird-watching, but it turns out the park  hours are shortened today for the Chinese New Year!

Day 24, AMPHAWA TO HUA HIN

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Every day is a good day with these guys helping us! Big thumbs up for Mr. Rin, Mr. Pree, Bird and Mr. Chin!

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MJ poses by a huge trunk, of teak we believe, on display where we started our ride today.

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Today we had to watch out for bovine hazards of all kinds on the roads!

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These rubber trees are not being tapped now, due to the price of rubber being at significant lows. It is worth a quarter of what it was worth a year or two ago. Part of the issue is that China is now producing its own rubber and does not need the amount from Thailand it once did.

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Harvesting sugar cane with a two row combine, chopping the stalks  and blowing it into the truck.

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We visited a pre-release center, where prisoners were learning life skills. The title translation did not make full sense to us….

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One project is raising Indonesian deer, used for meat.

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Bird gets close and personal with a resident!

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Lizards skittled about on the spacious grounds.

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Another project is learning brick making and building.  Here an inmate mashes soil , water, and rice chaff with his feet until the consistency is right.

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After several steps, the prepared brick material is transported…

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… over to the brick molds where it is smoothed, allowed to dry a bit, then turned out for more drying.

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Things are going well for this troweler!

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Taking pride in his detailed smoothing.

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The bricks dry in the sun for seven days, and are turned regularly.

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Facing the sun and soaking up rays.

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Barb hoists the finished product over her head! Pink Power, We Can Do It!!

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Fun art project of a bike covered in clay.

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Two bikes covered in clay seemed like a perfect photo op for the group!

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There was quite a livestock operation for skills training. This piggy sees us and is thinking about an escape!

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The piglets make a break for it.

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We enjoyed refreshments at the little canteen on the prison grounds. Is the name of their trash can by chance? ! The men who come here are mostly young, have only had one offense, and have behaved well in prison. Most of their crimes were drug related.  Most of the men here had three to five months of time left.

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Fire danger is low today!

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Today we cycled through many pineapple fields. We learned that three harvests are made from each planting. First harvest is sweet and usually sold in Thailand; second and third are less sweet and often go to Europe.

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Bag contains a fungicide being applied to the pineapple fruit.

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Gosh sakes it was hot today!

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Our lunch stop was at a Thai vineyard and winery with a lovely restaurant and grounds.

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The restaurant is located under a shady overhang of the building,  and the umbrellas on the terrace. With vineyards surrounding it!

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The view almost made us feel like we were in Italy!

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The owners of Monsoon Valley vineyard have researched the best cultivars to try in Thailand.

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This would have been fun but we were on our way again after lunch.

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We had a joyful and delicious lunch!

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Our server YaYa took very good care of us. She described each varietal for those sampling the vino. Folks tried a white, rose and a red, and the white won the popularity contest.

See YaYa presentation of one of the wines movie here.

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Those who did not sample wine enjoyed desserts like this luscious cheesecake with pomegranate sauce, a scoop of coconut ice cream drizzled with dark chocolate, finished off nicely with chantilly creme!

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Last year’s wine is dated 2562 in the Buddhist Era. This is the official calendar in Thailand, and is believed to be based on the date of the death of Gautama Buddha.  We brought a few of these bottles back to the hotel to enjoy at happy hour!

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Yaya works with Woody and Bird to settle the bill.

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From the vineyards, we hopped into the van for a transfer to our hotel in Hua HIn. Putahracsa Resort was a quiet oasis in a bustling small city.

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Our room overlooked the pool and was just what we needed for a good rest.

Day 23, Bangkok to Amphawa

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Today  we said goodbye to Axel and Bruce and welcomed Ben, Anne and Lori to our second trip, down the Thai coast. Oh . . . and we signed a new set of waivers too!

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TommyH decided to rent an e-bike for the second half of the trip but went for the economy version . . . no battery!!!

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We started the day going to the oldest floating market in Thailand. Sort of a misnomer because the market items are mostly on land but you float through the market in a series of narrow canals. Think Venice but at 100 degrees!!!

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But the locals do float around . . .

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. . . buying their daily produce . . .

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While the the tourists beat around in flat boats overpowered with V6 or V8 car engines.

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Local residents by produce from vendors who boat down the canals, home to home, to anyone who is waiting for them.

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This vendor had lots of produce and probably lots of good neighborhood gossip!

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This man is testing a solar powered canal boat, a prototype costing $20,000! People are looking for quieter options than the noisy tourist boat engines currently used.

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Here is the electric engine for the new approach; no gas fumes, no noise, no overpowered engine. Nice!

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Big marketing program to eliminate plastic bags.

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After a walkabout in the market, we met for snacks and to watch the tourists and local color. This site was the former location of an opium den!

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Chinese New Year is almost here! Decorations are going up and preparations are being made. This “oven” is where people will burn colorful papers  and food in memory and honor of loved ones who have died.

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There were many policemen here today doing their annual inspection  of the market. While they were there to ensure compliance to rules, many of them never appeared to leave the restaurants along the canal! Barb and Anne snagged this gent for a photo.

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Tourist boats headed down a narrow side canal to the concentrated area of vendors.

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Busy!

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Colorful, noisy, crowded!

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You could find tasty satay….

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… or homemade soup…

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… or fried bananas.

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Colorful lanterns to bring in the New Year!

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Now it is our turn! We boarded two boats to tour the bigger canals.

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We boated past many different kinds of homes, like this ramshackle one.

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And lovely ones with topiary trees!

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Unique lodging at a river resort—giant concrete tubes converted to guest rooms.

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At the end of our boat tour, our trusty guides and bikes met up with us to get us back on our steeds.

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Today’s ride was a lovely one through banana and coconut plantations.

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The area is ditched to get water to the plants.

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A monitor lizard keeping watch over the coconuts.

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Farmers are the same worldwide: to bring them into a meeting, you offer great food! Coffee cake today!

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Another fancy Thai decorated truck. This one had so many lights on the front that it must need an extra generator!

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Busy beehives; don’t get too close!

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Life size soldier sculptures at the quirky Wat Bang Kung.

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Looks like this soldier is battling with a government official!

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Tommy H offers the local horses a treat.

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This gentleman biked by selling whirligigs.

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This temple is famous for the four banyan trees that completely surround it.

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Inside the temple.

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This community is also getting ready for the New Year.

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A quick ferry ride to our hotel, and it was time to relax a bit and get ready for dinner!

Day 22, Bangkok

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Once again Spice Roads provides us with 5 Star accommodations for our two days in Bangkok at  the end of our first trip . . .

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Every amenity you can think of is provided . . .

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Swimming pool on the 15th floor . . .

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. . . and GREAT views from our room. Unfortunately, Bangkok has some of the worst air pollution in the world and there was a air pollution alert today causing the shakedown ride at the airport track for our new riders , Lori, Anne and Ben to be cancelled. School was also cancelled for two days because of the air quality.

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Some of the gang headed off to tour the James Thompson house. Demos of the silk making process were very interesting . . .

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. . . here the silk cocoons are boiled,and as you can see from the photo above, the strands of silk are pulled away and spun into thread.

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No photos allowed inside . . .

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. . . emJay at one of the homes entry points.

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Tonight we went to a quirky restaurant called Cabbage and Condoms!!!!

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. . . a not for profit restaurant  where the profits go to support child education. Condoms are the theme and here some of the girls pose with condom man!!!

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Condoms in every shape and color used in artwork . . .

. . . oh and there is an educational bent too.

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No way to get these wine glasses how without breaking them!!!

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. . . being the introductory dinner for our second trip, the wine and beer flowed like water!!!

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Bow, from Spice Roads, attended to make sure we all got a new jersey that fit . . . here helping Lori and Anne with the sizing . . .

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. . .mmmmmm XL or 2XL is the question (Asian sizing you know!!!!)

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Daniel, Spice Roads CEO, also attend our dinner and warmly welcomed us to our second adventure. He will ride with us for two days.

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. . . in the Asian fashion of accepting a gift with two hands, he receives one of the wohu journal business cards from emJay.

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We have learned to WATCH OUT FOR THE RED pepper in Thai cuisine. They are super hot!!! What may look like a piece of tomato . . .

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. . . once rolled, over reveals the deadly (to us westerners anyway) chili seeds. Water wont cool your throat . . . milk, ice cream or some dairy product will do the trick!!!!

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Interesting kiosk as you left the restaurant!!!

Go here to find out about Cabbage and Condoms mission. Very interesting. http://cabbagesandcondomsbkk.com/

Day 21, River Kwai to Kanchanaburi withTransfer to Bangkok

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Our digs at the River Kwai Resort were nice. Here MJ leaves the open air restaurant where we enjoyed dinner last night and breakfast this morning.

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This couple overheard some of our cyclists talking at breakfast, and started the conversation of “Where are you from? Where in Wisconsin? Where near Madison? Where in Verona?!”  It turns  out they live several blocks from our former house in Verona. They were touring Thailand and were visiting many of the places we had just biked through. Fun to meet you, Greg and Michelle!

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The grand entrance to our nice hotel; bye-bye! We are off again!

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Today’s ride went through many rubber plantations.

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Fire continues to be a theme. Not sure that fire will help this plantation.

 

 

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One of many small roadside temples.

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The monks were busy sweeping and, what else, burning leaves! MJ said hello to one monk, which is against the rules. He just looked embarrassed.

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Just a bit down the way, we came across this open air class of Grade 4 students. We asked if we could say hello, and their engaging teacher Mr. Thiwa agreed.

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After a few “Hellos” back and forth in unison between the cyclists and the students, tour organizer Tom goes to the whiteboard and  briefly instructs the students on bike tours. The students were curious, very polite and well behaved. Kudos to Mr. Thiwa who must be a good teacher!

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Another day of road dogs! We were chased by only a few in the entire trip. But it seems like Thailand might have a dog population problem.

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On a bridge we were greeted by this bucolic scene.

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Narrow, traffic-free roads lined with Bougainvillea.

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Looks like Rick the photographer was getting hungry!

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We stopped for a snack break at a business that welcomes cyclists.

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Mr. Rin dishes up his delightful assemblage of energy drinks and fresh fruits.

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A newer member of our staff support team is Mr. Chin, who drives the bike truck among other things!

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Our snack stop featured a short hike to a natural waterfall over limestone. Photo op for most of the group!

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Beyond the waterfall was an old train engine. Several monks from outside the area were playing tourist for the day.

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We admired the engine together and snapped a few shots of each other. We are all curious!

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Here is our amazing team: Cynthia and Tom, the tour organizers flank our staff team of Mr. Chin, Mr. Woody, Mr. Pree, and Mr. Rin. Hardworking and good-looking too!

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Not sure that the fire marketing program is having much impact.

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From what we have read, while some fires help prepare fields for cultivation, burned over land is more prone to erosion, prevents forest regeneration, and causes health problems with poor air quality.

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We touched WW II again today, touring an outdoor museum along a stretch of the Thailand-Burma Railroad called Hellfire Pass.

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This was a problematic granite mountainside that the train track needed to go through.

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The POWs who were forced to work here were primarily Australian and British. They were joined by Asians who were forced to labor here, and were typically treated even worse than the Allied men.

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This cut through the rock was done entirely by hand: clearing vegetation and loose rock; chiseling holes into the rock and cleaning out the rubble from the hole; dynamite goes into the hole; clear rock rubble after blast. Repeat. Major heroes of the project were the Allied physicians who did what they could to help the workers, with essentially no medical supplies.

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We left Hellfire Pass, which was named this by the Allies, who worked round the clock. With fires burning, exhausted and sick workers toiling, and Japanese guards punishing the workers, it was like hell. We headed back out on a good shoulder on a highway along the mountains.

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Lunch! We had seven different courses, plus fried banana and ice cream for dessert.

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Tom and Bruce sit at the end of the table, catching up with the others on lunch. They missed a turn very close to where the group had stopped for lunch. They rode an extra six miles before we figured out they were not with us, as some of us tend to trickle in at slower speeds. Mr. Rin came to the rescue, and found Bruce and Tom in no time.

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Mr. Pree uses his own vehicle and can be hired as a driver by others. Thailand has strict rules for professional drivers. You can see his card in a swiper, which helps monitor whether he is taking sufficient rest breaks.

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After a long van ride, leaving the countryside and driving into the busy Bangkok traffic, we find our home for two nights at the Grand Sukhumvit Hotel. We are in a hopping neighborhood with many tourists and business people.

After a nice martini, Greek salad and pizza . . .  it was time for bed!!!

 

Day 20, Kanchanaburi to River Kwai

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We began the day with a somber visit to learn about how the 255 mile long Thai-Burma railroad was built during WW II. First we quietly walked through the Kachanaburi War Cemetery which holds the graves of 7,000 Allied soldiers, primarily from England, Australia and the Netherlands.

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While we were there, a group from the Netherlands was holding their annual commemoration of the lives lost.

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This museum next to the cemetery does an excellent job of telling the painful story of Allied Prisoners of War and conscripted Asians who were forced to build the railroad in harsh conditions and with little food.

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The railway was a priority of the Japanese Army, so the Army could get goods across land rather than by sea where Allied forces could more easily bomb them. The Japanese army converted these trucks to go by rail or by the road. They built little huts on the back to camouflage them so they looked like Thai houses.

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Japanese train engine and cars.

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Twenty eight workers and their belongings would be crammed into these cars for the five day ride to the railroad construction site.  They were fed little, had no or few breaks, and had to stand all the way.

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The Japanese Army wanted the track built in a hurry.  It was started in April 1942 and was completed the following year. It was all done by hand. Here are a variety of spikes used.

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One soldier pushing a huge cart of gravel.

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The famous “bridge over the River Kwai.” The first bridge built by the POWs was wooden, then the Japanese Army abandoned that bridge to build an iron one. Allied forces repeatedly bombed the iron bridge.

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This is the bomb invented by the Americans that could be guided. After 1,100 unsuccessful attempts, four of these bombs accurately destroyed the steel bridge.

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Today the steel bridge over the river has been reconstructed as part of Japanese war reparations.  Tourists can walk out on the bridge in between train trips leaving the nearby station.

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We boarded this train for a ride on the Death Railway, as it is called today.

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It was hot and sunny! Gregory improvised with a bandana to protect his head.

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Views from the train ride along the river.

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Spectacular views of mountains, farms and homes.

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The train slowed so we could look back to see the wooden trestles supporting the track.

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We all disembarked for a closer look.

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Here are the wooden trestles noted earlier.

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There was a cave along the track with a Buddha in it. Tourists milled about and Buddhists payed homage.

The restaurant staff were preparing an International Buffet. The most international item we noticed was spaghetti with pasta Bolognese!

MJ and this young entrepreneur recognize each other at the restaurant! She took photos of every couple on the train, then made laminated “train tickets” with the photo, some scenic shots and a train ticket. Barb and MJ both supported her clever work by purchasing the meaningful souvenir.

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Nature-inspired urinals greeted the men at the restaurant bathrooms!

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We then rode our bikes to our Royal River Kwai Resort. Three riders defected from all or part of the day’s ride. It gets super hot in the afternoon, and the last big chunk of the ride was up hill.

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There was a nice pool, but we got in late so few were able to enjoy it.

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Our rooms were gorgeous!

Day 19, AYUTTHAYA to KANCHANABURI

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Here is how our evenings end: a happy hour to relax, reflect on the day and discuss the next day’s ride. Better with vino! Monica, Bruce and Axel are enjoying our “down time”.

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Our home for the night was the Krungri River Hotel.

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MJ was excited to visit a shrine featuring giant roosters!

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There were large and small fighting cock statues everywhere, and a small temple honoring the Thai prince who wagered on a cockfight with good results for himself and his country.

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This was the prince’s favorite breed so many are featured!

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The Bougainvillea are beautiful; multiple plants together result in a cavalcade of color!

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While passing through a small town we saw what we thought was a cat, walking funny with a long tail. But no! It was a long-tailed macaque!

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Definitely not a cat!

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Ayutthaya has remains of many temples. The grounds were beautiful and we bicycled through them in the cool of the morning.

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At all the important cultural and historical sites, workers are sweeping the grounds–the grass, the dirt, the walkways– and keeping things very neat.

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But sometimes things get out of control and you need something bigger than a broom!

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This is a newer style tuk-tuk, enclosed for the driver! Nice and sleek.

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We saw several monitor lizards lurking in a water-filled ditch we pedaled by.

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Wat Mahathat was built in the early Ayutthaya kingdom. There are large, important stupas like this, surrounded by smaller stupas added over time.

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Buddha head in the Bodhi tree: this head was once part of a sandstone sculpture, first created in the mid-1600s, which fell apart over time. The stone head became part of the roots of the tree, which keep growing, and have elevated the Buddha head.

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He looks pretty comfy here!

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These ladies from Spain asked Tom and Rick to take their photo. There were many tour groups at this site from all over the world.

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Asian openbill. You can clearly see how it got its name!

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Riding among the many stupas, chedis and prangs. This is a prang, characterized by the more rounded top.

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Elephant rides for the tourists.

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See elephant walk movie here.

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MJ and Barb stop to admire the intelligent creatures.

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None of us rode; it is discouraged by many. We also learned about elephant refuges and rehabilitation sites in the countryside.

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As we visited sites, restaurants and markets, frequently we saw striking individuals like this. In Thailand they are called lady-boys.

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We stopped to see this large reclining Buddha.

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Animatedly discussing the weathering of the stone?

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At Wat Phu Khao Thong we came across 500 monks who had walked here from Kamphaeng Phet–where we were just a few days ago.

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There were ceremonies, sermons, and chanting. Many area people were at the temple as well.

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The monks had a campsite just outside the temple. Seems like they had tents created just for them in the right color of orange!

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Tired guys waiting for the monks to preach? Or did they have too much fun last night?!

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Soon it was time for a rest break. The best part are delicious treats of sticky rice or coconut combined with fruits or vegetables.  They are usually wrapped in a palm or banana leaf. And the fresh fruit is amazing!

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Tom poses with a Japanese astro-boy type figure. Our guide Woody grew up knowing this cartoon character.

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Woody takes us on amazing routes, through small side streets–and onto a ferry!

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Our friendly ferry driver.

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This shopper hopped off a zippier boat as we disembarked from our ferry.

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Puppies everywhere! These were lounging just up from the ferry landing.

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A Thai paddywagon  – brand new!

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Lunch featured these freshwater shrimp from the area.

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After lunch we had a two hour van ride to our resort hotel in Kanchanaburi, the Royal River Kwai Resort.

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Those who had time took a quick dip in the inviting pool.

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Another lovely room where we slept like babies . . .

 

. . . but not before having another lovey happy hour and dinner served al fresco!!!