An early morning flight north and we soon landed at the Loei airport in northern Thailand . . .
. . . where we met our new crew and bikes . . .
. . . they were very attentive to getting all of our gear working correctly . . .
. . . and soon Woodie was leading us out of the metro area on a bike path . . . nice!!
Huey told these piggies he might see them tonight . . . on his plate!!!
We left the city behind and soon were on low traffic, nicely paved roads . . .
. . . where after about two hours we stopped in a rubber plantation for a nice morning rest break .
. . . which again, had something for every appetite!!!
Our guide Woodie explained the rubber making process . . .
. . .the trees can begin producing sap at about 10 years of age.
The field crews arrive at about 3;00am to begin mounting the collection bowls. They peel back the bark and cut thin slits along the bark edge which allows the sap to ‘bleed’ and run down to a spout where it drips into the bowl. The process starts so early because it is cool and the sap flows freely from the new cut wound. By mid morning the temperature is climbing enough that the wounds’ heal over’ and the sap stops flowing.
Unfortunately, there can be quite a mosquito problem early in the morning. The workers wear mosquito repellent coils mounted on the brims of their hats which are ignited and slowly smolder keeping the bugs away from their face. But . . . they breathe the smoke which who knows what chemicals it contains. Didn’t sound like a pleasant experience.
The sap is collected later in the day.
As we biked along there were many rural homes and this is an example of the most common architectural style.
There was some forestry practices in progress along the way . . .
. . . as well as some locals critters along the road!!!
. . . along the way Woodie had us pull into a little plae making cottage industry. The upper parts of the a banana leaf stem were steam or heated in a press plate mold. After about 4 minutes, the operator would open the press and these ‘disposable’ plates had been formed.
We tried to take some photos of the this process going on behind this cement wall but they told us ‘No photo . . . No photo’!!!
Must have been some proprietary process they wanted to keep secret and from us westerners stealing intellectual capital !!!!
We had about 40 miles today to ride north of Loei before we came to the might Mekong . . . the hills ahead meant we were getting close . . .
. . . soon we came around a corner and there it was, the Mekong River. We would bike along the river for the next six days. I was immediately impressed by how much it reminded me of biking along the Wisconsin River from Prairie du Chein to Madison. Same width and same rolling hills . . . but here there were banana and coconut trees!!!
Tonight we stayed at the Norn Nab Hotel . . .
. . . where we had a great view of the river.
After getting cleaned up, we walked down the boardwalk to this great restaurant . . .
. . . where we ate dinner outside on the second floor, while looking across the river to the lights in Laos.