Day 12, Banteay Srei

After a nice breakfast we headed toward to Banteay Srei . . .

. . our steeds were ready for us . . . and away we went,

. . . a Buddha being built in a village we biked through . . .

. . . which also had one of the many donated water source building projects we have seen along on our biking adventure. Bringing clean water to the rural area.

Happy to see us . . . or hungry!!!

Many of the animal and human statues and paintings show heads with three sides. Snakes can have many more heads heads!!!

Oh . . . it’s those guys again!!!

We are starting to see a few rice fields again today . . .

As we stop for a break . . .

Nak . . . got nostalgic. This might seem like just another local road along a lake . . .

. . . but it is very close to where Nak’s family homestead is and he helped build this road years ago . . .

. . .when he was a young child.

The Wisconsin contingent . . .

bikes are holding up GREAT. No flat tires yet!!

. . . oh yeah, it was hot in the sun!!!

. . . so off we went down the red road.

There is lots of construction in the rural areas, most being done with hand tools including mixing cement in a trough, by hand with a shovel . . .

Yes, back on the asphalt!!!

Not sure what was grown here but no irrigation involved!!!

Soon . . LUNCH!!!    OUT of the sun it was very pleasant  . . .

. . and yes, a lovely tofu salad!!!

There are not only huge Buddha statues in pagodas, temples and along the road. Many homes and businesses have one on site too . . . as did our restaurant did . . .

. . . and people always make offerings, usually food. Maybe that’s why Buddha is mostly represented as a ‘rotund’??

This was a great lunch spot and must be ‘on the list’ of approved stops. New flush toilet building with ‘western style toilets’!!!!

Soon we were at the temple . . .

. . . which was very well preserved . . .

. . . and no crowds to share it with!!!

But there was interesting statuary . .

. . . with intricate designs.

. . . and if you were hungry, how about some fruit!!!

We were soon back on the road with about 15 miles to our pick up spot. Here, I am stepping on the remains of some type lizard . . . and wearing a lot of the ‘red road’ on my sweaty calves!!!

Soon our ride for the day was done. We loaded the bikes in the van and headed back to Siem Reap . . . and 50 cent beers, again!!!

Day 13, Siem Reap – Battambang

Today it was on to Battambang – by boat!!! As we exited our hotel I had to take a shot of the sign in the elevator. Looks like they are treat durian fruit as serious as bringing in weapons!!!!

Today would be another boat ride as we headed across Tonle Sap by boat. Six hours from Siem Reap to Battambang!!

We wouldn’t be the only ones out there . . .

. . .  but we had our own boat!!!

The first hour or two there was quite  bit of water traffic . . .

Then we ran into the river community that lived on house boats . . . this one looked pretty nice . . .

. .  some looked like they needed a little work but I bet it was all the owners could afford at the time . . .

. . . looked like most people earned a living by something to do with the water, mostly fishing. This was a big derrick device that had  a net stretched across the boom in front and was let down into the water. When it was time to bring up the catch  . . . it was all about lever action and a fulcrum point!!!!!

Lots of color on the houses . . .

About 5 hours into the trip it was time for lunch. Nak had brought  box lunches!!!

Hand made boxes that contained lots of goodies!!!!

Unfortunately for me I had come down with a case of ‘Travelers-You Know-What’ a couple of days earlier. I had taken the anti-biotic the travel nurse had prescribed and would take it for 4 more days.  Whatever went  down came right out again. So . . . the only thing I had was the water and  the rice that was packaged in the banana leave in the lower left corner of the lunch box.

These fisherman moved their house and whole operation to wherever the fish were biting!!!

Here is a better view of the fishing contraption with the net still attached to the front boom.

. . . these folks must have needed to worry about flooding during the rainy season.

Quite the community . . .

. . . not sure what they did for fresh water??

Here’s the kids, with their uniforms on, coming home from school . . by boat!!!

This young guy may not have been allowed to use the motor, which is a long haft with an open spinning propeller on the end. You can see the prop in the boat because the motor is turned 180 degrees from the operating position.

This looked like a mosque, and it was the nicest building along the river. First of these I had seen.  AND . . . I  had only noticed one Catholic Church. Christians are definitely in the minority here.

Boys having fun . . . and probably taking a bath at the same time.

At one point the river was getting too shallow for our boat and Nak radioed ahead to get us two smaller boats to continue our trek up stream. Here is the motor of the one I was on. Everything out in the wide open . . . no safety guards on this baby.

Finally after 7 hours we landed at the closest point we could get to Battambang. There was quite a little fishing outpost along the river here but the people looked happy!!

From the beach we had an hour ride over terrible roads in two vans. Normally during the wet season the area we ere driving though is covered by 5 feet of water!!!

It felt good to get to the Stung Sangke Hotel in Battambang.

Day 14, Battambang – Pailin

Not a good day for me . . . spent most of the day in the van.

We stayed at a jungle resort which was quite nice . . .

. . . except we had air conditioning issues in our little cabana. The staff said two women from Bangkok had stayed in it the night before and had complained about how cold the room it was, even on the lowest setting!!!

The group of Chinese in the back o this photo were evidently on vacation and up for a good time . . . they partied and partied and kept some of our riders up most of the night. I slept through the whole thing!!!

Day 15, Pailin – Chantaburi

We left our cozy guesthouses behind  . . .

. . . said goodbye to the local Buddha and headed to another border crossing this time into Thailand.

Nak explained the route and what we would see along the way today.

Away we go!!!

Still time for one last snack break. The jackfuit  and fried banana was sumptuous!!

As we left the country of Cambodia the boys wanted o get one last political statement in . . . in fact three in a row . . .

Folks had told us the two most popular sign in Cambodia are that of the ruling class and signs for Ganzberg Beer. They were right. I’m not sure which one wins!!!

Soon we saw high rises on the horizon and knew we were approaching the border.

We were told Buddhist and Hindis believe in many gods, inducing the god of wealth. I guess he resides in this hotel . . . nice digs!!!

We all retrieved our personal gear off the bikes, our luggage, said goodbye to Nak and the other staff

. . . and headed across the strip of no mans land to Thailand!!!

. . right away things started looking different, starting with the roads . . .they were paved!!!

This was an interesting sight. The guy on the motorbike ahead had a passenger sitting behind him who was holding a stick that had an an IV bag attached to the top with a line running down to the driver’s arm. Eileen, who is right next to the motorcycle in the picture above, said she saw it too. Must not be able to get too far from his medicine!!!!

Tonight we would stay at the Sand Dune Beach Resort . . .quite the place!!! Not many visitors. Our new guide, Nik, told us once all the beach development had been competed, with lots of political fanfare, visitors stopped coming because the water is very rough,  turbid and the beaches not so good!!!

It certainly met our needs for the night!

In fact, it is the only hotel I have been in that had a sliding door in the shower in case you wanted to commune with nature while showering!!! Of course being on the fourth flour and facing the highway one mostly saw the four lane highway . . . and they saw you!! I was second to take a shower and TommyH had opened the door!!!

. . and they had quite the ‘tuk-tuk’ for moving guests around!!

 

 

Day 16, Chantaburi – Laem Mae Phim

This was our last day of riding as we head to Laem Mae Phim, our home for the night . . .

Huey is very proud of his handmade bike and the fact he bought it along!!!

On the way out of town we were passed by several of the HUGE touring buses we have seen all long the trip

They are usually double deckers, got every bell and whistle on the outside and usually have some type of wild paint job. They always look top  heavy to me, especially when they are rounding a curve!!

Today it would be all about riding through an aquaculture area, mostly farm raised shrimp. Check the bag of frozen shrimp next time you buy some . . . bet they are from Thailand!!! The infrastructure to support the industry was very good. Actual concrete lined canals . . .

. . . and well maintained ponds. Some were in production, some were not.

We also stopped at a fisheries demo area, where many kinds of fish were being raised . . .

. . . turtles being raised in captivity too.

. . . and as we have seen so far in Thailand, shrines to the beloved King are EVERYWHERE!!!

 

These women were fishing off the loading ramp next to the demo area and were clothed from head to foot, including their hands and faces. Going for the ‘white skinned look’, I guess.

Our new lead guide Nik made a good impression on us  by including this coffee shop along the way as our first rest stop!!!

Not sure what Popeye and Olive Oil had to do with it but the coffee and smoothies were GREAT!!

Here Nik jumped in and helped distribute the goodies!!

What . . . are we back in Cape Cod??? Hard to believe this architecture so far from home!

If it was closer to lunch . . . we could have had the seafood platter!!!

It was time to climb our steepest pitch so far on the trip so far, an 18 percenter up to a scenic view!

Oh yeah!!!

Before long it was time for lunch and we ate seaside!!!

My tummy was feeling a little better and I needed to get some protein in my system so tried a little of the sea bass. Looks good but unfortunately has a lot of little ‘pin bones’, one of which I got stuck in the back of my throat!!! It would be two day until I got it out using the ‘rice ball method’, recommended by Nik.

Rolling little gobs of rice into balls about the size of a marble and swallowing them whole. The fourth one that went down snagged the bone and pulled it out!!!

Along side the restaurant, and now landlocked, was this old frigate. We couldn’t tell if it was US or Canadian made. But we climbed all over the thing . . . probably wouldn’t be allowed in the US for liability reasons!

It was time to shove off and Eileen discovered she had the first flat of the trip. Easy ‘pit stop’ change though as her flat back tire was just replaced with the rear wheel off a spare bike!

Down the road we biked through banana plantations . . .

and onto a bike lane!!!! Heading towards Peggy’s Cove Resort, another East Coast US designed building. Go figure!!!

Other than the mosque I saw along the river, this is the first sign of any other religion other than Buddhism.

. . . and soon we arrived t our last hotel, the Bandara On Sea Resort. Nice place!

. . . with some interesting vegetation.

Well kept up . . .

. . . and all the plumbing worked!!!

Tommy H decided to go swimming and after putting on the furnished robe and slippers grabbed his cute little dittie bag and headed down to the pool.

The gang headed into town for dinner but I decided to stick close to the hotel . . . after enjoying the sunset on the beach . . . (where is my Smoochie???)

I enjoyed a nice little margarita pizza . . . and a glass of wine.

 

Day 17, Laem Mae Phim – Bangkok

Today it was a leisurely breakfast and then van transport to the booming city of Bangkok, urban population of 9.5 million!!

The trip was ‘officially’ over when we reached Bangkok and three of our folks were on their way home. The rest of us had two days of R&R in Bangkok and would then head our on Bike Trip #2!!!

TommyH and I were staying at the Salil Hotel Throng Lor Soi for the two nights and upon our arrival our room was not ready so . . . how about a little lunchy and a few beers, poolside!!!

It was a nice place . . . but not as nice as the Sommerset, where some of the rest of the gang were staying  . . .

. . . nice Lotus parked outside of our hotel.

. . . a washer and dryer in every room and an infinity pool on  the 15th floor . . . no net!!!

Lots of restaurants in the area and the first night we dined at the ‘Eating Room’ !!!

Day 18, 19, 20 Bangkok

The next couple of days were sort of a whirlwind blur . . . however I kept pretty close to the hotel . . . tummy seemed to be getting better!!??

At 6:00am on Sunday morning we left for the airport get fitted for the bikes we would use on Bike Trip #2 and for a little shakedown ride around the airport on a the ‘Happy and Healthy Bike Lane’.

This track was constructed in 2017 and is used heavily by the urban recreational bicycling population. In a city of 9 million . . . you don’t see too many people riding on the streets . . . too dangerous!!!

His Majesty the King  presided over the official re-opening of the  23.5-kilometre (about 15 mile) cycling lane at Suvarnabhumi airport on Nov 23, 2018. It has several restaurants and high end bike shops servicing the bike crowd.

Prior to the re-opening, the track was know as the ‘Sky Lane’ but in the spirit of enjoying bicycling he renamed it the ‘Happy and Healthy Bike Lane’.  The track has a very smooth surface and the recreational, or slower riders, stay in the blue lane.

The adjacent purple lane is reserved for those more serious speed crowd, with the riders racing around the track in a paceline.

We met up with our crew to get fitted with our new bikes. Nice TREK’s again, that looked almost new!!! This is the bike I would ride today . . .

. . . and this is the bike I would ride on the Bike Trip #2 . . . an ELECTRIC Giant!!!

About 5 days ago, on Thursday, I had to make a decision regarding what my riding options were for the second trip. I had not been eating much, was usually very weak by the afternoon, and had to jump into the van on and off due to fatigue. I didn’t seem to be getting better and on the second trip we would be a loooooong ways from Bangkok and Spice Roads HQ.

So rather than potentially spent time riding in the van during  the afternoons (if I didn’t get any better) I ‘bought some insurance’ by changing from a standard road bike rental to an electric model that would help me get through the day.

They do not allow E bikes on the track so this morning I road what would have been my road bike on trip #2.

Here is the Garmin track of the ride . . . FUN!!!!

After the ride we had coffee and smoothies at a restaurant adjacent the track where they had this great motto posted!!!

After our track run we returned to the hotel, showered and headed by tram to the Bangkok Market. Quite the place with lots of stuff you don’t need . . . but the place was packed!!

Before we knew it , it was time for dinner. Tonight we went to a GREAT area know as ‘The Commons’ . . .

. . . sort of a high end food court where you walk around and get everything from steak, seafood, pork, international and western cuisine.

. . . something for everyone. And more advice!!!

. . . yes!!!!

After a restful night, mid afternoon the next day we transferred to our first ‘official’ hotel of our second trip, ‘Biking the Mighty Mekong’. Of course our van was outfitted with the latest Buddha gear insuring a safe ride through the  city of 9 million!!!

We were staying overnight at the Midi Hotel which was close to the airport.

Haven’t seen many bugs, of the flying variety, but they had recharged electric bug zappers just in case!!!

. . . and the requisite Buddha shrine outside in the parking lot. This Buddha evidently liked small painted wooden animals!!!

Nice place . . .

. . . where they wanted guest to know this was a  ‘No Squat” zone!!!

Interestingly in the Bangkok newspaper there was a photo of a US Navy ship, ‘The Green Bay’ an amphibious transport dock,  that was visiting the area.


In this video you can get a fell of what it was like all night!!!

We met our new guide for Trip #2, Woodie, and planned to have our initial ‘meet and greet’ dinner and meeting to discuss the upcoming trip.

The nicest restaurant in the hotel complex seemed to be this one. Woodie said it had music but when we walked in there was gentle ‘musak’ playing which didn’t; seem to be overwhelming or too loud for our meeting. Unbeknownst to us it was karaoke night and there because a steady stream of participants that rotated and took their turn belting out the latest Thai pop songs. This woman look like a regular, complete with her ‘lounge dress’ flowing down to the stage. It was a looooooong dinner and no meeting tonight!!!

Day 21, Bangkok – Chiang Khan

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.

Day 22, Sang Kom – Nong Khai

We were ready to pull out this morning when Huey discovered he had a flat . . . our pit crew jumped right on it and soon we were on the road . . . GREAT SERVICE!!!

While Huey’s tire as being fixed he, offered some yoga advice to a local retired teacher walking along the boardwalk!!!

Whats’s Cynthia doing jumping that chasm???

. . . actually it is a 3-D art project on a stairway down to the river, sponsored by the community!

. . . pretty neat!!!

On we ventured down the board walk . . .

.. passing this floating motel!!!

. . . the mighty Mekong was looking more like the Wisconsin River every mile we rode!!

. . . another example of the wildly appointed buses we have seen along the way  . . .

Here is a statue to a local legend . . .

. . . who fired his crossbow at invaders crossing the river. . .

. . .stopping them dead in their tracks as they crossed  . . . thus the land form, or dead bodies, stretching across the river

. . . things were getting a little steep across the river in Laos!!!

. . .soon we came across this group of pilgrims heading to a retreat somewhere down the road, caring their pots, pans and bedrolls . . .

. . . and soon we came across another two groups of travelers, both going in different directions. The first bike touring riders we have seen on either trip. . .

. . . both groups were from the Netherlands but had never me until now!!!

Soon it was time to stop for a break, so we pulled in where this snake statue was being constructed . . .

. . . and out came lots of goodies supplied by our van drivers . . . another great thing the crews have done during both trips is every time we stop for a break, to look at a temple, or some other interesting thing they fill all of our water bottles. You never run out of water or even think of it!!!

. . there was a large drum that of course Bo had to ‘drum’ with the mallet. Woodie said it was to call out the monks who live on the other side of the road up the mountain. We left right away  . . . !!!

The only snake spotted along the way. Woodie ID it as a cobra and said they are very deadly. Glad it was dead!

We passed through one village after another . . .

The temps in northern Thailand are much nicer in the morning. Usually about 72 degrees when we start and they climb to the low 90’s by mid afternoon.

Nice morning temps, smooth road, no traffic . . . perfect biking.

The King is everywhere . . . long live the King!!!

Today we would have some rollers . . .

. . . which gave you plenty of time to look around  . . . Holsteins and windmills . . . am I back in WI????

. . . and ‘You Pick It Strawberry’ patches!!

We stopped for a break and a van ride up a very steep and hilly road to a lookout area. We lefttour bikes near several little restaurants, one of which already had the salted fish roasting on the grill  for lunch. . .

. . . and had two cute little inquisitive puppies!!!!

. . . a big ride uphill in the van got us to this temple and scenic overlook area including this ‘infinity’ walkway that had a glass bottom . . .

. . . shoes were provided so you would not scratch the glass. Nice!!!

The scenery and vistas was spectacular, but once again the other tourists wanted photos of US!!!! Here, through lots of hand gesturing, Cynthia figured out this guy wanted to tale a ‘heart’ photo (seems to be the latest photo phenomenon) with her. Tom, Cynthia’s significant other, got a big kick out of it . . .

. . . and of course, not to be outdone, Bo got the same shot with the guys wife!!!

. . .and these folks wanted their picture with us too. Maybe they thought we were some famous biking team (uh . . . probably not!!)

. . . not sure what this statue was all about but looked like someone from the disco era!!!

. . . and of course there was a beautiful temple on the top of the mountain . . .

. . . with lots of offerings available . . .

. . . and statues covered in gold leaf!!!

. . . but bigger is always better when trying to attract visitors and right next door to the temple was a ‘bigger and newer’ version being built.

. . . the artists were actually forming the statuary right on site with re-bar and cement!!

Back on the bikes we pedaled past this structure . . .

. . . a multi head snake which I wonder if had been constructed the same way.

. . . here was a guy with a little popsicle concession on his motorcycle filling the forms with a sweet juju . . . I wondered how he got it cold enough to freeze. By now it was in the mid 80’s. Liquid nitrogen??!!

Woodie found another interesting noodle shop  forus to stop at and visit. This time the rice flour was mixed with water formed into 1 pound blobs . . .

. . . that were fed into a hydraulic extruder and pushed through the many holes in the head. You can see the noodles being formed and dropping into the steaming water . . ..

. . . after cooking for a few minutes, the noodles were transferred to two more baths to cool . . .

. . . then washed once more, separated and  . . .

. . . packaged for sale !!!

Along the way today we also biked by acres and acres of tobacco, some of which had been harvested and was drying on racks along side the road.

Soon it was time for lunch and Woodie picked a GREAT lunch spot. It may have been the best of the whole trip.

We sat under the shade of an awning, on the banks of the Mekong with the capital of Laos, Vientiane, right across the river from us  . . .

. . . FABULOUS lunch!!

. . away we went to our final destination of the day, Sang Kom.

The blue sheathing ahead is some work being done on the ‘Peace Bridge’ connecting Thailand and Laos, over the Mekong. We were hoping to have crossed the bridge to get our passports stamped in Laos but the visa process made the whole thing impossible .

. . . as we entered the city here was a new development being advertised. Oh . . .  I guess the Thai’s too have a dream of a three bedroom home in the burb’s . .

. . . we turned right and headed to our hotel. Here Cynthia bargains with a local broom maker while he pedals along with his wares.

Only a mile or two down the road we came to The Park Pool Resort, our home for the night . . .

. . . where we had nice little cabanas . . .

. . . located on the water

. . . along with a beautiful pool.

We ate dinner outside, next to the pool . . .

. . where Huey made a friend for life, this drunk German. He didn’t speak English and Huey didn’t speak German but they got along famously!!!  The German kept wondering around the grounds and the staff had to keep escorting him back to his table and beer!!

Day 23, Sang Kom – Nong Khai

Again . . . great temps in the morning to ride in were lovely . . .

. . . 10 miles down the road we came to Sala Keoku, the ‘mother of all sculpture gardens’,

where they made no secret about charging foreigners a higher entrance fee!!!

Lots of school kids arrived for a visit too  . . .

. . . saying, ‘Hello . . Hello’

We never got into this building, but there was plenty of other things to see . . . you can see the building in the aerial photos above.

. . . lots of multi headed snakes . . .

. . . happy Buddhas . . .

. . . big Buddhas

. . . and this one that must have been very special because lots of folks were stopping and making an offering . . .

. . . it had three women on it with sarongs!

Then is was back on the bikes and down the road. Here was an interesting banana vendor who had the bananas priced by how ripe they were!

A common place for us to stop for a break was an elementary school. Shade, bathrooms running water and happy teachers . . .

. . . and very well behaved happy children, all saying ‘HELLO’.

Back home, Cynthia is a physical therapist, and here is helping Bo work out a few kinks before we started biking again . . .

. . . which when we did,took us along a busy highway but with our own lane . . .

. . . which had a friendly woman selling fruit . . .

. . . and a fellow selling lottery tickets. Lots of lottery ticket vendors. There’s a lottery drawing every day!!!

Oh and there were elections in two week. Not only do roving pickup trucks with outside speaker setups continually broadcast political advertising but there are countless roadside signs giving you info on who to vote for . . . I think this guy was going for the older crowd . . .

. . . this guy was for the younger crowd (the men all seem to play up their military background)

Women running for office too . . .

. . . not sure if you are supposed to vote for this guy 8 times . . . ???

. . .this group looked like a television news crew . . .

. . .and I think this guy was going for the religious vote!!! All that political intrigue made us hungry and today Woodie pick a French restaurant for lunch where we all order off the menu . . .

. . .  everybody likes pizza . . .

. . .  including me!!!

. . . another rest stop at a school in the afternoon brought a bunch of happy kids out of their classroom!

. . . and soon we were entering the city of Beung Kan . . .

. . . where we saw only the second self supported bicyclist of the whole trip.

Tonight we would be staying at ‘The One Hotel’. Nice place!!

. . . and walked downtown for a lovely dinner!

. . . we are on the road again!

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