All posts by Ridin' Rick

Day 11, Chiang Mai

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Today as usual began with a ride to get out of the traffic of Chiang Mai. We went on a variety of roads, like this highway with no shoulder . . .

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. . . to a tunnel . . .

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. . . to a quiet road like this . . .

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. . . to a nice path with no traffic to speak of . . .

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. . . to a dirt path!! We were in a mix of terrain, from agricultural fields (rice, tobacco) to small towns.

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Always nearby were the two trusty Spice Roads vans driven by Mr. Pree and Mr. Rin.

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Our first cultural stop was at the umbrella market where umbrellas are made from paper in an old style way, brought originally from China.

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The grounds were lovely with flowers such as this.

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Everything is hand made. Here a man works on a lathe to make umbrella handles out of mulberry wood.

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How long did it take him to turn all of these?!

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The umbrellas are made of paper.

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First the mulberry bark is soaked, then pounded to break up the fibers. Then it goes into the big vat. MJ might not have a future at the paper mill!

See MJ doing her best at smashing pulp here.

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The big vat is stirred with a stick, then these wooden frames are swirled around in the water to get enough paper product on them; then they are dried.

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Finished paper in rough form, prior to finishing and dying.

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The structural components of the umbrella workings are made of bamboo. First the bamboo exterior is peeled off. We learned that the workers make about $10 a day. Many are farmers and this is their quiet time, and otherwise they would not have work. Others were older workers with no other employment.

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She smooths the edges of the bamboo chunk.

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Many different tools are used to make smaller and smaller components.

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Protection from the sharp knife for her finger, thank goodness!

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Final products, or flitches, ready to be make into umbrellas of all sizes!

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He is drilling holes into the inner workings of an umbrella….

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… with a handmade drill!

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Colorful umbrellas drying.

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Employees were having fun which was great to see!

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Then we passed through the painting area…where workers were happy to paint personal items. MJ went for butterflies and flowers on her biking shorts. Acrylic, not supposed to wash out.

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She worked in a fast and focused manner.

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Final product includes glitter!

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Barb opted to have a Thai elephant painted on her cell phone.

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We stopped at a temple for a photo op and a snack break.

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Mmmmm! On the far right are yummy sticky rice packets with banana, or sweet potato, or beans inside. In addition to the fruit and bars, we had coconut pastries and boiled peanuts.

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Next cultural stop was at  shop that embossed aluminum.

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Monica considered adding a tiara to her helmet!

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This woman was adding detail to products destined for Laos.

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See Tap Tap Tap movie here.

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Cultural stop number three was a woodworkng shop using mango wood. Here is the raw product ready for shaping.

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OSHA would have a field day at this workplace! Big lathes are used to turn the wood. Some turned products are in the background.

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Big lathe that has seen better days.

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The turned products, here bowls and vases, are smoked in a giant smoker. They smelled good, like bacon and campfires!

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The giant smokers.

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Woodie had stopped here with a group last year, and the owners had a one story house. They have added a second story, so the wood bowl and vase business must be good!

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Under each basket at the shop was an agitated rooster ready to fight. We were told they were worth as much as $3000 per bird!

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We bicycled on through towns and farms until we came to the San Khamphaeng Hot Springs Resort, our destination. The gang into a big discussion about past bike tours, and used the map on Tom’s jersey for reference!

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We had a nice lunch, and MJ finished it up with ice cream! It was to help cool down after enjoying northern Thai pork sausage. The waitress said “not very spicy.”

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The decision was made to van back to Chaing Mai due to the time of day, heat, and Friday afternoon traffic. All 12 bikes and 12 riders fit in two vans.

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Bikes, bananas, and fresh cold water! What more do we need?

Day 12, Chiang Mai to Lampang

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Our first stop today was at the ruins of original Chiang Mai community. The original city was here around 1280 AD but had to be moved due to floods. These are the temple ruins. Chiang Mai’s location became the new city, which is the meaning of its name.

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Today is “Children’s Day” across Thailand. There are many celebrations taking place, including this parade which made us alter our route! It would not be the only event today that changed our route.

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We stopped at this important structure which combined influences from both Burmese and the Lanna people’s architecture.

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The reason behind the Lady Cannot Enter rule at some temples: Woody explained that this is not based on hierarchy or status, but based on past days when feminine hygiene products did not exist. Women were banned from temples. It is of course not truly necessary in modern times, but some more traditional sites still follow those old rules. Our ladies were aghast until they understood the story!

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Important monks at this site.

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While we were there, this lovely group joined us. They were getting ready for a ceremony in their finery. From the Lanna tribe.

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Stylin’!!

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We rode through beautiful groves of trees and on many quiet roads past private homes.

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Our cultural stop today was at a woodworking shop, where they made all kinds of large and creative furniture and sculptures.

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These are “spirit houses” to keep bad spirits at bay. Families hope to keep the spirits outside of their house and instead in these lovely spirit houses.

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Wooden horse sculptures. In the past teak was used by this shop, but due to its scarcity they now use other woods.

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Baaa, baaa.

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Sheep/goat with attitude!

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Soon we were pedaling along  the Ping River, and we could see down the banks to where a lot of freshwater fish rearing ponds were located.

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We stopped at a hatchery production business, and learned that they are raising Tilapia here.

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Our important temple of the day was in the town of Lamphun, Wat Prathart Hari Phun Chai, dating from 1300 AD.

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Impressive structures and sculptures.

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Leaving Lamphun, we passed a funeral procession headed to the cemetery to cremate the body.

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The entire structure will be burned. The family and friends were sad, but friendly to us. We had to wait for them to pass before continuing our cycling.

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The group rode briskly for nearly an hour. Averaging 15 or 16 MPH. Whew! Had to stop for water and sustenance. Our drivers are always right there for us!

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There was a check point on the road today; not sure why. Perhaps to prevent overloading like this?!

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We rode through an area where there had been lots of fires, and we could see some open burns taking place as well. Here is the “Smokey Bear” fire campaign of Thailand.

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After 48 miles, we were done with our riding for the day. We stopped for lunch at the delightful Feel Good Restaurant along the highway.

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We had an excellent lunch of sausage, tilapia, rice and vegetables.

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Barb and MJ finished up with some yummy iced Thai tea latte. It was great!

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Tom enjoyed coconut ice cream and a mango smoothie.

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There were all kinds of fun things at Good Times, including a US Army Jeep!

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In recognition of today as Children’s Day, these staffpersons were dressed up as schoolgirls!

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MJ is joined by the family that owns and runs the Feel Good Restaurant and Resort, Mr. Chalong and his wife Pi Pat Parn. Their son, also in the photo, spent a year as a foreign exchange student in Washington state last year. They were wonderful hosts! They made our group feel like rock stars.

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We jumped into the Spice Road vans, and rode about 45 minutes over a small mountain range (3000 feet) to our home for the night in Lamphang.

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MJ had misplaced her phone, leaving it in her bike bag, and the bikes were all packed in the vans! Mr. Rin and Mr. Pree helped her find it, no problem! Very happy!

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The foyer of the Wienglakor Lampang Hotel.

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Our nice room glowing in the afternoon sun.

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A GREAT happy hour ensued out in the outdoor garden . . .

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. . . before we were whisked away from the hotel by our drivers to a restaurant located on the water front. No glass in the windows and NO bugs!!

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On the way back to the vans we walked by several temples and buddhas . . .

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. . . the waning moon can be seen right above the temple. Sweet dreams!!

Day 13, Lampang to Uttaradit

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We head out from our hotel in Lampang for a big day of riding.

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Woody shows us some clever Trompe-l’oeil painting in a side street.

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More in the same alley. Angel spirits riding on Lampang carriages.

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We rode out along the Wang River, which was still and reflective today.

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We stopped to admire sculptures, and ended up chatting with fishermen who were using a harpoon-type tool to harvest fish, a native local tilapia.

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Striking building on the river.

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We rode over the river on this bridge.

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Nice and quiet route!

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Not so quiet or nice for this guy though.

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Some of the trails along the river were unpaved. It was a beautiful morning!

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Here you can see how high the river floods from the markings on the bridge.

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People were sooooo friendly and nice today. Like him! Always a smile, a wave, perhaps a bow.

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We were close but did not stop at the elephant training center.

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We stopped to see Mr. Peacock but he would not fan his tail for us.

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A wonderful cultural stop today was at this traditional weaving shop.

How to work a loom movie here.

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A young Buddhist monk was learning from the expert weavers, to take the trade back to women in his home community.

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The owner of the shop demonstrates how to spin cotton.

Spinning cotton movie here.

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Our drivers Mr. Rin and Mr. Pree set up a nice snack. Shoes off please on the carpet!

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The weavers were lovely and very friendly. Here MJ and new friends admire the bag that MJ is buying.

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Nice flowers in the courtyard.

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You never know what to expect….

What’s that music up ahead movie here.

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We could hear music and saw a crowd on a corner. Turns out it was a local, annual event to celebrate the spirits, ask for protection and good luck. This is a very traditional, animist practice in Northern Thailand. Music and dancing!

Great dancing movie here.

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A subset of community members are specially chosen to represent the spirits at this event. They chew bitter leaves and smoke tobacco cigars wrapped in banana leaf.

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Apparently a few in our biking group were offered puffs on the cigars. Folks were curious about the 13 cyclists, and were very welcoming.

Happy dancers movie here.

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A bit down the road, Mr. Woody stopped to show us a traditional rice-thrashing shop. We were mesmerized by the equipment, the friendly staff, and the clattering commotion!

See the OSHA manufacturing nightmare movie here.

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Today it was smoky all day. Woody shared that farmers have two months in the winter when they can burn their fields. And guess what, we are here in the second month! By the end of the day, our clothes and hair smelled of smoke.

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We began our 8% climb, eventually climbing about 1,500 feet total.

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Are these friendly spirit dragons or mean spirit dragons?!

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At our snack break, clever signs designated the necessary rooms.

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Once we got to the top, it was a very long, very steep, very fast ride down.

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What goes up at 8% must come down at 8%. Holy cow!!

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On and on it went.

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Looks like we are going off a cliff!

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When we got to the bottom, a big ongoing construction project greeted us. In the midst of the intersection under construction was a great little lunch stop.

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After riding 43 miles total, we clambered into the vans for a 50 mile drive to our next overnight town, Uttaradit. We stopped  along the way for gas, and it took these folks about 15 minutes to analyze and complete our payment. Then they gave us 1.5 liter bottles of water, six of them, to make up for the slow service.

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Home sweet home at the Seeharaj Hotel in Uttaradit, where it is still Christmas! Even have a jazz Santa!

Day 14, Uttaradit to Sukhothai

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Today would be a day of riding, big time! But there is always time for a lottery ticket which are sold everywhere.

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This was a bridge that none of us dared to cross over a ditch.

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The morning started calm, cool and smokey.

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We see these gaily painted farm  trucks around – no heater no problem, no AC no problem, no windshield – better wear goggles!

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Typical Thai working bike.

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Papayas growing at our snack stop.

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Chili peppers too! Watch out for these in dishes!

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Ornate building along the riverway.

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Working man’s trike. Always seem to be overloaded.

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We had a great ride along the Yom River. And Gregory had the first flat of the trip, and his first his of two today. Mr. Pree was there almost immediately to change the tire. Only took 4.5 minutes!!!

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Rick says that this is a sign about fire control but it is hard to tell that!

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We stopped for another snack at a small restaurant that had a very important event taking place: the new spirit house was being blessed by Buddhist monks. Here you can see three monks; the principal one has a cord connecting him to the structure. They were burning incense and chanting. Mr. Woody said this observation includes aspects of Buddhism, animism, and a precursor to Hinduism.

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Family members prayed and had the monks bless holy water, which would later be poured on the ground to nourish deceased relatives.

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Meanwhile, we enjoyed Thai Tea Lattes, with handwritten “thank yous” on each cup.

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Off we went on our trip along the Yom River, crossing on this narrow bridge where we had to let the motorbikes pass!

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Off they go!

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We passed some workers using machines to weed whip the ditch, and they blew lots of debris on the road. Leslie ended up with a goathead thorn in her bike tire! Woody said: don’t pull it out, you will get a flat. Then Mr. Rin pulled it out! No flat for Leslie, yet anyway!

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Next on the list for flat tires was Monica. Here Woody calls in the pit crew  for assistance.

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Meanwhile, the Spice Girls are having fun! See the river over MJ’s shoulder.

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Whoops! We went across a road and down a little incline, and a rider braked hard and went down. Instantly Mr. Rin was on the scene to clean and treat the wound. HIPPA laws prevent us from revealing the injured rider identity!!!!!  😉

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Temples celebrate many things. This ‘bar’ seemed to be celebrating Leo beers!

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Our ride along the Yom was fun! Made us feel like little kids out on an adventure. Sometimes dirt, sometimes paved, sometimes gravel.

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Fishing boat on the Yom.

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Cool and interesting metal sided house along the riverside road. Complete with a watch puppy!!

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Great place for a party! Too bad we can’t stay longer.

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Typical scene as we bike past banana plants. Great, smooth concrete roads most of the day.

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Many cuts available at the Pork Shop! The Thia’s  do like their pork!!!

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We stopped for a nice lunch. They make homemade noodles in this busy kitchen.

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The main chef and restaurant owner hard at work.

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Delicious Pad Thai….

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. . . chased by a fruit, ice and sweet syrup medley.

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Bougainvilleas abound.

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There’s more!

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Pretty lotus flower,

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The government must have had a fitness incentive program. We see lots of exercise equipment like this in public places, but there is never anyone using them. Many of the machines have a thick layer of dust.

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Good looking corn! The price for corn must be very high . . . this is not your typical Thai farmhouse!!!IMG_1281

Tasseled out. Looks like August in the Midwest!

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Healthy tobacco plants. (is that an oxymoron?!)

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After 70 miles of riding along a river, past fields of cane, tobacco, rice and corn, we arrive at our home for the next two nights: the lovely Sriwilai Resort in Sukhothai. They even put out a bike by the entryway to welcome us. After Rick took this photo, and remounted his bike, the front tire was flat. Talk about perfect timing . . . only a 50 meter walk to the entrance . . .

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. . . where we enjoyed our usual ‘welcome in the lobby’ with special refreshing beverages.

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Staff give us a tour of the grounds: the infinity pool;

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our wing,

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. . . the view from our room.

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Aaah! This is nice.

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There’s nothing like a nice hot shower, and a chance to wash all our biking clothing at the end of the day.

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Soon it was time for happy hour and as we walked to the bar at twilight it was BEAUTIFUL around the grounds of the hotel.

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Happy hour poolside was delightful. Cooler temps than the high of 89 today and no bugs!!!

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Funny stories . . .laughs . . .

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. . . and many  LARGE beers and gin and tonics were consumed!!!

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. .  a wonderful dinner followed happy hour and soon it was time to wander back to our room after a great evening and a great day of cycling 70 miles along the Yom River!!!

Day 15, Sukhothai

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We spent today exploring Sukhothai. By bicycle is the perfect way. We rode down “Ceramics Alley” where there were several ceramic businesses, and lots of artwork along the way.

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Mermaid Buddha. We have noticed that some of the Buddhas look very feminine, but we were told Buddha was male, and some representations of him are very feminine in style.

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We strolled through a ceramic shop where these fellows were collaborating on a big sculpture.

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Sweet golden retriever! We have noticed many dogs wearing shirts and sweaters in northern Thailand. When we asked why, we were told: because it is cold here in the winter! 60 degrees Fahrenheit merits a doggy sweater.

Happy puppy movie here.

There is a fish design that is representative of Sukhothai. This woman was drawing one on a cup to be eventually painted and glazed. She handed MJ a cup to try her fish-drawing talents. Hope the cup was a second!

MJ pottery expert movie here.

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As part of the overlapping Hindu/Buddhist traditions in Thailand, some Thai Buddhists pay homage to Ganesha who is called Phra Phikanet here. Phra Phikanet is known as a remover of obstacles, but this one looks interested in beer!

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Here is the shop’s kiln.

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There were many dishes, bowls and figurines available for shoppers. Would have trouble getting these home!!

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Outside the shop, Mr. Woody gave a lesson on the street vendors. This woman was selling fresh vegetables.

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Soon a little crowd formed!

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Pretty kitty. We have not seen too many pet kitties.

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Our next cultural stop was at a thatched-roof shop. This woman was weaving materials together to make roofing thatch.

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Here are the thatches lined up for inspection and sale!

How to make a roof movie here.

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This gentleman — the supervisor? — was lounging in a hammock when we arrived. He decided he’d better get up and look busy!

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Our major site visit of the day was to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sukhothai Historical Park. There are over 40 temple complexes spread over a wide area. It gives you a sense of the influence and sophistication of the Sukhothai Kingdom which arose in the early 13th C and came to dominate the plains of central Thailand.

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Prominent features are the city walls and accompanying moats. Ruins of wats are spread over a very large area. Within the central area, many stupas (also called chedis) and Buddha sculptures have been restored.

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Beautiful grounds and stupas.

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Amidst the stupas and Buddha statues were huge old trees, like this Banyan.

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We met these budding young engineering students, doing research on the strength of mortar and brick at different temples.

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Future engineers Kanyanut (left) and Kanyanat (right) explained their research and equipment. (They go by the nicknames of Nut and Fluke.)  Good luck to you both–perhaps your research will help save important historical treasures!

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Some of the stupas, like this one on the right, were beginning to lean.

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It is leaning a lot! It is caused by the ground settling over time.

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Here are two more engineering students hoping to solve historic preservation challenges! They too were collecting data with specialized equipment.

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Detail at base of a stupa.

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Another amazing tree.

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The grounds were truly stunning, as well as peaceful.

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Thais keep things very neat. In many places we saw women sweeping the grass around the historic site.

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Wat Mahathat is at the heart of the moated Royal city we explored. At the time of its abandonment in the 16th C, there were over 200 chedis here!

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Another ancient tree among the ruins.

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We continued on our bike ride. Here the Toms pass through the city walls.

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Our next stop was at the Wat Si Chum, which featured an immense Buddha peering through an opening. The HUGE mango tree is over 200 years old!!

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Here is what things looked like there in 1954…

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The building was in ruins . . . it needed some talented engineers to restore it!

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And they did. Here is what you see today. The Buddha was stunning, and huge!

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Monica is the best shopper. She can always find interesting, well made, unique items. Here Monica, Barb and MJ model hand-stitched jackets. Two were purchased by these good shoppers!

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Next on our bike tour was Wat Chang Lom, a bell-shaped chedi with 36 brick and stucco elephants around its base. These elephants are revered for carrying and guarding remains of the Buddha.

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Cheesehead at the chedi.

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We are always ready for a lunch stop! Mr. Woody finds great places with homemade Thai treats.

Let’s make lunch movie here.

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Beef dish ready to be served.

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Lovely flowers back on the grounds of our hotel.

Day 16, Sukhothai to Khamphaeng Phet

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Shortly after we left our great resort hotel this morning we rode by this elegant display honoring Thailand’s royal family.

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You know it is going to be a smoky day when it is this hazy at 8:00 a.m.!

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Here is one of the reasons for the smoke: it is sugar cane harvesting time. We saw (and were passed by) many cane trucks like this one. Sometimes they carried the full stalk like this, and sometimes the cane was chopped into smaller pieces.

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This worker is lighting the harvested cane chaff which was in rows.

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Burn baby burn!

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To add to the smoke, a lady had just lit the piles of leaves along her driveway!

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Water buffalo mamas and calves were along the roadway.

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These guys weren’t used to seeing brightly colored bicyclists on Trek bikes!

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Nature stop of the day was to look at this turtle. He/she was along the road, and we assumed was just about to cross it.

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After getting close and personal—what a beautiful animal—Woody did the right thing and carried it across the road to a nearby wetland.

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Today we saw brightly colored homes in the rural areas.

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We passed lots of these machines, called Iron Buffalos.

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They are like tractors, but are multi-purpose. This one is hauling a motorbike on a trailer. We saw one being used to pump water out of a ditch.

See puppy on Iron Donkey here.

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We were riding along hills like this….and we were happy not to be riding UP those hills! We passed by several signs for national parks.

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At one of our rest stops, these guys were putting in new tile, the old fashioned way.

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Materials were mixed in a concrete hod and applied by hand.

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Here is an empty sugar cane hauler being weighed.

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Look at those colors!

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Axel and Bruce ride under the welcome banner as we leave the Sukhothai area.

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We stopped here for a coffee break. Cafe Amazon is a chain of coffee shops in Thailand developed in association with PTT gas stations. The theme is Brazil’s Amazon forest and nature. They try to recreate that feel around their shops.And their iced coffee is delicious! Merry Christmas!

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At the adjacent gas station, you had to be careful to work around the sleeping dogs!

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Our cultural stop today was to visit a marble workshop.Here you see an industrial stone cutter like is used for tiles, granite counters, and such.

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He is turning bigger chunks into the columns you see near him.

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This man was sanding out a basin.

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They had lots of piles of waste marble!

See marble factory here.

See the rest of the story here.

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Next door was a shop with finished products. Woody explains the pairs of lions which are used by Chinese to guard homes and bring good fortune.

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You could buy this spirit house and its sculptures! Or just burn a little incense.

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One pair of guard lions sold for the equivalent of $800. Not bad for all the detail that goes into them!

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The sales room was new and had been blessed by a monk, noted here with a special message.

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Double truck with some poor cattle squished into the back. Not a good day for them…

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After 48 miles we arrived at our overnight town, Khamphaeng Phet. We passed impressive walls and moats of the Old City which dates from the early 15th C.

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Mr. Pree guards our bikes as we scramble up the wall for a view of ruins and the city.Note all the trees growing on the old wall.

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We stopped for a wonderful lunch at M and P’s Corner restaurant. Here are the friendly staff making sure we had what we needed. Great service!

In the parking lot where we parked out bikes for the night, Cynthia did enough loops to make an even 53 miles for the day . . . the same age as her birthday today!!!

What’s it like to be 53 years old here.

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Just next door is our home for the night, the Chakungrao Riverview Hotel.

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We pick up our luggage in the lobby, where the holidays are still being celebrated!

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MJ gets her key and internet connection from the friendly staff.

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Our roomy digs for the night. And there is a little balcony to hang our laundry out on, discreetly!

We walked down the street to the Tasty, where we had a combined happy hour and dinner . . .

Tom taking a survey of those who felt appropriately ‘happy’.

Lots of Myanmar beer consumed, a special batch Woodie had procured. Four bottles of wine supplied by Daniel from Spice Roads too (although the wine drinkers fell behind because there was one unopened bottle left at the end of the night!!)

One a again Woodie did a great job coordinating the events of he day including the dinner Tasty restaurant staff proviced. Happy bunch of folks!!!

Day 17, Kamphaeng phet to uthai thani

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Today began with a van transfer of about two hours duration to the start of our ride. We are waiting to head out from the hotel.

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We drove down Highway 1, first along the Ping River. The Ping flows into the Chao Phraya River which continues on into Bangkok. Our bikes were hauled in a truck that drove down with our two Spice Roads vans. We stopped at a location along the river to start our ride. Here Woody starts to put the bikes back together.

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Next door to where our bikes were being assembled was a garage filled with long dragon racing boats.

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This one could hold up to 42 paddlers!

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This one had been blessed and marked by a Buddhist monk.

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We biked along the river and through the countryside. Many of the homes were simple and unpainted like this.

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Roads along the river and the fields were very nice, quiet.

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And there are some new houses!

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Many homes were on stilts, in part because this area was badly flooded about 8 years ago. Many homes have been rebuilt to withstand future floods.

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Fresh water is important. While even small towns have water towers, another option is to use these freshwater kiosks.

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You can also buy your choice of gas at small self service spots like this.

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More choices for your scooter or car!

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In the past water was collected off the roof in cisterns like this, but they are not used anymore due to air pollution affecting the water quality.

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Corn harvest time! This appeared to be a corn co-op where all the corn was being delivered…

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And this gent is King Corn!

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We saw many water control structures like these locks to better manage the river. Lots of engineering projects underway.

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A floodwall is being built along the river.

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Woody looks for opportunities to learn, and today’s was to visit a peanut harvest underway.

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This woman was buying fresh peanuts. We tried fresh peanuts from the field, and they were tasty!

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She is harvesting peanuts which grow at the base of the plant with the roots.

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We haven’t seen that many Thais on bikes, and even fewer kids,so it was fun to see this happy group.

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And then, just after Rick and the kids greeted each other saying “Happy!”, his back tire went flat. Rick got to work, and before he knew it, Mr. Rin was there to help finish the job.

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Mr. Rin found this squished toad, and told Rick to keep it on his bike seat for the rest of his ride, for good luck! Good luck so he does not get more flats.

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And then, one mile down the road, MJ was having the exact same problem! Gregory and Leslie helped her out until Mr. Pree came along to finish the job.

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We all reconnoitered at a clinic for a snack break. The restroom was marked for handicapped, elderly and pregnant folks!

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And then we were off again, biking through neighborhoods.

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We came into an area of central Thailand today dominated by rice fields. Beautiful!

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Near the end of our ride we enjoyed this dedicated bike lane.

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This site was different than anything else we have passed. These characters are grim reapers, and the building was a crematorium.

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We enjoyed a late lunch on while cruising on a restored rice barge on the Sakaekrang River.

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We passed houseboats on the river, in a variety of conditions. The water was so low that many of them were sitting on the river bottom!

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Our friendly captain!

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It was a lovely and relaxing lunch.

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Four dishes plus chicken wings!

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Nice dessert spread of fruits and tapioca chunks with coconut cream sauce.

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MJ took Woody up on his offer to pilot the boat. The pilot and MJ look worried; Woody not so much!

See MJ driving the boat here.

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After lunch, we biked another three miles to our home for the night, the Uthai River Lake Resort. Nice pool and good birdwatching too! After a nice happy hour out on the lawn, we retreated to the restaurant for a traditional Thai dinner and dessert.

Day 18, uthai Thani To ayutthaya

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Our hotel last night had a unique fish bowl: an old TV on an even older sewing machine stand!

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Today we biked past markets and agricultural areas. Look at the length of these long beans!!

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Our first cultural stop was at a knifemaker’s workshop.

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Young men apprenticed to become master knife makers.

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Lots of careful hand work.

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Fitting bone handles  to the steel blade very precisely. Tempered steel comes from the US.

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Rasping until smooth.

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The handles on the left are made from stingray skin.

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Pretty finished handle. Destined for the US. Here these knives are worth 15,000 baht or about $500 USD.

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The owner (on the right), Suchat Jangtanong,  has a total of five shops like this in the area. He is recognized worldwide for his unique knife art.

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His home is attached to this shop.

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Today was sunny and hazy with smoke again. Our ride began to the sound of chanting Buddhist monks—lovely. We rode riverside much of the way, where the Sakaekrung and Chao Phraya Rivers meet.

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More freshwater fish rearing on the river.

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Look like coy from here but we understand they are tilapia.

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Garbage collection including careful recycling was underway today.

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Thais love their trucks just like Americans! We heard happy party sounds as we came upon a wedding celebration this morning.

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Here was the band: a drummer, vocalist, and two guitars. And a great beat!

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It was 9:00 a.m. and everyone was having a great time!

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The groomsmen were leading the dancing.

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MJ was asked to dance by  a party goer. She tried to mimic his moves.

See MJ dance movie here.

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Earlier today the bride and groom had been blessed by a monk and completed a traditional ceremony here with him.

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The formal wedding portrait—with combines!

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The whole village was invited to the wedding and party. Everyone was very nice to us, including this man!

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We pulled ourselves out of the party after enjoying a few songs and dances. Just down the road we saw our first paddock filled with goats!

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Lots of rice today, all around. Looks healthy! Woody told us that rice farmers typically have three harvests per year.

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A fellow cyclist along the way.

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We had been biking on a big island called Thepho Island. We used a ferry to cross back to the other side.

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The ferry was propelled by a V6 engine connected to a shaft with a prop at the end. It swiveled on a pivot point to steer the ferry boat.

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On our way! 13 cyclists and one motor bike!

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On the other side of the river was a big temple and school complex. No kisses the temple (that was our interpretation but the sign really means to be quiet). And no Michael Jackson moves, Woody joked! (Actually that means no hats!)

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For those of us from Wisconsin, the inside of the temple reminded us of Menard’s stores during the Christmas season!

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MJ decided to make a 100 baht donation. It would provide a few supplies for the monks. Woody helps set things up right for her.

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Food and other things monks need!

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First she had to pray or meditate about something important to her…

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Then she presented the gifts to the monk.

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He gave her a little amulet. When MJ said “thank you” in Thai (one of two phrases she has learned) the monk said, surprised, “She speaks Thai!”

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The grounds of the temple and school had many many Buddhas. This is the Buddha of the apartment building!?!

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A new structure was being built around these three monk statues.

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This is either the steepest road in the world or the steepest downhill ski jump. (Except that we are in Thailand in winter where it is 95 degrees F!) The hill was covered in bamboo, which has turned yellow during its dormant season.

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Again we see lots of engineering to manage the rivers, such as this lock.

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We had a great lunch in Chai Nat at this restaurant, with the best Pad Thai in the area!

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Kitchen staff hard at work preparing our lunch.

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The owner wanted a photo with our group. We find this happens a lot– restaurant owners are delighted to have us and are very curious about our travels.

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After lunch we had a two hour van ride to our hotel for the night in Ayutthaya. Along the way we stopped to see the largest Buddha in Thailand at Wat Pa Mok.

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Buddha was covered with a giant orange quilt. If you made a big donation, you could write a message on a quilt square.

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The grounds around the Buddha had a thriving market. Including a snack of alligator meat or a decorative head to take home!

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!!!

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!