Today was out last day of riding and here Woodie gives us a little geography lesson of Thailand as we waited under the veranda for the rain to stop . . . the only rain of the whole trip!!! Tom also reminded us to be careful. From his experience most accidents happen on the first or last day of the trip.
. . . it didn’t look like it was going to stop for a while so we finally decided to load the bikes in the vans and head down the road, looking for dry weather. Sure enough, by the time we loaded up the rain had nearly stopped . . .
. . . and five miles down the road we unloaded . . .
. . . and took one last group photo.
We met some interesting locals along the way . . . this couple was going to a wedding . . .
. . . and this happy bicyclist stopped just to say ‘HELLO’!!
. . . a good example of what the local bikes looked like.
. . . no water towers in this little hamlet but like in many small villages , there were safe drinking water dispensers.
. . . some nice riding today among rice fields and family farms . . .
. . . and look at that . . . c o r n. Have not seen much growing along the way.
One last rest stop and one last temple to see . . .
. . . with a young entrepreneur selling goodies outside.
. . . and a small offerings table where items could be purchased to give to the Buddha . . .
. . . or to use yourself, TP !! (this place is catering to the western crowd and must be on a main visitor path.)
. . . great carvings . . .
. . . first one of these I have seen. Not sure of the significance . . .
The Thai are big on cremation and we have seen many of these little crematoriums along the way. Woodie’s wife is from Laos and they use cremation too, but right out in the open, with large funeral pyres!
Very ornate inside the temple with great paintings . . .
. . . and a short walk to the river brought us to another BIG Buddha. For scale, you can see Lois sitting on the smaller white Buddha in the lower part of the photo.
Away we went ot our next adventure . . .
. . . a prehistoric dinosaur exhibit . . .
. . . where the likes of these critters tracks . . .
. . could still be seen in the fossils that formed with their tracks. The facility looked brand new . . .
. . . especially the bathrooms. Note the ‘privacy screen’ at the outside urinals!!!
I think they were still doing some archaeological digging!!!
Down the road we went and right before we made a left hand turn we came to this fire department operation cleaning some spilled petroleum off the pavement with water, soap and brooms. The King’s sister was visiting the area in a couple of days and things had to be ‘spic and span’ . . .
. . . unfortunately for Huey, as we made the 90 degree turn onto the side road his bike slipped out from under him and down he went . . . on the same hip he has had replaced, TWICE!!!!
From my GPS track you can see the little backtrack at the top of the route where we pulled into the dinosaur exhibit then back on the road and the the 90 degree turn in the lower part of the photo where the mishap too place.
. . . the staff and firefighters helped him up and into one of our vans for a trip to the hospital and hopefully some X-Rays .
By the time we left the scene, the crew was back at it!!!
Down the road we came to this new Buddha under construction. Woodie told us the word goes out when a community wants to build a new monument and donations come in from all over the country. Construction can proceed only when there are enough donations so some of these may take years to finish!!
Oops . . . speaking of Woodie, he had the second flat of this trip!!!
Riding down the roads we have seen thousands of dogs. They never chase or really give you any sign of recognition, usually just looking down the road at what the neighboring dogs are doing. AND . . . they sleep wherever they want, usually in the middle of the road!!!
Purple must be the favorite color of the King’s sister because every school and public building was covered with purple ribbons.
Two hours down the road and it was time for lunch . . . and Huey joined us!!! He had gone to a local hospital that had a small X-Ray machine. The radiologist had never seen an artificial hip before!!! Nothing seemed broken, but he suggested Huey seek additional medical opinions in Bangkok.
. . . a great lunch of Phad Thai all around . . .
. . . which gave us the energy we needed for our final push into Nakhon Phanom, our final night of the trip. Great bridge, with huge towers on both sides, connecting Thailand with Laos
. . . and with a sign that I presumed said ‘Welcome to Thailand’ . . .
. . . that if you lined up perfectly with this metal frame, looked like a postcard!!!
. . . we had about a 10 mile final ride along the riverway to town. Here was a fellow in a boat who was steering with his right hand and bailing, as fast as he could, with a bucket in his left. Hope he made it home!!!
It was quite a nice ride into town. Many of the towns we bike have through along the Mekong had bike paths along the river . . . great for tourism and just for the local folks to enjoy a nice walk.
. . . St. Gregory’s Catholic Church!!!!
. . . the trail was so new, some of it was not finished yet. No permanent surface . . . no problem . . .
. . . no handrails or guards to keep you from going overboard . . . no problem!!!
Soon we were in the metro area where lots of families were enjoying the water front . . .
. . . and taking family photos.
. . . so we too needed one last ‘family photo’ of our biking group, minus Huey.
We rolled into ‘The River Hotel’ just before the rain started. Stripping all of our personal gear off the bikes, we said goodbye to our trusty steeds and carried our luggage up to the room for the last time.
. . . where outside our 4th floor room one could see there was some major construction going on along the riverway.
Dinner was at the restaurant across the parking lot . . . good thing because it continued to rain.
End of the trip . . . time for a tini’ I have learned it can be a crapshoot to order a martini in a foreign country. Often you just get a glass of Martinin & Rossi Vermouth. The bar had a standard drink menu written in English but none of the staff could read it. I convinced them to let me make it myself which they agreed too. As soon as they saw me pour a double shot they gasped!!! We never did connect on what an olive was!
The waiter did a great ‘shake-shake’!!
It was such a fun process TommyH decided to have one too, his being vodka!
A nice final dinner followed with the LEO beer lady keeping the beer flowing. (even though she is seen here pouring a Polander!!!)
Today it was back to Bangkok on Asia Air rather than NOK Airlines which we had flown on when we traveled up to the northern part of Thailand from Bangkok..
We had a scramble to get to the airport on time because the King’s sister was coming in at the same time and most of the streets were blocked off. Luckily our shuttle driver knew all the back streets and used them to parallel her course. We jogged in and out of back streets and alley . . . it felt like a Jason Bourne movie chase scene!!!
. . . but we made it in time and as we crossed the tarmac to our plane, there sat the four helicopters she and her encourage had flown in on from from Bangkok. Rank DOES have it privileges!!!
Of course our ‘patient’ had all the attention he needed to deal with what ended up being: 3 cracked ribs, a punctured lung and a cracked pelvis. He kept a stiff upper lip through the whole thing!!!
. . . a couple of hours later we walked into the lobby of the Novotel Hotel where we would stay for our last night of the trip. Big hugs all around as we said goodbye to Woodie and his staff. They had done a super job!
The hotel was quite a place and, similar to the Hilton Hotel at o’Hare Airport, is right across the street from one of the main terminals of the Bangkok International Airport . . . and there is a tunnel you walk through to get there. Easy . . . Peasy!!!
But first . . . one last night of sleep before the grueling 26 -30 hour transfer back home.
We picked one to the five restaurants in the hotel for a ‘last supper’ . . .
. . . which really did last a loooong time, I had long ago finished my pizza when the waiter informed us they had ‘forgotten’ Tom’s ‘Spring Chicken’ entree and it would be another 30 minute wait on top of the 30 minutes he had already waited. I think to make up for it they served him the whole chicken.
They got the last laugh though, as there was a 15% automatic gratuity added to the bill!!!
Our SE Asia trip had been quite an adventure. Three countries, four sets of bikes, four different guides and four support crews helped give us a varied perspective of each country we visited from their local customs, economy, religious views and political outlooks.
All of ones senses are challenged here. The sounds, sights, tastes and environment conditions all remind you that, ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore, Todo!!!’
Our touring company Spice Roads did a fantastic job handling all the logistics behind the scenes and providing such great staff, including Bo, our ‘travel concierge’ from the headquarters office in Bangkok that we all dealt with so much before and leading up to the trip.
It was also great having Daniel from Spice Roads along for part of the trip sharing his experiences of living in Thailand for the last 10 years.
From urban to suburban to rural to jungle we had seen it all . . . but it was now time to head home. I missed Smoochie and the pup and it will be great to see them again . . . no more long trips without her. Of course, she will need to retire some year down the road first!!!
. . . another reason I knew it was time to head home was that my fellow Wisconsinite, TommyH, was ‘going native’ on me. He has REALLY enjoyed the cuisine along the way but the last morning when he had this deep fried crawdad, that look like it was crawling out of his breakfast bowl, I knew it was time to leave . . .
. . . and this letter from the manager of the Novotel, really cemented our leaving when we found there would be no liquor served today because of a Buddhist holy day!!