Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Slow train to Phitsanolok

November 30, 2016
Ruth: Today we cycled 53 km from our hotel near the Bangkok airport to Rangsit, a major town north of Bangkok. From there we caught the slow train north. When the train arrived without a luggage car the crew waved us away until the station staff convinced them that our bikes could fit, and of course they did, barely. We have now been on the train for a few hours and are settling into our ever changing community.

Our seat mates are Thai ladies who, in spite of only a few words of English, have shared their stories, food and even a phone number. Non-verbal communication really is amazing. The lady across from me lives in Phitsanolok, has two grown children and was recently widowed.  At least, I think that was what she was saying. I pulled out my camera to show her pictures of our house and cat.  Food was being exchanged between all of us, with some of our banana bread graciously accepted and squirrelled away for later.

 Each station brings another group of food vendors selling everything from curries to fresh pomelo wedges with sugar. Just like on the Camino, the community becomes warmer as more time is spent together. We were just invited to stay at one ladies house, but we had to explain that we already had a hotel reservation. Remember this is all happening through charades, and oh you should just see my hair!

When we were in Thailand three years ago we also rode this rail line, but it is so scenic that I am happy to do it again. We will spend a total of seven hours on this train, averaging a stately 50 Kms per hour. The route goes up through the central plains, full of rice fields and egrets. Limestone ridges topped with enormous golden Buddhas and white stupas rise up suddenly from the flat plains. The slow speed of the train allows us to really see everything, right down to the lotus filled water channels. 

Bangkok in Black

Thailand has lost their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the Nation has entered into a year of mourning. Black is now virtually the only colour on display in the shop windows and market stalls.  We were surprised by the enormous crowd of grieving citizens in the vicinity of the Grand Palace today.  We were told that this is a daily event.

We have spent the last two days getting over jet lag with a strong prescription of yummy street food, sightseeing and rest.

On our first day in Bangkok we visited Jim Thompson's house, an oasis set in the surrounding urban jungle.  Jim Thompson was a prominent American who lived in Bangkok from 1945 until his mysterious disappearance in 1967.  He collected Thai art and played an important role in revitalizing the silk industry in the country.

For our second day we toured the canals of Thonburi in a long tail boat. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

We are off to Thailand and Laos!

Ruth:  After three and a half months of cycling across Europe we came home for a month to relax and reconnect with family and  friends. It was one of my most luxuriously lazy months ever, but just what I needed before heading off again. Now we are sitting in an airport waiting for the first of three flights that will take us to our final destination - Bangkok. I don't return to work until the end of January, so we have plenty of time to have another adventure in Thailand and Laos. As much as I travel, I am usually plagued with terrible pre-trip anxiety, but for some reason, I have remained very calm before this departure. Perhaps it is the knowledge that we are returning to one of my favorite cycling destinations, or maybe it is the meditation that I have been learning and practicing regularity. Regardless, it is wonderful to not start a trip as a basket case.