Saturday, 17 May 2008

Day 360 - Ayuthaya (Thailand)

Ouch! more pain please.

Well, I was just about to leave Siem Reap and was carrying my too many bags down stairs when I studdenly did something to a muscle in my left thigh that made it painful to walk and very painful to lift my leg in a cycling motion. But I got my priorities right and ordered breakfast which included a wonderful banana pancake, though not so wonderful when you put French Fries Sauce on it instead of Honey, they look very similar. Surprisingly the pain had really subsided after about 20 minutes and after a bit of walking I decided to give cycling a go. It was ok, so I carried on at a gentle pace and thankfully it was fine, though I could feel it all day. As expected the road was really good as far as the airport, then from there onwards it was old tarmac getting worse all the time. The roadworks began and small bridges were being built which meant lots of slippery muddy diversions as it had rained a fare bit overnight. Soon the tarmac was covered with a thin film of mud which made it slippy the whole time. Then I said goodbye to the tarmac and hello to the dirt road. Actually it wasnt too bad, muddy in places but generally dry, though some long stretches were really bumpy like a washboard which made progress really slow. Then I could see Sisophon, my nights destination ahead, I had got away with it very lightly, but there was a sting in the tail and the last 2km were really muddy and very wet, a real quagmire that again left me trailing mud through the guest house.

The following morning I was greeted with what I really didn't want to see, wet roads from more overnight rain, but I guess that is better than wet roads from actual rain. There was some new tarmac and other than another muddy diversion the first 20km were fine, then it was bye bye tarmac again. From here on in it was horrible, mud the whole way. Thankfully it was pretty wet as the slightly drier mud was the worst and really stuck to the wheels and I could feel myself instantly slow down. My favourite mud resembled fresh juicy cow pats, cycling through that mud was great as it didn't stick and even helped clear that mud that had stuck. Worse was to come in the form of big potholes. I never have a great desire to cycle through them so naturally avoided them, though passing cars didn't and that resulted in me getting regularly showered in mud, which was surprisingly warm. At last I arrived at the border town of Poipet, but once again some of the worst was saved for the towns. Here the entire road was flooded for about 200m and it was deep too, not muddy but big stones. I really didn't want to cycle through as I didn't know what would be under the water, so I took it in stages, watching the routes other vehicles took and seeing if they dropped into potholes. I used the entire road to chose my best route, but other motorists were fine and nobody complained. I arrived as immigration covered in mud, most people stopped for a look and some made comments. Now I have always wanted to see what would happen at a land border like this as the 2 countries drive on opposite sides of the road. I suppose something happened between the 2 border controls that I missed, but I soon moved over as I was heading straight for a lorry. Once into Thailand there was lovely smooth tarmac, oh joy, deep joy! As I passed through town I looked for a jet wash but when I found one they wouldn't let me use it. I kept my eyes peeled for the 50 odd k to Sa Kaeo as I felt that if I turn up at hotels in my state I might find them all 'full'. At last I found a tap and hosepipe and was given permission to use it, so I cleaned the bike, all my bags, my sandals feet and legs. Now what happens as soon as you clean your bike? As I set off again I was heading straight for a huge black cloud, there would be no missing it. As both me and my clothes would be cleaned when I arrived I decided to carry on as it was only about 11k away. The cloud was up for a real fight and quickly it whipped up a very strong wind that tried to force me back to Cambodia, 1-0 to the cloud. Then the rain came, very hard and I was very soon drenched, 2-0. With the wind in my face and the hard rain I could hardly see where I was going, I just hoped the motorists had a better view, 3-0. But I wasn't going to be defeated, there was no way I was going back to the mud of Cambodia, 3-1. Then the cloud scored an own goal as there was so much water, some of which was poured over me from passing cars that my clothes were cleaned and I had showered before I had even arrived, 3-2. But it rained all the way to Sa Kaeo and I had to wring my shirt out before going into a hotel, but still left muddy footprints across the floor, 4-2. Well done cloud, I suppose you think you are clever. Hmmm! May be I have been travelling alone for too long.

The next day was a whole day of tarmac, bliss. Actually it wasn't very exciting, though I did pass some nearby hills and a Nationl Park. There were lots of signs to waterfalls etc, but I was really intrigued to see one to an "Amazing Mound", though I wasn't intrigued enough to actually go and see it. But what can possibly make a mound amazing, and when does it stop being an amazing mound and become just an ordinary hill?

Today's cycling wasn't that great either, though Ayuthaya is just 75km north of Bangkok and that means the road and junctions are getting bigger. Having looked at the map I had a choice of 2 routes, one which went though a very big junction that I decided to avoid. My other route was on much smaller roads, but then I hit a big road that I thought my road would go under but I couldn't get across, so I had to join the main road. It was motorway like and I wondered if I should really be on it, but then you see motorcycles and cars coming towards you on the hard shoulder and I guess that even if I wasn't supposed to be there, nobody would actually care. Ironically I ended up at the junction I had tried to avoid. But I arrived reasonably early and as there as plenty of temples to see here I went out on the bike and saw some of the further ones (photo) which gave me a real taster of what is in store for tomorrow. It is strange, but having visited northern Thailand for a few days, arriving back it all feels very familiar. What is also strange is that as I make my way around Ayuthaya I am sure I came here before in 19??, but with the memory of a goldfish I am not surprised that I can't remember.

For some reason lately I have been on a bit of a downer and I don't know why. I can think of a number of reasons, but nothing that I can really say that is the reason. I am not too worried about it though, I am sure I will pull through quickly enough, and besides, it's been a long time since I have had a rough patch, so it's only right that I should have another one.

Thanks for all your comments on the last post, I enjoyed reading them all. Funnily enough I have got a picture of my sandals (see photo). I am not sure that you can technically see it, but it's under the mud somewhere. Perhaps the idea of cleats in wellies should be taken up, I would by a pair. Odd isn't it, I write what I think is a pretty boring post and it gets more comments than I have had in a long time.


aoiffe said...

Your foot has more than a passing resemblance to a terracotta warriors foot. In fact maybe the terracota army was just that - an army on manoeuvres that got covered in mud and stuck in their poses vesuvius like.

And don't dis the goldfish - recently published research has shown that for a reward of food a goldfish can put the ball in the back of the net every time (should sign him for Norwich)

other recent research that you might be interested in is that the sloth is not as slow and lazy as it is made out to be; that said it still seems to have difficulty outpacing a lichen.

Caff said...

Welcome back Aoiffe :-)

jac said...

Hi, I stumbled across your blog this evening and have just spent a happy couple of hours reading your travel stories in Asia, where I've been travelling for the last 8 months. We were in Phnom Penh at the same time, and have visited many of the same places. I so enjoyed reading about your experiences. Thank you! My blog is Wishing you safe travels and good roads. Jackie