August 2015
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Day August 31, 2015

Khota Baharu to Bangkok

A quiet ride from the border to Khota Baharu, then up the coast
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An unmanned roadblock. We pass through these every 30 minutes. When we see soldiers we’re surprised at how high-tech the gear is. Like Mexico, Colombia, Peru, the troops are outfitted like SWAT teams back home, the finest equipment and Oakley sunglasses, very cool. But no pictures. We should be running video. More on that soon

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Muslim kids. We’re a big surprise here and don’t know of another rider who’d been this way in a while
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Bad storm rising. It’s rainy season. This is absolutely the worst time to be riding into SE Asia
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The next picture is a two-day track because the Garmin decided that’s how it was going to remember it, drat
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Beside the road, shallow ponds of lotus for miles
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We’re not sure what these shrines are about. Just that there were a row, each progressively older than its neighbour
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Then, after a night in Pattani we took a diversion onto a small country road towards Trang
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We stopped when we saw this. Clearly rubber trees with the little ceramic bowls below stripped bark
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So we stopped and talked to the gatekeeper. Well, not talked, just smiled as I signed that I wanted to look around
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A close up
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In his shelter he had these. I asked “rubber?”. He smiled and pointed high into the trees and indicated something about birds. This we never figured out
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He pointed down the road through the plantation and off we went
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To this, clearly a factory
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Outside, fires burning under the building
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Lots of wood
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The raw rubber is thrown into this big melting vat, where it’s filtered, although I never saw how that was done
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Poured through here into the factory
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Then it’s all quite like a beehive for a moment. The rubber is poured into ‘supers’ and divided by ‘flats’, where the rubber sets
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The sheets harden as they cool and thrown into a sluice
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Then squished flatter through rollers
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Rinsed, hung
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And put in hot rooms
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Where, after a day they end up like this. Not complicated
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Outside the factory we snacked on wollongong (I think)
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Really refreshing, medium sweet
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Then onwards, following our country road through small villages
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Our first temple. We had no idea, just having arrived more or less, whether we could go on the grounds or not, so kept a respectful distance
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If you look carefully you’ll see people playing in the falls. I badly wanted to join them. The heat and humidity are almost overwhelming
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Then into the town of Trang. I’d been feeling a bit shaky and the next morning woke up with a fever and flu/cold symptoms. This was punishment for my hubris. I’d been thinking recently that the riding lifestyle had made me immune from all casual, non-crafty illness. The fact is, until Trang I’d had a couple of short colds, a very mild stomach illness from bad food in Nicaragua and that’s it in three years. Even not bothering with my malaria tablets. Superman. Well that idea came crashing down as I sweated and suffered in a hotel room for a week. It was really grim. I’d caught something weird, I’m sure, in the waiting room at the border two days ago
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A haircut, when I was well enough to ride. Barely well enough. Might as well look tidy though
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On to Hua Hin through a flu-ey haze. It was large, touristy and the main strip was like a Thai version of Vegas. The map below has a chunk missing as, to be as economical as possible with brain-space on the shoddy Garmin, I’m downloading precise tiles and scrapping old one’s as I go
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Beyond Hua Hin, still ill
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In a huge empty field
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This very nice monastery, excellent concrete work
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The only thing I saw in english
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Monks wandering around. Orange is the color, and I’ve recently learned that being born on a Thursday, in Thailand orange is my birth color too
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A classroom on the grounds, with a nice traditional blackboard
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Another temple off the road a bit. I lay in the shade on the grass here, wasted
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Many of these
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An enormous wild bee colony above the temple front door
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A monk building something
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Here you go, my first Thai monk close-up. He’s cementing the post. Awesome dude
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Through a town, can’t remember which
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Into Bangkok. A very brief post
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Which was a bit like I had imagined, riding in
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The river Chao Phraya meanders through central Bangkok. Most of the significant temples are riverside. Despite the wealth, it’s not a built up as you’d think. All kinds of boats, from countless ferries, to long tails, to huge barges
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Ferry terminal. These are dotted regularly along the river
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Typical building on the riverfront
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In contrast, a few of these
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Vegetation grows everywhere it can
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The streets are lined with food stalls
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There were two priorities in Bangkok. Getting fit again and getting our China visa. The Chinese embassy was crazy. After completing all the paperwork carefully in advance I hit a wall here. For three days I queued all morning, only to be told on the final morning that, despite the fact I was entering on a motorcycle, they wanted an air ticket in and out corresponding with the daily itinerary I attached. I explained this was impossible. They explained it had to be that way. So I emailed the group I’m entering with (the first time) and they said apply in Chiang Mai
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Chiang Mai airport, just a short flight
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Cops taking a selfie outside the Chinese embassy. Instead of waiting for hours for a turn at an immigration window we walked in, saw one other person, and had our visa in 6 hours. Incredible. But more than that, we had a better visa than we anticipated. More on this in a couple of months when we test it
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A couple of tourist things in Bangkok, of the many. Tons of tourists everywhere
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This is the head of the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. It’s an incredible 130 feet long
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A temple at Wat Pho
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Monks at Wat Pho
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And the above is all the tourist stuff I’m going to cover from that point of view. We have a more intimate and I thought more interesting traditional experience in a future post from the town of Phitsanulok, where there were no tourists.

The night flower market. They claim it’s the largest in the world. Certainly it would take hours to walk around everything. The reason for it is to service the huge daily need for fresh flowers, offerings each morning by everyone from businesses to individual homes. Each night the growers bring in the flowers from the country and the entire lot is sold off to distributors before dawn
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Lit corridors of flowers at about 11:00 pm
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Another essential thing to do is to tour the canals that branch off the river by longtail boat. Unable to find a boat to charter solo, despite what I said above I grabbed a tour with 5 Germans. They were really great but drank a ton of beer they bought from little floating vendors and got noisy. Off we went
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Just a few pictures. It was special
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This was a canal intersection, complete with a sign
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Schools of a type of catfish being fed bread from a dock
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Drowned World, JG Ballard we thought
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A fancy residence
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The catfish
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