I got pretty exhausted yesterday afternoon. A fresh pineapple helped revive me a bit, but I struggled. I left the main highway and headed towards teh national park. Route finding was a bit tricky, but I followed signs for a reort near teh beach.
I got to the town near the beach and national park campground, but it was dark by then and I couldn't find the campsite. I caused lots of interest and amusement cycling around the village at dusk among everyone out on the street. I asked about a place to sleep and one boy got me to follow him on his moped out of the village to the beach in the dark (me getting a bit nervous). We rode along the beach, then he stopped and pointed at a dark building and drove off.
I approached two guys who were drinking outside a hut nearby. They made a phonecall, then took me to the dark building and turned on the lights. It was a super-plush resort. They called the owner who spoke a little English. He wanted 3,000 Baht! 42 pounds!
I retraced my steps along the beach and went back to the edge of the village. There were a few teenagers sitting around in a very informal cafe, so I went in. I said I was veggie to the girl who seemed to work there. this caused much debate. Luckily I remembered the word for egg thta the German taught me the night before (kai), so I had that and rice.
I became a big object of curiosity. By the end there must have been 12 or so folk there. The really like to joke. They joked about one guy not being Thai. They joked about me being tall and they short. So I joked in sign language about me being tall but no muscles, and them being short but strong. The asked where I was staying, and I explained that the hotel was too expensive, and learned the word for expensive (paeng). One boy was the most chatty offered to have me sleep at his mother and uncle's next door. They were brought along and said OK. I gave the uncle one of the whisky miniatures that I'd brought with me.
I brought out my phrasebook and we spent the evening chatting slowly. The boy, Kabpon, and his uncle, Banlu, are fishermen. We sat around on the veranda of their house with their neighbours on the bamboo deck outside. They had a cute wee rabbit running around, and three fish tanks.
I had a wash - very interesting system. There's one small square cement basin about a foot deep and two feet square with dirty water that I stood in. That same water is then used with a tub to flush the toilet. There's a big tank of clean water next to it with a fish in (to keep it clean?) I used a tub to pour clean water over myself. It felt a little chilly at first, but it was actually much better than any of the showers I've used so far in the guest houses. I even washed my hair!
They put out a mattress for me and I hung my mozzie net over it. The mother and youngest female cousin slept on one bed near me. The oldest female cousin and another guy slept in the only room with walls, and the uncle slept on the porch in a chair. I guess I had his bed. The son slept on his boat. It's amazing that they live in houses without many walls like that. I've been thinking for a couple of days how interesting the blurring between public and private space is here. It would make a very interesting geography essay.
I slept well (the night before I had a dream that I was in a really smokey remote jungle village where everyone was riding around on elephants. A tiger came out and roared, but it was just a noisy moped going past my window). I got up at 6.30 and breakfasted on rice and eggs. The grandfather offered to take me out on his boat. But just as we were about to set off guy came along and the grandfather had to go to the bank. They told meto wait until two o'clock. I didn't really understand what was going on. Also, while I was having breakfast a guy who lives next door came and sat with his back to me and was angry with the people I'd been staying with. I didn't understand why. I hope I've not got them in trouble.
I walked over the headland to the beach and national park campsite, and up the hill to a big limestone cave complex. It is stunning. I was in one big cav with a collapsed roof, when I saw a gap through to another similar cave with light streaming through. And there, bathed in sunshine, was a beautiful gold pagoda. I saw quite a few other farang (foreigners) there - 6 Germans, two russians, 2 English and 4 Swedish. I racked my brains for the few words I know in German ("that is beautiful") and Swedish ("sorry, I don't speak Swedish" - the only other phrase I know is how to ask someone to dance thanks to going to a swing dancing festival in Lund with Annika. I didn't think that would be particularly useful in a cave in thailand).
I went out on the boat for half an hour with the grandfather. it was really beautiful to see all the fishing boats along the river. I saw a crocodile! Or perhaps an alligator, I can never remember which. I didn't even realise they had them here!
After that I said goodbye, despite their offer for me to stay another night.
And again I slightly over-estimated how quickly I could cover the ground, and only just made it to my destination for the night at dusk. I don't know if it's the heat, or because I'm not used to working in kilometres. Most likely it's because since I was really fit after my ride in the States last year I have done very little exercise and drank too much beer. I got chatting to a nice Norwegian couple who said that it's remarkably cool weather at the moment this year - so actually I'm very lucky.
There's another german on a bike staying in the guesthouse, but I didn't really get to speak to him. But it seems like cycle touring is more common here than I 'd expected. The Norwegians said that they'd seen four farang on bikes in the last week.
I'm now in a place called Prachuap Khiri Khan, but I don't think I'll hang around. I'll cycle about 60 km south tomorrow and hopefully get there in time to go to the beach. The next day I'll go another 80 or 90 km and get the ferry to Ko Pha Ngan or one of the other islands around there and hang around for the full moon party.