Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday 29th Jan, Khun Yuam

Today's ride was only 65 miles, but my legs were really tired from yesterday. I got up at 7 and had breakfast at the guesthouse - omlette and toast. I then set off, but quickly stopped at a couple of roadside stalls - one selling the tasty small round chewy banana and coconut fried things, the other selling yams deep fried in batter (not v. tasty, but I'd never tried them before). A few miles later outside town I stopped at a really friendly woman's stall selling sliced banana deep fried in a batter with sesame seeds. Delicious. I saved most for snacking on the road.

The morning's ride was rolling along the valley, and not particularly interesting with my tired legs. I stopped after 20 miles for another breakfast of Kaa Pad Kai (egg fried rice with veg) then carried on, stopping an hour or so later at a beautiful cafe in amongst vast 300 year old trees. And from there the ride began to get really beautiful. It went up over the one pass of the day into a beautiful narrow winding quiet valley in the hills.

I noticed the Japanese guy from the guesthouse stopped at the side of the road, so pulled over to say hi. He really is touring on that trial bike! He's got a 30 litre rucksack balanced on his handlebars, with his beautiful panama hat balanced on top of that. We chatted a bit. He's been basically on the same route as me, but he took the main road through the mountains where I went via the more northern road with the police and the teachers and scouts. I stopped to get water and he carried on. He didn't seem to into riding together, which was a pity.

A few beautiful miles after that, feeling tired, three guys at the side of the road shouted something in Thai, I think they were asking where I was going. I decided to stop and chat, and they poured me a glass of ice cold Chang beer in the warm afternoon, and that was me for the next hour or so. They were three Karen farmers. One spoke pretty good English, so we chatted lots. He farms up in the hills towards the Burmese border. His main crop is peanuts and garlic, but he also has water buffalo, pigs, bananas, etc. He isn't religious, one friend was Christian, and the other Buddhist. Interesting to see such a mix. In the non-tribal area of Thailand pretty much everyone's Buddhist, except in the south (like where I was in Krabi/Ko Phi Phi) where there are a lot of Muslims. Another of his friends joined us for beer - he drives elephants for logging. They were a great bunch - so friendly and generous and fun. They were constantly joking and punching each other. They taught me that Karen word for fun - Law Ni, as well as a few other useful Thai and Karen phrases. And every time my glass was more than an inch from the top it was topped up again. Eventually I said 'no more' (po law) and wobbled my way down the absolutely amazing 10 mile descent into the town of Khun Yuam.

It's strange. Although the Lonely Planet talks quite a lot of rubbish (for example it says that Thai people don't use chopsticks) and some of it's maps are pretty horrendous, usually its descriptions of places are pretty accurate. But it's description of this town is completely off the mark. I'd expected a tiny place like I was in two nights ago in Mae Salit - one or two cafes that closed at sunset, a couple of small guesthouses. But actually it's a big town stretching about 3 km along the road with loads of shops, cafes, two or three fairly classy places to stay, and the internet cafe where I'm writing this.

I've had a very hearty supper - a plate of pad thai (fried noodles & egg) at one tiny wee place, and a plate of some very spicey veg and rice at another.

I seem to write about food a lot... Sorry. But I eat so much and it's such an important part of my day. And it's so tasty!

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