A 1927 survey of ten department stores in the USA, reported that pink was preferred for boys in six of them and for girls in four. Even now, in Italy, most men will happily throw a pink cashmere sweater over their shoulders with not a second thought for its colour, but much on its logo.
So, Pink as both gender specific and cultural is a thing of north of the northern bits of the world, and surprisingly modern. Pink is Thailand’s brown, or something like that. You would not expect a lorry on London’s M25 to have pink wheel nuts and a paint scheme influenced by Floyd’s Acid Rock Period. Unless of course, that lorry had made its way to the outskirts of London from Thailand. It would not get far. Overloaded, it would attract far too much attention, and would be pulled over by the police for the two dozen traffic laws it would be braking even if it was in neutral with the engine off.
In Thailand busses and lorries are works of art. They are the Strutting Peacocks of the road. They are dazzling and beautiful, right down to their pink wheel nuts, and they know it.
We were up and away early into the stillest of gentle mornings. Boats were leaving the harbour as we rode around the coast to the temple complex near Prachuap Khiri Khan. It is massive. Perhaps the most beautiful that we have yet seen, and a cultural highlight of the area. Bit surprising then that it is not signed. We use the gps and make an educated guess.
We can link together all of the quiet roads that run closest to the sea. This is wonderful touring, and again we thank the US military for the use of their satellites. It can not last, and of course it does not. After 18Km, we return to riding the shoulder of highway 4. I am starting to dislike this road.
The landscape is much more agriculturally productive and certainly a good deal flatter. It is pineapple growing heartland and once more, travel is a great teacher of the dumb. In my mind, pineapples grow on trees, much like apples and coconuts. But there they are in rows like carrots. Who would have thought?
We turn from the 4 as soon as we can find a logical road. We are on a minor road making our way along the coast towards Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. When we get to its border we are pulled over and made to pay a ludicrus amount of money for using the road through the park. Of course there are shrines to be seen, but theses are down side roads that we do not want to go down. We appear to have paid to see fish farms. There are dozens of them, sitting here on the flat land and being fed with water from the surrounding hills. Nothing looks natural.
Things improve once we are out of the park. We take a bungalow at what must be one of the most perfect spots in Thailand. We have the beach almost to ourselves and water as warm as bath water. Sam Roi Yot beach is sublime in the Victorian sense of the word. Within two dozen kilometres there are tourist complexes and golf courses with people desperate to have the best week or so of their year. We will not know this till we ride out in the morning, and wonder then why the two places are so different.
We ride through fishing villages and small harbours, all busy with making a living from the sea. There can not be a single small fish, big fish or squid left to catch. It is bustling, brightly coloured and smells to high heaven, of course it does.
Just 40Km later and we are back on a busy road. It is busier than we have been used to, as we start to enter the influence of Bangkok. It is now close enough for a weekend retreat or a bit of speculation on a holiday home. Condominium, can there be a more horrible word. Well yes, ‘ TRUCKFEST ‘ but that is not really a word. ” Phase 2 ready for pre-purchase “. These are all depressing things to read on a sign, but here they are, and here again.
It may be that we are nearing Bangkok, and it may possibly be that we are just now starting to notice this. We sit having coffee and the third northern European in ten minutes passes. He is short, balding and carrying 20kg that he has put on since he turned 30. Like the previous two, he has on his arm the most stunning of Thai girls. His neck is thicker than her waist.
We take a room. Our money is getting us less with every Kilometre but still we are next to a beach. There are German accents along with Scandiwegan and walking poles for Nordically walking up and down the sea front. There is a Karaoke festival, with bus loads of happy Thais. Lights, a stage and a massive PA and a big crowd out to dance around to even the most caterwauling of noises. A blind girl is helped onto the stage and the microphone put in her hands. Her backing track is minimal. No guitar and synth rock anthem for her. She can sing. The crowd go crazy and many rush to the front with money. She does three numbers as a shopping bag is brimmed with cash.
Again, it is perfectly still as the sun rises out of the Gulf of Thailand. First Mangrove swamp, then fields of stubble from recently harvested corn. Then, for no obvious reason there is salt production on an industrial scale. 40Km of salt pans, as sea water is carefully managed and encouraged to evaporate into cakes of salt. It is blindingly hot and more than a little repetitive to bike through. Salt storage barns dot the flat land and the dark shapes of workers are visible for miles.
We have a bit of a tail wind and do not stop until 50Km. As ever, we plead for ” Not too spicy “. ” My pet!! “, a phonetic plea. It is understood, but mostly ignored. Just 2 chillies rather than 10, but it still burns. There is no comprehension that you can eat a meal with less than 2 chilies.
2.00pm and 37′c, we have done enough after 70Km and track down a ‘ Homestay ‘ that is near. They ask an unbelievable price for a night in a shed. We make our way to a municipal building for help. They are easy to find. Mostly recently painted, lots of Thai flags, and a range of photos of the King and Queen ranging from twice life-size down.
An eager young man is dispatched on a moped to take us to the hotel ” Follow “. We do, and of course he takes us straight to the rip-off place we left 15 minutes ago. The second place, we would not have found in a million years. It is by the river and the price is more reasonable. The bungalow is one of the business enterprises of a family of 50. They range from an ice making factory to a shop in Bangkok selling handbags. We sit on the porch and are bought up to speed on the life of the family.
We cross over the bridge as we leave the village of Bang Tabun. To our right is our last view of the sea until many thousands of kilometres away when we get to the Black Sea. It is a significant moment.
The humidity has kicked in again. The short climb to crest the bridge has me sweating beads onto the gps screen. Legs feel heavy today as we were kept awake by a Gekko in the roof void and the unsilenced scream of fishing boat engines as they passed all night long.
We are on busy roads, most of which carry traffic that is in a hurry to be in Bangkok. We can go West, and string minor roads together to pick up another main road. It is as busy as the first. The 325 is trying our patience. It is two years to the day since we started our journey and almost 30,000Km. Most have been nicer than this.
We end the day at a Motel – we had to ride in the wrong direction to get to it and we have made a navigational blunder that has put 10 Km on the day. I am worn out and not in the best of moods. The owners cheer us up. More than that, they cook for us, which is wonderful and we did not have a ‘ Plan B ‘.
Luckily, the next days ride into Mueang Nakhon Pathom is blessedly short. A tangled knot of roads at the top left of the gps screen and we are getting near. The gps has the hotel programmed, but it is still a nightmare. We try to follow the purple pixels, but make a couple of errors. The Whale Hotel, it is shabby but comfortable enough in an Eastern Block sort of a way. It looks like it may one day make its way into the news following an outbreak of Legionnaires, but at the moment it is our home from home.
We tip the porter a descent tip. He will look after our bikes and we want his best attention. Like all tipping here in Thailand the process is embarrassing all round. It is concluded with bowing all round and we are shown to our room. An air conditioning unit takes up a square metre and it looks more like an upright piano that you would find in a school music room. We are immeasurably pleased to be here, we need a bit of a rest.