Often when you travel, you come across things that are so wonderful that you want to have them when you return home. ‘ How can this be here and not elsewhere? ‘, as you eat a fruit or drink something. Why are people so happy here? or how come everyone is full of enthusiasm?
You see ‘ Angry Birds ‘ and ‘ David Beckham ‘ across continents, and they have spread far quicker than a geological heartbeat. So, why can’t simple good ideas travel? Take the convention on steps and stairs. Most of northern Europe’s architecture is influenced by the Greeks at first, and then the Romans by fighting and conquering people. This is why, just about every municipal building has Doric Columns. You can throw in the White House and include all of North America with that.
Building codes are the distant echo of Doric order, and believe me, they have a lot to say about steps and stairs on every continent but Asia. The pitch, the rise, the tread, the spacing all prescribed. It makes for a predictability, a rhythm that means that you don’t have to watch your feet all the time.
Why the simple concept of the reliable step has not made it to Asia Is beyond me. The unexpected drop is out to get you here, and at the same time as the eye level awning most likely. You need your wits about you.
That is just the thing – you need your wits about you all of the time. The last few hundred kilometres had little that should have tired us out, but they have. Little changes to things that we had come to take for granted, now gone and our rhythm broken.
It is 6.40 am and we hand over two bananas. We get four Roti pancakes that are plain and one filled to bursting with two bananas. Somehow the concept was not clear. It is already 25’c, a full 6’c warmer than we have our thermostat for our home.
We climb out of Takua Pa, towards thick jungle. Brightly painted buses are doing the ‘ school run’, in the opposite direction. Benches full of bright white shirts that mothers have turned out from clearing homes with vigorous hand washing. We get coachloads of waves and smiles.
We are on Highway 4, the main road the takes you north on the west coast of Thailand. Not since riding through Astoria in the USA on ‘ flag day ‘, has the road had so many flags. There is one every few metres and they go on for kilometres here.
They could be celebrating the quality of the tarmac for all I know. It is perfect, strangely so, and with a bright white line showing where us and the mopeds should be. This being Thailand, you can expect the mopeds to be coming towards you, on your side.
A few undulations, but an unremarkable day. Then towards the end of our ride, we spot our third and fourth touring cyclist of the day. This is amazing and probably half a year since it last occurred. We pick a spot, and pull up for a chat. It turns into an embarrassing social situation. It is a clash of noses during a first date kiss. It is worse. They do not stop. They do not have the common courtesy to wave.
We are on the Bangkok cycle touring mainline and these will be the first of a number of cycle tourists on a mission that we will pass. Fly in and push the pace down the coast to the resorts and then on to a flight home. It is a perfect plan and we used to do it, but we always had enough time to wave.
We end the day at Suk Samran and are up the next morning at 6.30. We have been running along the coast of the Andaman Sea for some time now. Often passing memorials to the Tsunami victims of 2004. Last night we listened to our usual BBC downloaded podcast treats. It included a review of a new film called The Impossible, about the disaster. It put us in a somber mood as we lay there in a bed, in a bungalow that must have been right in the path of the wave.
We find a Roti seller, and Esther does her usual order. Blank looks and we are onto mime.’ Three for him and I want two ‘. We sit and eat but the second and subsequent Roti do not come. It is beyond belief, beyond comprehension that anyone would want more than one. We pay, smile and leave.
We go well in the morning, but by midday I am flagging dreadfully. We have done good distance because of the early start, but now I catch myself playing mind games. I am watching the trip computer far too much. ‘ We will stop at the next nice stall ‘. Three pass, judged not quite good enough. I know I want to do another 20 Km and only want to stop with 10 Km to go.
The unequal battle with motivation is lost at 62 Km, when a nice cheap hotel comes along. We know by now to expect a firm bed, but this one sets a new standard in firmness. Take the serviette from your lap and now fold it just twice. That there is the level of ‘ give ‘.
We rise again early to beat the heat. Twice in the first 20 Km I stop to inspect the bike. There are insects and birds here that make noises similar to a touring bike in distress. It is always a good idea to come to a halt to listen for the noise continuing. There are some that make noises like kitchen appliances for which you will soon be looking for the receipt. Many of them do it at night which is not restful at all. At 2.00 in the morning it sounded as if a monkey was on the roof and then trying to get in through the window.
It is all stuff we are not used to. I am sure the sound of a fox barking or an Owl hooting would have you awake for hours if you did not know them. We are far from fresh as we cycle towards Ranong. It is getting hot and rather busy with traffic.
We pick up some WiFi and book a hotel ahead in the town. I am having decision overload fatigue and only the constant waving and smiling Thai people are helping. We read a review of a hotel ” Just across the road you can get the best banana Roti I have ever tasted”. Two nights booked then.