From Dismal to Charming - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

January 8, 2017

From Dismal to Charming

Trat to Khlung

Dear little friends,

We woke up in our humble guesthouse and the internet, if it had ever worked at all, was still not working. This was something we remembered about Thailand, that internet service was spotty and slow, which is odd for a country that arguably is the most developed in SE Asia. Vietnam, no matter how far into the hinterlands we were or how funky the establishment, had with few exceptions screaming-fast internet. One can draw conclusions from that about a country’s priorities.

A lot of cyclists stop in Trat, we knew. We weren’t quite sure why unless they were heading to an island, which we were definitely not. So we set out to explore a little.

Trat’s dismal mien was not improved by morning sunlight. The buildings were still exceptionally mildewed, even for the tropics, and the annoying chirps of recorded swifts were as grating as they had been in Ha Tien. We had heard we could find “ancient Thai coffee” in the market so went a-searching for that and we found it, drank it, enjoyed it, and then found a place to get a sim card for Bruce’s phone. It was our kind of phone shop, the young ladies in funereal black trimmed the card, inserted it for him, and walked over to the machine and activated and topped it up for us. Whew.

"Cafe Boulan" - Old style Thai coffee found in the central markets or on the street from vendors.
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Trat had a great eating area inside the central market. One of the best things about Trat.
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Even though it was nearly 11 and we had no idea where we wanted to end up that evening we decided it was not Trat, so we quickly packed up and left the Garden Home guesthouse. The sun seemed brighter and life was more fun even though we had to go back onto Highway 3 for awhile. We stopped at a small coffee kiosk and had iced coffee and mapped out an exit strategy for smaller coastal roads. I also was able to message envy-inducing photos of our coffee to snowbound Portlanders, which is always an upside to travel, the chance to gloat a little.

Spirit house pedestals.
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Spirit houses are now mostly made of cement and are not as cute as the wood ones were.
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Sign outside a fish company.
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A herd of green elephants.
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Happy to be in Thailand and ordering iced coffee.
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Iced coffee
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After a noodle soup stop we found our turn off of the highway and were merrily enjoying the backroad when we found ourselves on a street in a town that seemed full of old-style Thai wooden houses. Not the gussied-up polished ones of Chiang Khan so popular with nostalgic Thai tourists, but still in their simple weathered teak condition. It was pretty charming and Bruce stopped to take a lot of photos. We liked it so much we thought maybe we should stay in this cute town so on the spur of the moment we found a 24 hours guesthouse that didn’t look seedy, run by two older gals who seemed happy to see us.

Noodle soup lunch.
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One of the strangest things we've seen in Thailand. We think it was a place for police to sit under.
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Thailand is getting as strange as Japan.
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Old old house in Khlung with a public water dispenser outside. One liter of water for three cents.
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Our room was spacious, with a “sitting room” that nicely accommodated our bikes, a hubba-hubba wall mirror next to the absolutely rock-hard bed, and was completely spotless. The tv worked and had a channel devoted to old-time Thai musicians so of course Bruce had to record several songs.

Old time music being played on TV.
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Where to eat, where to eat. The wifi worked, we found a market area nearby, and strolled over to find it thronged with food and clothing vendors, more food than we had ever seen in any market before, tables and tables of trays of exquisitely authentic Thai food, the kind of food they eat at home, not the stoplight curries and pad thai or fried rice of Thai restaurants. We kind of went nuts, buying fruit, little plastic bags of curries, fish-in-banana-leaf (x2), sticky rice. There was also a little store for water, coffee mix, and hair conditioner. Just in the nick of time because I was about to run out of my Vietnamese Dau Xa.

The special Sunday night market in Khlung, Thailand. This was some of the best food of our entire trip so far.
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Khlung, Thailand Sunday night market.
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Khlung, Thailand Sunday night market.
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Khlung, Thailand city shrine. Most cities have city shrines centrally located. This one is in the central market.
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Along with food, clothes at the special Sunday night market in Khlung, Thailand.
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Walking back to our room with our goods we passed an even nicer hotel that does not show up on Google maps, so if you are ever in Khlung, there is a posh alternative to the Chimplee Hotel right down the block. Khlung was a hidden treasure of a place, with great food, an authentically preserved non-touristy working wooden-house neighborhood, and really friendly people. We never would have discovered its charms unless we had been on bicycles off of the main road. It was a real slice of Thailand and we love, love, loved it.

Old buildings in Khlung, Thailand.
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An unusual number of old buildings in downtown Khlung, Thailand.
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Today's ride: 28 miles (45 km)
Total: 1,454 miles (2,340 km)

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