The Curious Monk - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

January 7, 2017

The Curious Monk

Khlong Yai to Trat

The Curious Monk

As we entered the town of Khlong Yai the night before we had seen a man standing in front of his house and we stopped to ask him if there was a hotel in town. This is very unusual for us. Usually we blast into town and find a place to stay ourselves. But he looked at us as if he wanted to either be of help or talk to us. It turned out he spoke English quite well and he also owned the nice coffee shop next to his house which we had eyed. It was too late for us to drink coffee but we promised him we would return in the morning.

One look at that coffee shop and I was pretty sure it was the same one our friend Kat Marriner had mentioned. She and her husband, Willie Weir, had cycled the same route through Cambodia and into Thailand a few years ago. When we were researching the road through no-man’s-land in Cambodia we had written to Kat asking advice. She wrote back telling us how hot and hard that ride had been and that she had nearly wept upon finding a nice coffee shop in Thailand. She said it had an inner garden courtyard.

In the morning the man was excited we had returned. The inner courtyard was centered around a pond filled with the most big, beautiful, healthy koi I think I have ever seen. Obviously they were well cared for. The man who owned the place had worked in the airline industry in California for many years - thus his excellent English. He was retired and maybe was always on the lookout for tourists like ourselves with whom to talk in order to keep his English. His coffee was excellent and we sat and chatted with him for quite some time.

The inner courtyard of the coffee house.
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Koi
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Koi
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It’s always interesting to learn a Thai person’s take on what is going on in their own country. Rare to find a Thai who has enough knowledge of English to explain the details. We had only been in Thailand a few hours and really didn’t have a feel for its pulse yet. The available TV stations in our room told us that nothing had changed in that regard in the two years we had been absent. There was little news of Thailand and no news of the world. There were no stations in English such as CNN or BBC, common in neighboring countries. Internet was non-existent at our hotel. The coffee house didn’t have wifi either. Similar hotels and coffee houses in Vietnam would certainly have wifi and it would have been excellent wifi. I was already on the track of believing that information in Thailand was being suppressed by the government.

To my surprise the man thought that the acting prime minister (dictator) was doing a good job of ridding the country of corruption. I don’t believe that for an instant. I had read somewhere that the economy was doing well in Thailand and possibly that is all most Thais need in order to be happy. The King had died but nothing horrible had happened after that. The country had survived. The transition to the new king went on without violence. The country was moving forward and if there is no violence in the process maybe that is the best outcome.

We told the owner of the beautiful koi that if Thailand is truly a democracy there should be elections. If the guy currently at the top wanted to run for prime minister that would be more fair than simply taking over in a military coup. The man didn’t have one word to say in response. I think most humans spend most of their lives carving out a safe and comfortable place for themselves and if they get really comfortable on the boat they certainly don’t want to rock it. This man was obviously quite well off. He wanted things to go on without problems. And, we all want that but I don’t have much regard for dictators who control people and the press.

He was fun to talk with but we had to get going. Unfortunately we were forced to ride on the big highway curiously called Sukhumvit Road; a long extension of the same road which originates in Bangkok. We got off it whenever we found smaller roads parallel and closer to the beaches. At those times we were in a lazy tropical paradise. Beaches were deserted and there were few resorts. We again felt the spirt of our friends Kat and Willie at one beach and were pretty sure it was where they camped.

Old style houses on the beach are so sweet.
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Tunnels of green.
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We crossed several rivers near to where they emptied into the ocean.
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Many deserted beaches.
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These red things are seed pods of the pandanus plant. Pandanus leaves are sometimes used to flavor drinking water at restaurants. It adds a lovely flavor I associate with my first visit to Thailand when it seemed like every restaurant flavored their water with pandanus.
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Thailand is full of flowers.
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Phone booths are a thing of the past.
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Just take a right at the dolphin.
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Then we came upon a unique fishing village on a river just upstream from the ocean where all the houses and stores are on stilts above the water. The cement sidewalk is between them and their moored fishing boats. Very colorful. It’s called Mai Rut.

We took a break from riding our route and rode on the raised sidewalks for fun. Fun, but if one little thing goes wrong it would be a catastrophe. To take things to another level I did a video while riding. There is a nearby resort not on stilts over water but we had heard it was out of our price range. It would have been more interesting had there been a guest house right in the fishing village. Maybe someday. Even a restaurant would have been a unique experience.

Mai Rut, Thailand
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Mai Rut, Thailand
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Mai Rut, Thailand
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Mai Rut, Thailand
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Cheeky girl.
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High Way 3 or Sukhumvit Road.
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Back on the big highway in the afternoon we saw some very dark clouds heading our way. We were sure it would be a passing storm but we didn’t want to dig out rain gear. Instead we pulled into a temple. There was a row of Buddha statues outside with a roof. We parked there. I wanted to see the inside of the temple and lounging at the feet of the big Buddha inside was an old monk. Another younger monk was sweeping.

The older monk jumped up when he saw me. He was super surprised I was there and had all sorts of questions for me, all in Thai. He used simple enough language that I understood most things and I could even answer him. When I thought he maybe had enough information to chew on, and scared that I would eventually hit the end of my known vocabulary, I exited through the back.

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I had told him that we were cycling and as soon as I was back with Andrea at the bikes the curious monk came out to see our bikes. He explored every detail of my bicycle close up. I mean, inches from his eyes. It was then I realized he was nearly blind. He felt panniers and how they attached, he felt pedals and brakes and when he discovered the bell he rang it repeatedly and called for the other monk to come see. The other monk didn’t materialize.

He had more questions for me. It was interesting how much he got out of me. In fact he got more Thai words from me than any Thai person in history. It was fun. We were actually communicating! He understood me!! It was the way he went about it. He’d ask me something and then had lots of patience while I mulled that around in my head and figured out how to answer him. In the meantime he kept looking at and feeling parts of both bicycles so there was no pressure at all. If I didn’t answer him it didn’t seem to matter to him, he just moved on to another angle of questioning. In all, I bet he got 85% of my known Thai vocabulary out of me.

The other monk came out to sweep the back porch but would not come over. I got the feeling he was rather tired of the curious monk. If someone is not curious about much, a very curious person might be a big bother to them. That’s how I saw the interaction. Maybe the curious monk was also just too much for anyone. I kind of enjoyed someone who was still very much alive and interested in things he couldn’t even see very well, if at all.

The Curious Monk
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The Curious Monk calling to his fellow monk to come see.
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The other monk never came over to see our bikes.
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It was not raining and the cloud now looked as if it might miss us or if it hit us it wouldn’t be that much rain. We told the monk we had to go. He told us it was going to rain and we should stay put. He even went as far as to tell us we should pitch our tent behind the row of Buddha statues. It would have been an experience to stay there overnight. He would have made sure we got fed and had everything else we needed. He was super nice and not pushy. But we kind of wanted to get to the big town of Trat for some reason.

He couldn’t believe we wanted to leave. He kept saying it was going to rain. We shrugged that it was no big deal and we rode off thanking him. As soon as we got to the highway we looked to our left and we saw a sheet of water coming down not far away. A car would enter it and disappear. And it was moving towards us. We sprinted on our bikes thinking we could outrun it but in a matter of seconds it had us engulfed.

It was a major downpour and we were not prepared and were quickly getting drenched. There was a house off the road a bit and several women there were calling and waving us over to get under cover. Coincidentally, cycling in the opposite direction were two Thai men who also ducked in with us. It poured on the metal roof as we all exchanged a bit of information in broken Thai and English. They were headed to where we had started and a bit further. Too late in the day for them as far as I was concerned. Even we had a bit of time to make up in order to get to Trat by dark and the rain was not helping. Soon we were back on the highway, a very wet highway and we did get to Trat before dark.

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For some reason I had always thought Trat would be a lovely city but it was not. It was a basic mid-sized Thai city. The buildings were all rather tired and old and streaked with mildew and mold. I’d say that most tourists entering Trat would be pretty grossed out.

We found an adequate guest house near to the market which, upon passing on the way in, I had noticed quite a tray food scene ramping up. In fact, I insisted we walk over to get our bags of food before having our showers because tray food has been known to run out. We walked over and got an array of tasty traditional Thai foods out of stainless steel trays; my favorite. Back in our room we filled our bowls and ate. I turned on the TV and flipped through all the worthless broadcasts one after another. As I did so I thought of the curious monk. As bored as he must be even he wouldn’t find anything interesting on TV, much less be able to see it.

lovebruce

Central market, Trat, Thailand
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Take away dinner in our room.
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Today's ride: 49 miles (79 km)
Total: 1,426 miles (2,295 km)

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