A New Year - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

January 1, 2024

A New Year

Prang Ku to Sangkha

About to leave our nice guest house as soon as the sun came up.
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A New Year

We woke to loads of birds singing at sunrise of the new year.  Both Andrea's favorite, the koel, and mine, the counting bird (coppersmith barbet ), dueting.  We smiled at their odd duet, odd because each has an odd song.   The barbet has a single note repeated over and over like a metronome.  There were frogs too.  They make funny, low-register rumblings, not croaking as you would know it and unlike any sound I've ever heard.  I love them.  They are sounds you hear, figure they must be frogs, and then you look at the other person with a different kind of smile, an endearing sort of smile because they are frogs and who doesn't like frogs!  

I wanted to make a stop on the way, early, while the sun was low.  It was an ancient Angkor era monument, not a big important one so it wouldn't take a lot of time.  But I say, if you are in the area of a thousand-year-old monument that is still standing, more or less, you must go see it even if it is out of your way.  This time I was lucky and Prasat Prang Ku was on our route only five miles down the road from our guest house.

Those five miles were magical.  We largely had the road to ourselves in the beautiful early morning sunshine.  The new year's revelers were still dead to the world and fortunately not on the road yet.  It was just us and the birds, lots of birds.  Often the road was between waterways on either side that were filled with magenta water lilies.  A certain kind of palm had been planted along the road too.  It produces a small blackish-purple fruit that doesn't look much like a coconut.  We had heard they were delicacies when we were last in Burma and eventually bought some but they were awful, we thought.  Maybe we didn't know how to eat them.  They were very astringent and we couldn't eat them.  I'm not sure how they are used but the road was lined with them providing some beautiful shade.  Between the straight smooth palm trunks were rhythmic flashes of magenta water lilies and sunlight bouncing off the water.  Music wafted across fields from distant farmhouses and we were basically in heaven, finally on a small road riding side by side in Thailand.   

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Swallows
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There is a new interesting phenomenon in Thailand that we are witnessing for the first time.  At least in this region the rice farmers are not actually burning their rice stubble after harvesting.  They are baling it!  We have seen lots of bales of rice straw here and there.  We saw bales set on the ground in between rubber trees in their long row plantations.  Maybe the theory is that the straw absorbs moisture and gives it off slowly for the trees to stay hydrated when it doesn't rain.  

At our coffee stop yesterday there were three or four rice straw bales sitting around next to the normal picnic table seating.  These bales were wrapped tightly in saran wrap to make them more comfortable to a larger number of people.  I have never seen such a thing but I thought it was a great idea.  And they did feel really nice to sit on.

Typical Thai humor; "Fragile!" If there is one thing that could not be fragile it's a bale of rice straw.
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The most surprising use of the rice bales that we saw involved the lead up to New Year's.  The piles of rice bales are stacked in small areas in the fields or out by barns.  We saw that young people had set up enormous banks of speakers next to the big stacks of straw bales.  It was obvious a New Year's Eve party would take place there.  We saw several of these places last evening and at some they were all ready to rock and they were testing the speakers.  Some of the bales were placed singly on the ground for seating.  The Thais are so interesting.  They seem to have really taken to the rice bales and no doubt will be using them for a lot of things.  This is how change takes place.  The smoke from burning the rice fields has to stop.  If rice bales are good for the new popular hootenanny spots or at coffee houses, the world is all for it.  

I've also been seeing lots of rice stubble not being burned and left in the paddies to be plowed back into the ground.  Why on earth (literally) have they not done this for a thousand years?  Maybe the easiest answer is that now they have better machinery to plow it back in.  To do it with a water buffalo and a single plow blade they probably said forget it and burned the paddies.  Whatever the reasons are, it is great to not be breathing smoke.  The Thais will lead the way in not burning of rice stubble.  The problem of the smoke will persist, though, because of the surrounding countries which are all less affluent.  Unfortunately the smoke from those other countries funnels down all the many valleys in northern Thailand into the south.  ASEAN, the group of SE Asian countries needs to have serious talks about the smoke problem and come to a consensus and plan.  That's the only way things will really change.  They all must change their ways but until then, I'm proud of some Thai farmers leading the way.

I'm almost certain this rice stubble will be plowed into the soil. At least I hope they don't burn it. I don't think they would be flooding the field if they were going to burn it. The water is to loosen the clay for easier plowing.
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Yes, we did get to Prasat Prang Ku and it was lovely in the early morning light.  Three towers in a row - the two outer ones leaning outwards protecting the middle tower from as much entropy.  It was still standing straight and tall after a thousand years!  This ancient monument was nothing much but I do love to marvel at things so old that humans made, albeit slave labor no doubt.  It's also interesting to see how far the reach of Angkor was.  There are remnants of Khmer temples from the Angkor era all across Isaan (Northeast Thailand).  I hope to see more of them on our way across.

Prasat Prang Ku - Khmer - Angkor era. Prasat means 'sanctuary'. These monuments are scattered far and wide. They were places for people to pray and leave offerings but they were also meant to let everyone know who ruled these parts.
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Prasat Prang Ku - Angkor era Khmer.
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There were three of these, all different, for over the doorways of each tower. It's a wonder that all three are intact. They must have fallen at some point.
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I'm not sure why the offering of choice is a bright red soda of some sort. We see it everywhere. I'd like to get to the bottom of this.
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Kristen ArnimI bet the people that lived thousands of years ago would love bright red soda.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Kristen ArnimI never thought of that but you are right.
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1 month ago
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Jen RahnThose eyes!

Perhaps the lingering effect of a nightmare about The Tingler?
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1 month ago
We stopped here early for noodle soup, right after we visited the ruins.
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This was the tastiest soup we've had.
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It was a lovely day of riding.  The morning temperatures, especially the humidity level, has come down a bit to make for a comfortable ride but only until about noon.  Then the temperature will consistently go to 92 everyday.  That is between five and ten degrees above normal.  So, we deal with it.  We start at sunrise which is now at 6:30 and we can get where we want to by noon, no problem.  Our bikes are working well now although Andrea says one of her higher gears is non-existent.  

Every now and then you will see a temple in the distance. So many temples in Thailand and all of them are beautiful, peaceful places. This one is unique because I've never once seen writing on the roof. I wish I knew what it says.
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Scott AndersonUndoubtedly an advertisement. A burger shop?
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonMaybe, "Don't forget, chid for sale in the meeting hall."
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1 month ago
I haven't shown any crematories yet so here is one of the nicest I've ever seen.
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The much revered old (former/deceased) king isn't fading.
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The new king, on the other hand, is nearly invisible. It would be classic Thai to knowingly print his image on paper that would fade quickly. This would be the Thai way of saying something. No one will say a word about the new king but everyone knows he is the opposite of his father and therefore not liked in the least.
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We've noticed dogs are more numerous than in the other three previous countries we've been in and they are more willing to chase us.  In the other countries our panniers scared them so much that they usually went and hid.  They have never seen such things rattling around on bikes. They are better fed in Thailand and are bigger in size too.  But so far they have not been a big problem.  Sometimes they are just bored and when we show up they are so rested and ready for something new and different that they can't help themselves but to run after us.  

It's mostly small roads we're on now amidst rice paddies.  Unfortunately the rice has been harvested.  If it was all various shades of green we were seeing it would be a much more beautiful sight but we are seeing only brown dryness.  But, if we were seeing green the heat and humidity would be the same as the first few weeks of our trip.  We are definitely enjoying the cooler, drier mornings.  

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This is the typical caretaker's house in the middle of a rubber plantation.
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After four days of doing nothing but sitting around by the side of roads under big tents, drinking coffee, eating snacks and talking to each other, the traffic cops at this site are topping off their jamboree by taking some group photos so they can remember how much fun it was. I even saw two cops giving each other massages. I wonder if the normal New Year's carnage on the roads in Thailand was any improved this year.
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One of the highlights of my day was when I was pondering that age-old question about chickens when all of a sudden a chicken came out of nowhere and got spooked by my bicycle.  I mean, that chicken got really spooked and flew up in front of me at eye level squawking loudly and with lots of flapping of wings the whole time as if I had demon red eyes and was wielding a newly sharpened machete above my head intending for it to come down on the chicken's neck while it was airborne.  But I was just riding a bike!  Then, a whole bunch of dogs started barking and running around without knowing why but their chicken friend was freaking out so they better also.  They had no idea what was going on, and, well, none of us did especially that chicken.  It was a complete explosion of chaos as we entered that sleepy little village and the chicken nearly landed in my lap!  I could hear Andrea behind me laughing.  It was quite the entrance we made to that tiny village and it all happened in an instant.  No one there knew what was going on either but Andrea tells me they were laughing and at the same time trying to yell at their dogs.  I just shook my head and kept riding....chickens man!  Why couldn't that chicken have simply crossed the road?  I would have understood that.

Happy New Year!

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Mark LellmanDon't you just wonder?
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1 month ago

lovebruce

Today's ride: 30 miles (48 km)
Total: 658 miles (1,059 km)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesNot so sure if trading plastic wrapped rice straw bales for burning stubble is such a good idea. Plowing the straw back in though..... chickens are truly birdbrained, haha.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonGreat that you had such a promising start to the year. Here’s hoping the cooler conditions hang on for awhile.
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1 month ago
Gregory GarceauInteresting analysis of the burning vs. baling of rice stubble. I wonder what the Thai word for "hootenanny" is.
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1 month ago
Mark LellmanWhy no chicken/dog photos? What were you doing anyway? Reminds me of Lisa's attack by a grouse, while we were riding mountain bikes on thin trails near the boundary waters. It went for the holes in her helmet, thinking that they were eyes. Nasty.
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonWhat a great day!
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Gregory GarceauA very good question indeed.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Rachael AndersonYes, we've had mostly great days. It's been very hot but we still have a great time each day. Even the most awful day, in the end we could still laugh about it.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonThe humidity is down which makes a huge difference. It's still 92 for a high every day but it's nice and cool in the mornings. We're still getting on the road exactly at sunrise which is now 6:30. This morning it was actually kind of cold to begin with. No complaints.
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1 month ago
Jen RahnI think that the chicken is back at home telling the young teenage chickens the scary story about Boof, the Chicken Tingler.
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1 month ago