Errand Day - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

February 2, 2024

Errand Day

In Chumphon

Dear little friends,

Bruce’s bike is misbehaving again, lots of clicking and other annoying sounds. We’re in the end zone of this trip and are just hoping we can keep it rolling until boarding the train to Bangkok, wish us luck on that!

Our room in Chumphon is nice, very spacious, rather under-furnished but good enough. The main draw was the breakfast buffet, of course. The bed was comfy enough but the pillow was too stiff and I slept later than usual, Bruce was opening the curtains (usually my role) because it was time to go downstairs and EAT.

In the breakfast room there were tons of spiffy looking business people in spiffy looking business attire. They were all sporting IDs on lanyards and greeting each other, the women clicking around in matching black pumps. This is something Thailand does a lot of, uniforms. You saw the children in their Scouting duds, they also have pretty standard school uniforms, PE day uniforms, nurses wear those little starched caps I haven’t seen since the 70s, there are lots of polo/khaki uniforms for all sorts of workers, hotels to assembly lines.

One big round table had 6 or 7 substantial looking guys loudly discussing something or other in a mix of English and some other language. They, too, had matching shirts, with maps on the back, which we eventually figured out were of Malaysia. Out in the parking lot were a similar number of big motorcycles with luggage boxes on them, it turned out they were a biker group touring up from Malaysia to some unknown destination up north.

So we had lots of company in the breakfast room. There were few Western options besides toast, but lots of wonderfully authentic Thai options, curries, soups, fruit, jok. Bruce hunched over his bowl of jok like Christmas morning, the mushroom and chicken rice porridge topped with ginger, peanuts, crispy shallots, green onions, and tiny dried fish. This was what he ate every morning with his Thai family in Chiang Mai in 1974. I jazzed up my jok similarly, even the dried fish, and it was outstanding.

Our day was going to be Errand Day, it was going to be hot (I know, shocking), we were lingering over our breakfast, accumulating small plates and bowls to an embarrassing extent before venturing out. The people watching was pretty good. We watched the corporate types taking photos of each other in the lobby in front of the cheesy decorations. We watched the bikers take forever in the hot sun to load up their stuff. They’re Malaysians, this is not hot to them. Three vans rolled up and the suits and heels disappeared into them, the bikes started with 6 or 7 rumbles and then off they all went. It was quiet. Show over.

The first place on our list was the bank. We try not to leave the country with excess baht so we’re constantly gauging how much to have on hand, we stopped into two banks and checked out their currency rates, which were disappointing, then went to the bank we should have gone to in the first place. It was very crowded and there would be a wait, which I didn’t mind because it was air conditioned. 9 am and already a working microwave outside. A farmer type guy sat down by me and was intrigued by my handlebar bag, which is spectacularly ugly and weird looking. Google Translate was our friend as I explained what it was, but not why it is so ugly.

The young lady changing the currency took forever. I just hand my cash to Bruce so we don’t have to both go through the agony of changing money in Thailand. She acted like she’d never seen US dollars before and was checking them studiously and maybe trying to cover up that she didn’t really know what she was doing. Anyway, eventually we were out of there.

Then we had to stop at a bric-a-brac store we knew about from last year and buy some various items, such as a couple of small tools that might work on solving Bruce’s bike noises. Then another store full of the various cups and glasses and bowls that we always love in Thailand and that cost pennies. Now that our Clif bars and vitamins are nearly depleted we have more room for these valuable items.

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Let’s just take a little walk on the streets of Chumphon, shall we?

For those of you who wanted to see more cats.
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Yes, Bruce bought one of these.
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Scott AndersonOnly one? What kind of collection is that?
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2 weeks ago
Cornelia SchulzWhat is this thing?
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanTo Cornelia SchulzOK, the big pot is filled with water and sits on the stove and the water boils. The two things on top hold the cloth "sock" that hold the coffee. There are two holes in top of the big pot so that the coffee maker can dip boiling water from beneath and pour it over the coffee in the "sock". It steeps in those small containers for a bit and then the coffee is poured out into glasses that have a bit of sweetened condensed milk in their bottoms. This is how the old time Thai coffee is made everywhere in the country. We look for this set-up all the time. There are fewer and fewer people making the old style of coffee but we love it. It's also very cheap. But if you want real coffee Thailand has loads of that too and it's some of the best coffee I've ever had anywhere. They grow it in the north.
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonOh, I have others at home. I wanted one more because it appears they have improved on the spout. Can't wait to try it and compare.
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2 weeks ago
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Trigger warning: two terrifying mannequins coming up.

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Cornelia SchulzOh , I hope the wig wasn‘t what they intended to sell…
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2 weeks ago
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I think these would look good in Bruce’s backyard, maybe under the wisteria? They only weigh about 800 pounds each.
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Ron SuchanekNice! Kind of makes those little , lightweight stools Bruce passed up seem like a lost opportunity.
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1 week ago
Bruce LellmanTo Ron SuchanekThat’s funny. I really wanted at least one of those stools but to carry it for nine tenths of our trip would have broken me. However, I could have shipped it home as soon as we crossed into Thailand. Nah, it still would have broken me.
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1 week ago
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In the food market.
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At the train station we bought tickets for an air-conditioned train to Bangkok on February 11. Bruce told her it was to be from Surat Thani but she made them from Chumphon so he had to get back in line and get new ones. The new tickets were all in Thai! But I can decode Thai if the font isn’t too modern and I’m pretty sure it said Surat Thani. I guess we’ll find out!

This bar just down from the train station is called “DeRust” and features a lot of very rusty objects.
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Ron SuchanekMaybe you meant "de bar just down from de train station..."
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1 week ago

We strolled back to our room where I melted into shower number 2. Bruce brought his bike up into our cavernous room and we tried to solve his problem but we’re flying blind here, we don’t want to do anything stupendously harmful to it, YouTube videos and Sheldon Brown’s website are not giving us the right answers, so the noises remain. We have all the train stations between here and Surat Thani mapped out in case we have to ditch this last leg.

Eventually we emerged at dusk like moths and headed to a street food area we had frequented nine years ago. I recognized the lady we had photographed then, with her incredible array of tray food, curries, soups, all sorts of things. She has fewer items on offer these days but it was definitely her and her food is still amazing. I showed her this photo and she lit up and said, “Wow!” Chumphon is a true food town, there is authentic Thai food everywhere and people are lining up for it.

We don’t have a photo of her from this time but she’s still cranking out the curries.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesThe photos actually reveal more trays this time!
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanEverywhere you look in Chumphon there are trays of food. No town is like this in Thailand, that I know of. Any medium size town in Thailand you might find one restaurant that has pre-made trays of food out front. Maybe you won't find any in a town but for some reason nearly every restaurant in Chumphon serves this way and I love it. This tray food is the real thing, just as I remember the tastes from the 1970's. It's the real Thai food, what the Thais love.
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2 weeks ago
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40 Baht, ($1.14), if you select one of the foods in the pots and put on top of a plate of rice, or, 50 Baht, ($1.42), if you want two.
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A small time operation but I’ll bet she has some very loyal customers.
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We've traveled through some food deserts in Thailand but Chumphon is the opposite - food everywhere you look.
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Stopping at 7-11 for an ice cream bar to eat on the steps of a closed copy shop in the warm evening, watching the scene of hundreds of people pulling up on motorbikes to buy takeaway food, then hitting up the papaya lady for one more for our road trip. It was a quintessential Chumphon experience. I really, really like Chumphon, it’s got a lot of character in its spiderweb streets, people are super friendly and polite. There is no beach, no attractive riverfront (they may be working on that but it’s not there yet), no major temple attractions, it’s just a working Thai town where most foreigners zoom through on their way to the island ferries and the rest of us go downstairs to EAT.

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