Nothing to cause anguish - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

January 4, 2024

Nothing to cause anguish

Phanom Dong Rak to Prakhon Chai

Dear little friends,

It was really nice to have a quiet place to sleep, despite our misgivings about this little resort full of wooden bungalows and very little action. The bungalow itself was great, spotless, with beautiful craftmanship and also some Snoopy tiles in the bathroom. There were no mosquitoes despite being adjacent to a large lake/baray kind of thing. On our way out we stopped at the first bungalow to retrieve our key deposit and of course the dude ignored Bruce’s knocks. You know, you don’t want to screw around with Bruce and a hundred baht. He can knock pretty loudly. Mission eventually accomplished. 

A man getting ready to get his key deposit back.
Heart 8 Comment 1
Ron SuchanekGo get 'em!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago

It was a gorgeous and cool-ish morning and we were sailing along a quiet smooth highway among the serene rice-stubbled fields and swooping birds and Bruce was telling me about all the ways he had fantasized in the night about getting his key deposit back. I mean! You think you know someone.

Sunrise
Heart 8 Comment 0
A cute spirit house.
Heart 3 Comment 1
Steve Miller/GrampiesLooks a wee tad "dis-spirited".
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Another application for using rice straw bales, to make these side car thingys more comfortable.
Heart 5 Comment 0

The theme of the past week or longer has been tailwinds. When cyclists sign off to each other in text or email it’s always “Tailwinds” as a signatory, which is kind of droll when you think about it but of course, wind direction is the key to a fun day versus a sucky day. Like a lot of things we take for granted until we have to turn back and face a headwind, the tailwind was silent and generous. I’ve been reading a few other bike traveler journals in this area and more than one person has been holed up in regional towns waiting for the fierce headwinds to subside. We’re feeling lucky and smug in that regard. It’s not terribly windy here in this part of Isaan but I still wouldn’t want to be going in the opposite direction.

Last night Bruce told me about an ancient Khmer temple site a bit northwest of us. This one is much larger and more of a complex than the small Prasat we saw on New Year’s morning. It would take a day to get there, another day to visit it, and then another day to rejoin our route to Aranyaprathet. If we haven’t mentioned it, we’re heading to that border crossing town (to Cambodia via Poipet) not because we want to get back into Cambodia, but to catch the choo choo that goes into Bangkok to the OLD train station, Hualamphong Station, in the heart of the city. All other trains, including the one we were originally going to catch in Surin a few days ago, only go to the new train station a few miles north of Hualamphong. This is all a new train development, a year ago we were still able to go in and out of the old station, which was across the street from our fave hotel in Bangkok. 

Eventually we’ll still have to use the new station, which looks more like an airport than a train station and is pretty inconvenient for us, but for now, taking the slow milk train into the city will be fun and land us right where we want to be. We have taken this train before, it leaves in early morning and arrives in Bangkok whenever it damn well feels like it. Each rail car has its own engine underneath, as I recall. It’s a dreamy-paced Disney ride and at each stop vendors pounce on board and walk up and down the aisles selling all sorts of food and trinkets. Then they jump off at the next stop. And the best part is we just have to haul our bikes aboard and stash them somewhere in the car we’re in, no ferrying them to a baggage car.

Back to our ride. The tailwind was sweet, the rolling ups and downs were nothing to cause anguish, the dogs barked and gave chase but seemed to respond well to my stern shouts and would slink back into their driveways. I tell you, that school librarian job prepared me very well for riding in Thailand. 

Combination bougainvillea and a dok fai tree.
Heart 9 Comment 0
Not a type of rice we have ever encountered. Maybe it is sticky rice.
Heart 4 Comment 0

It’s still an off week for restaurants and coffee shops, they’re out there but most are shuttered. This is not a wealthy area, the few chi chi coffee shops we’ve spotted have been closed up tight while somebody visits somebody in the city/country/other part of Thailand. Food was scarce yesterday, so today as we got closer to what should be a bustling tourist area around this Khmer monument we were keeping a sharp eye out for a clean, nice restaurant. Nope, not much. 

In Prakhon Chai we went into the village itself seeking out a lone cafe and while it didn’t look open, the owner beckoned us in and she and her husband, known as the "Local Chef," made us some food. It was good food, but we hadn’t ordered half of it and it was pretty overpriced in the end. At one point she dumped a plastic bucket next to Bruce with one frog in it. We don’t know why. She also wanted to know where we were staying and then called her pal with a homestay to come convince us to stay there. We went out of politeness but it too was overpriced and mildew-y smelling so we somehow got out of there and went to the spot we’d been planning to stay at.

The daughter on the left with her mother but the person who cooked for us was her father, "Local Chef," whom we didn't get a photo of.
Heart 3 Comment 0

After the morose abandonment feeling of last night’s bungalow park, this couldn’t have been more different. The owner greeted us wielding a weedeater, showed us a sweet little purple bungalow next to a lake, the price was right, the place spotless and sunny and cheerful. Sold. 

The instant we are inside any guesthouse room we have just paid for, my riding clothes are on the floor with a plop of sweat saturation weight, I’m in the shower, then I’m doing laundry and hanging it wherever it can be hung. This place has a south facing porch as hot as a pizza oven, perfect for drying and sunning clothes that take a gross sweat and dust beating every day. Although I must say that the roads lately have very little dust on them.

The grounds of the Manda Resort.
Heart 7 Comment 3
Bruce LellmanThis one is sweet. All of the bungalows we've been staying at seem to have latched onto the same exact price of 500 baht per night, or, $14.75. That is up by at least $3.00 in a single year. Inflation hit SE Asia quite hard in the past year. We could always eat a meal for $1.00 apiece or less but now it's $1.50or more apiece. Still cheap but a huge jump. No complaining though.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Rachael AndersonWhat a nice place!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Heart 3 Comment 0
The Manda Resort
Heart 6 Comment 0

After my mandatory nap Bruce was champing at the bit to go back into the village to check out a large Prasat we had passed earlier. It was still hot but afternoons end abruptly this time of year so we booked it on into town, parked our bikes inside the entrance, and strolled through the grounds to the monument. I have only the mildest interest in temples in case you hadn’t noticed that. I’ve been in a lot of temples here in Asia and they always have something different but I guess I’ve seen enough of them not to be that enthused anymore. Same with ancient Khmer temples too, there will be the laterite structure blocks, some sandstone carved areas, a lot of brick filler, and if you’re lucky, a moat with lilies or lotuses and fish. 

This one had lilies, but they were closed for the day, so now it’s fish. With my polarized sunglasses I spotted a school of fish tooling around and making merry, so that was fun. Birds were calling, there were beautiful trees, blue sky. This is what I love about temples, they attract life and are usually pretty serene places to chill out. Tomorrow we take our unloaded bikes up to a larger Angkor era complex and it’s in a forest on a hill so Bruce will get his temple fix and I’ll get my bird and butterfly fix.

On the grounds of Prasat Muang Tam.
Heart 7 Comment 0
Heart 7 Comment 0
Prasat Muang Tam
Heart 6 Comment 0
Prasat Muang Tam
Heart 7 Comment 0
Prasat Muang Tam
Heart 8 Comment 0
Heart 4 Comment 0
Heart 4 Comment 0
In the background is a very healthy perfect-shaped and very old mango tree.
Heart 6 Comment 0
Heart 3 Comment 0
Heart 5 Comment 0
Heart 5 Comment 0
Prasat Muang Tam
Heart 5 Comment 0
Heart 4 Comment 0
The grounds of Prasat Muang Tam
Heart 2 Comment 0
Prasat Muang Tam
Heart 4 Comment 0
Biggest/oldest vine we have ever seen.
Heart 5 Comment 3
Scott AndersonAstonishing. There should be a support under it.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonWell, there could be much debate about whether a vine needs support. I mean, it's wound itself around branches way up in the trees and, I would imagine, if the vine could talk it would say it is supporting itself. Humans, such as yourself and myself, would think that a bit of support on something so huge wouldn't hurt. But it seems that the Thai humans who are taking care of this site don't seem to think it needs any support. It's a quandary for sure.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanOh, of course. It’s got support from above. I didn’t think of that.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago

There’s a little restaurant with three big wood tables, sheltered under a blessing tree, right across the highway from our guesthouse. She makes all of our favorites, Thai comfort food if you will. Free water and ice in little cups with a straw. Condiments. Priced correctly. And delicious. 

Back at the guesthouse I sat at one of those weird concrete picnic tables and watched the ripples in the water, listened to koels call each other, and for the first time on this trip the temperature was right, the humidity was low, the breeze was barely there, it was quiet except for some faraway karaoke. I felt good, I felt at peace. Isaan isn’t a terribly exciting place but it has this feel sometimes, maybe it’s timelessness, maybe it’s how people have to pace themselves when the odds against them are high. Simple things can make us happy enough if we want them to.

Heart 4 Comment 0
The view of our guest house bungalows from a scary tower.
Heart 7 Comment 1
Jen RahnWorth the scariness to get this great shot!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Heart 3 Comment 0
Heart 4 Comment 0
Working on this journal.
Heart 7 Comment 0

Today's ride: 24 miles (39 km)
Total: 738 miles (1,188 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 15
Comment on this entry Comment 2
Rachael AndersonWhat a wonderful place! I’m with you, a peaceful place like this is the best!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Jen Rahn"Simple things can make us happy enough if we want them to."

Yesssss!!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago