Some adventurers will eat tendon - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 25, 2023

Some adventurers will eat tendon

Sirindorn to Ubon Ratchathani

Dear little friends,

Bruce slept like a log, probably 11 or 12 hours straight. I slept like Andrea does, fitfully, wondering what I was hearing outside. Were those dogs howling or was a small child being dismembered, it could have been either one. Or maybe a chicken being dismembered? It turns out it was dogs, one of the neighborhood dogs had a very high pitched voice. A tween dog, perhaps. The deal with these bungalows in Thailand is that sometimes they are used for romantic getaways by folks who live in very crowded houses so it’s not unusual to hear people come and go at night but for some reason it was freaking me out, maybe because our only window was stained glass and you couldn’t peek out to see what and who was going on. Since we had gone to bed with the dismembered chickens it felt like that was happening at 3 am but it turns out it was only 9pm. 

We were up before sunrise, had another minimal muesli breakfast with our duty free Lactasoy, and headed the 1.8 miles back to the border bus station. It was pretty sleepy still but a nice lady there answered our questions in English and arranged for a Toyota pickup owner to drive us the 28 miles to Phibun. From there we could either arrange other transport or ride the 30 miles to Ubon Ratchathani.

Early morning bus station, with the truck drivers asleep in their hammocks
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Our helper, she was warming up by a fire near a tent that she may live in. She disappeared for a few minutes and reappeared with makeup and an official bus station vest on. Another kind person who has helped us on this journey.
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In mid-January of 2020 we shortened our trip along the Mekong to come home early to help out with my daughter who was pregnant with twins. A very very good decision. But first we had to get to Ubon, pack up the bikes, fly to Bangkok, fly home. There were a lot of moving pieces to that exodus. Along the way we had spent a night in Phibun in an extremely dreary guesthouse, and then several nights at a really posh place in Ubon. So we were honed in on Ubon this trip, not wanting to get stuck in Phibun at all, especially not on Christmas. 

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The panniers were loaded into the back of the pickup, then the bikes, then we were loaded into the cab, then off we went to Phibun. The driver dropped us off at the bus station near the market, right at school rush hour, it was nuts. He’d been shy and silent the entire drive except for taking a few phone calls, but at the end he wanted a photo of us with the bikes, and gave us a big smile.

An egg seller at the bus station in Phibun.
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Mark LellmanI'd take #4 eggs please.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Mark LellmanI've never pursued the difference, probably because we never cook. And, I don't know enough Thai to really have a conversation about eggs.
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1 month ago
Bus station breakfast. Her school is right across the street.
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We had decided to ride to Ubon, which is on a road straight west with plenty of traffic but a wide shoulder. The wind would be mostly behind us. First we had to negotiate some construction and dirt, then we went through the bao OTOP area. To refresh your memory, OTOP in Thailand is a program for areas to promote their regional products, it stands for “One Tambon (district? Town?) One Product”. You see it everywhere, stand after stand, one after another, selling the exact same thing whether it be oranges, peanut brittle, rice cakes, or in this case, bao, the steamed Chinese buns. We kind of wanted one but ended up passing them all by. Baw ao bao, one of my favorite Thai phrases (“I don’t want a bao”).

I regret not having a bao.
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The dirt ended, beautiful smooth asphalt prevailed. This was by far the best road we’d been on during this trip, it’s too bad there was so much noisy traffic. But we were treated well by the drivers, they would pull into the inner lane so as not to buzz us too closely. There are long rollers, and a few small curves in order to cross bridges, but other than that it’s straight west, put your head down, roll.

Sometimes the scene from the road is so baffling you just have to marvel. This was placed near another egg seller’s stand.
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Jen RahnNow that's a niche egg market!

If this mascot had a sign it might read, "Fresh Alien Eggs! Petroleum-fertilized!"

I'm imagining the contents of the container in the other hand have something to do with this creature's Claw Face.

I might have nightmares.
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1 month ago

We pulled over a few times. For Bruce to photograph something, to FaceTime my family gathered for Christmas Eve (hurray Thai SIM card!!), to eat a protein bar and scarf some electrolyte water. But it was cool, windy, and not bad cycling. By the time we got to the outskirts of Ubon we were ready to stop. 

Mystery grass being sold by the road. Small trucks would roll slowly by and buy them from these folks. We don’t know what it is, it doesn’t seem to be pandan but maybe it is.
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A snack/water/pee stop. I feel like we stopped at this same exact spot four years ago, but I am somebody who walks around with chronic deja vu. Don’t I know you?
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Rachael AndersonI also have chronic Deja vu! I’m always asking Scott if we’ve been in place where we are cycling before.
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1 month ago
The coconut/pomelo/mystery fruit OTOP.
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Buddhas, Naga serpents, the women you see everywhere wringing water from their long hair, gate guardians and Cowboy Pig. Wait, what?!! Cowboy Pig?
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Jen RahnHe's probably waiting for Claw Face to show up.
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1 month ago
Self-explanatory
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Bruce LellmanTo Bill ShaneyfeltI left it.
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1 month ago

We pulled over a few times. For Bruce to photograph something, to FaceTime my family gathered for Christmas Eve (hurray Thai SIM card!!), to eat a protein bar and scarf some electrolyte water. But it was cool, windy, and not bad cycling. By the time we got to the outskirts of Ubon we were ready to stop. 

I generally ride behind Bruce so that if he stops to photograph I will be aware of that and not leave him miles behind. So as we rode in Ubon I could watch his head swivel to the left every time we passed yet another fragrant restaurant or food stall. In Thailand, everywhere you go you hear the tinny banging of woks and smell garlic cooking. He was so excited to be in his favorite food world again. 

We skidded into the Nartsiri Residence and propped our bikes in the posh granite open entry area as Elvis crooned “Blue Christmas” from the speakers. Lighted reindeer, a tree, and a creepy looking Santa decorated the lobby. After dumping our stuff we raced off to a Khao Soi place we had eaten at 4 years ago. Now it was the afternoon school rush hour, traffic was insane and Ubon has these deadly metal grates in the street that could send us ass over teakettle if we hit them wrong. Cars drive over them and it sounds like a stock car rally. Oh, and the airport is in the middle of town so the planes take off and land right over our heads, it’s very exciting.

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Waiting patiently for a bowl of khao soi at an amazing single-piece-of-wood table.
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80 Chiang Mai Khao Soi Restaurant, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.
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One happy guy.
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Khao soi for all! This was some of the best ever.
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Our khao soi was amazing, just delicious. I could have eaten three bowls of the stuff. Back in our sweet, sweet room, we showered and rested and then went out in search of dinner. For some reason this neighborhood has plenty of food during the day, but the sidewalks roll up around 4 pm, the grates go down/across, the restaurants close. Only specialty restaurants open, they’re spendy and not really what we want. But we got beckoned into a place and gamely tried it out.

Thailand is a feast of different regional cuisines, and we were in the heart of inland Issan, this place specialized in larb. It was larb this and larb that, the decor was brutalist mod Thai, with concrete walls and hipsters and contemporary music. I was impressed with the concept effort, appreciative even. Our nice hostess pointed her phone over the completely Thai menu to translate it into more incomprehensible fooglebears, we struggled to get an order straight, and we got mysterious food. The thing is, and we knew this, very authentic larb is not the cooked ground meat seasoned with herbs and rice powder that we get in the states or make at home. No, very authentic larb is raw, sterilized with lime juice, similar to ceviche. We had a keen goal of keeping our larb cooked in the interest of the national security of our digestive systems. “Do you want it boiled?”, her phone asked. Sure, yep.

Dinner at the Homesick, I mean Larb, Restaurant.
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We ended up with a soup full of strange animal bits and pieces and a larb, both adequately cooked, both tasty. We split a Chang beer over ice, saluted yet another very strange Christmas dinner, and left 80% of the soup ingredients in the bowl, hoping we weren’t insulting them by doing that. Some adventurers will eat tendon, yum yum. Not these ones.

Yes. We were fine in the morning. Those little dishes of spicy sauce were different from each other but since I didn’t touch them I couldn’t tell you why.
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Lyle McLeodCompletely agree with your 'No Tendon for Christmas Dinner' stance!

However, a few plates of tendon were standard fare, along with 'more than a few' Bia Hói, after work with my Vietnamese colleagues. Apparently they're very good for your finger and toe nail health, or so the story goes.

They made for strong jaw muscles as well.
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1 month ago
Andrea BrownTo Lyle McLeodIn all honesty I’m not at all clear what exactly was in my bowl, but it all looked like something I should know from my high school biology class when we dissected the fetal pig. My dad was the teacher, that’s how small my hometown is.
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1 month ago
Lyle McLeodTo Andrea BrownLOL! Who knew that high school biology would be a primer for rural SE Asia dining!
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1 month ago

It didn’t matter at all. We’d had some great khao soi, there was a great breakfast buffet to look forward to, and we had a Christmas dinner that came with a story. 

The beer on ice was refreshing. And we were in Thailand, Elvis was lying, it was not a blue Christmas at all.

Well, yes, we bought some.
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Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonWitty as always!
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1 month ago

Today's ride: 32 miles (51 km)
Total: 552 miles (888 km)

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