The first koel, the angels did say - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 29, 2023

The first koel, the angels did say

Ubon Ratchathani to Si Sa Ket

Dear little friends,

Daybreak in Ubon.
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On our way to the last (boo hoo!) breakfast buffet, a worker for the hotel appeared out of nowhere and made the universal sign for “bicycle” and pointed to a conference room. Apparently the cleaning staff got fed up with our bikes being stored with their supplies, and who could blame them? There were no conferences going on, it was now officially the New Year holiday weekend. It’s a good thing he found us because we would have freaked out if they went missing. By the way, the sign for bicycle, at least in SE Asia if not universally, is two hands in the air, about the height of handlebars, but rotating like feet on the pedals. Yes, it makes no sense logically but for some reason is understood completely everywhere, including by us.

I’ve been having some low-key tummy issues so no hot spicy breakfast food for me, it was toast and cereal and rice and bland veggies and I even skipped the pineapple and had watermelon instead. Those who know me will be startled by that, I despise watermelon ordinarily but over here it seems to have a lot more flavor.

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It was time to ride. And as much as we adored this beautiful, spotless hotel, I have to say, it was a relief to leave the soundtrack. After Christmas, their piped music changed to Thai songs about the New Year, and apparently there are only three of them, on a constant rotation, hour after hour, in the lobby, in the patio, in the breakfast area. I don’t know how the staff retained their sanity. A day later those poison earworms are still playing in my head, it’s awful.

One last look at this creepy Santa and we were out of there.
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Ron SuchanekYouse look fabulous, as always.
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1 month ago

Ubon is really spread out and it took some time to get away from it. We crossed a bridge over a big river and a song popped into my head, momentarily displacing the New Year Torment Tracks. It was Andy Williams, crooning “Moon River”. And yes, it dawned on me that we had just crossed the Mun River once again. Brains, man. They hold a lot of useless things. But now that I’ve heard that song again, I’m kind of in love with it.

Our goal was to get to a town 25 miles away on the highway to Si Sa Ket, which was 40 miles away. We had a nice tailwind, a smooth highway with a big safe shoulder, but the noise and traffic was pretty intense, a holiday weekend after all. When we got to that town Bruce was feeling great, I was more tired. But it was early, we could do 15 more miles if I could stay hydrated. So that was the goal, buy water for Andrea, put electrolytes in, keep going on and on and on down this highway. 

I’ll let Bruce illustrate and caption some interesting things we saw along the highway. 

The airport is basically in the city of Ubon Ratchathani and we were staying very nearby. Fortunately there were not many flights. I figure this Jumbo Jet undershot the runway long ago and got stuck in the mud so they left it there and a University grew up around it. This is Bruce's version of reality.
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Ron SuchanekI've always said that when things are tough, and you feel you can't go on, potato it.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Ron SuchanekYou're right, a common saying.
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1 month ago
Bruce thought this might be some sort of cotton candy. Nope. Noodles.
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There was a bit of basketry OTOP along the highway.
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Yes, Bruce did buy a sticky rice basket.
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We've definitely got an OTOP situation here. For a couple of miles people were making various versions of these patio lounge things.
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Ron SuchanekI had to look up OTOP, bit now I feel that much smarter and better informed.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Ron SuchanekBut, wait, you read all about OTOP a few posts back so what happened to your memory? Or, maybe you mean you looked up OTOP in our journal a few posts back.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekTo Bruce LellmanMy memory hasn't been the same since I got kicked in the head by a mule. It got a little better after I fell into the well.
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1 month ago
At the county line or whatever they have here, was this weird ugly thing with questionable intent.
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Watermelon OTOP!
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Correction: watermelon and other types of mellons OTOP!
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Andrea has wanted a new picnic table so I was urging her to get a watermelon one here. It was either a picnic table or a shrine thing for human cremains. Take your pick. [Andrea here: I pick the strawberry one]
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Ron SuchanekThat's a nice one. Strap in on to Bruce's rear rack.
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1 month ago
Roadside attractions galore. Here we have an enormous Buddha sitting on the roof of a building.
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One of the Thai princesses, Princess Bajrakitiyabha, was taken ill a year ago and has been in a coma (we think, very little information or updates have been given) ever since. This shrine is a place for people to honor her and pray for her recovery.
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We had zero idea what this monstrosity is. It mostly looked like a casino, the money-laundering, human trafficking, mafioso kind of casino. Further research indicates it's a university!
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Five miles out we stopped for an iced coffee even though I was worried it would bother my digestive system. No worries, the ice cools me down, the coffee and sugar pepped me up. The coffee was excellent, by the way. Thais are really, really into coffee these days. We love the traditional coffee borlan brewed in bags, but their “real coffee” is outstanding too. Our coffee guy also ran a plant nursery, our kind of guy!

My legs were really tired and so was I. 

When we entered Si Sa Ket, it was immediately green and lush and shady and I heard my first koel of the entire trip. It’s my favorite bird call and it indicates that we have entered a different ecozone, central Thailand. That was a good omen. Another good omen was landing in a really nice hotel, not luxurious but modern and clean and they serve really good food at really good prices so we decided to spend two nights here and rest and eat and see what Si Sa Ket has to offer. 

I think our bikes add to the festive holiday air, don't you?
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Jen RahnYour bikes are the *most* festive of all the festiveness happening here.
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1 month ago
This room has it all. For 550 baht you get a fridge, a balcony for drying clothes, table and chairs, desk, nice shower, air conditioning, comfy bed. Win.
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In our room was yet another test to see if Bruce could hold out from tearing into the bag of potato chid.
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Rich FrasierDid he pass? I'm on pins and needles!
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1 month ago
Andrea BrownTo Rich FrasierSo far he has!
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Rich FrasierI drank a Krud Beer a while ago. Maybe it increased my willpower. Krud has amazing qualities.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekTo Bruce LellmanWhen you say Krud, you've did it all.
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1 month ago

Showered, laundered, napped, fed. We didn’t leave our place once. It’s been hard finding suitable routes in Isaan, unfortunately. There are major towns like this one, and major highways connecting them, but all the secondary roads that we like radiate out like spiderwebs and none of them parallel the way we want to go, the zig-zagging is way too far. Isaan has its charms, the music, the food (unless you’re counting tendon), but it’s flat with little scenery worth riding towards or through. So planning our next steps have been a little challenging. 

More to come,

Your huckleberry friend.

We have a winner for most creative ceiling in a hotel room.
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Jen RahnWow! I love the angle of this shot.

If you had asked your readers to guess the location, I think 'hotel room' would not have even made my list.
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1 month ago

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 598 miles (962 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 7
Steve Miller/GrampiesOh Andrea, it sounds like the places you are in, the roads and the heat are really wearing you down. We feel for you, especially Dodie, who literally wilts in the heat. You do seem to be maintaining a cheerful attitude, which is good, but now we want to be able to see you having effortless fun. Let's hope so.
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1 month ago
Andrea BrownTo Steve Miller/GrampiesA few more days in Isaan and then probably trains to the south. We had five days of winter but that’s over now. The humidity is lessening but probably not enough. It’s clear my heat tolerance is really leaving me as I age. There’s so much I love about SE Asia but I’m not sure it is going to be effortless fun. Temps are way above normal and it’s very depressing.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonOh thanks, Andrea. Now I’ll be living with Andy Williams in my ear all day too.
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1 month ago
Rich FrasierTo Scott AndersonScott, check out Jane Monheit's version of that tune. If you have to have that song in your ear, hers is the version you want. It was a revelation to me. Sorry to Andy Williams....
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonWhat an awful day! I’m very impressed you how you did. I’d probably be crying by the side of the road.
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1 month ago
Gregory GarceauI think I will always associate "Moon River" with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. I hate to sound like a square, but it really is a pretty good song.

I have no useless stuff in my brain to associate anything with a Glass Bag next to the potato chid.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekTo Gregory GarceauI associate it with the TV show Northern Exposure. The last episode in season 1, when the moon is full. One of the songs was Moon River sung by Louis Armstrong. Brilliant.
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1 month ago