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ตุลาคม 2550
23 ตุลาคม 2550
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Lost in Baan Guntien

I've been meaning to go cycling for weeks now, ever since car free day at the end of last month but... somehow or other, things (parents coming over, a trip to Phuket, my school deciding to cancel my work permit when they found out I was leaving at the end of the month - forcing me to leave the country within 5 days) kept getting in the way.

But this morning, I was determined. Last night I set my alarm for 6.30am and kept telling myself that, come rain or shine I would go out on my bike. 8am I was still lying in bed, my body refusing to contemplate the idea of getting up. Today's a holiday. My achey arms and legs wanted to make the most of their day off.

By 8.40 I was ready to leave, unsure as to whether I'd make the 9.40 train or not. I was wanting to go to one of 2 places, Baan Kuntien, small place on the edge of the city famous for its mangrove forest or Mae Klong, the main town in Samut Songkram province. It's the same train that goes to both.

I wrote about the journey and added some photos here.

I had a great day, riding my bike through the salt marshes. The afternoon, 10 plus km's on a dusty, dirt track road that was snarled with traffic wasn't so much fun, but it was good to be out on mi bike and, even better to be out of Bangkok.

There were a couple of memorable things about the journey.

1. Train fares
One odd thing is that it's more expensive to take the bike on the train (20 baht) than a person (6 baht.) I was really surprised by how cheap the train was. I was paying the same fare was a Thai person!!! Whenever farangs travel on the Kanchanaburi line, they normally get charged 100baht even if they only go a few stops.

2. Friendly strangers
I met so many friendly people on the way to Baan kuntien. Here's a few.

The ticket seller at Wong Wiyan Yai Station. A guy from Nakorn Panom who, seeing the Laos alphabet on my T-Shirt started teasing me about whether I could speak and read Laos.

The shy but cute kid on the train who refused to speak to me but every so often shouted out 'hello' across the carriage.

The motorbike Taxi drivers and lorry drivers... Lots and lots of them, who gave me directions when I was lost. Their directions (straight on) weren't that great... At a T junction how on earth do you go 'straight on' but I eventually found my way to the sea

The fresh orange lady. Right in the middle of the marshes, there was a tiny shack. 2 women. lots of laundry. Some som tam, some beer and no pepsi. They claimed to have nothing but beer, then sold me an orange juice. It was freshly squeezed, and tasted, as only Thai fresh orange can, slightly salty. It was fab.

The mangrove man. The guy sat at the edge of the mangroves who guarded my bike for me. He told me about the walkway to the sea - errected 4 years ago, but with no one to maintain it, rapidly falling into disrepair, and about how the number of tourists is constantly shrinking. Tourism was supposed to be the local's ticket out of poverty. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

We talked about the saltmarshes, about tourist guides (he'd studied some English a long time ago, with the hope of being a guide), about local politics. We also had a long chat about life in Thailand, how I feel about living here, why I know I would never be able to settle down here, and why, long term I know that, much as I love it out here, I will eventually need to go back home. It's funny, sometimes its easier to talk to total strangers about these kind of things, than the people that you think of as your friends.

The bike nut, who brought me an orange juice, told me he'd cycled over 100kms earlier that day. I believed him. His clothes (cycling top jersey and tight lycra shorts) and his bike gave him the look of someone who is serious about the sport. I in contrast had done less than 20km. He gave me some idea about cycling trips around Ratchaburi, Mahachai and Samut Songkram.

The crab shack lady and her husband and mum, who, whilst she was waiting for my squid to heat up asked me a million and one questions. What's you name? Where are you from? Have you ever been to pattaya? She asked me about my job, whether my kids are spolit and stubbon or not (as they're all rich kids... she said), and how much I earn. When I told her ( 40+ K month) she looked quite shocked. It would take her more than 2 years selling crabs to make what I'm given every month.

The man who said he wanted to practice his English. He was with his girlfriend, and the 2 of them were sat in the seat behind me, on the train on the way home. When he said he was a taxi driver. I told him he was lying. It was easy to tell, his English was way too good. He admitted he wasn't telling the truth. "I work in Marketting" he said. "But's that's boring. I think a taxi driver is a much better job."

There's something special about traveling 'off the beaten track' (as foreigners like to say) in Thailand. I meet so many friendly people. OK I meet lots of idiots too, people who are 'gloowa farang' as they say in Thai and run away when the realise that you're about to speak to them, but even they, in their own strange way can be quite funny.

The nice ones, the ones who are friendly and fun to talk to can turn an normal everyday event into something magical. It makes me feel really sad to be leaving here. I'm really going to miss traveling around and meeting people who are eager to learn about your life, and tell you about theirs.

Create Date : 23 ตุลาคม 2550
Last Update : 24 ตุลาคม 2550 17:42:07 น. 0 comments
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