24th January 2011 - From Steve's place to past Trat

The temperature is now about mid 20's , the wind is mainly behind us, no rain, and the scenery is good. About time!

The Thai food is mostly very good and cheap. It is difficult or impossible to ask for anything in particular and a menu in English is very rare. Generally, we point to something on display or let them decide.

The street food tastes very good even though we are ignorant of content. Only once have we made a bad choice when the chicken turned out to be chicken feet.

Apparently some, mainly Chinese, crunch these with relish - and plenty of chilli! When in Mexico, we gradually got accustomed to the chilli, but here it still feels like a blowlamp on our lips and tongue.

Cycling along the minor roads close to the Cambodian border is very scenic with many small  villages growing pineapple, sugar cane, rubber trees and palm oil.

A diversion to a reservoir found a small resort run by a Frenchman, Pierre. He had created something really special next to the reservoir as the rooms were hidden around large gardens of every possible type of exotic tropical plants.

He gave us a roof terrace overlooking the site provided that we used only the top floor and the terrace. At first, the satellite TV gave only a few channels with variable noise levels until David found that a tall tree was in the way of the dish. After attaching a rope to the top of the tree and bending it down , the signal improved so much that we managed to get 150 channels. Still mostly in Thai.

David tried fishing in the reservior. All available baits including snails and cockroaches failed, but a small spinner caught a good fish which looked like a cross between a carp and a rudd. David put it in the owners stock pond. As many people eat so much freshwater fish, many homes and all villages have dug-out ponds which are regularly topped up with caught or bought fish to net when wanted.

Most fish deliveries are of live farmed fish in tanks. Even in the markets freshwater fish is kept in tanks before being sold alive.

The cycling is some of the best yet with rolling hills through tropical forests but the area is still scarred by gem mining that stopped many years ago. We stayed overnight in a town called Bo Roi on the Cambodian border. The town has some very grand old houses and streets, an indication past wealth, but most have been neglected in the last decades and could do with repair and a lick of paint. Reminds us of India.

The last town before turning towards Bangkok was Trat. Nothing special but quite a few foreign tourists (called "farangs" by the Thai) as boats to a tourist island depart from here.

Walking around Trat in the afternoon, we spotted two cycle tourists who were obviously British. Somehow we can tell British cyclists from a distance and this was confirmed when we hailed them down. They were two brothers from Sussex riding Dawes bikes. We all chatted that evening during a meal arranged at a local restaurant. They continued East towards Cambodia and we turned West along the coast.

After a short spell on a major road, we followed a minor coast road through small fishing villages as the scenery changed from rubber plantations and pineapple to shrimp farms. Shrimp farming is a major industry along this coast. Many people say it has destroyed the coastal country-side, it has certainly changed it. 

From the beaches to several kilometers inland along the majority of coastline there is not much dry land left. Shallow pits from about swimming pool to football pitch size cover the landscape with raised tracks and canals between them. The countryside looks a bit like Holland with their dykes. The pools are aerated using systems of spinning buckets in long rows.

The coastal strip along here is almost deserted with many empty hotels and beach resorts.

The beaches are wide and sandy. We can only surmise that although this is supposed to be the high season, the economic situation has affected it badly. It was rather sad to see rows of sea-side street vendors with no customers.

A detour to a small fishing village at the end of a point gave us quite a surprise. Although the architecture looked normal there was evidence of past Spanish influence. Signs such as 'esquella' (school) and 'basura' (rubbish) and a street called a 'calle' were evident in old faded paint. Even a local shop advertised empanadas. We never discovered the history as everyone we met spoke only Thai.


Regards,

David and Joan Wooldridge