After a dry night, the main thoroughfares in and around Lopburi are fairly passable – much of the flood water is now well on its way to Bangkok. Many of the secondary roads in the area are still pretty wet, though, and our chosen route out of town turns out to be a watery one. We spend the first part of our day pedaling in hill-climbing gears just to traverse the submerged streets.
All is fine and dandy, until… POTHOLE (note the height of my front wheel):
Nice recovery, though, if I do say so myself.
For comparison, here I am during my very first
water puddle crossing, over a year ago. I didn't really know how to ride a bike back then, and nearly fell over out of fear alone! I think I was dreading being the loathsome combination of wet and cold.
For the first time since we arrived in Thailand, the sun has come out to greet us. Honestly, we haven't minded its absence; it's hot enough here already, and the cloud cover has been most welcome. Now, the watery landscape around us, all canals, rivers, rice paddies, and flooded land, shimmers in the early afternoon light.
It is hot. Really hot. So steamy, in fact, that we re-assess our route, adding a five kilometer detour just so that we'll pass through a small town on the way to Saraburi. In this village, there is sure to be our new favorite beverage: iced coffee. Sure enough, after a quick tour of the town, we find a little stand, decorated with red and white with tin cans of Carnation-brand milk.
We order up two tall kafe yĕn, waiting eagerly as the woman mixes them, stirring coffee and sweetened condensed milk together, then pouring the addictive concoction over ice. Heaven in a plastic cup. Sitting in the shade, sipping our sweet, milky coffee out of gigantic straws, crunching away on our crushed ice, we can't help but laugh about how easy Thailand is compared to Mongolia.
The rest of our afternoon passes enjoyably, as we spin our legs on flat, nicely paved roads. Huge, beautiful smiles come from nearly everyone we pass, along with waves and shouts of "hello!" and "Sawadeeee!" We watch fishermen casting their nets into a fast-flowing river, and a sleepy man rocking lazily in a hammock slung to a tree between rice paddies. He has cycled there, and his ancient bike is parked on the road in front of him.
An ambulance screams by, in the form of a Toyota Hilux decked out in all sorts of emblems, a siren stuck to its roof. Further down the road, traffic is slowed significantly, and we understand what the truck was in such a rush for. There's been an accident. A scooter lies on its side, its driver on the pavement a bit further along.
I don't want to look, but I do anyway, for a brief moment, just as the traffic cop is waving us through. Pools of crimson seep from a man's battered face, his body limp and lifeless. I look away. Without saying a word, Tyler takes his helmet from where he has momentarily rested it on his aero-bars to cool his head. Donning it silently, he clips the chin strap in place.
"Did you look?" I ask. "Yeah" he says somberly. "Me too," I reply. Cycling quietly for the next hour or so, we ponder our fragile mortality.
Clouds cover the skies once more, and we wonder if we'll make it through the day without getting drenched. In spite of the shade, it is still very hot. Nearing the end of our ride, Tyler calls us to a halt to photograph a pack of piggies cooling themselves in a mudbath for his mom (she loves pigs).
I think they look like a pack of R.O.U.S.!
Saraburi seems as bright and lively as the other Thai cities we've seen so far. Food vendors line the sidewalks, and a truck drives by slowly, playing music out of a loudspeaker, interspersed with what sounds like announcements for CHEAP DEALS! We pass the truck, and continue on, stopping when we find a hotel. I run inside to check prices, and come back to give Tyler a thumb's up. A nice, clean, air-conditioned room costs just over ten dollars.
After carrying our belongings upstairs, we make ourselves at home, taking showers and then opening up the laptops for a few hours of writing and programming. It looks like Tyler will be inundated with work for the next few months, so most of the journaling will be falling to me. Hours later, we feel complete our jobs for the night, and leave our room in search of food to appease our growling stomachs.
Conveniently located just outside our hotel, a man cooks up supper at his roadside stand. The chef is very nice, and when we bust out our new phrases like "ped dai", we successfully get a delicious spicy pork dish for dinner!
While we're eating, a couple of kids come to say hello, all shyness initially. They're the first people we've encountered who have called us farang (foreigner). It's not an insult, just a fact, said with delight and surprise.
They soon warm up to us, and then become enthusiastic models. After posing for photos, they come running back, eager to see what they look like on our camera's screen.
Cute is what they look like.