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Training Day with a boost of Thai ancient coffee and Doughnuts.
Time to get some long kilometres done today but first I took the opportunity to ride through the local markets in the centre of Dan Chang to catch up on what’s being sold and have a quick coffee and doughnuts before hitting the tarmac for the journey.
Dan Chang has a local produce markets with fresh local vegetables, herbs, slices, fresh cut meat and local fish on display. I eat well when riding up here and certainly below half price of what I would pay down in the bigger cities where I normally stay.
As everywhere in the world for some reason the country folks are much friendlier than the big city and that was no different here. I’m guessing it’s because I’m off the beaten tourism track and the old saying is; away from where it’s dog eating dog.
Tourism is the backbone of Thailand but it has pushed the prices up in major tourist towns like Hua Hin. Tourism does boost the town’s economy but it can be counter productive. The locals, to compete, push the prices up and in the end when the tourist season is over they suffer because there’s no one to sell to but the local Thais who cannot afford the high prices. Commonly known as shooting yourself in the foot.
I’ve noticed a lot more Bangkok folks buying land and building up country since I first started riding in the area 5 years ago. But like everywhere in the world the bigger cities are expanding and the poorer folks are getting pushed further out.
I can only ponder on those thoughts as I have a Caffe Boran - an ancient coffee which is rich and sweet as it is synonymous with Thailand. That’s no different here in Dan Chang where I get to enjoy one in the early mornings when watching the locals go about their business or a quick charge of the magnificent magical elixir along the roadside as I’m out pedalling throughout the villages of Thailand.
Drinking Caffe Boran has been a local tradition. Developed during WWII, it was the answer to scarce and expensive coffee. In order to reduce consumption, grains were added during the roasting process. The coffee typically contains dark roasted robusta with brown sugar, corn, brown rice, sesame, soy beans, salt, butter, or even tamarind seeds. Similar to the Vietnamese coffee. But the brewing method is what differentiates it. Ground coffee is put in a cotton bag filter or a ‘sock filter’ and steeped in boiling water. Sweetened, condensed, or evaporated milk is then added. Sounds yuk for those city dwellers and trendies who may go to the brand name coffee shops, but for me, I’m enjoying it whilst I can, deep in the countryside of Thailand.
Truck Sams on The Long Ride Home in Dan Chang Thailand
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A short training ride today to take in the local sights around the town of Dan Chang. It’s very common at the moment to see people out with long bamboo poles and hook blades attached at the end to cut and gather seed pods from the Makham trees throughout Thailand.
I have to be cautious whilst riding along with whistle handy to warn locals wheeling the bamboo poles not to inadvertently shove them across my path as I peddle along.
An elderly Thai woman sits awkwardly breaking open the dry Makham to extract the pulp from seeds which will eventually be put into jars and later used as a tamarind sauce ingredient in many Thai dishes such as Pad Thai, Tom Yum and Fish cuisines.
I take the short route around the city of Dan Chang to Krasiao Dam taking in the view as the sun is setting over the long stretch of water in the dam.
Local fisherman have taken rest and moored their small boats for the day but large fishing barges that resemble a fleet of navy boats remain on the dam continuously throughout the night pulling in the haul for the local fishing industry.
The clay dam, which is the longest in the country is located at Dan Chang, Suphunburi province of Thailand. The town is convenient to drive a car to and from Bangkok and once in Dan Chang it’s an easy access to the dam from the city centre with a bit of a hill climb if you’re cycling there .
Before the entrance to the dam there are many shops and restaurants to have breakfast or an evening meal. If you’re taking the 10km walk or cycle on the dam wall you should come early morning or evening when the views are very picturesque and it’s not too hot because of the dam wall being sheltered from the sun at that time of day.
Truck Sams on The Long Ride Home, Dan Chang Suphunburi Province of Thailand
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Back up into the mountains away from the sugar cane smoke for the last couple of days. Another day on the long ride home riding to a special place in the area of Ban Rai to visit one of the unique temples of Thailand.
A great ride into the national park outside of Ban Rai. Cycling amongst the limestone mountains narrowing into a gorge in which stands the temple of Wat Tham Khao Wong. Off the beaten track, this temple is definitely worth a visit.
On arrival, a few local hawkers were selling their wares at the entrance to the temple. Punnets of local grown strawberries were on display which I couldn’t resist buying to throw a few down my gullet for a natural sugar high to get me back to the finish at the local town of Ban Rai.
Wat Tham Khao Wong reminded me of a scene from a fairytale with its mystical gardens, surroundings and the temple itself built into the side of the mountain.
An old photograph sits on a wall in a village cafe when I arrive back in Ban Rai, a reminder of when the King of Rock & Roll met the King of Thailand many moons ago.
Very few foreigners travel to this region due to its remoteness, but as I’ve mentioned before, I occasionally bump into the odd long distance cyclists passing through the district heading North to Mae Sot, the border crossing into Burma .
Heading out from Ban Rai and I’m doing battle with the sugar cane trucks, cane fire smoke again, and small tractor type vehicles carrying loads of tapioca or taro. Tapioca originated in South America, where it was cultivated for 3,000–7,000 years. The Portuguese and the Spanish took tapioca from Mexico to the Philippines in the 17th century. The Dutch introduced it to Indonesia in the 18th century. It is unclear when tapioca was first introduced to Thailand, but one estimate is that it was imported from what is known now as Malaysia in 1786.
Cassava was first commercially planted in the south of Thailand, where it was planted between rows of natural rubber trees. Much of it is planted in Songkhla Province. Factories were established there to produce tapioca starch and tapioca pearls for export to Singapore and Malaysia. Over time, the area of planted cassava gradually decreased due to the encroachment of rubber trees. Cultivation then shifted to the east, to Chonburi and Rayong.
The tapioca industry of Thailand plays an important role in the agricultural economy of Thailand. Tapioca, besides being used as a food, the "native starch" it provides is used as a thickening agent and a stabilizer in many products. Native starch is a powder obtained from plants containing starch. Native starch is extracted from the root of the tapioca plant, which has the ability to grow in dry weather and low-nutrient soils where other crops do not grow well. Tapioca roots can be stored in the ground for up to 24 months, and some species for up to 36 months, thus harvest may be extended until market conditions are favourable or native starch production capacity is available.
Truck Sams on The Long Ride Home in the Huay Kha Khaeng National Park & Ban Rai Sub District of Uthai Thani Province, Thailand
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My training rides occasionally takes me in and around the town of Don Chedi in the Suphunburi district. This time is was for the Don Chedi annual and major memorial and Red Cross fair during January and February.
The event is meant to commemorate the glorious victory of King Naresuan the Great in a traditional royal battle on elephant back. The fair includes a Muay Thai show, a bazaar of OTOP, products, an exhibition of public and private organizations, and many cultural performances.
Regarded as a respected hero and warrior in Thai history, King Naresuan reigned over the Thai kingdom from 1590 to 1605 during the Ayutthaya period. When he was nine years old, Prince Naresuan was taken as a hostage to Burma, now Myanmar, after the Ayutthaya King was overrun by the powerful Burmese army. He was brought up in the Burmese royal court. His close companion was Burmese Crown Prince Min Chit Swa, known among Thais as Phra Maha Upparacha. At the age of 16, Prince Naresuan returned to Ayutthaya and was appointed Crown Prince by his father, King Maha Thammaracha, the then ruler of the Thai vassal state under Burmese rule. He immediately built up his own forces and set his aim to liberate the Ayutthaya Kingdom from the Burmese.
After succeeding his father as king in 1590, King Naresuan fended off the Burmese on several occasions. The most glorious battle was his duel on elephant back with his childhood friend Crown Prince Min Chit Swa, who was killed in the fight. It took place on 18 January 1592 at Nong Sarai field in Suphan Buri. The Thai government later designated 18 January Thai Armed Forces Day to commemorate King Naresuan’s heroic deeds. Following the battle on elephant back, King Naresuan ordered the construction of a pagoda at Nong Sarai field in memory of the Burmese Crown Prince. When the pagoda was discovered in 1913, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) organized a grand celebration. Later, in 1952, a committee was formed by the Royal Thai Army to carry out a major renovation of the pagoda, together with the construction of a statue of King Naresuan on elephant back, which is generally referred to as Don Chedi Memorial.
Today, the Memorial has become a landmark of the central province of Suphan Buri, about 107 kilometers from Bangkok by car. Suphan Buri has a vision to develop itself as a leading province for producing quality food and products at international standards. Local residents take pride in the Don Chedi Memorial Fair, which has been organized on an annual basis since 1959.
Time to meet another icon in the region, Kim Ronn Jensen, from Kim’s Pizza House in Dan Chang. I visit Kims on a regular basis to load up on those necessary carbohydrates the night before my big rides. For those long distance cyclist passing through the region I recommend a visit to Kims to carb load for that long journey ahead. Closed on Mondays
Truck Sams still Truckin on The Long Ride Home for PTSD Awareness
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Back on the road again, clocking up the kms most days around Thailand’s mountainous Uthai Thani District in the beautiful Khao Laem National Park, north-west of Bangkok. It’s sugar cane cutting season and huge cane fires are blackening the sky and making it hard to breath.
Hundreds of antiquated cane trucks block the roads as they rattle along, laden down with chopped cane destined for the refineries close to Dan Chang where I’m staying.
The sky is yellow and hazy for most of the time, making the horizon red and giving the sun a reddish tinge as it gets lower in the West. A grand sight to see.
Avoiding cane that falls regularly from the trucks is a mission in itself. Get it wrong and you’re in a roadside ditch, which happened to me earlier today. Result – one bruised and swollen elbow. Must be more vigilant from now on.
It’s time for the yearly pilgrimage when hundreds of monks are on their annual walk South. Riding past them gives me a spiritual feeling - we all go about our business without a sound accept for the patter of their bare feet, the tinkle of bells attached to small bags over their shoulder and my bike wheels churning over.
Bumping into the odd foreign rider is also quite common at this time of year. A quick hello and exchange of info is always in order, as it was with a couple of Americans on the ride today. They’d just cycled up through Burma via Malaysia heading to the north of Thailand before going home to New York in April. Keep in touch guys, really nice to meet fellow travellers on route.
A new supply of butt cream from one of The Long Ride Home sponsors, John Graham from Smooth Ass Silk, will come in handy as I continue to clock up the kms and add to the wear and tear of my long-suffering bike seat.
Uthai Thani is one of the provinces of Thailand. Neighboring provinces are Nakhon Sawan, Chai Nat, Suphan Buri, Kanchanaburi, and Tak. It is in Thailand's lower northern region, somewhat off the route between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It is approximately 200 kms from Bangkok.
Originally Mon and Lawa settled in the area. The first Thai settlement in the area was Muang U Thai during the Sukhothai Kingdom, but it was later abandoned when the river changed course. The Patabeut people, of Karen ethnicity, revived the settlement at its current site during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It served as a fort protecting the boundary of the kingdom. Uthai Thani is the hometown of the father of King Rama I. Rama I renamed the city from its old nameUthai to Uthai Thani. In 1892 King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) added the area of Uthai Thani to the Monthon Nakhon Sawan, and in 1898 formed the province.
Many thanks to those that sincerely support my efforts as I continue to strike a blow for veteran PTS and Moral Injury on a global scale.
Truck Sams, On The Long Ride Home in the Uthai Thani District of Thailand .
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The Long Ride Home - Ban Mueang to Nong Khai - finish of the ride in Thailand.
A great view of the Mekong River on rising early today. A very misty morning over coffee and Thai doughnuts watching the local fishermen lay their nets for the day before heading off to the finish at Nong Khai.
A huge 116 kms day ahead and considered long distance for cycling on the last day to Nong Khai but after smashing mountains for 90 percent of the tour since leaving Chiang Rai the ride over the last couple of days for us was relatively easy going.
Regardless of time, distance, mountains or bad roads one can ride on through all my rides, the most important thing is riding for my cause, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers - The Long Ride Home will continue to ride globally for total victory over PTSD.
Approaching winter here in the North Eastern region of Thailand, the mornings are quite cold and even the local dogs are rugged up.
Nong Khai is a northeastern Thai province on the banks of the Mekong River. The provincial capital, also called Nong Khai, is a gateway to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, via the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge. In the city’s east, Sala Keoku Park has giant concrete Buddhist, Hindu and Christian statues. Northeast along the river, the jungle-covered Phu Wua Wildlife Sanctuary is home to elephants, deer, bears and monkeys.
For those that have followed the long ride home website and Facebook page from Chiang Rai to Nong Khai and who have supported the cause by simply passing on your supporting comments throughout, on behalf of The Long Ride Home staff back in Australia and the support crew who joined me for this 1,200 km ride over the last 12 days of cycling many thanks, warmest regards and Merry Xmas to you all.
Truck Sams and crew at the finish point, Nong Khai North Eastern Thailand, on The Long Ride Home.