Pathio to Tungtako

Monkey Business.

An outstanding day of riding amongst the coconut and palm oil plantations for most of the way to Tungtako. Awesome smooth sealed roads winding amongst small villages and private plantations which has been the norm for most of the journey since leaving Hua Hin a week ago. The only danger when riding in this part of the world is working monkeys whose task is to climb trees (tethered to a long rope) and throw down coconuts to the handler below. Now I can tell you the last thing a handler wants to do is catch coconuts all day long so they mostly land on the road, so if you happen to be passing by on your bike, beware the falling coconuts.

We took a stop to observe the monkey business of the coconut operations happening rather than get bombarded with flying coconuts from above; a handler and his working monkey going for it. I was able to ascertain through my knowledge of the Thai language that; the monkey's name was Anui, 2 years old, and can throw down up to 500 coconuts per day, (a lot of throw downs for any monkey or person) which the handler can sell for 8 baht (approx 25 cents) per coconut. The monkey earns 200 baht per day ($7.69 AUD) so I'm told by the handler, which I gathered, pays for Anui's rent and food. Hmmmmm!! a bit of monkey business I think.

Getting closer to Surat Thani gateway to Phuket to the West and the Island of Koh Samui to the East. The last 130 km with Troy and Giles tomorrow, their last day of riding in SE Asia, then a rest day / change over with Matt Brown (the day after tomorrow), before moving down the Kra Isthmus. Geographically we are paralleling Myanmar (Burma) laying to our West. The border runs almost the complete length of the Isthmus just short of Phuket. If you were to draw a parallel line directly East of Tungtako (our location now) it would run directly through the Mekong Delta Vietnam where the team rode through almost a month ago. There are a lot of similarities between the Mekong Delta and where we are now - lots of small tributaries running into the Gulf of Thailand and plenty of marshlands and mangrove swamps, which stands to reason geographically both land masses would have been joined at some stage millions of years ago.

The Kra Isthmus is the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, in southern Thailand and Myanmar. The Malay/Thai peninsula has been settled since prehistoric times. Archeological remains were found in several caves, some used for dwellings, others as burial sites. The oldest remains were found in Lang Rongrien Cave, dating 38,000 to 27,000 years before present, and in the contemporary Moh Khiew cave.

In the first millennium Chinese chronicles mention several coastal cities or city-states. No exact geographical locations were recorded, so the identification of these cities with later settlements is difficult. The most important of these states were Langkasuka, usually considered a precursor of the Pattani Kingdom; Tambralinga, probably the precursor of the Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom, or P'an-p'anin Phunphin district, Surat Thani, probably located at the Bandon Bay Tapi River. The cities were highly influenced by Indian culture, and have adopted Brahman or Buddhist religion. When Srivijaya in Chaiya extended its sphere of influence, those cities became tributary states of Srivijaya. The city Chaiya in Surat Thani Province contains several ruins from Srivijaya times, and was probably a regional capital of the kingdom. Some Thai historians even claim that it was the capital of the kingdom itself for some time, but this is disputed.

After Srivijaya lost its influence, Nakhon Si Thammarat became the dominant kingdom of the area. During the rule of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great of Sukhothai, Thai influence first reached Nakhon Si Thammarat. According to the Ramkhamhaeng inscription, Nakhon Si THammarat was a tributary state of Sukhothai. During most of later periods, Nakhon became a tributary of Ayutthaya.

The deep south belonged to the Malay sultanates of Pattani and Kedah, while the northernmost part of the peninsula was under the control of Bangkok.

During the thesaphiban reforms at the end of the 19th century, both Nakhon Si Thammarat and Pattani were incorporated into the central state. The area was subdivided into 5 monthon, which were installed to control the city states (mueang). Minor mueang were merged into larger ones, thus forming the present 14 provinces. With the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 the boundary to Malaysia was fixed. Kedah came under British control, while Pattani stayed with Siam.

The main language is Southern Thai, also known as Pak Thai or Dambro, which is a southwestern Tailanguage spoken in the 14 changwat of Southern Thailand as well as by small communities in the northernmost Malaysianstates. It is spoken by roughly five million people, and as a second language by the 1.5 million speakers of Patani Malay and other ethnic groups such as the local Thai Chinese communities, Negritos, and other tribal groups. Most speakers are also fluent or understand the central Thai dialect.

More to follow from the long ride home team in the steamy jungles of Southern Thailand.

Sawadee Krub

Truck, Troy and Giles