Just popping to Tesco ........

Trip Start Jul 07, 2008
Trip End May 27, 2010

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

17th February 2009
Hotel Thongsoon, Phrae, Thailand (130 baht cheapest so far)
The fan's on big time
yesterday: Sokhatai - Si Satchanalai - Uttaradit 120 kms
today: Uttaradit - Phrae (via Den Chai for lunch) 90kms
Last night we stayed at the Friday Hotel in Uttaradit.  We were a bit concerned about places to stay because we are using a site called www.mrpumpy.net as a resource for route information (he does this talking about himself in the third person which is a bit weird, but the information is spot on), and he ended up sleeping on a cafe floor in Uttaradit, although that was in 2002.  So, how happy were we when we found not 1 but 4 hotels, and the first one we stopped at was Fridays.  Turns out it was quite a posh (well in our terms) place and the price was 800 baht, however, having said it was too much for us and did they know of anything cheaper they immediately dropped the price to 400, although they wouldn't be giving us breakfast at that price.  That was fine, because we had some tesco jam and a loaf of wheatmeal bread anyway.  So, there we were in our luxury room, fridge, bath, a/c, tv the works and along comes Mr Cockroach!  Isn't it always the way?  Dave left them a nice present in the bath, a ring of scum you would have needed a chisel to get off!
They do love their Karaoke in Thailand and particularly in Fridays.  After several terrible renditions of 'It must have been love' and 'We are sailing' I pulled the sheet up over my head and buried myself in the pillow.  At 4am they finally gave up the ghost, leaving me with a couple of hours of peace and quiet before I had to get up and face the world and a cycle ride.
Actually, we have learned over the years not to be too daunted by what a place looks like, if you want to stay there but you think it's out of your league, go ask anyway, they can only say 'no', and if you get lucky they might say 'yes', it's worked for us on numerous occasions.
Today, we began cycling thinking we were only going to have to cycle 40 kms, 40 became 54, became 86 ....................  We are using 2 maps (one in Thai script so we can show to Thais should we need directions), the original idea was to cycle to Den Chai and stay there and ride up to Lampang via Highway 11.  However, we were a little bit misled as to the likelihood of accommodation in Den Chai and by map number 1 (mileage is wrong), there isn't any, so we had to double back and go to Phrae.  So from here we will be taking a slightly different route, looks like it's shorter, from here anyway, but we won't be sure until we've done it.  In any case, it's at least 100 kms and there are a couple of serious hills in the way, so we're starting early and keeping our fingers crossed.
The ride today was definitely different, we climbed some hills and we didn't have quite as much sky to look at as in recent days.  I feel the people are getting friendlier, they wave and smile and call to us, it's really nice. 
I forgot to mention my discovery in Tesco the other day, Darlie toothpaste.  It was the black and white packaging that caught my eye, something very familiar about it, then it hit me, Darlie used to be Darkie!  Twenty years ago we found Darkie toothpaste on sale in Thailand, with it's black and white packaging, and its black and white minstrel man, with his top hat and bow tie to boot.  I think they caught wind of the changing political climate and took the K out and made it Darlie.  The black and white minstrel man is still a black and white minstrel man, except cleverly disguised in a negative image.
Talking of black and white, every beauty cream you come across in Thailand has a 'whitening' formula in it.  We've seen advertisements on the TV where they have demonstrated the use of such products, one in particular where they spread the whitening cream over the shoulder of a model (so thickly that you would need a B&Q bucket size tub to do just your arms) and then they wipe it off and voila, the skin is miraculously whiter!  No different I suppose to the same companies (and they are the same names I'm seeing) selling tanning products to us in the west! Isn't the world a funny place?
Today we met 2 cyclists and you could have knocked us both over with a feather because they were Thais!  How lovely to see them, they had Thai bicycles, racks and panniers, but we noticed one had a Catseye computer like ours.  They were both covered from head to foot, unlike us with vests and shorts.  Many of the Thais that work outside do this, they cover up completely, hats, balaclavas, masks, long sleeves, full gloves, trousers tucked into socks and shoes.  Is it the white thing again or are they just more sensible than us?
Yesterday we saw the biggest Buddha so far.  It was gold coloured and in the middle of absolutely nowhere, how weird.  We HAD to take a photograph (although we are now having to be very selective about Buddha photos otherwise we will have albums full of the blooming things) so I stood in front, straddling my bike, and you can hardly see me in the photo!
Had an interesting experience this evening with food.  We went to the Big C centre (shopping mall) looking for porridge, yes, good ole porridge again.  It's good cycling food, slow releasing and absolutely ideal, we used it a lot in India.  Having done our shopping we ventured into the food court and decided to eat there, except we couldn't work out how to pay for our food.  What we should have done is go to a desk and buy an 'e-card', worth whatever we wanted to spend, then go and order our food (from one or more counters), hand over the e-card which they swipe and the correct money gets taken off.  Instead, we got our food and sat down looking like a couple of eejets.  With a little help from our friendly ladies behind the counters who had prepared our food for us, we got there in the end, with a lot of laughter along the way.
As I'm typing this up I've found 2 open wifi networks but neither with a good signal.  Generally speaking, Thailand has been great for wifi links, unlike India where even in Mumbai they were few and far between.  Having said that, the internet cafes in India are generally cheap (20-40 rupees per hour) unless you happen to be in Thekkady (Periyar) where they charge some astronomical amount of money.   They even charge you for using Skype, how does that work I asked, it's software, I'm paying to use the computer I must be paying to use the software on the computer!!! 
Talking of India, I feel like I'm back there now.  We have fallen from the giddy heights of last night at Fridays to tonight - 800 baht last night to 130 baht tonight!  The room we have could be in India, it's basic, opens out onto a long balcony, has a fan and a basic bathroom (squat loo) but it does have a shower AND the water is hot.  There's nobody else around, and there must be 60/70 rooms over 3 levels, how DO they make their money?
Books: In my opinion
*       Not great
**     OK
***    Worth reading
****  A favourite
***** Exceptional
Reading: Brother Number One, A Political Biography of Pol Pot - David P Chandler
and Bleachers -(another) John Grisham (to offset the academic Chandler)
To date:
The Last Grain Race - Eric Newby **
Cancer Ward - Alexander Solzenhitsyn ****
Utterly Monkey - Nick Laird **
Atonement - Ian McEwan ***
The Tesseract - Alex Garland **
Mr Vertigo - Paul Auster ***
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro *** 
The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing - Melissa Bank **     
The Perfect Storm - Sebastian Junger ***
The Pelican Brief - John Grisham **
Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier ***
Gap Creek - Robert Morgan *
All my friends are going to be strangers - Larry McMurtry ***
Chasing Cezanne - Peter Mayle (rubbish)
The Broker - John Grisham *
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