Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chiang Mai to Phitsanulok

Today, Thursday, February 18th,  I rode solo from Chiang Mai to Phitsanulok on the penultimate day of this motorcycle tour.

I reluctantly left Chiang Mai at about 10:30 vowing to myself that I would return to this city at my first opportunity. The day was perfect for riding. The temperature was probably about 80 F under slightly overcast skies. After leaving the heavy traffic of Chiang Mai behind and turning south on Rte 11 I detected a bit of a tailwind, always welcome on any sort of bike ride. It was a pleasant trip, if a little boring, on comparatively straight, mostly divided highways with light traffic. But I did well on my own stopping only for coffee at an Amazon Coffee shop on Rte 11 about 50 miles north of Phitsanulok. These shops are bracingly air conditioned and serve a good iced latte so they're a favorite place to take a break.

Although the country is in the middle of its dry season I crossed a river that presented a pleasing aspect to my eye so I immediately pulled over to take a photo. Scenes like this are uncharacteristic at this time of year so I was eager to get a photo. Most of our tour has been through parched country usually with a haze of smoke in the air; later in the day it gets hot which seems only to exacerbate the situation. (You can see smoke from burning leaves in both photos.) This far north the humidity is still low so the comfort level is pretty good. Later when I go south to Koh Tao to visit Joe, my buddy from Fiji, it's gonna get almost unbearable.

I had dinner tonight with Andy's friend Jeab and one of her girlfriends (who didn't speak any English). We rode our motorbikes. They led me to a nice restaurant by the river, the Nan River as it turns out, where we enjoyed some foods that I would never have picked out on my own. I told Jeab about the snake-head fish I ate in Chiang Mai and so she ordered one, broiled this time rather than deep fried, and it was delicious. I told her it was called pla noh up north but she had a different name for it. I had squid served in a hot pot with abundant chilis and kaffir lime leaf  along with some unidentified vegetables. Very good eating, as usual.

I bought a book by William Faulkner in a used bookstore Chiang Mai, Light in August. I  never had much luck with his books but I'm gonna give him another go. When I first entered the bookstore I asked the clerk, "where are the English language books?" She replied, "the entire lower floor is books in English. Other languages are upstairs." And please notice the book that's featured on the first shelf that catches the eye. It's Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States, one of my all time favorites. And only last week I finished Paulo Coelho's The alchemist. This bookstore is as good as many in the U.S., better than most in fact, with a big selection of classics, histories, better literature, mysteries, and much more. So I reckon I'll be spending a few minutes with Faulkner before sacking out tonight.

Tomorrow l head for Udon. It will be my last day on this particular Phantom. It's been a helluva ride though. I think there is a motorcycle somewhere in my future and I think I might be riding it in Thailand.

Stats: Ride time 5:15; Distance covered 217 miles; Max speed 72.5 mph