Isaan By Motorbike – Day 2Kevin (เควิน) Khaosan
DAY 2 Tuesday
I woke up at 6.30 am, ready for the next day. Well almost ready for the next day. After even the smallest amount of Sang Som the next day can be a dreadful affair. Sang som is not my friend. Feeling rough as a dogs arse I slowly got ready for the ride. My former sickness had been enhanced by the Sangsom and the disturbed sleep.
I sat with my friend and her mother outside of the house in some kind of shed, a posh shed, but still only a shed. A few people started coming and going, money was changing hands – a lot of money. It turns out that this shed is some sort of primitive style bank. The local people seem happier to hand over the money to the old ladies than to the farmer’s bank next door.
Before I left I got a massage from a nice old lady. Well I thought she was friendly until she started inflicting great amounts of pain on me. The thought of a nice loosening massage before the next leg of my travel was a good idea. This woman was giving me a full deep tissue massage. Not a Thai style massage, but nevertheless it was ranking up there with the most painful massages I have ever had. After my pounding I said my thank yous and farewells and got on my bike.
This was to be a much shorter ride than the day before. A lot easier of my ass than the day before.
The scenery was parched; clearly they haven’t had rain here for a long time. Endless straight roads cut through the barren brown and yellow. The sky was the cleanest of blues – no clouds to form any difference.
The fields for km after km were arid. This patchwork of tessellating blocks stretched on and on. It must have taken many generations to create this myriad of tiny fields. All adjoined by irrigation channels simply awaiting the rainy season to bring them back to life.
Cow herders were tending to their withered beasts, searching for shade from the searing heat of the mid-day sun. I was doing the same, rolling along the deserted asphalt. I found a disused petrol station, perfect. I took this opportunity to take a lie down in the shade and let the midday heat pass me by.
On on. I was not sure how long this leg was going to take. On the map it is a much shorter distance but in reality – this is
Thailand and things can be very deceiving. I opened up the throttle and got a boost along the way. Before not too long the road took a welcome change. The road changed from the long straights into a twisting turning snake.
As the road ascended through the hills I noticed a couple of dinosaurs on the side of the road. I had to stop and have a look. Full size, a diplodocus and tri-ceratops. These marked the entrance to a small picnic area close to Kalasin. The name of this small place is Pha Cliff. It is a place where the King Phumiphol of Thailand stopped to take a rest and some food in 1954. The Pha Cliff is a now a small picnic area. There were 3 or 4 small shelters there to take a rest or a refreshment break. These formed the edges to an expansive car park. The far edge of the car park is the cliff itself. It overlooks a now very brown valley. The view was wonderful; it was easy to see why the king chose this blissful place to take a rest from his travels, sitting within the shelter of the trees, looking out over a beautiful valley.
Back on the road again I saw signs for a waterfall. Yes, this was good news. This was better than good news. A chance to completely cool off in the refreshing waters. There could be nothing better at this time. After another 25 minutes of driving I eventually got to the waterfall. The whole place was deserted. Not a soul to be seen anywhere, even the guard station is vacant. Awesome, the whole place to myself, maybe a bit of skinny dipping or something.
Well not really, as you can see from the photo it is now simply a beautiful rock formation, no water to be seen, not even a drop. What did I do to deserve this, well it is the height of the dry season.
On to Sakhon Nakhon to find myself a room and a pharmacy. I looked around at a couple of places; the ones in the guide were far too expensive for what I was looking for. I wanted a place to sleep, maybe with aircon but definitely with a hot shower and a flushing sit down toilet.
After a while I asked a local guy where I could find the Araya 1 guesthouse. I was directed up the street, then helped in to find the place. It all looked ok from the outside, 180 baht for an air-conditioned room, no view to speak of but it is just a pit stop I’m not looking for a luxury room.
The room – time locked in a movie. The whole guesthouse must have been featured in the lonely planet that time forgot. A meagre write up. A less than meagre room. I was too tired to look for another place by now, feeling ill and tired I just wanted to relax. I checked into the place, I didn’t survey the room before I paid up, big mistake. The cockroaches had already packed up and left for better accommodation. The newest thing in the room was the toilet; the next was the towel rack. The silver lining to this cloud was the bed. Possibly the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. I sank into its loving arms.
For food I wanted something ferringue. I opted for pizza. Nice on the stomach, easy to ask for. Not very traditional I know but it was to serve a purpose. A visit to the pizza parlour gave me a nice head twist. It was 2 for 1. What the hell do I do with the next pizza; I knew I would only be able to manage around half of the first one, OMG. I managed to eat three slices of the first pizza then donated the rest to the ladies in the opticians in the adjacent shop. I took the three remaining pieces of pizza back to the guesthouse and gave them to the som tam party that was happening in the lobby.
Back in the room the bed awaited my return, so nice to sink into softness after the day’s ride.
Note: Story author is Steven Noake.