Today wasn’t bad at all, just eighty kilometers, and they just flew by. In fact, we lingered at lunch since our hotel at Khao Lak wouldn’t accept new guests till 2 PM.
I did my thing: ride leisurely, checking out the scenery. One of the first things I saw was this lovely family from Myanmar (as I was to later learn) walking by the side of the highway. They were wearing what I thought was face-paint, but which I later learned was thanaka paste, make-up obtained by grinding the bark of the thanaka tree, part of the culture of Myanmar. It turns out that there is a large number of people from Myanmar who live in Thailand under work-permits, but who are not allowed to own cars or scooters. They can only walk to their places of work (or wherever), or cycle about. Anyway, here is the family. They didn’t understand any English, so I couldn’t speak much to them, but I did learn that the girl is ten years old. From the body language I could infer that the lady under the parasol is the little girl’s mother, and I suspect the other two would be a cousin or aunt and a grandmother.
The scenery continued to be like yesterday, ups and downs, with dense vegetation on either side, lovely shades of green all around. Here’s a sample:
For one of our breaks, we pulled into a roadside stall, run by a Muslim lady. She seemed to be wearing what looked like a salwar kameez. I didn’t want to potentially embarrass her by asking about her clothing, so instead I asked her if I could take her picture. Here she is:
Another long break was in the town of Takua Pa. We had iced coffee at a coffeehouse run by a lovely family, with a tragic history. First, here is the charmer, who I spotted as soon as I went it. I was impressed by how expertly she wielded her cutlery:
Turns out the owner, a very gracious lady who I couldn’t speak to too much because she didn’t know any English, had lost two daughters and her husband in the tsunami. We were by now in tsunami country, the portions of Thailand most affected. Takua Pa is not on the coast, but is not far from it, and the lady’s daughters and husband perished when they’d gone towards the coast for some work. But the lady carries on, smiling. Here she is, pictured with her son, who also runs the restaurant (the charmer above is this son’s daughter):
From Takua Pa, we cycled over to the Tsunami memorial, right on the coast. They have since built a giant Buddha statue on the beach, and I was quite struck by it when I saw it: it seemed to radiate peace, and had a very calming effect on me. Here is a picture:
We are now at another lovely beach resort hotel, the Apsara, in Khao Lak. The waters are serene, and the beaches are wide with white sand. It would be heavenly to come back later to these areas and spend longer time. But we leave tomorrow for our last cycling day, 90 KM to Phuket.