Monday, 26 August 2013

A few days in Phetchaburi

I'm sure they shouldn't do this - its an overhead electric cable

Well, it’s now Monday 26th August, the day before my birthday and our last in Phetchaburi. We planned to stay 4 nights but actually have stayed 5 as we’re so comfortable here. The 2N Guesthouse is really nice, run by Nit and Nisa, two sisters who seem to attend to every detail and have 6 spotless air conditioned rooms that are a real escape from the heat of the day, which is very, very hot and humid.

It is monsoon season here so, although we’ve had quite a bit of sunshine, it’s also been quite cloudy and, after we’ve been in our room for a while and really cooled off, it looks with the cloudy sky as though it might be a bit cool, that is until we open the door and go outside!

We have been out every day, usually until just after lunch when it gets really hot and sometimes tends to rain (occasionally downpours, but only for half hour or so) and the use of the bikes has been very useful, but they are very ‘light duty’ and, as a result has been quite eventful!

The Khao Luana cave
On day one we decided to cycle about 3km out to some caves with Buddha images inside a huge natural chamber, the Khao Luana Caves. Although Phetchaburi is largely flat, there is a slight hill to get to the caves and, as there are no gears on the bike, I powered up the hill, standing up to push the pedals round when suddenly - crack! I got off and found I'd broken the pedal crank, where it joins to the bottom bracket. It split open at the cotter pin and, although it hadn't fallen off it was hanging at a strange angle! We went to look at the caves and I freewheeled back down the hill and then pedalled with one foot looking for somewhere that might be able to fix it.

This was the cave car park when we left - 9 coaches had turned up! When we arrived there was 1 car and 1 mini bus and about half a dozen people in the cave. So glad we went when we did!
I found a car repair garage and pulled in, showing the bike to three young lads (no words were spoken as nothing would be understood!). In a moment they unbolted it, put it in a vice, bashed it back into shape, got out an arc welder, welded it back together, then sprayed it black (as it was before) and refitted it, all within about 20 minutes. They expected no payment, but at my insistence I gave each of them 20baht, which is about £0.40, so it cost us £1.20 in all. They were pleased and so, obviously, were we.

A bit of arc welding

Good as new!
Not again!
The next day, cycling carefully round town, making sure I didn't put too much pressure on the pedals, the chain broke and fell off! The split pin retainer had obviously fallen out some time ago and now the rest of it fell out having bent beyond use. I tried to bend it back and refit it, but it just wouldn't fit. People came over to help and one guy told me to put the bike in the back of his truck and he'd take me to a cycle repair shop (open on a Sunday?). Jackie had to cycle behind, which she did very quickly! He dropped me and bike off, I thanked him and off he went, the man in the shop got a new split pin and repaired the chain, noticed the bottom bracket was loose so re-adjusted
Cute little monkeys!
that, noticed the front chainwheel was bent so hammered that back into shape, noticed the brakes weren't too good so adjusted those, noticed the chain was still a bit too long so took a link out and refitted it, noticed the chain guard was catching the pedal so adjusted that, oiled everything, took off the pedal to oil it, refitted the cotter pin in the welded crank and, in all spent about 30 minutes. The charge? 50baht, about £1.00!

A chimney manoueuvre

The 'palace on the mountain'
We’ve seen the other sights in town, including the ‘palace on a mountain’, which is a collection of old but very grand buildings and wat’s on a hill, protected by very cute looking, but very aggressive monkeys (even Jackie wouldn’t risk trying to stroke one!). Even to just look at one they bare their teeth and look as though they will launch themselves at you! Jackie still bought some corn kernels as
Phra Ramrajnivet Palace
monkey feed and hand fed them though – there is just no stopping her! There are simply loads of other wats, including a magnificent looking five pronged one from 14th century that is surrounded by hundreds of Buddha images and a grand palace built by the last king in 1910, which is supposed to be modelled on Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm’s palace.

The Wat Mahathat Worawihan
It’s incredibly cheap here, but I think it’s because it’s not on many peoples itineraries, so we’re paying Thai prices not tourist prices and our white faces are sometimes the only ones we see, which seems to make the locals talk to us, wave or just say ‘Allo’. Cycling, even at night with no lights (which seems to be the norm) is not really stressful as no-one is in a rush, everyone drives slowly and courteously and we haven’t seen any aggressive or fast driving. In short, it’s an absolute joy being here.

Our 'expensive' dinner last night
We’ve also been experimenting with food, trying different things even in places where no English is spoken. Nisa wrote down some food words in Thai for us, including ‘no coriander’ for Jackie, which caused a smile in the restaurant last night when we showed it. 
Cutting the durian
One experiment yesterday was to try a durian (or at least a segment of one), which is a big green spiky fruit that apparently is very pungent, many establishments in cities forbid them being brought in as they are so smelly. Our segment, bought from a roadside stall, was quite expensive (relatively speaking) at 130bhat (£2.60) and we ate it outside on our balcony with some longans (similar to lychees). The durian tasted a bit like a custard apple, which if you haven’t tried one of those is a bit like very thick custard, quite nice, but not ‘I must have that again’. Didn’t notice much smell, but maybe it gets stronger with age. We also bought some wasabi coated peanuts, they really blow the head off!

The outer spiky bit is removed

Funny texture, but quite nice
Opening a longan
As a guide to prices, we had a really nice and big iced coffee yesterday, price 15baht (£0.30), lunch today was fried rice, price 20baht (£0.40), beer (Chang) 89baht (£1.80) for 2 about 1 litre each and our guesthouse is 580baht (£11.80) which includes breakfast. Last night we ‘pushed the boat out’ and went for an expensive meal at a riverside restaurant, we had a spicy fish course, a spicy seafood salad course, a seafood and mixed veg stir fry and 2 Chang beers. Total price 480baht (£9.60).  It just isn’t possible to spend a lot of money here, even if you wanted to.

Looks and tastes a bit like a lychee
Tomorrow, however we’ve decided to move on further south. We wanted to visit the beach resort of Hua Hin, but all hotels there were too expensive, so we’re going further south to a another beach resort called Prachuap Khiri Khan where we’ve booked a beachside guesthouse that comes out as No. 1 in trip advisor for the area, (as where we are is No. 1 for Phetchaburi) so today we purchased our tickets for the 10:40 train tomorrow morning. Again we’ve pushed the boat out, going for an air conditioned carriage at 370baht each, rather than the slower and unreliable third class train at 31baht each!

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