Wednesday, 31 August 2016

FSTR (8 - 16 August 2016), Day 2 : Mae Klong Railway Markets, Full Dress Rehearsal!!!

Mae Klong Railway Station
Here comes the train!
Narrow passage
Vegetables and Seafood

Mae Klong Railway Station
Alice in Wonderland themed coffee shop
Riding through the salt plains
Inside a salt factory
Salt pile
Salt crystal "stolen" by KC
Salt plains
Love knows no boundaries
The Lovers found out the hard way!!!
A magnate for Love?
The view beyond the statues

For many, the morning started at Ban Siriporn's jetty. Sitting on the long wooden benches by the Mae Klong River as the cool morning breeze playfully tugs at one's hair is almost ethereal. Wendy and VT witnessed the river monks collecting alms. When their boats approached Ban Siriporn, Fern's dad and Wendy placed a little something into their bowls. Much later, Claudine and KC, observed the larger fishing boats setting out for the open sea.

Soon, everyone congregrated at Ban Siriporn's open air restaurant. They were not serving breakfast but thoughtfully placed tea and coffee sachets on the counter for us to brew our own beverages. Toasting to the start of a new day, we munched on Alvin's Gardenia Ikan Bilis bun.

As Mae Klong Railway markets is a mere 15 minutes walk from Ban Siriporn, we headed out on foot. YC, our navigator took us through some side streets, homes to the locals. The love for dogs is prominent here, judging by the "land mines" strewn all along the road. George, had a field day bonding with the furry animals.

We crossed a few canals, saw some side stalls selling soupy innards, mostly pre-packed in plastic bags for a quick take-away....

We passed by a large Buddhist temple, gleaming in gold paint against the morning sun...

We saw many large urns for water storage....

We see proud house owners, planting beautiful flowers on what little land they could find....

Soon, we came upon the sides of a restaurant. Peering through the zinc walls, we saw air-conditioning indoor blowers hung on the mesh wired fences!!! We were perplexed with the design and technology blunder!

Right after our derelict restaurant, we turned left to the Main Street which was flanked by government buildings. A few hundred meters ahead was the Mae Klong Railway markets also known as the Umbrella Pulldown Market. On one end of the market is the Mae Klong station, the last station for the Ban Laem line. The markets spills over from a proper roofed building all the way to the edge of the railway tracks. All kinds of fresh produce is sold here.

Approaching rail time, the tracks were filled more with curious tourists rather than local housewives. Very little purchases were made at this juncture but the stall owners tolerated our visits. Longan was in season and Claudine could not resist buying a bag to chew on while waiting for the arrival of the train.

Walking down the tracks, we soon got bored as the produce sold kept repeating after awhile....

Pork, seafood, fruits, vegetables....

Seafood, fruits, pork, vegetables....with an occasional salted fish that breaks the monotony!

A few minutes before the arrival of the train, the station master makes the announcement over the loudspeakers. And then.................Operation Pulldown began!!!

Slowly and calmly the stall owners removed their goods from the tracks. Some stalls have it easy with wheeled trolleys. Some though had to carry their baskets in. As for small items spread out low on tarpaulins, they were left for the train to roll above them, not causing any damage!

The final dress down were the canvassed roofs supported by wooden beams. When the beams were removed, the canvases were pulled in, hence the nickname Umbrella Pulldown Market.

Alvin with all his smiles and charms was given the best Stalls seat in the theater. When the rumbling orchestra came in full ensemble of horns and screeching metals, he had the best unobstructed view! The train almost hit him, short of 8 inches!!!

There was no clear and present danger as the train was going at an extremely low speed! As soon as it passes, the market resumes and the tourists left to trail after it to the station.

With no more tracks beyond Mae Klong station, the engine was turned off as soon as the train arrives. The passengers then, alighted and the janitor embarked to start his cleaning. It will remain at the station for 30 minutes before making its way back the same way and the same dress down routine will commence yet again!

After all the hype, we sat down for breakfast at the station. YC, waited patiently at the edge of the market for everyone, not knowing that we had followed the train to the station. He had wanted to take us to a better place to eat but alas, we had placed our orders of duck noodles and porridge!

After a few simple exchange in Thai between George and the noodle shopowner, she presented us with complimentary homemade coconut jelly. Everyone had a piece of the delicious jelly but YC who ate it out of George's hand had more! He had a value meal of jelly with side orders of dog fur and oral bacteria!!!

On our back to Ban Siriporn, Alvin decided to give us the complete Thai package. We boarded the local transport at 6 baht per person. It came complete with a happy exchange with 2 grandmas on board!

Back at our resort, VT had a sudden paradigm shift. He realizes that his KHS comes with extra spacers which add height to the handlebar. He discussed it with YC and together the men worked on Claudine's Tern D16. The aluminum foils were removed and replaced with the KHS spacer. KC and George were consulted further on how to tighten the placement. After a few trials, Claudine gave her thumbs up. The bike felt as good as new.....and we were delayed by a good 30 minutes!

We said goodbye to Fern's family for the umpteenth time before rolling out of Ban Siriporn. George though, continues to nurse a sore thigh, lashings from Sue's bungee cord. He had helped her adjust her bag strapped to the rack when the cord came to life for one brief moment!

We took the same route towards the markets but turned left just after the station. Then, we joined the throngs of locals on foot and motorcycles up the river ferry. It was a very short ride but exciting all the same.

Debarked, we rode a short 12 km, passing by a school in session, a mangrove swamp and a man collecting Coconut Palm sap. We followed the back road which traversed a river. It soon brought us back to the main road.

"Why does the LTF team cross the road? To get to the other side!!!"

To get to the other side, we made a U-turn under the flyover. Just a little ahead was R&A Avenue, Coffee Best. We stopped here for our favourite Cha Yen, iced Thai tea which came a wee bit too sweet.

A hundred meters away from our Alice in Wonderland themed coffee stop we detoured to an elementary school. Behind it was a river with a wooden rickety bridge. Some of us made it to the other end but as there were no Pokemon to catch, the trailling entourage were asked to turn back!

Choosing the roads less travelled, YC led us on the coastal roads to Chao Samran. It was our first day of riding and we had started late with a visit to the markets coupled with delays on bike adjustments. The sun was not cooperating too, baking us at 30 degrees Celsius. When Alvin spotted his first refuge, he wheeled his bike in!

This stop was not "wonderland" material but the tree we took refuge under has thick foliage which lends a cool shade. Sue took this opportunity to adjust her seat post. It slid down during the ride but a little tightening of the quick release solves all problems relating to mass. Here, Alvin bought a cut pineapple from a motorized stall. Nobody were convinced that pre-washing the pineapples with 50ml of water will be safe for consumption so none shared his fruit.

The ride was progressing to a stumbling block. Heading out again, we were forced to stop after a few kilometers due to a puncture on George's bike. It was decided that while YC will turn back to give assistance, Alvin will lead us to another shelter.

When we finally rode again, we were riding through salt plains. Here, the roads were very flat and very straight. Surrounding us were pools of shallow sea water held in by sand banks. Flat though, we were not protected from the South Westerly winds blowing in from the Indian Ocean.

After awhile, we stopped for regrouping at the entrance of a nice bungalow. It was blowing very hard by then and Sue's brand new Brompton took its first fall! We had to scurry to the opposite 7 Eleven, when the sky started to break! Thankfully, George, KC and VT managed to catch up just before it started to pour hard!

George who was sick earlier due to indigestion, was nursed by the 3 lady riders. Wendy offered him canned coconut water and pickled prunes. Sue offered him essential oil administered orally which sent him throwing up even more! After a tummy rub by his wife, a prayer by the Pastor and simethicone from another quack nurse, his colour returned.

Right at this time, YC returned from a lunch recce. The rain had dwindled to a drizzle and we were all excited to go. Just then, Sue's bike took another crash while parked and Wendy found out her rear wheels were completely flat!!!

It was quickly decided that YC will lead VT, Sue and Claudine to the lunch stop so that they can order for the rest that stayed back to assist the tyre change. He will return to get the rest as the route were a bit complicating.

The first entourage left with prior warnings from YC of a steep climb over a bridge. As they approached it, it was indeed daunting! As Sue climbed, her gears jammed up and she could not change to a lower one. She came to a complete standstill and quickly hopped off before gravity took over! VT following closely behind her lost the momentum. He too had to step down before overtaking Sue to complete the climb.

At the restaurant, everything on the menu were written in Thai. The staffs only speak Thai. Ordering a simple Thai basil chicken with rice took Sue and Claudine into the kitchen. They had to scour for rice, point; hunt for eggs, point; search for chicken......Behind the scenes, VT asked for free wife service, searched up a photo of Thai Basil Chicken and ta daaaaaaa.......

Unfortunately, the food didn't taste ta daaaaaa at all!!! Claudine complained with every mouthful, VT spiked it with chillies and soy sauce and Alvin gave it a 2/10!!!

After lunch, we set out again. Here and there we could feel tiny droplets of rain but we were not perturbed. In fact, it was nice and cooling to ride in this weather condition. We did not ride far before stopping by a nice looking cafe which overlooks the salt plains.

Ban Laem Country Shop would be a perfect stop had we not just had lunch. But we did enjoy the tea and coffee lattes served amidst the cool, after rain breezes. We caught up with social media, tapping on the free wife and chuckled as we see KC riding out of a shed with dogs barking at his heels!!! Brave KC had stolen some salt crystals and the keepers were not happy about it!

Next we rode out again, this time with a short detour to a fishing village. The boats were stranded by the river at low tide. We did not find the bridge that YC was looking out for and so we headed back out again.

This time, the wind was blowing really hard. Unprotected on the salt plains, we could see the flags openly flapping away! YC was ahead breaking the wind for us. Behind him, Alvin and Wendy drafted. Claudine fought on behind Wendy. She felt herself pumping the pedals hard but moving slowly. She bent forward and pummeled the pedals further but yet did not project any further ahead.

Throughout this ordeal, YC, Alvin and Wendy laboured on quietly. Claudine began to wonder if anyone noticed there was a typhoon blowing their way. Finally, she gave up and complained. Hearing her out, Alvin called for a stop by a stall.

Relief was written all over everyone's faces especially Sue's. It was after all, her first day on Bunny. Tom and Jerry, her 2 Ortlieb panniers were creating drag. We powered up on the left over longans from Mae Klong markets while George took a power drink from the stall, out of courtesy to them. Then, we were off fighting again!!!

After awhile, we stopped for regrouping at a night market. Loitering around, YC spotted a concrete statue of 2 lovers by the sea front. He shared the photo subject with KC and everyone else.

It was a nightmarish experience. KC, Claudine and VT got the worst of it. Wendy on foot stopped midway while Sue with Bunny was cautioned against venturing further....

The earlier trios had their wheels set in mud. As the wheels turned, it collected more and more mud until the mudguards and wheels were fused together. Scrapping them off and wheeling them over the grassy area, the stickiness continues to draw grass and sand! The trio had to scrap off the scum repeatedly until they reached the road as carrying the bike with panniers would be too far a distance and too heavy the weight!!!

The sun was setting by then and we hurried off. We had never anticipated the short 70 km to Chao Samran will be riddled with so many obstacles. 

With another 5 km to our destination, we were rewarded with a sunset view of anglers by a river. Fishing boats were docked at the banks and a little ahead was the open sea. Crossing the bridge that traversed the river, we saw watergates that controls the flow of the water.

Thankfully, we arrived at Bryde's Beach House at twilight, with just enough light for us to wheel our bikes in. Dinner though, was another surprise as many restaurants stop serving dinner when the sun made its final dip into the horizon. God had mercy on us for on our second stop, the restaurateur agreed to fire up their stove again even though they were already closed for the day.

After dinner, we walked the quiet street back, escorted by more than 20 dogs from at least 2 rival clans. It was a little unsettling for some but with George our dog whisperer and Alvin, pretending to be Moses, leading his congregation, he split the sea of dogs to pave a safe way home for us!!!!

Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong 
Ped Al

No comments:

Post a Comment