We arrived at 11:30 last night, after hours of flying and a change of planes in Hong Kong. Chris, who slept poorly last night, is snoozing as I write, and we’re hiding from the heat in our hotel room. Our bikes and belongings look reasonably ready for a pre-dawn departure tomorrow. We hope to reach Ayutthaya, where we’ll spend a sightseeing day. It won’t be idyllic cycling, but should be doable because Chris has printed out google maps of a route along back roads by canals.
We have bought a sim card and a top up for our quad band phone. Our cell number has been communicated to our nearest and dearest. Our first use of the phone was an excellent local chat with Alastair, a cousin of Martin’s (Victorienteer) who works (worked) for Food and Agriculture Organization and is a wealth of local knowledge. To meet him in person would involve getting 60 km across a city of 10 million, so the phone will have to do, which is a real shame because it is clear we have much in common. Alastair has advised us on historical and botanical sights to see as we head north through the Golden Triangle, an area of special interest to him because he has had a hand in steering land use away from opium production. Many thanks, Diana and Martin, for creating the connection.
Unboxing our bikes this morning we found that the outermost threads of the derailleur hanger lug on my bike’s frame were a bit damaged from cross-threading in the past. We couldn’t put the derailleur on. We asked our hotel lady about nearby bike shops and workshops, and set out walking with only the derailleur in hand, to try to explain the problem. Chris felt if he could purchase a longer bolt of the same diameter as the derailleur bolt, and screwed this in from the inside of the frame (wheel removed) that this would smooth the threads out sufficiently. The language barrier made explaining what we wanted impossible, even with sketch pad and phrasebook. We had clearly found a very competent machine shop, however, so we returned wheeling the bike and carrying a bag of bike tools. With all visuals at hand, they immediately understood the problem. With a calm competence, they re-tapped the threads with a proper mm tap-die, thus making an optimal long-term solution. An over-eager attempt to help might have cost us a damaged frame and a significant delay. The cost of the repair was extremely reasonable!
While we discussed the bike problem, and as Chris and I reassembled the bike somewhat after the re-tapping, the machine shop staff all gathered round to watch the crazy falangs (foreigners). I think I caused a bit of a stir when I took out the multitool pliers and held the end of the derailleur cable as Chris tightened the bolt. This was clearly not something they expected from a woman, especially one with grey hair. One of the shop lads had a few words of Mandarin, so I managed to explain about carrying bags on the bikes for travelling. They enjoyed ogling the gears.
We’ve divested ourselves of cardboard bike boxes and “one-way suitcases”, which completes the transition from plane mode to road mode. Now we need to find supper, call Alastair, and get an early night.