Friday, 15 July 2016

VISA RUN TO MALAYSIA

Arriving in Bangkok almost 2 months ago, I was stamped in to Thailand, with permission to stay in the country for 30 days (as usual). Those 30 days were over too soon, with the hassles of 1 week delayed baggage, etc. So, I saddled up my bike (old Saartjie), for the trip to Malaysia to get a longer Thai visa. I am still waiting for my new passport (a few months more), so Malaysia is convenient as I do not need a visa (they only place a small entry and exit stamp in the passport, which is almost full). I have cycled this route a number of times, and I had to be out of Thailand on a certain date, so I took the train for part of the way from Bangkok. From the border I headed South to Penang island where there is a Thai consulate (visa office), camping a couple of times along the way there and back. I stayed a few days in Penang (George Town), in the Little India district (good street food). Then I headed back towards Thailand and Bangkok. I arrived there without my tent poles (where do errant tent poles go?), so I have had to buy a new tent here in Bangkok. Luckily I could find a tent, but it is bigger than necessary for my purposes, and relatively bulky and heavy for cycling. Distances cycled on this trip are as follows - (NOTE THAT THESE ARE CUMULATIVE DISTANCES, AND NOT DAILY DISTANCES!):- Bangkok (to train) 16 km; Chumphon (by train) to Malaysian border at Padang Besar 563 km; Penang island (Georgetown) 262 km; Return to Thailand and take train from Hat Yai 315 km; Hua Hin (by train) to Bangkok 217 km. Total distance cycled up to 7 July 2016 is 136758 km.
And so, at the risk of harping on about things, my pre-schemed plans regarding my travels in E Asia have obviously been seriously disrupted. In the mean time my travel options are limited. But there are also positives, and the day after arriving in Thailand without any baggage I met Pannee. She has been good company, and has made me forget some of my troubles.
Currently I am visiting on her family farm in Isan, Ubon province in the East of Thailand.
The Buddhist Lent, also called the Candle Festival, is very big in this region. This year the culmination of that festival is in the provincial capital, Ubon Ratchatani, on 19 and 20 July.
The festival consists of float parades (built over months from candle wax), accompanied by local dancing troops. The various important temples compete against each other for first prize each year (nb. "temple" refers to the entire community, not only the monks). After that we take the train back to Bangkok again for the time being.