I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of heavy rain plummeting mercilessly on the roof. I am one of those who love sleeping to the rhythm of rain. My bliss was broken when the alarm clock rang and Christoph and I jumped out of bed. We peeped through the frosty window to the splendor of the brown, fast moving Mekong River and hoped the rain would ease a little.
Fat chance! It was wet as wet can be. The boys grouped at 8am for breakfast and Angkana drove out to buy us some sumptous local Thai fare of noodles and snacks. It was the start of many acts of kindness from her family.
All of us ate quietly feeling anxious about the thought of riding 110km in the rain to Chiang Khan. It was about 9am and we decided to "Tally Ho" as everyone was getting restless. Ensuring everything was water-proofed, we braved the rain and rode with hope, in our sandals.
I actually enjoyed the gentle rain drops landing on my face as I pedalled out of Sangkom. The cooler weather helped us to ride a bit faster. We had all our lights blinking for better visibility and felt like the top of the world.
I wore a cap inside my helmet to manage the rain from blurring up my vision and it somewhat did the job. TW as usual, took "tail-end Charlie" and we rode tightly as a pack of all-weather bombers on an important mission.
Riding in the wet was interesting. It was like the world was divided into those haves and the have nots - fenders that is. The latter group had their bicycles completely dirty and when grime started to seep into the cables, all sorts of technical problems developed.
Ken C's was both. First, his RD got jammed. Then, his pannier cover started collecting water and soon, he was wondering why his bike was getting heavier and heavier. Dr Mike wanted to do immediate surgery to release the fluids in the huge tumour! Truly, we also discovered once again, the importance of having fenders for touring.
It happened to be the celebration of Buddha's enlightenment and every village we rode past had some kind of dance celebration done by school kids all dressed up in golden costumes and heavily made up. It encouraged us no end to know that we were not the only ones unperturbed by the rain. We stopped to watch and some friendly locals came to explain excitedly about what the hoo ha was all about. It was a pity that we could not snap any pics as it was pouring. Our morning tea was taken at some obscure Ban (village) where we took shelter from the heavy rain. Hot noodle soup never tasted so nice!
Once again, we were overwhelmed by the generousity of the shop owner who gave us complimentary fruits and topped up our water bottles. It is moments like these that really makes our adventures so heartening. There was also a wedding going on, once again, oblivious to the rain.
We arrived at Pak Chom at about 2pm some 65km away looking like drowned rats. But our spirits were still high and Ken C, who in a previous life, taught Physics at Uni, decided to conduct a live experiment on downhill momentum. 3 of us, all differering weights, should coast down the hill at the same speed, according to Newton's theory but it wasnt so. Our simple experiment led us to conclude that the heaviest goes downhill the fastest!
I got the boys to wait for me just outside the local school while Christoph and I went to recce food places. We discovered a small eatery with an elderly lady and hot wok. This was God-sent as our stomachs were rumbling. However, some communication problems got the shepherds seperated from the flock and poor Christoph had to go find the boys. Fortunately, Pak Chom is a small 2 street town and it was not too difficult to spot 6 foldies in psychedelic colours.
A meal of Khao Pad and Pad Thai washed down with bottles of soft drinks refuelled us very nicely. It was then we needed to decide to continue or break here for the night. Angkana's car came very handy in the rain as we went to check out prospective accommodations. We saw 3 all were not suitable save for the last one. At 500B, with clean sheets and a spacious room, it was a done deal.
However, Christoph and I went back to the restaurant to report that we had to press on to Chiang Khan and that got everyone flying to their bikes as we only had 3 hours of daylight left. It was a cruel joke and when we told them the good news, I really copped it! Truly, these guys are the best.
We retired comfortably into our individual bungalows by the Mekong and took the opportunity to wash our bikes so that they can sleep with us, all fresh and clean.
It was also wonderful that the guesthouse could arrange for 3 elderly massuers to come perform the traditional art of Thai massage on us. It was TW's first time and he protested in vain when the strong lady folded him like his Brompton.
Dinner was another lavish affair and we enjoyed great Singa Beer with special Thai dishes ordered by Angkana.
We slept early once again to the sounds of rain. It may be the wettest day many of us have ever experienced but it didnt do one bit to dampen our spirits. Today was another very special and memorable day, rain or no rain!