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Published: December 13th 2015
I feel that this journey is not really complete until I get back from my old home in England to my new home in Thailand. I work as a teacher in Bangkok, but live with my wife in the central plains region which is known as the rice bowl of Thailand. It's about 500 kilometers by road from my home in Bangkok to our home in Satuk, near Buriram, where we have a small fruit farm. We are both teachers, so time is limited and precious.
The seven hour overnight journey between these two locations at the end of each teaching term had become tedious, until I bought a large motorcycle at the end of last year for these trips. Now each journey has been transformed into a magical experience, with the freedom to travel at any hour of the day or night and to stop or not stop, as the mood takes me. No more bus timetables. No more crowds or queues at the bus stations. No more crazy on-board Thai videos with deafening soundtracks to be endured. It has all been exchanged for independence, challenge, risk and indescribable bliss. Although I'd had bikes in my younger days they
were used for riding off road, or road trips of twenty or thirty miles. So my first few round trips between my two homes of 1000 Km each felt like exciting stuff by contrast. In particular, leaving my place in Bangkok in the early hours of the morning in darkness, so that if I get my timing right I'll see the sun rising over the hills of Khao Yai National Park. Highway 2, at this point, carries very little traffic at this time in the morning and as the first misty rays of sunlight peep cautiously over the park's hills and warm me, they cast a long shadow of bike and rider on the road to my left, and I fantasize about cruising some distant highway in the American mid west - such a dreamer. I usually stop a couple of times to satisfy our respective needs for hot coffee and 95 octane. As I emerge from these garage shops with my coffee it's not unusual to find people taking a look at the bike. Once it was surrounded by police and my heart stopped, thinking that I'd been clocked on a local radar trap, but they were just keen
to have a look and a chat. As a near pensioner I suppose I should know better than to be out on two wheels at my time of life, but I'm so glad that I don't. There is always a tinge of regret as I near any final destination, regardless of how much I want to be there. The single pointed concentration while riding disperses all of life's woes, only permitting them to slink back when the ignition is cut. Ah, if we could just ride without a destination, stopping only for caffeine and gasoline, what a journey that would be.
As I arrive at the gate to our home, my wife Ananya hears the exhaust note and runs down the drive to meet me, with a smile wider than her pretty face should allow and the sweetest Thai smile I've ever seen. I note the involuntary little skip for joy in her step as she approaches, palms up, arms open, exultant and welcoming. I always try to time my home comings so that she is there to meet me. To be greeted by someone you love is a precious experience. I'm lucky to have two such
women in my life; my daughter Rebecca and my wife Ananya.
There are two weeks left before I return to my teaching role in Bangkok. We decide to have a weekend away in Phi Mai, a historical town some 100 Km from our home. I went there when I came to Thailand on my first trip in 2003, and have returned several times. We travel in our pickup truck, it's more restful than riding two up on the bike and allows us to carry some luggage. It's just a peaceful market town. Its main claim to fame is a restored Khmer Temple site near the centre of the town. But our favourite location is Sai Ngam, a sprawling area of banyan trees that thickly wood and shade the shores of a lake.
When I first went to Phi Mai in 2003 I stayed in a large but rundown teak guest house - The old Phi Mai Guest House - an amazing old building built in the traditional Thai style and full of character. For me, it's decay was part of its charm. My wife and I stayed there too, many years later. It was
then knocked down, but over a period of at least 3 years it has been completely rebuilt and is now called Paradise Hotel. It has recently re-opened so we were keen to stay there again, and since this was the low season for tourists we were the only guests. The startling thing is though, that this new hotel is an exact replica of the previous old building. It's spooky to see the original floor plan with room locations that are identical to the old hotel, but now in fresh teak, all sparkling in its high-gloss varnish. Buildings start off new and become old. That's how it works, but this one, in my experience of it, started off old and then became new; that's not supposed to happen. It's like a magic wand had been waved and an owner's restoration wish granted.
Like the original design, the rooms do not have en suite facilities, but an adequate number of shared bathrooms are conveniently located a short walk from each bedroom. The outer doors of the bedrooms are large and divided into two halves. Each half door is locked by two sliding bolts, one sliding vertically up and the
other sliding vertically down. No problem with that you might think. The very pleasant lady who runs this hotel goes to her own home some 6Km away in the evenings, which left us as the only people there at night.
On our first night we decided to take a shower before going out for an evening meal. Clad only in our hotel towels we left the bedroom to go to the shower area. I unlocked the top sliding bolt on one door and lifted up the bottom bolt, but as I closed the door I did not snap the bottom bolt sideways to lock it in the up position. I realized my mistake immediately we left the room, when I heard the lower bolt click mockingly into its locating hole in the floor boards as the door closed behind us - locking us out, towel clad in the hallway. There was no one to help us. The manager had gone to her own home by this time. We tried force to open it, we tried ingenuity. We tried pleading and surprise attacks, but this door was locked and seemed likely to stay that way. Time passed and
our ideas were now exhausted. I was additionally frustrated because my glasses were locked in the bedroom. I seem to need my glasses not only to see clearly but I also in order to think clearly. Just when prostrations and chanting were the only untried potential remedies but were likely to be as much use as anything else we had so far tried, Ananya reached forward placing her had on the door handle and gently pulled it towards her. The door swung open as though there had never been a problem. It was a bit like having those police officers arrive to help me in my time of need in England (first blog), unexpected, explainable and unrepeatable. Our entire weekend there had that magical quality about it, in which the mystery of the door was just one facet of a much larger experience.
Well the last two weeks of my holiday have now gone by. Repair jobs on our house have been ticked off, the farm has been farmed and the motorcycle has made another return trip to Bangkok, pleasurable for me. So that's about it. I've enjoyed keeping this journal. I thought it would become a
chore but instead it became a pleasure. Its been a chance to review my daily experiences and to record the memorable moments and people in my life. A special thank you to my friends and family who made my trip back to the UK so worthwhile; who gave up their free time and changed their plans to accommodate me. I have not named you all but you are in here and in my memories. A special thank you to all of you who sent comments to me about the blog either via Travelblog or directly to me, it was a real thrill to read your messages. I regret that it was not possible to see my friends in southern England but maybe next time eh? To round things off, the house sale went through, and I eventually got the hang of posting photographs. I even received a nomination for 'best photograph for a new blogger' - although as I admitted to a friend, this was no doubt given as encouragement to rookies - nonetheless it was gratefully received. Ah yes, the hoodie made it back to Bangkok and may well be useful in January. Thank you for sharing my journey
through time, countries, airspace and mind states. I wish you all 'A Happy New Year' - Mike.
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