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11/10 Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Today was moving day. We packed and took our gear down to the lobby before breakfast. (Breakfast was a buffet choice of Western and Thai food. We had some of both.)

We, along with Elizabeth, Richard and Jane, Sean and Al and Steve all had reservations for an elephant ride through the jungle this morning. So,
after breakfast we all caught a "Tuk Tuk" (a small, covered pickup truck with padded benches along each side in the back) for a ride to the elephant stables.

Right off, we climbed up on the seats on the backs of the elephants. Al and Steve's elephant, with their guide on his head, started across the road. Our elephant promptly followed -- but we didn't have a guide on ours! Lisa started screaming! (as the elephant crossed the street with cars coming both directions) . . . but, because we had a young elephant, our guide was walking along side. So it was okay.

We rode the elephants up into the and through the jungle. After about half an hour, I climbed down onto the elephants neck (behind the ears) and rode all the way down the mountain. (Lisa didn't want to leave the basket on his back.) That was a little scary when the elephant went down a steep incline. Felt a little like I might slide right off -- but of course, I couldn't because my legs were behind his ears.

When we got back to the main hotel, Lisa went with Bobbi, Joan and Dahlia to go shopping. I went for lunch with Larry, then we came back and moved our gear to the "other" hotel. (Why did we have to move, one might ask. We don't know, but we heard a rumor that they didn't reserve ahead in enough time to get rooms for everyone for all three days.)

The "other" hotel was out on the edge of town, and most of it was still under construction. The reception lobby was in the center of the hotel. The West end of the ground floor was finished with a restaurant and tour desk. The East end was unfinished.

Our assigned room was on the 5th floor. I took our backpacks and small bag and headed for the elevator. The only one working was down a long hall past the restaurant at the West end of the building. I took it to the 5th floor, left the elevator, and found that our room was down a long, long hall at the other end of the building.

The room was a twin-bedded room. Since we prefer a double, I decided to go back to the front desk to see if I could change rooms. I left the bags in the room. Since the elevators were so far away from both the room and from the front desk, I decided to go down the stairs that were just a few rooms away at the end of the hall.

The stairway was unfinished, but all there, so I went on down. The stairway ended on a balcony (like a mezzanine) overlooking the ground floor. I asked the workmen there how I could get down to the ground floor. They smiled, then one of the workers took me to the other side of the balcony and pointed to a rough-built construction ladder that reached from the railing on the balcony down to the ground floor. I looked at the ladder, looked at the worker (who smiled and walked away) then back at the ladder.

"Oh, what the hell," I thought. I climbed over the railing and down the ladder. I landed in the middle of the unfinished area on the East end of the ground floor

I made my way back to the front desk and got the room changed. The new room was on the 4th floor. The clerk said she'd have a bellman bring our bags from the old room to the new room.

Great! I took our two large bags to our new room. and waited for the bellman to arrive. While waiting, I decided to watch CNN -- but the TV wouldn't turn on.

I called the front desk to see where the bags were and to get someone to fix the TV. About a half hour later, the bellman arrived with the bags. Another 30 minutes passed and an engineer arrived and fixed the TV.

Finally, I was free to leave. I explored the hotel, verifying that most of it was unfinished. There was a fancy two-level serpentine-shaped pool on the third floor -- but the 3rd floor was unfinished so it was hard to get to.

There was a small pool with a sun deck on a small section of the 7th floor roof. (The rest of the 7th floor was unfinished.)

Having discovered that there wasn't much to discover in this hotel, and since Lisa wasn't back yet, I headed for the beach.

The street along the beach was lined with restaurants, shops, "Tuk Tuk's" and motorcycle rentals. Then, along the edge of the beach were lots of ladies who wanted to give (sell) massages. Then came hundreds of beach chairs with umbrellas -- all for rent.

Finally, I got to the open sand -- and I promptly walked into the middle of a beach, soccer field. It seems that every day when the tide goes out, rope is laid out in the wet sand to define a small soccer field with goalie boxes -- and a game was about to start.

I watched for awhile. It was local teams playing league games. They play 7-a-side soccer with 20 minute halves and three officials.

At half-time, I talked to the referees, found out that they are members of the Thai football officials league and that these games happen every day at low tide.They get two games in each day.

Then I continued walking down the beach. Most people on the beach were white tourists. The only Thai's on the beach were those selling para-sailing, jet skis, boat rides, rubber rafts, beach chairs or food. I would guess that most of the tourists were European because most of the men wore skimpy "bikini" type suits and many of the women sun bathed topless.

At the far end of the beach was a beach volleyball tournament sponsored by the Phuket Gay Men's Alliance. They had some pretty good games.

About 4, I headed through town toward the main hotel. The main street is filled with shops, stores, restaurants and bars. Overhead (yes, even in the daytime) were strings of gaudy white lights. At both ends of the street the lights said, "Welcome to Patong Beach." As I made my way down the main street I was solicited to buy just about everything you can imagine.

It was 5:30 when I got to the main hotel. Lisa wasn't there, and dinner wasn't for another hour, so I headed over to our hotel.

Lisa had just arrived. She had a fun shopping day -- ordered a custom-made dress, had lunch, walked through town, and got to the hotel just ahead of me.

(Buying custom-made clothes is the thing to do here. There are dozens of tailor shops, and they can make a dress, suit, slacks, whatever in less than 24 hours. You get to pick the exact fabric and style, and of course it's made to fit you. And it's inexpensive. One woman boght a whole wardrobe of suits for when she returns to work. Another bought a wedding dress --for $75!)

We headed back to the main hotel for dinner where we sat with Ken and Emily. We had an interesting discussion with them about both the Odyssey and the Florida election. We found out that Ken is flying back to the states tomorrow to help defend his ballot counting software that was used in Florida. (It's not under attack right now. He just wants to be ready just in case.)

They also talked about some of the seedier things they saw in town last night. Since I missed seeing the nightlife last night, Lisa wanted to take me through town tonight. So we walked.

We saw many sidewalk sales that come out at night. We saw guys in drag. (We found out this is a kind of "Gay Week" here at Patong.) We saw many bars and nightclubs that were very innocuous looking during the day and very active with scantily clad women dancers at night. We peeked in a few clubs where very bored looking nude women dancers were performing. We were solicited by many masseuses and barkers for clubs and many bar girls.

We finally got through the sleezier part of the main drag to the more western style commercial stores -- like Starbucks, KFC and Hagen-Daaz. (After two weeks of being deprived in China and Vietnam, OF COURSE we had some ice cream.)

As we walked the last stretch toward our hotel, suddenly a lady was wrapping a skirt around Lisa. Why? She was trying to make a sale. Well, she did.

After trying several sets, Lisa found one she liked -- and then we negotiated an outrageously low price -- so we bought it. (It's hard NOT to buy stuff you like, here -- it's so inexpensive.)

Back to the hotel to check on the latest from CNN . . . but nothing new.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

11/11 Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

We slept late this morning in our lovely room overlooking the pool. We caught the end of breakfast, then walked to the other hotel to get our bike repaired and ready for tomorrow.

When we got there we learned two surprises. First, that the mechanic was available earlier this morning from 7 to 9 only. So no mechanical support for us today.

Second, instead of taking a ferry as scheduled, we will have to ride 170 km tomorrow to Krabi -- and it's been in the high 90's in both temperature and humidity.

I got our brakes adjusted and our pedals adjusted. Then we walked over to the tailor for Lisa's fitting. They still had a few tucks and stitches to make it right. She made an appointment to go back about 9 for the final check.

We continued on through town looking for a great Greek restaurant that Joan told us about. (Yes, it was REALLY HOT!) We got to the street and walked up and down it -- no Greek restaurant.

We ran into Shelli who told us where the Greek restaurant was. We were on the wrong street! . . and the right on was back where we came from . . . and it was Hot . . . and we didn't want to backtrack away from our hotel . . .and Lisa didn't know what she wanted. . . and I wasn't hungry, I just wanted a cold beer . . . and we had words . . . and it was HOT! . . . so we went our separate ways back to the hotel.

I wandered through stores, shops, and hotels. I discovered that today, local Thai's will be celebrating Loy Krathong, the annual Festival of Water Offerings. It's also called the Night of the Floating Candles. It is celebrated on the night of the November full moon -- November because it is the beginning of the long, dry season when crops cannot survive without water.

Lisa wandered along the beach, then bought a cold drink, and ended up at the hotel.

I walked out on the beach and in the water of the Andamann Sea. It was quite warm with gentle, lapping waves. I walked out about calf deep. Then I ran into Ron out in the water. We talked about this wild beach town, what we've done and what we're each planning to do. Then I walked back to the hotel.

We met Sandy and Mark on the way out to dinner. We all took a Tuk Tuk over to the main hotel. Dinner tonight was Chinese food on a set menu. The food was good but surprisingly, the quantity was sparse. (The other dinners here have been real feasts.)

We left about 8:45 to pick up Lisa's dress. It was right this time.

We walked down to the beach on our way back just in time to witness the Loy Krathong festival. On this day, people all over Thailand make krathongs, small lotus shaped boats made from the stalk and leaf of the banana. (The lotus is the most important flower for all religious celebrations in Thailand.) The krathongs are then decorated with flowers. Then a candle, some incense, and sometimes a coin is set in the lotus flower boat.

Late at night, under the full moon, people take the krathong to a nearby body of water, light the candle and the incense, and with a prayer for prosperity and forgiveness of sins, set the krathong afloat into the night.

In our case, hundreds of krathongs were set afloat into the Andamann Sea off the Patong Beach. It was a beautiful sight!

As we continued our walk we stopped at the Hagen-Daz for dessert (of course we had to supplement dinner!). More poking around. Then on back to our hotel.

We got to bed about midnight.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

11/12 Thailand, Patong Beach to Krabi

More frustrations!

We got up at 5:15 so we could get the bike repaired at the scheduled 6:15 mechanic time and get an early start in the hot weather. I grabbed the bike stuff and headed out at quarter to 6 -- hoping for a TK&A shuttle.

Of course there was none, nor was there information about anything at our remote hotel. Fortunately, Tim (from Sacramento) had a car waiting to take him over on his way to the airport. He gave me a ride.

I got the bike, set it up and was waiting at the mechanic's station at 6:15. No mechanic, though, until 7.

While I was getting the bike taken care of, Lisa had breakfast at the other hotel. Then she went over to the Holiday Inn to make sure a Fedex envelope got sent.

After the bike was repaired, I went in for breakfast. Lisa came in just as I finished.

We decided that we'd better track the Fedex envelope that we were expecting in Patong before we left. The hotel staff was no help. They didn't know a Fedex from a cheerio. So we called Fedex directly. We found that the envelope was in Phuket City and it would be delivered by 6 p.m. Monday. Not a big help, since we were ready to leave for Krabi. But we found out that Gloria was staying for a few days. She offered to receive the envelope and bring it to us in Malaysia.

We finally got on the road about 8:45 -- and it was already hot. The ride today was really beautiful, along the water much of the first part. Very hilly at the beginning. We think one hill in particular was among the top three steepest of the whole year. And of course the heat makes it tougher. But definitely a wonderful ride, anyway.

The bus group that we had signed up with (to supplement the SAG support that TK&A provided) told us they were going to pickup at noon at 50 km and at 100 km. (2 busses). We didn't think we could do 100 K by noon with the hills and the heat, so we rode to about 55 K (by 11) and stopped at a roadside shelter for a cool drink. We didn't see a bus, but we found Larry and Joan there, also looking for the bus.

As we were about to leave, the bus came. Lisa, Joan and I hopped on. Larry wanted to ride some more, so he did. The bus went to checkpoint -- about 95K -- where we parked to wait for the other riders. About 2, Krystal took the bus back to find Larry, Jane and Judy and pick them up. We finally left the checkpoint about 3 and headed for Krabi.

When we got to Krabi at about 4, the gear wasn't there yet and staff was not yet set up to assign rooms. But, finally, the gear truck came and we got our room assignment -- it was in the 'B' hotel a couple km's away. About 4:45 we finally got shuttled to our hotel.

The Vien Thong Hotel is right in the middle of the downtown and right across the street from a river. We have a nice, cozy room -- with air conditioning, thank goodness.

After we checked in, we walked through town to find a pharmacy. We needed to get some antibiotics for Lisa. She had a scratch on her ankle. A mosquito or a fly bit the scratch. Now it has turned into a strep infection.

We walked along the river a little, stopped at a pharmacy, then walked back through all the outdoor booths that are set up between the street in front of our hotel and the river. To me, it looked like another collection of flea market booths where you could buy just about any "thing" that you might want.

We returned to our room and showered in the barely warm water. That was okay, though, since it was so hot outside.

We went down to the lobby, expecting to catch a shuttle to dinner at the main hotel. No luck, though -- no shuttle and no information at our hotel about anything.

And the hotel staff knew nothing about a shuttle, or the main hotel, or dinner, or just about anything of any use to us. And whatever they might have known wasn't much help anyway since they barely spoke English. They did try to send us on a walk (in the wrong direction) twice, to hotels or restaurants that they thought was "just what we wanted."

We finally took a Tuk Tuk.

I complained to Tim about the lack of support and information for the riders who were banished to the 'B' hotels. His response? "It was a long day and they didn't have a chance to set up. "I didn't see how that related to my concern but I let it drop. Later, he apologized to Lisa.

We had dinner. Almost everything was really spicy hot. Usually we like spicy food, but some of this was a little much, especially after a bike ride. They had an off-key singer to entertain for us. She was too loud and hit too many sour notes for me. It was funny, though, when she settled in next to Ron M. and had him trying to sing some country songs along with her.

We made sure we left in time to catch the 7:45 (the last) shuttle back to our hotel -- but by 8:15, it never showed. So we walked.

We were half way there when a TK&A van filled with Thai's came by. We asked them to give us a ride to our hotel. They agreed -- but they didn't know the town and didn't have a clue where our hotel was. So we rode a few blocks, then walked the rest of the way.

Lisa wanted to take a walk around town. I was tired and wanted to finish this journal entry, so I went back to our room.

There was heat lightning in the sky tonight as we walked to town. That means another hot day tomorrow for the 90 mile ride. Another early day.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

11/13 Thailand, Krabo to Trang

We got up at 5:30 so we could be sure to catch the scheduled 6:30 shuttle back to the main hotel. We went into our hotel restaurant for breakfast. Good service -- fast and efficient. Too bad the pre-prepared fried eggs, ham and hot dog were cold.

At 6:20 we were out waiting for the shuttle. At 6:40, still no shuttle -- so we, along with everyone else there, decided to walk. (We never did see a shuttle.)

The ride this morning was fast and easy. We rode through the lots of countryside, past many poor-looking rural homes and through a few small towns.

The scenery here is very much like that in Vietnam and China -- very tropical, jungle-like growth, very worn out-looking wooden or cement block buildings with little or no maintenance. But once in awhile we'd see a very new and luxurious looking home with high, fancy wrought iron fence and gates, a yard, a pond, etc.

Something that has been happening a lot in Southeast Asia -- and a really lot here in Thailand -- is the "thumbs up" sign. Many times today cars, trucks and motorcycles would pass us and give us a thumbs up and a big smile. And whenever we stop for a drink or a snack, the local people crowd around and marvel over our bike, our trip, and, sometimes, David's big legs.

We got to the checkpoint at about 75K by about 10:15, loaded our bike on our personal sag truck, and got on our personal sag bus. We left at 11 to drive to end-of-day.

Our hotel in Trang is the Thumrin Thana Hotel. (Everyone in one hotel -- hurray!) We arrived about 11:40. We were welcomed with fruit punch and flower leis. Very, very nice!

We had lunch in the hotel with Lynn, Dave and Mary. As expected, the food was very tasty -- and VERY SPICY HOT!! Also as expected for this obviously high class hotel, the food was very expensive for SE Asia (about 475 Baht, about $10 U.S. total for two lunches, beverages and desert.).

The sun was shining with puffy white clouds and blue skies aplenty when we went in to have lunch. Then, while we were having lunch, a tropical storm moved in. It rained buckets for 10-15 minutes, then the clouds parted, the sun came out and everything dried up.

Trang is known as the cleanest city in all of Thailand. From what we saw as we drove in, it's a well deserved title. We did NOT see the dirt shoulders, rubble, rubbish and run down buildings that we have seen in every other non-touristy city in SE Asia. (If there are many of those tropical storms like we had over lunch, we can understand why the streets are so clean.)

This afternoon Lisa went for a walk in town while David had a massage. Then David worked on the bike (maintenance and lubrication) then on plans for New Zealand. Lisa came back and watched CNN.

Later we had an excellent Thai buffet dinner. We were really tired after dinner (only 5 hours sleep each of the last two nights) so we went right to sleep.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

11/14 Thailand, Thang to Hat Yai

We hit the road before 7 this morning. Nice early start. Then, within a block, we were lost! But we recovered quickly and got back on route.

As we rode across the peninsula of Southern Thailand, we had sprinkles, showers, and down pours. Then the sun shone for awhile, then more rain.

The route went through grove after grove of rubber trees and field after field of rice. The rubber trees were all being tapped. They had diagonal cuts in the bark, ending in a spout, with a small cup hanging under it.

The rice fields looked like textbook photos -- clumps of rice growing out of water. Only a few fields were being harvested, though.

We got to checkpoint (about 86K) a little after 11. We expected to meet our private sag bus and bike truck there, but, nada! The consensus was that it must have stopped a few K's ahead. We rode to about a hundred K when we saw the bus and truck coming toward us. They stopped and loaded us and our bikes.

When we asked what happened to the plan to meet at checkpoint, the interpreter just said, "Sorry, miscommunication." Then we drove back along the route and picked up a dozen more, equally confused, riders.

On the drive into Hat Yai, we saw that we had ridden the better 2/3rds of the route. We rode mostly throughout the countryside along with many small towns.

By small towns, we mean eight or ten homes, most of which sell food and "things" from their front room -- much like in Vietnam and China. A BIG difference, though is that most of the buildings in the small towns are a little more substantial and are in a little better shape.

In Hat Yai, we drove all around the neighborhood around the hotel -- due to a combination of our drivers not knowing where they're going, and confusing one-way streets. The stores and buildings all look old and tired. (Hat Yai is known as the "flesh capital" of Thailand. Apparently, Malaysians come over the border in droves to experience the "sins of the flesh." We didn't see anything in the neighborhoods around the hotel.)

The hotel is, again, very nice. It's not quite as ritzy as last night's hotel, but we have no complaints.

Dinner tonight was an ELEGANT, HUGE buffet. Lots of Eastern AND Western food. Lots of salads, at least 10 main dishes, lots of fruits and LOTS of tantalizing desserts.

After dinner, we had to rush back to our room for a "traditional" Thai massage. What an experience!

They (we both had massages at the same time) started with stretching and cracking our toes. Then they kneaded, poked, probed, pulled, pushed and punched the length, width and depth of every muscle in our legs. They used thumbs, hands, elbows, knees and feet to get to every muscle.

After about an hour, they worked over our arms and shoulders -- again using every physical tool available.

Then we turned on our stomach. They started with a back stretch. That was done by sitting on our butts, holding our arms, and pulling us up to bend out backs backward. The back work included kneeling and standing on the muscles of our backs.

Finally (almost), they had us put our heads on pillows in their laps. From that position they massaged our heads, necks and shoulders.

And the finale was to have us sit up while they sat behind us. From that position they worked our backs again -- including folding us in half frontwards.

Anyway, that two hours of kneading, poking, rubbing, pulling, pushing, probing and massaging cost us each 240 Baht. At about 43 Baht to the U.S. dollar, that's less than $6 each.

To finish our day, we had laundry to put away. The hotel had a special on laundry for Odyssey. If we turned it in by 8 p.m., they would do it all at half price and return it by midnight. It was an offer we couldn't refuse.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

11/15 Thailand, Hat Yai to Yala

Since TK&A's schedule has seven days straight of mostly long days, we decided to take today off of riding. (That way, we'd ride three days, have a day off, then ride another three.) We traveled in our private (group) bus, instead.

Not without incident, though. We no sooner hit the highway and were cruising toward Yala (we thought) when the driver pulled over and his assistant hopped out. We watched him talking to another local. They were waving and pointing in different directions. (Have I mentioned that the drivers and driver assistants do not speak any English?) When he got back in, we found out, through sign language and pointing at a map, that they (and we) were happily going the wrong direction. No prob! The driver just swung a big U-turn in the middle of the four-lane highway.

As we were driving there was some rain -- not too heavy, but still drenching.

And, as we were driving, Lisa realized she had left her bike gloves in the hotel room. (Both our gloves were hanging up to dry and she thought I had taken hers down.) Bike gloves are certainly not the worst things you can lose, but in this part of the world they're impossible to replace. And Lisa realized that the spare pair she's been carrying around all year somehow ended up with our camping gear in storage. Oh well.

We passed Trueheart as we pulled into town. He looked up as we passed and saw his father (Ron) sitting in the bus. Ron thought he had beaten True for once. But... we had to make a U-turn to get on the same side of the street as the hotel. That's when True passed us. So he's still number one getting in to the end of day.

The town is absolutely NOT a tourist town, but rather, a quiet, plain, working-class town.

The hotel is a pleasant surprise. Tim described it on the DRG as "modest and interesting." That had us worried, given his tendency to understate potential negatives. But he was right on. The building appears to have been designed to be elegant and high class, but it either was not completed or it has not been maintained in such state.

For instance, the 4th floor is mostly one huge room with tile floor except for a large, carpeted, raised platform towards one end. And from the 4th floor up to the 12th floor, there is an open center (atrium) between the two halls serving the rooms -- like the San Francisco Hyatt. And, though there are only 12 floors, the elevator has 15 floors indicated. And though there are three elevator doors, only two operate. And, the lighting is very dim, either from not enough lights or not enough lights on.

Further, at one end of the building there are two outside stairways, presumably fire escapes. BUT, if you walk down them, (as I did) you are stranded on a concrete roof some 12 feet above a concrete driveway.

Shortly after 2 it started raining -- no, POURING is a better word. And while the water was coming down in bucketful's, the private sag bus and bikes arrived. Those of us who helped unload them were soaked clear through in less than a minute!

And this rain was NOT a typical tropical shower. It kept pouring for HOURS.

This afternoon I patched a tube and replaced a tire while Lisa took a nap.

The very special thing at dinner tonight was the welcome that the community gave us. The mayor was there to welcome us to their small, plain town. Then some young girls danced (like cheer leaders) for us, then some older girls did some traditional Thai dances. Then the vice-president of the local bike club welcomed us. Finally, several Odyssey riders traded jerseys with local club members.

We got to bed by ten and it finally stopped raining. Hope tomorrow is dryer.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

11/16 Thailand, Yala to Narathiwat

It was still raining when we got up this morning, but we got ready to ride in the hopes that the rain would let up.

By the end of breakfast, it was still raining, but not too hard. I had been tired yesterday and, after breakfast, still wasn't feeling well. I decided not to ride today.

Lisa still wanted to ride, so she looked for a non-rider to borrow a bike. It turned out that Larry and Joan were not riding today because of the rain, so Lisa borrowed Joan's bike. She didn't want to ride the full 107K though, and she didn't want to ride the first half, get soaking wet, then have to sit in the bus. So she sagged to checkpoint and rode the rest of the way. She got in at 12:30. She was exhilarated by her fast ride.

She said it was a good ride down some quiet roads, and the most notable thing was all the cows she had to dodge. The were not grazing in fields like most cows. Some of these cows were tied to fences, and others would just wander across the street.
The weather today was varied. It stopped raining pretty early, then it was a little overcast and misty -- and it was hot -- of course.

The route continued through the tropical jungle. First on lightly traveled roads with no shoulders, then on a 4-lane divided highway with a good shoulder. There were a few smaller towns and lots of roadside businesses. They were in lean-to shacks in the country and in open, garage-like storefronts in the cities (much like China and Vietnam - we think it's a "tropics weather" thing.)

David rested all afternoon while Lisa checked out the neighborhood. When Lisa came back she noticed the room was like a hot box. After checking and finding out the air conditioner compressor had failed, the hotel moved us to a luxurious suite.

The hotel dinner was fabulous. Without a doubt, the food in Thailand has been consistently better than anywhere else in the world.

Tonight, before dinner, there were about 40 members of the local bicycle club in the foyer to greet us. After dinner we were greeted by the mayor. Then, a real treat -- the Governor of Narathiwat greeted us and presented a very fancy model boat to Tim. Then we were entertained by Thai dancers in their fancy outfits. Finally, we had a live singer providing background music all evening.

We've been off the typical tourist track in Thailand, so our group is a pretty big deal in these towns.

We had to call our travel agent to make sure she had set up our travel tickets, then to bed.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

11/17 Narathiwat, Thailand to Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Our early start this morning was delayed by a flat tire. The tire I changed Wednesday showed a slow leak this morning, so I replaced the tube. Now we have all new rubber on the rear.

It was hot and humid by 7. Continued tropics. Good roads. Fast ride. We arrived at the ferry to Malaysia by 9.

It was slow getting through Immigration out of Thailand. We got going on the ferry that took us into Malaysia about 10:15.

As we entered Malaysia from the ferry, there was a banner across the ferry landing saying something like "The Malaysian People Welcome the Riders of Odyssey 2000." The Malaysian Immigration was a bit faster because there were only about 10 riders on our ferry.

Our first impressions of Malaysia were not too good -- but we have to admit, the area is basically a border-crossing area. There was LOTS of trash and garbage along the road. There was lots of standing water around houses and buildings -- both fresh and stale. There were lots of "rotten" and sour smells. And there were lots of "lightly constructed" homes built of bamboo poles, thatch roofs and partial walls.

The biggest difference we see in the people is that most are Muslims, so most of the women wear shawls over their heads -- even under motorscooter helmets.

The landscape is slowly getting more and more tropical. We saw more coconut trees today, and, as I said above, lots more standing water.

We got to our 5-star hotel (The Renaissance, part of the Marriott chain) about noon, had lunch in the coffee shop (a 2 hour affair), and checked into our room. As expected from a 5-star hotel, the facilities are very, very nice.

There was a meeting of the New Zealand off-route group at 4:30 today. But we missed it by an hour because we didn't realize there was a time change when we entered Malaysia.

Dinner in the hotel banquet room was
quite good.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

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