Heading down the motorway to Udon I noticed how fresh the air was. The cold front in Nong Khai had certainly cleaned up the air. The freshness reminding me of my younger days in England around Easter time, the Spring air. Every Easter everyone from the schools would do marching in North Shields square. It was the time of year when you would receive your new shoes and school uniform.
Udon has changed so much. This must be my seventh visit to this city over the past 20 years. The actual size of the city has expanded, it was difficult to get my bearings with all the new roads. I knew where I was wanting to go. The railway station. For me this was the centre of town. I eventually found the railway station and remembered which directions I needed to go to find a good hotel. Some nice hotels in this city and not expensive. Udon has everything you need. For me its the best place anyone would wish to live for a westerner. As its quiet but has the shopping facilities of the western world. The design of the city is quite unique. Every road is based on a cirlce going around the city. The centre being number one and out stretching to the final circle. I was in the centre from here its easy to get anywhere I wanted to go to.
Udon has the head office for my Honda motorbike manufacturer. Honda Big Wing. The bike was needing a service, mainly oil change and a few odds and sods to tweak with. I had notice a slight vibration coming from the exhaust at certain speeds. If anyone can sort this out the Udon mechanics will have the equipment and know how to do it. The manufacturing workshop has every kind of testing equipment you need. It's worth taking your motorbike there and watching them performing the diagnostic checks.
They fitted a camera of the dash board on the handle bars. The mechanic then took the bike out for a run. He returned transferred the data onto his computer. His computer has parameters already installed on for my motorbike engine cc, for the transmission, engine, exhaust, electrical systems, temperature and pressures. The data is then compared to how the motorbike performed at the various speeds he rode on the bike. A movie of the dash board is also shown. The mechanic definately tested the motorbike. The rev counter was visible and you could see the counter shooting up to top acceleration in seconds. The graphs were compared and the results concluded. The motorbike was runing perfectly. However if the exaust problem persisted. Then it may be advisible to renew the silencer at a later date. I think when the bike fell in the soft sand may have damaged the baffles inside.
As my motorbike was a new design, high reving tick over, typical asian style. This type of motorbike can go for ever, never have a problem built to withstand any road surface the bike may encounter. I prefer the old style of motorbike. Norton or BSA however prone to problems unless they are new bikes. Unfortunately you cannot buy a new english bike in Thailand. If your want a good runing motorbike which has good efficency and spare parts with low prices you have to buy Japanese which are assembled in Thailand. Buying second hand motorbikes is nothing but problems. As they are tickered with that much that the original settings were lost a long time ago.
Udon has alot of european restaurants bars all over the town.Its quite easy to walk into any restaurant and buy whatever you can imagine you wish to eat. I had remembered of a little place I used to go to a long time ago. I walked to the place hoping it would still be open. It was open, great I thought and the food I was wanting was on the menu. Chilli concarni. Finished it off and decided to go for a walk around the Central Plaza shopping centre.
Udon city centre has two bar areas for us ferangs to enjoy ourselves. Day night plaza and the Cattle mart. Both venues have beer and entertainment. You will be suprised at how many people actually do go there. Its normally packed with europeans. I had a walk down to Day night plaza, met a few people played some pool games. Then walked up to the Cattle mart which wasn't that busy as usual however found a good pool table with not many names down to play. What can happen in some places the winner of the previous game stays on the table until he/she is beaten then that winner stays on the table.
As it happened on this night it was a lady who was winning all the games. I don't like playing women at pool. For some unkown reason they jinx me. Anyway this is the rules have to play the lady if I want play a game of pool. She beat me. However she asked if I wanted to play her again and I did. She beat me again. Then I decided to sit down in a chair and just watch the players.
As time went on we had a few words together and she asked what I was doing in Udon. I explained to her I have a motorbike and the enjoyment of having a motorbike is riding a motorbike. To do this you need to travel. I am not going anywhere special its mainly to ride the motorbike. She explained her job before was a tour guide and she was going to see her family who are in the house construction business. Her family were building a house in Loei for a client and its not that far from Udon on the west side of Thailand. I asked where abouts in Loei. To pronouce this place is, Pu-la-lua which is around 1200 feet above sea level.
Interesting I thought. She then asked if I would like to go there. Well I thought I do not really have a destination and it sounds pretty nice so why not. Looking at the odds. For me no real expense and for her a free ride to see her family. So I agreed. The next day we had breakfast together and planned to go that day.
The roads going there were busy and past Petchabun started to narrow out and slow moving vehicles were on the roads. This all adds up to alot of driving so a few stops at petrol stations were made. You will find in Thailand, no matter where you go, You will always come across blue trucks with a blue canopy. These trucks carry paper AA and there everywhere. Just bare in mind if you do get stuck behind one in traffic. Be careful for overtaking. As some of them are 40 ft long and overtaking on these small roads is not as easy as you think if another vehicle is coming in the other direction.
Eventually the roads started climbing on twisted roads going up and up. Just as well I have six gears on the bike as in some cases with the slow moving wagons I was down to 5klm/hr.The engine was air cooled which is a benefit in these conditions. The only radiator on the bike was for the oil cooling. Once we reached the summit of the hill, we came into a small town. My first thought was accomodation, where can I stay. Nothing much in line of hotels mainly resorts with cabin type rooms. Found a nice place comfy, TV bed air conditioning, not that you really needed A/C as the temperature drops the higher you go up from sea level. I also learned that the area is spectacular for mountain views and apparently there are some special views this time of year and it really is worth going to see. Some famous waterfalls and a golf course.
To explain to the readers of work camps. work camps are normally built on the work site. Her whole family were involved in the construction of this house. The house was being built on the side of a hill standing alone with a fantastic view of the valley below I would guess the house was 1000 sq ft and two storey. The responsibilty for their work was to build the concrete/cement walls and roof part of the house. The finishing was done by another company. The camps are erected with corrogated tin sheets and made into two rooms one sleeping and the other for cooking. The beds are carboard from boxes laying on the ground. The shower was a water hose from a tap and the toilet a hole in the ground. No such thing as any luxury. I was just glad I had my cabin on the resort after seeing this.
It took around twenty minutes to get to the house location from where my resort cabin was situated. On arrival I assumed they were already prepped of a ferang coming to see them.
For some unknown reason and I still cannot fathom out why. When a ferang visits a thai family it is the ferangs responsility to pay for everything. The food for the night and drinks. I did notice the cases of beer and thought to myself they must be alot of them working here. I first met the head of the family. Nice guy, didn't say much. Maybe because he couldn't speak english anyway. I did get a form of gesture from him.
Within minutes the beer bottles were opened and everyone got tore in. No such thing as refrigerators. Its ice cubes in your beer to keep it cool. I was also offered a beer and drank with them. Everyone I met appeared very friendly and a drink of beer gesture as some form of thank you was made. This carried on until the guitars came out then the party really began. Singing and dancing all night. Then it dawned on me how would I get back to my resort cabin. It is 11 pm now. Pitch black. No street lights up where we were. Complete darkness and Im not driving down that road on my motorbike in my state.
I had two choices. Drink beer with them all night or sleep in the corrogated shed. I tried to drink beer with them all night. Eventually I realised this won't work. I asked the lady what about the sleeping arrangements. I was told just grab anywhere you can as then its your space to sleep in the shed.
No idea what time I eventually got the courage to go sleep in the shed but I did. As in the morning the head of the family awoke me to go up the hill to view the sights. When I looked around at least 30 people were all in the shed sleeping.
The sights are similar to the northern lights of North Scotland skies. I'll admit I was going to ask if it was possible to go another day as the hangover was raging in my head.
Apparently not, as all the other male members of the family were going. Off we went striding up the hill through bush and mud. Everyone wanted to be first up the hill as if to show their stamina. I had no interest in this one bit and found myself alone quite a few times until someone waited for me. After about two hours of slogging up that hill we got to the top. When I got there everyone had this strange look on they faces. I thought maybe it was something to do with me. Maybe I had let them down by being so slow.
Nothing was discussed and we all went back down the hill back to the camp. I then had the chance to ask the lady what was happening. She said the clouds are in the sky and today its not possible to see the sights. Maybe tomorrow it will be clear and you can go again. I quickly wrote in my diary. (Not available). I made sure the golf course was more important than the sights. Im not going through that again. Cost a fortune in beer.
To finish off the day. The head of the family gave use of his pickup and we went to a waterfall for the afternoon. It was good just to relax and sleep a litle bit in the warm sunshine. I was dropped off at the resort cabin and finished my day looking at the Tv. In the morning the lady returned and asked if I wanted to go up the hill and look at the sights. I assured her my day was going to the local golf course but I needed her for I go collect my motorbike from the building site.
I knew I had no chance of playing golf here as golf clubs would be impossible to hire. I did follow the road just to have a look at the course. Being 1200 ft above sea level would have an impact on the golf ball and would fly further than down at sea level. At the club house I was able to borrow a 4 iron and some balls and it was nice just walking around the course hitting a few balls.