Rough Day at the Office...

Things were looking lovely when I started out but it turned into a rough day at the office.  I managed to get one shot of the trail before the heavens opened and things went for bad to worse.  Imagine these ruts full of water just minutes later.  The ridges between the ruts became as slippery as ice and my mud packed tires struggled to find purchase, leading to a very entertaining ride.  One I won't be eager to repeat soon.

Kathu Street Culture Festival 2012

The 4th annual Kathu street festival was held on August 4th - 6th 2012. A great little local event that has grown considerably since the first time it was held in 2009. Kathu is an older area of Phuket with many older Chinese-Thai residents who are quite proud of their history and are doing plenty to preserve their heritage and educate locals and tourists about the "real" Phuket that exists away from the beaches. This is also the main aim of this blog, so I love festivals like this one, and I am happy to say that I did see a few more tourist faces in the streets this year. It was promoted in the local news, there were roadside signs up all around the area, and I kept mentioning the festival on my Facebook page and on Twitter.

Kathu Street Culture Advertising

There were already some street stalls set up a couple of days in advance, and by the 4th, there were stalls running for about 1km along the road through Kathu Village, and the weather was looking very good too (this low season has had a lot of hot sunny weather). On the first evening of last year's festival, the street parade was delayed by heavy rain. It was also delayed this year. Supposed to start at 5:30pm, but nothing was happening ... maybe I had the date wrong? But I was sure the main parade was on the first evening... Finally around 6:15pm the parade appeared. I had not quite got the message that the processio started outside the village, unlike the last few years when it all started in the village. Again the procession was full of colour and smiles.

Kathu Street Festival 2012

Kathu Street Festival 2012

Kathu Festival Phuket 2012

There were no amazing Chinese opera style costumes like the last few years.. Shame, they were my favourites! But a great deal of variety of costume and featuring a cross section of Phuket's people. Phuket has a big mix of ethnic Malays, Chinese-Thai and a sprinkling of sea gypsies, plus a growing foreign population with lots of workers living in Phuket who are originally from other areas of Thailand. There is also a big mix of Buddhism, Islam and Chinese beliefs here.

Kathu Festival 2012

Old Man in Kathu

(above) A local Kathu resident watches the festival from outside his house.

If you visit a local festival like this, no need to worry about dinner. The streets are lined with stalls and most of them are selling food. As soon as I started walking after the procession, I found mango with sticky rice, and this was next to a stall selling spicy Sai-Ua sausages which are a north Thai specialty.

Cooking Phad Thai

Food stall at Kathu Phuket Festival 2012

Kathu street fair 2012

We went along again on the second evening (5th August) mostly to eat, but there were also quite a lot of stalls selling arts and crafts, and my wife stocked up on bargains like some very nice candlesticks at 50 Baht each and some wooden dolphins which she said cost only 10 Baht each. Not sure what we'll do with them! Aside from the stalls and the food, there were several places in the village with historical information, mock ups of old houses and displays of old photos. Kathu has plenty of history, a lot more can be found at the nearby Tin Mining Museum.

The hot weather was a blessing, no rain fell during the festival, and muic continued on several stages into the night. We could hear it from our house. We did not stay out late ourselves, just until around 8pm each evening. The streets were decorated with lanterns ...

Lanterns in Kathu, Phuket

And I found a way to cool down ...

Suck Heat

Live music at Kathu festival

(above) One of several stages around the village with music and dancing. There was plenty going on during the 3 night festival and the streets were full of people. Kathu village is normally very very quiet, only wakes up for festivals. It'll be busy again during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, which is from 14 - 24 October. The Chinese shrine in Kathu is one of the centers for that festival, which is my favourite event in Phuket! Looking forward to it! And before that, there's another interesting festival, called the Por Tor Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, which is on from 31st August to 6th September 2012. And this is the stuff that makes up the beating heart of Phuket.

Map of the Kathu area

View Kathu Village Phuket in a larger map

Dienners Restaurant, Lancaster, PA

The only night that Dienners is open past 6:00 pm is Friday. On Fridays it is open to 8:00 pm. I am rarely near Dienners on a Friday evening to make it there. I recently was able to schedule in a visit to Dienners for dinner on a Friday night. The last time I ate at Dienners was three years ago.When we got to Dienners it was 6:30 pm and there was a line to get in. Dienners is located on Route 30

A Break in the Weather...

With a break in the weather and more rain expected over the next few days, I thought it best to get out on the Trek, even if it was a bit hot today.  The overcast sky once again made photography a challenge but things are getting greener up in the hills and I couldn't resist trying.  The recently denuded hillsides are turning green again as cassava and maize take root.  While the rice fields around our house were planted a while back, the remote mountain fields I passed today were still being planted and will need a few more weeks to go from yellow to lush deep green.  I  look forward to taking this ride again as the plants mature.

After a mid-ride break at a favorite reservoir I stuck to asphalt for the 20km ride home.  In total today's ride was a little over 38km.  I don't enjoy riding on the side of the road but it is good exercise with the more constant pace and nothing to stop and take pictures of.

I have a lot on my mind these days and don't much feel like writing but I did want to share these photos before I go back outside and clean the mud off my bike.

A Beautiful Day at Koh Yao Noi

Koh Yao Noi island is found in Phang Nga Bay to the Northeast of Phuket, home to a Muslim population of maybe 4,000 people, with the main source of income being fishing, prawn and shell farms, and rubber. The large scale tourism of Phuket, Phi Phi and Krabi is not (yet) to be found on Koh Yao Noi. There are a couple of expensive resorts such as Paradise Koh Yao, and a number of smaller bungalow operations, but the island is still mostly rural. We first went in 2006 on a day trip, but I did not go again until doing a cycling tour in 2010. Then in April 2011 we did a family trip, getting the ferry over and hiring mopeds for the day. Was such a great day out that we decided to do it again! So on July 28th 2012, we drove up to Bang Rong (near Bang Pae Waterfall) to get the boat. Bang Rong is a Muslim village on the NE coast of Phuket, and from here there are boats to Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai. There are speedboats (200 Baht each way per person) or you can get a big longtail boat (see photos later) 120 Baht each way. When we arrived at the pier, the next boat set to depart was a speedboat. Kids - no charge, by the way. We had a wait of about 30 minutes before departure, there is some kind of boat going a couple of times per hour.

Girl on the boat to Koh Yao Noi

(above) On the speedboat to Koh Yao Noi

The speedboat takes just over 30 minutes, and stopped off first at a small jetty on the north of Koh Yao Yai, the larger island to the south of Koh Yao Noi. Arriving at Koh Yao Noi, we asked around for mopeds for rent - we needed 3 altogether, 2 for us and 1 for a friend who'd come with her 2 small kids. It may sound a bit cavalier or unsafe hiring mopeds and riding around with the kids, but Koh Yao Noi is so quiet, and there is very little traffic on the roads, and mostly we'd be pootling along no faster than 30km per hour. No rush at all. A guy gave us a lift into the main town and then organised 3 mopeds for us - 200 Baht rental per moped. We then stopped to fill them up with gasoline and put some air in the tyres before our ride around the island.

Koh Yao Noi Gasoline

Koh Yao Noi Mechanic

I love these bike repair places, always full of junk, nothing gets thrown away! Gasoline on Koh Yao Noi is quite a lot more expensive than the mainland, as everything has to be brought over by boat.

We'd not made a really early start to the day, got the boat over around 10:30am, so by the time we'd sorted out the mopeds, some stomachs were thinking of an early lunch. We knew already of places to eat on the east coast, but did not want to rush over there, and so we just stopped near the main town, which is not much more than a couple of hundred meters of shops and a little market. And a 7-11 of course!

Koh Yao Noi Main Street

We decided upon a small roadside local restaurant where some locals were already eating - always a good sign. It was certainly nothing fancy, but my eyes noticed some yummy looking Pad Ped Pla (spicy fried catfish). And they did a decent fried rice with prawns to go with it.

Pad Ped Pla (spicy fish) = Lunch!

Koh Yao Noi local restaurant

Lady at Koh Yao Noi island

After lunch we rode over to the east coast. There are not many roads on the island, but we still managed a small wrong turn, following a road to "Laem Sai" which is the southeast corner of Koh Yao Noi, and I figured the road would carry on to the main east coast road. It didn't, but it was only a 10 minute detour. We were soon on the beautiful east coast and stopped to let the kids run around on the beach in front of the very nice looking Villaguna resort, which as I recall was being built last year when we scooted by. There are several small scale resorts on this east coast, but so far nothing big and ugly and I hope the Koh Yao Noi people can keep it that way.

East coast beach on Koh Yao Noi

And a little video of the same beach ...

As the east coast road heads North, it turns inland for about 2km and then back to the coast, where we found one of my favourite views. There's a sandy football pitch here just over the road from the small Suntisook Resort, consisting of some little bungalows with an attached restaurant. We downed several cold cokes here - it was a HOT day! The kids of course went off to explore and kick a ball around.

My favourite football pitch

Kids exploring the east coast of Koh Yao Noi island

My daughter and I were riding a bit ahead of the others and we found some horses by the side of the road. We were able to give this little pony a stroke, but it ran off to Mum when the other 2 bikes arrived - too many people!

Girl meet horse

The scenery away from the beach is very green, but largely cultivated. We saw rice paddies, rubber plantations and coconut trees. Rubber is still an important product in south Thailand. Even in "touristy" Phuket there are huge areas of rubber trees. Indeed, Thailand is one of the world's leading producers of natural rubber.

Koh Yao Noi Rubber

And here's a small mosque on Koh Yao Noi. The population is almost all Muslim, as is much of Phang Nga, and about 30% of the population of Phuket too.

Koh Yao Noi Mosque

We were back at the main pier before 4pm, as we thought the last boat to Phuket was at 4, but we found later that the last boat was 4:40pm, which we'll remember for next time, giving us a bit more exploring time. There are some roads over on the west coast of the island that we've not yet taken. The 4pm boat was one of the big slow longtail boats. They have huge engines :

Giant Longtail engine

And actually not that slow. Took a bit more than 1 hour to get from Koh Yao Noi back to Bang Rong, and it's a 25km trip. There were only a few other passengers so we could spread out and enjoy the ride and the views in the afternoon sun. The little video below shows the view just after we left the jetty at Koh Yao Yai heading back to Phuket. A great day out for the family, and we'll do it again for sure! Next time maybe an overnight stay.

Hotels on Koh Yao Noi @

Here's a little video shot on the boat after leaving the Koh Yao Noi jetty on the way back.

Map of Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai

View Koh Yao Noi Island in a larger map

Coming Back to Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant, Lancaster, PA

I have written about the buffet at the Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant several times in the past. My last article about this buffet was a year ago. We went back this year on the Fourth of July. Not all of the local buffet restaurants are open on the Fourth of July, for example, Dutch-Way and Yoders are both closed (or are open only until early in the afternoon). When selecting a buffet to dine at

Back in the USA

Hello everyone that reads my little blog , We made it safe and enjoyable trip ,   just a little long , We're here in Washington with Neal and Judy and will be heading to Alaska in a few Days . Will post some pictures later  stay tuned.  Malcolm and Ciejay

People You Meet on the Trail...

I am by no means a portrait photographer.  My camera just isn’t suited for it and I am more interested in capturing the beautiful nature I see on my rides, anyway.  Lately the cloud cover has muted the light and left things grey and lifeless, so I have been taking more people shots along the way than usual.  If I were so inclined there would be no shortage of portrait material no matter where I go.  Here is a sample of some of the people I might bump into on a bike ride.

These guys I could smell long before I could see them, as I approached from downwind.  Those little red onions have a pungent aroma for sure.  The workers were in high spirits in spite of the smell.

Sometimes it is rice farmers that one encounters on the trail.  Everyone seems willing to strike a pose if you ask nicely.  I actually spent a few minutes visiting with these guys as I snapped away.

Some people are just very hard to see even when you are looking right at them, like these ladies watering the young rubber trees in the nursery of our nearby rubber plantation.  I call this the Thai Ninja suit.

Everyone needs to take a break from time to time.  The old couple above had been collecting bamboo shoots for dinner, up beyond the reservoir where I was headed that day.  We crossed paths at the reservoir and again on my way down where they were taking a much needed break.

The other two guys had been harvesting fruit from the heavily laden Lamyai trees in their orchard.

Speaking of Lamyai, this guy was very generous as he offered to share his bowl full of freshly picked Lamyai.  Everyone seemed quite entertained by my presence and the presence of my camera.
This fellow biker was a bit on the shy side but friendly enough as his friends made fun of him and he tried unsuccessfully to hold back a smile.
Here is the village gas station and the ever vigilant attendant.  I guess he realized I wouldn't be needing his services.

This guy was the most camera shy of them all.  Don't know how many shots I took just to get this one.

The reason I am diverging from my usual presentation of pretty trail shots, is because it was all I could do to stay on my bike as I maneuvered the washed out trails, complete with mud pits and heavy sticky clay that clung relentlessly to every part of the bike.  This 33km ride took a little longer than usual as my progress was slowed by four or five kilometers of this stuff.  I think I will take a different route next time.