May 22, 2006 - Monday
Nang Rong, TH to Buri Ram, TH

Water towers - different - some photos, if not today, then tomorrow
Electric meters - they're often on the power pole (and the poles are cement - not many trees about for wooden ones)
Side-cart bikes - common. The side cart is often home made (welded steel frame with an old motorcycle wheel). The carts are often built to "carry" stuff and may have a fold down front and or rear gate - to hold long things. People often ride in them (there is no seat). The cart may contain a "store on wheels" or a "restaurant on wheels" - and umbrella might be attached.
Posted speed limits - I've not seen any. I have only seen some posted limits, used as cautions, before a curve or railroad track crossing (all track crossings have been bumpy things). For that matter - I've not seen much in regard for police. They are about but are not common. Roadside "stops" to get a ticket - nada.
Satellite dishes - they point "up" a decent bit - much different than from Alaska where they top edge of the dish, when viewed from the side, is slightly forward of the bottom edge - pointing down just a bit.
Phone booths - common. Either in the "cities" or the small, rural communities. The rural communities might have one booth every 300 meters.
Buri Ram, Thailand - home until maybe Wednesday.

This morning, back at Nang Rong, I stopped by the Honda shop to see about the chain and front sprocket. They were closed yesterday, Sunday. I'm starting to get used to what is "open" on Sunday's here. Construction workers are often seen working on Sunday.

Anyway, the gent's were quick to take a look at the bike - adjusting the tension on the chain (it was a bit slack after one day of riding) and giving it some lube. I mentioned, err motioned, again to the side cover for the front sprocket. Motioning to each bolt in a "take off" gesture. I also made a "crunch, crunch, crunch" sound while pointing to the cover. Then they got it and started to remove the cover - and when it was off they understood. The front sprocket is worn. The teeth are worn and there are some chips in it. They do not have a sprocket though. I pulled out the map and started to point to some of the larger cities in my direction of travel and point to the sprocket. They seemed to understand and said Buri Ram - the next town about an hours drive northeast - my direction. Charge for the work - 20 Baht, about 60 Cents US. Even with some of the low prices over here this is a "token" charge. I doubt they would have asked for anything had I not offered.

Off to Buri Ram I go, making a leisurely trek of it - wanting to reduce the amount of wear to the front sprocket until I get into town. The road was mostly straight and flat moving through farming country. Buri Ram is a larger town (30,000 people) and has a bit to offer in terms of services - though hotels in the LP book are sparse (three) and the quality of them is not so great.

I see a Honda dealership - but have to pass it by as it is for 4-wheeled vehicles. I kept rolling along the larger road I was on. Finally I saw the "Red Wing" Honda (motorbike) logo down a street to my left. Getting there I pulled up into the service area and started to go into the routine - pointing to the front sprocket and making a "pull the cover off" motion. I must not be good at my gesture as the guy started to do the "chain tighten" routine. I let him complete the quick chore (less than 5 minutes) and when he was done went through the "pointing" and "removing" gestures at the sprocket cover.

The light bulb clicked and he pulled out the required tools - an 8 or 10 millimeter socket wrench (for the cover bolts) and the same size in a box wrench (for the shift linkage). Popular here are T-wrenches that have a socket permanently affixed to the handle.

When he got the cover off he let out a bit of a gasp and said a "look at this guys" and a couple others came over to look at it.

A side note on staffing levels: It seems, compared to home, there is a greater amount of "employees" to "customers" here - in many businesses. Some are "standing about - ready to serve" while others are often working or making it look like they're working. There were perhaps 5 or 6 people in the service area. The sales area had maybe 6 or 8 people. Customers - me and perhaps 4 others in service. Two bikes were in the racks (with customers sitting in the waiting chairs watching the world go by [or watching the often available TV]) and other bikes would ride up, have something done, and ride off. Sales had maybe three prospective customers the 1+ hour I was there.

This Honda bike dealership had over 50 new bikes (80, 100, 125, 150 cc units) and about 10 used bikes - all in what I could call "scooter" class. There was one "large bike" on display, new. It looked more like a "conventional" motorcycle but was probably only 150 cc, maybe 250 cc maximum. I'm seeing fewer "large bikes" here than in Taiwan. Aside from the rental places I don't think I've seen anything larger than 500 cc. [Today, after leaving the Honda shop, a kid on a Honda Super Four - just like mine - stopped next to me at a light. I was tempted to make an offer for his sprockets and chain.]

The parts department had a typical display of parts to put on a bike. The mundane - brake pads, sprockets, chains, mirrors and the bling - chrome, white, red, blue, yellow colored rims, dipstick covers, brake reservoir covers. The showroom floor had similar bike models - those with more flash and attitude than others.

Back to our story... With the staff understanding that I would need a front sprocket they also then went to see about obtaining said sprocket. They did not have one in stock - darn. I started pointing to the map, larger cities, making a "telephone" gesture to see if they could call and see if any of the cities had the part. I would then "drive" over and get it. This lit a fuse under one guy and he took the sprocket, hopped on a bike and was gone. I was wondering - where's he going? He can't be heading out to any of the other cities - they're a couple hours away. About 45 minutes later he returns - with only the old sprocket. After leaving the dealership I would find that there are other Honda bike shops in town - he probably drove to each of them to see if they had the part.

If this bike was a smaller "local use / scooter class" bike - one of the 80 to 125 cc units - I'm sure they'd have every part required in their stock shelves and I'd be on the road already. While I was waiting for the kid to return, the business "Hostess" - not to be confused with the person who was tending the floors, or the multiple employees at the counters or other sales desks - brought me some ice water. I graciously accepted. A bit later she came back again and offered a cup of hot coffee. Very nice of them. A fundamental is that a smile and a nod will go a long way. I'm getting a taste for how Vladimir (Google: other Vladimir websites) is getting along and understand his "maps and photos" process a bit better (for a crowd a large map and a stack of photos works better than a small laptop screen).

In the end, the shop crew, who was a bit exasperated (though still in good nature) in not being able to easily talk with me - even with some of the phrases in the LP book and the aide of a couple other customers who could speak some English, came to say that I would need "three parts" 1-Front sprocket, 2-rear sprocket, 3-chain. I was perfectly fine with this. The front does need changing. The chain could be replaced too. The rear - it is probably worn by the abused chain but it looks decent enough and probably wouldn't trash the new chain in the time I'll have the bike. The bike's "a rental" and the owner stated that on the road I would be responsible for repairs and the costs. In the end I would order all three parts - 4500 Baht (118 USD) and they would have to come from Bangkok. They said that Bangkok is 450 kilometers away.

I contemplated the trip to Bangkok, myself, in conjunction to their guarantee that the parts would be here in two days (Wednesday) and decided to get the work done here, with them, in Buri Ram. I paid for the parts (and probably service cost too - we'll see) and they made sure to get my change and a receipt. No shady practices at all - I've come to find this level of service from other vendors - dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

A drive about town and I found the railroad tracks, train station, and town clock fairly easy. Based off of the landmarks I was able to find the hotel right quick - less than one block south of the clock. With the time - the rest of today (Monday) and all of Tuesday and maybe a portion of Wednesday morning I'll have to check things out.

I still have the bike and can ride it about - but the guy put the shift linkage on backwards. I was wondering why I (and he at the shop earlier) was having a hard time finding neutral. The bike was sluggish to get rolling - I was in 6th gear - reversing the shift pattern I was able to find first, neutral, etc and drive the bike - I'll not go back to have them flip it - no biggie now that I know - it takes a bit to get used to though - the adventure continues (I did kinda like the push down to up shift method).

Buri Ram seems to be an interesting town to me - more "hardware" types of shops - a bit of a working town. Machine shops, steel supply stores, but still clothing stores, bakeries, wedding dresses, and sports equipment - all somewhere "the the row" of un-signed shops on unknown roads. I'll probably see if there are any sights in the area (within riding distance) - see them - and do some walking/riding about town.

Walking through a "conventional to me" shopping center I am amused with the English phrases that make it over here. The loudspeaker will be moving along in Thai and then I'll here "Back to School" or "Superstore". Cell phone kiosks are plentiful - perhaps eight of them in this small area. Each staffed with a PYT less than half my age and, unfortunately, probably half my weight. Thought: Some adults - their torsos - they're so _tiny_!! They can't have room for all of the standard issue organs - they probably only have one lung... Anyway, the booths had bunches of headsets, face plates, and the occasional cell phone "repair" station. I'm not sure what level of repair they do but I did see one phone disassembled down to the circuit board and a guy had a soldering iron out. I could understand "keys" being replaced - text messages are very common - people holding phone in hand clicking away.

Riding about I stopped on a block to do a u-turn. While I was doing the turn I noticed a locksmith (photo included). He had both of the keys needed for the bike (one for the ignition key and one for the fuel cap and seat lock). I now have a spare set. 100 Baht (2.60 USD) - done deal.

There's a "computer" store just over the way. I'll see if they might have Internet access.... It's been a few days....

Close-up of the Buri Ram area and my evening jaunt to the northwest of town.

Front sprocket at Nang Rong

Typical countryside

I'll not move right to pass this motorbike just yet - that SUV wants to take the lane for a pass.

When "riding" in the "auto" lane I need to keep alert for a four wheeled vehicles that want to use the lane for a pass. The "open" lane is a bit of a free for all. Multipurpose / get the job done attitude.

This guy was out plowing a plot so I stopped to see how the process worked.

MPG, 3 MB, 44 sec

Across the street was a new car dealership being constructed - Chevrolet / Chrysler / Jeep / Mercedes-Benz

Husband and wife moving on down the road. Both dressed nicely. She was just sitting there - one hand holding a bag and the other was doing something with her face - makeup maybe?

CD's or even one of the large laser discs are tied to the back of the pedi-cabs as reflectors.

Sprocket at Buri Ram

This gal was one of the nice translators. She noticed the efforts being expended and walked over to help. THANKS!!

Steel & aluminum rod supply shop (in nice shape too)

Buri Ram. Rail yard switch control is by pull-pull steel cable. The arms with weights, I should think, are there to maintain tension on the cables.

A roundabout at the edge of town.

Cattle walking around

This AC welder - nothing special - except how the cables are connected to the input and output.

Big dog - very hot

Would you look at this - notice to travelers to move over as there is a danger ahead. Little "protection" is taken here as it seems there is a greater focus on "personal responsibility" than corporate / municipal responsibility.

To the tune of Alice's Restaurant... You can find anything you want....

These folks were on the other side of the street and the guy in the black shirt seemed to be moving between the two.

eStudio160 - somewhat in my line of work

Pricing as of 2006-05-22

Honda CBR150R (I think the label is correct). I didn't think they made'm that small.

So I stopped by a shop / restaurant next to the hotel. They had some Coke - in bottles - and I wanted to purchase one. Since they wanted to keep the bottle they did the standard "bag" operation. Dump the product into a clean plastic bag, dip in a straw, twist a corner and rubber-band it giving the rubber band loop to the customer to hold the bag.
[straws are given out for most all drinks]

Evening - jumping back on the bike for a trek about.

Exposed for the surface colors

Exposed for the sky colors

A farmer was out moving the cattle - they seemed to know the routine.

Kids sitting on the siding - looking west down the track towards the train station (not Buri Ram but the next stop west)

Turning about - looking towards Buri Ram

I came to the station "the back way" - and folks didn't seem to mind.

Down a gravel road then out onto this path between some fields.

Buri Ram   9.500 (some unit)
I think the unit listed is meters. Some places use a period where the U.S. typically uses a comma to separate numbers. If it is to be taken as I would - 9.500 kilometers that would be an unusually precise measurement. 9,500 meters would be more in line.

I'm wondering if this cable tray is for a fiber optic cable (the darker / heavier cable in the photo).

And, yes, this station was manned.


LOL - You may well recognize the format of this show...

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