June 8, 2006 - Thursday
Kanchanaburi to Hua Hin, TH

[NOTE: Last evening (Thursday) and today there's a national event with the king and queen. Lots of television coverage. Pomp and circumstance. He is the longest ruling monarch in the world. The majority religion is a part of the events. This is in Bangkok - just up the road a tad. Update to this - the restaurant handed me an English language local paper. It's the celebration of the King's 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne. Coronation Day 5 May 1950. It lists him as "the present world's longest reigning monarch".]

Two versions of the narrative for today - the fanciful with roots in Star Trek, the Matrix, and "Back to the Future" - and the typical.

If you have interest and a few moments the fancy begins. If you'd rather skip the play - click here to jump down to the basic version.

Star Date 5431.4, HMS HS-IV

Scotty. Aye Cap'n. Engineering report. She's in fine shape she is Cap'n. Good, we're running transport mode today so expect sustained Warp 8 operations. Aye, Cap'n. Navigation. Yes sir Captain. Plot a course to galaxy Hua Hin TH - direct route. Yes sir captain. But first, we will stop by the bridge. Sir? No, not _this bridge_ - the bridge. Who wishes to join me in an away team to see some historic items? Nobody? Humph. Fine, I'll enjoy ancient technology by myself.

Transporter Room - one to beam down <make transporter sound now>.

Hmmm - yes, ancient technology. I read tales of people sitting by things called railroad tracks to watch external engined steam powered devices rumble by. Relics. Ah, well, where's the bridge. Oh, yes, over there. What _is_ it about _this_ bridge? What makes _this one_ so special? The people here - why are they here? It's a standard issue engineering task - located in a city. Nothing too special in itself. I guess it is that is represents a greater feat - the building of the rail line through difficult territory - in which undocumented thousands perished.

Transporter room. Yes Captain. One to beam up. Yes, just one - the postcard lady will not be touring the ship to make her sales pitches <make transporter sound now>.

Navigation. Yes Captain. Are you ready with the course? Yes Captain. Fine, Feel free to use any available gravitational field of any nearby body to slingshot us to our destination in an expedient fashion. [excited tone] YES! CAPTAIN.

Scotty. Aye, Cap'n, we're ready. Warp 8, Engage.

HMS HS-IV, Captain, and team enter worm hole 323 en route to 4/A2 intersect. Obstacles are numerous and navigation is operating at peak strategy. Planets - big they are - but slow traveling too. Asteroids - smaller and popping about - are what keep Nav alert. They don't offer the gravitational gains of the planets but keep Cap'n and Nav amused and focused on this transport mission.

Chaos before, chaos after. The skills of Navigation with the facilities of Engineering - working in concert. Nav scans the approaching masses, analyzes their current trajectories and calculates their possible deviations. Data processed they then adjust HMS HS-IV's propulsion and trajectory for efficient way. The vessel travels in a pocket of bliss amongst the chaos.

Scotty is sitting in Engineering with a smirk on his face - not often does he get long stints of Warp 8 with shots of Warp 10 - Warp 11 if the knob turned that far. His team has the plumbing finely tuned and all is running smoothly. Before long the 4/A2 intersect is at hand and Nav is on top of things - making the 323-4/A2 transition as expected.

The crew of this exoskeleton class vessel differs from those of the planet and asteroid class vessels. Those are large comfort palaces while this offers little in terms of crew amenities. No large lockers. No bunk space while underway. Environmental controls - what suits they utilize and what climate the environment provides.

For those trade offs the crew has chosen this assignment for its goal - exploration. For this goal the HMS HS-IV is the ship of choice. Nimble. Agile. Small. Able to investigate little traveled pockets of the universe. Able to change course when an exploration site presents itself. Able to get in close, hover or stop at the exploration site, and expediently analyze and process the pertinent information.

Worm hole 4/A2 - getting the ship closer to the Hua Hin TH galaxy but not without a surprise.... Sitting at a red light (yes, they exist in space too - except they only look red when you're stopped at one - approaching from light speed the color isn't quite red). Cap'n scans the scene - processing pertinent information. Off to the left - poking out from behind one of the planets. What does he spy? Some craft not typical to the TH realm. It's sporting a Dunlop tire with dual front retarders - retarders just like the HMS HS-IV. Intelligence, do we have record of another HS-IV class vessel in the area? No sir. Hmmm - What other ship is transversing this route?

The sport ship will have to take second in attention - the Borg is close at hand. Just on the far side of this galactic stop it has a presence. Several are standing about. The HMS HS-IV might well attract their attention. The cap'n weights the options for the conditions - transport mode to get to the Hua Hin TH galaxy quickly, some unknown ship nearby, the Borg with their advanced communications capabilities (and occasional pursuit class vessels).

Scotty. Aye, Cap'n. Scotty, be prepared to give me all you got. Oh, Yes, Aye, Cap'n! It might be imperative to have full operation - we're not sure what this other ship is. Aye, Cap'n. Shields status? Shields operative and standing by. Port flank at the ready.

Scotty, we're clear to transition this intersect, slowly ramp up to Warp 8 - we don't want to attract the Borg's attention. Aye, Cap'n.

As the HMS HS-IV ramps up to cruise speed Navigation is having an easy time with clear through way. The Captain is assessing the Borg and the unknown ship. Some of the Borg have turned to give notice - but Scotty has done well in the managed ramp up. The Borg don't bite and the HMS HS-IV is out in front of the unknown ship.

The unknown ship is much akin to the HMS HS-IV though it has a color which is a shade slower than Capn's vessel.

Scotty, give it all you got!!!! Capn's going into streamlined mode, Nav - attention on forward screen! Scotty, drop another banana peel into the Mr. Fusion - I `vant More Power!!! Cap'n I don't know if we can keep'r together if we run this way much longer. Hold on Scotty - just a little longer. But Cap'n!!!!

Streamline operation off!! Nav reports another galactic red light with a queue of planets and asteroids. Scotty - reverse thrust and 70% retarders, you've done well and we've kept the unknown sport ship at bay. Scotty, report. Cap'n, Engineering is back flowing with unspent fuel and the engine is now offline, we're working to ventilate and initiate a restart. <the captain sighs>. Nav, while we still have forward motion transition us over to the shoulder of this worm hole (yep, not only do they have red lights they have shoulders too).

Scotty, keep at the restart we may need propulsion soon. Aye, Cap'n, no drink'n on the job now.

Comms, open a channel to the sport ship - it's closing in. This is the Captain of the HMS HS-IV your ship performed admirably, I congratulate you. Where are we headed? The Hua Hin TH galaxy. You? Comms - did you understand that last transmission. Yes, I see, neither did I. No matter. Scotty, we have a green how is restart? We're almost there Cap'n.... Just one moment - aye, we're up - but we're not sure how well she's going to turn. Nav, are we clear? Yes, Captain. Scotty, Warp 6 when able, we wish to clear this intersect before the planets do.

Aye, Cap'n, Warp 6 she'll do. Nav, all attention forward for a clear course - course changes as necessary - the sport ship is in lock step and running sweep. Scotty, do you think we can get better than Warp 6. Aye, sir, it was just that quick shut down earlier - she's runn'n as smooth as eva'.

[the captain thinks] So, the other ship runs comparable to the HMS HS-IV, but let's see how well her Nav crew performs....

Scotty, Warp 9. Nav - you're in control. The Captain will monitor the forward and rearward screens. Yes, Captain. [while nav and engineering are working as the team doing the tasks they are trained in, the captain sits back, though alert in the tasks at hand. Planets, they lumber slow in their transport mission, asteroids, a bit quicker, and while a few try run with the HMS HS-IV they, by their design, can't - they are of too great a dimension to navigate the obstacles in this well used worm hole.]

Good work team! You always rise to meet the challenge. The unknown vessel has lost her lock step. She's trying but just can't perform as you. Warp 7 and let us switch places with her. Nav, maintain no greater than 1.4e-015 parsecs trailing distance. We shall monitor her actions.

The captain scans the forward screen - monitoring the actions of the unknown vessel - trying to see if she utilizes any as yet known techniques. None found and soon the craft initiates a course change - this must be her galaxy. Comms - "Two Toots" as we pass for good diplomatic measure. Aye, Captain.

Nav, how many light years remain? 5.1e-012. I see. Still too much for my attention span but they will process quickly enough at Warp 6. Scotty, make it so. Captain, Nav here, the planets and asteroids are thinning, shall we maintain a straight lane course unless you desire otherwise. That is fine - we could all step down a notch - though there is little to give our attention to - the scenery in this quadrant.... lacking. Gone are our tree covered mountains and here to stay are flat lands covered with urbanization.

Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6, Warp 6.

Nav, approaching large asteroid off the far starboard flank. Scotty, Warp 9. Nav, maintain your clear line course at this side of the tunnel - we'll let the rabbit have the right edge and will keep in step. Something for our attention. Nav, yes, certainly - course changes should they be needed. Ah, well, did everyone enjoy that distraction? That shortened the remaining light year time for this trek a bit. OK Scotty, Warp 10 and come abreast of the rabbit. Comms, two toots and a thumbs up. Scotty, back to warp 6 at your leisure. Aye, sir.

Captain - approaching Galaxy Hua Hin TH. Good work Nav. Let's pull over at some spot of shade to plot our next move. It's hot in this galaxy.....

HMS HS-IV: His Majesty's Ship (Thailand registry ya know) Honda Super Four.

What, what you say - what about the Matrix! OK, fine, I did leave it out. You see several days back - at the Chiang Rai and the Mae Hong Son hotels they had AirCon that CRANKED. As such I caught a bit of a head cold - runny eyes and a stuffy nose. I thought about finding a pharmacy (frequent here in Hua Hin) for some Coricidin decongestant. And thus the nod - should I take the Red one or the Blue one?

Ok, now for the mundane write-up:

Getting up from the RS Hotel (much recommended over the "other place" I stayed at) I headed over to the River Kwai bridge. It's a "tourist" spot in an easy to access town (driving, about 1 to 2 hours northwest of Bangkok). Buses for the "package" tourists. Vendors of all flavors. I rode the bike up and about the area - taking a look from the roadway before deciding where to go. The static displays are easy to park by (with some shade too!) - and are void of tourists and vendors. Some photos of them and it's time to visit the bridge. Just a photo or two for me - this is an item that Internet sites will have more info.

Off I go. Route 323 for an hour or so then to head south on 4/A2 for perhaps a couple hours. Time wise this would be a shortish day - I might have even driven it last evening. It's urban. Gone are the hills and rural scenery for the remainder of my Thailand stay. Here to stay is urban travel (sigh) - multi lane roads, buildings, billboards, BIG power lines. You may recall that on my entrance to Thailand I commented on the billboards. The other evening I saw a news story that was talking about them - showing some of the same billboards that I photo'd. While I could not understand the commentator I think the gist was that there are too many and they're too big.

Both of these routes would be much the same - divided multi-lane roads. Trucks, buses, and construction equipment rumbling along in the left lane with slow motorbikes left of them. Trucks passing, faster buses, cars, and unladen pickups were mostly in the right / fast lane. I was wherever traffic wasn't. Often stepping from one side of the dashed white line to the other side of it as I threaded the needle amongst the clog. Riding wasn't crazy but I kept a pace that was slightly quicker then the pack and just kept focus on what was in front of me. Utilizing the motorbike lane, either vehicle lane, the space between lanes, or the inside shoulder - anything for a safe pass and forward progress.

Motorbikes, if possible, filter up to the front of the pack at stoplights. At one of these stops I noticed a Dunlop tire poking out from beside a truck. The bike had dual front rotors - exactly like my bike. That was all I could see of it. At the far left corner of the intersection was a gathering of police - perhaps 5 to 8 officers. Ever since the muffler spilled its guts I've tried to baby the bike past any officer. The sudden "checkpoints" may find me pulling in the clutch and coasting past them at near road speed. When simply driving by people - and officers - many will often turn a head in my direction. Partly due to the loudness of the bike (it's reasonably quiet at town cruising speeds though) and partly to the "something different is coming" aspect.

So, kicking into gear at the turn of green I took it easy across the intersection. Poking out from behind the truck was another Honda Super Four - purple in color. It has a "performance" exhaust and was loud in its own right. Some of the officers did turn to look but they stayed put - a good thing. Far enough away the other S4 and I would test out our max speeds. Me, with bags, 3/4 tank of fuel, stuff on the handlebars, no air filter, in a good tuck, hot weather, 158.1 kph / 98 mph (GPS max speed listing) - about top end sustained in 6th gear - not much left to its 400 cc's. I wonder if dropping down one or two would make a difference? 700 rpms difference between 4th and 5th but only 300 rpms between 5th and 6th. I don't think the other bike was gaining on me. Maybe he was just pacing off my rear. Either way another red light was coming up so it was time to slow up and process another time out.

Coasting down I'm floating through the traffic pack and the engine dies.

It didn't like the decel and while I was still at creeping speed I crossed in front of the waiting line of vehicles and made my way to the shoulder. The purple bike did the same. He asked where I was heading and commented where he was going. Through this I was playing with the throttle and starter - having success with an open throttle start. Green light burning the trucks had started their creep across the intersection. Me, now running, and the purple bike made it across in easy fashion in front of the pack.

He followed me for a bit and then I followed him for a bit - both processing routine motorcycle through traffic riding. At his peel-off I tooted and continued on - Hua Hin was still another half hour or so along. The ride was mostly uneventful and the road became more empty. With the emptiness a couple of vehicles decided to wick it up a bit and I followed in time - short term diversions - and then came Hua Hin. I considered heading south much farther - getting to the western coastal area - but the thought of slogging for a few more hours to get there - and then having to do the reverse in a day or two - no dice. Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand is fine.

Ever since the decision to visit Thailand people have commented to me one of two sentences: "The north is scenic, skip the south" or just the opposite - "The south is great, don't bother with the North". I guess it sifts down to: Beaches (south) or Rural / Mountains (Northwest). The east is rural and flat. I would have a preference to the rural areas - mountains a pref over the flat areas - but most anything rural. Traveling - with the open view of a motorbike - to the rural areas and mountains was appreciated.

Down in Hua Hin I pulled out the book and selected a couple hotels - the first I find will be the one I stop at. Sirin (IIRC is the one) - decent place too. Hua Hin is loaded with tourists. Many "people like me" - white, probably speaking English, many having "fat bellies". Families on vacation - small kids or babies in tow.

Story told - on to the pictures - of which there will be few...

River Kwai railroad depot. The river and bridge are just a bit farther down the line.

Turning to my left - the main road through town is past the trees.

Static displays.

Inside one of the fire box / boilers.

Take your standard roadway going flatbed truck and convert it for rail use.
Strip the steering mechanism and mount a front truck set. Pull the wheels and tires and mount some rail road rims. Done.

I heard a lady chirp over my right shoulder and caught sight of this proud dog - bag of food in mouth. It quickly found a spot to dig in.

Wikipedia - general information
Wikipedia - Death Railway link

Cycle with side car / cart. Restaurant on wheels - staff of two.

An unusual model of car. Nice shape. Tooling down the road.

Countdown timer - 8 seconds until the green. Flags, Flags, Flags. Thailand's country flag (red white blue) and the King's birth color flag (yellow).

A loaded pickup. There was a set of these and the others had people sitting on top

Some open road.

At one point the trucks stopped - pulling over to the side. The drivers were standing about. Farther down was a police checkpoint - one that the trucks didn't want to roll through. The police were standing about waiting for the trucks.

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