AMITIAE - Saturday 19 January 2013
A Tech-free Weekend (1): Bangkok to Uttaradit - in which we see a former political strongman riding his motorbike; and a colleague talks about the iPhone2 he still uses.
By Graham K. Rogers
I picked up my second camera from the office, along with a spare iPhone charger. To lighten some of the load in my bags, I donated a bottle (with suitable contents) for Saturday night's usual celebrations. There were suitable sounds of approval from the guys. As usual I staked my claim upstairs at the front of the bus: a good view and slightly separate from the students who gravitate to the rear seats. A college grabbed a seat on the left of the aisle near me and was asleep in seconds. How does he do that?
We stopped for a bathroom break just north of Ayuddhaya around 09:30. There was a group of motorcyclists there having a break. From what I could see most of the bikes were BMW and there was an R80g/s like I had owned a few years back, but with the Paris-Dakkar tank (far greater fuel capacity). The bike had also been looked after much better than mine. I spoke to one and the group was on its way to Chiang Mai.
Even though we were travelling on the main highway the the north, it was nice to get out of the city again. On either side, not too far from the road, there are some lovely views of the surrounding countryside which was still flat: no hills in sight. Flat, green areas of rice fields, edged with trees and the occasional building: so typical for this part of the world. And in the fields, specks of white as herons and egrets do their part in the chain.
With the 3G signal intermittent here - not far from Chaiyo and to the west of Lopburi - satellite displays on the Maps app were too slow, although the maps loaded OK. The movement of the bus on the map was quite accurate.
As I expected, the students stopped singing and there was some quiet - at least for a while.
I learned all this years ago when I was a policeman in the UK, so I was interested to see an announcement from the Thai government (on Thursday) saying that as from next year, all such trucks would have to display large orange boards to show the information. As well as the codes, an icon to indicate the type of substance, along with emergency contact numbers and other information: all about 35 years too late. For years here, the responsible companies have had good information displayed; but of course it is those who are not responsible that will always cause the problems, orange boards or not.
After lunch my colleague was awake so we chatted about the students, about teaching, about presentations and writing skills. The chat was quite wide-ranging, but as he had been playing with his 3D printer all night, he was tired and dozed off again.
He was one of the early iPhone owners in Thailand as he bought his iPhone2 while still studying in the USA. I noticed last week some considerable comments on the point that one user still had his iPhone 3G; but my colleague is still using his iPhone2. His main reasons revolve round the phone (of course) and the way that Outlook on his PC synchronizes his contacts.
At Phitsanulok, not long after passing the campus of Mahasarakham University, we turned off to the left, to avoid going through the city. Although Uttaradit was not yet sign-posted this looked like the last (200 Kms) leg, although there were still a couple of road changes and then the final few kilometres to the dam. There was no 3G, the battery was low and I needed the bathroom.
We stopped at an intersection. As the lights changed, our driver moved off, gently through the gears, passing another tour bus. The second bus raced the engine through the gears and was soon ahead. Our bus driver just held back. At the next junction, the other bus turned off: nobody won.
We eventually reached Highway 11 and Uttaradit was at last shown on the signs. Not long after, we stopped for fuel and a very welcome bathroom break. Another group of large motorcycles - a mix of BMW and other makes - pulled in and while we were there some of the students started chatting to one of the riders. This was Newin Chidchob, a famous (perhaps infamous) politician. He was happy enough to shat to my students and was willing to be photographed, so this shows a pleasant side. He rides motorcycles for Heavens' sake.
As much as I would like to ride again, it is a case of been there, done that: we have moved on.
The ground was dry and in places there was not much green. Although it is January, it has not rained for weeks in this part of the country and in some places crops, like sugar cane and cassava, are being harvested. Some trees near the road had gorgeous autumnal hues: others were vivid green.
Just outside Utaradit, the group of motorcyclists we had seen at the last gas stop, caught us up, headed to the front of the line at a set of traffic lights and were gone. Nicely done. Shadows had begun to lengthen and we still had a few kilometres past Uttaradit to go. Below me the two drivers were still chatting over their radios, with occasional interruptions from Miss GPS. We turned right and just after she announced, "go straight" in confirmation when the turn was made.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.
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