Dead Drive…

A series on lock ups and uncooperative programs was the beginning of a week long mystery.  Amanda would patiently ask if we could upload photos of Laos and after a frustrating session of nothing productive the answer was: No.

Late night sessions digging around revealed a peculiar abnormality…100% disk utilization, continuously.  For an easy to understand analogy this would be akin to you retrieving a file from a filing cabinet and deciding to live inside, abnormal!  A few clues later and a scan of the offending drive revealed that our secondary hard drive, the one with every photo on it is the culprit. Loose wire? Failing drive?

Luckily having lived through a few failed drives we pay dutifully for CrashPlan, an automatic online backup that chugs along every minute our computer is online. Opening Crashplan revealed that a massive 37+ gigabytes was still in queue to backup the panic started to kick in. With a dead drive you are limited to professional (read: expensive) recovery services. At 5am I gave up, hoping the backup app could wade through the chaos and salvage a bit of our irreplaceable photos.

The morning came quick and our measly 1.5mbps wifi managed to archive 7gb, leaving a bewilderingly huge amount to upload over an unreliable, overloaded connection. Unable to perform miracles we set about our day riding to Kuang Si Waterfalls. The daytime sales pitch of every tuk-tuk and boat operator in Luang Prabang we decided to venture this “must see” attraction. Our scepticism was misguided as we learned after our hilly 30km ride.

Many photos attempt to capture the grandeur of the falls but fall short. With crippled tech I can tease you with a photo from our trust GoPro!! A proper post and many more photos will be hopefully soon.

Kuang Si Falls

Following our outing at the falls I was dismayed to learn that a full day still left us with tons of data to backup. Rerunning the backup program somehow magically changed out remaining from 27 gigs to DONE!  I will remain dubious of miracles but we can only hope the backups are complete and intact.

Searching for a definite answer to the mystery of the computer, I ran a very thorough scan from the drive manufacturer and after far too long, revealing no more info than a blue progress bar the answer was simple. FAILED!

Temporary residents of Luang Prabang, a large “village” in unconnected Laos, my hopes of finding an affordable quality hard drive are slim. Barring a lot of luck or another creative solution, the blog will be untouched until at least Hanoi. All said we are having fun, are both healthy, and will soon be crossing another border!

Keep in touch via Instagram @soupylife or on Facebook. And don’t forget to backup, backup, backup.

Temple Ruins in Ayutthaya

Our excellent choice of accomodations at the Ayutthaya place included a light breakfast of coffee and bread, but the innkeeper was feeling extra generous and cooked us fried egg and hot dogs as well. Sufficiently fed and caffeinated we set off on bike in search of ruins. Breezing around on our bicycles we are freed from the solicitation of the numerous tuk-tuk drivers.

Tuk-tuk row

A brief history of Ayutthaya: Formerly a Siamese capital the city was a religious stronghold of the Buddhist faith Following Burmese attacks on the Lanna kingdom the temples and former seat of the throne was sacked and fell into ruins. Under the command of King Rama IX the archaeological process was begun and ruins are now under the protection and preservation of the Fine Arts Department for all to enjoy.

Our first stop was at the ruins of Wat Ratcha Burana:

Adjacent to Wat Ratcha Burana was the famous Wat Maha That and its countless Buddhas including the Buddha head in the tree roots.

Riding around the island we came across the decorated Wat Thammikarat an active temple slowly being reclaimed by nature. Preparing for the Lunar New Year we were greeted with a few hundred rooster decorations.

Our final religious stop was Wat Phra Si Sanphet significant for its three pagodas and a small market where we tried Roti Sai Mai as well as Ayutthaya boat noodle soup.

Making our way back to the our guesthouse we stumbled upon an elephant ride and feeding grounds. We are in agreement against the practice of elephant rides and the potential misuse of such magnificent animals. Seeing the elephants gather bahts for their hook wielding handlers while large chains clank on their necks confirmed our hesitations against this tourist fueled animal exploitation.

Following our stomach we rode to the area of the hospital where we could find more Roti Sai Mai in Roti Row. We wandered up and down the stalls looking for the best Roti, one of the dozen was making the roti fresh and won our vote for a bag of sugary goodness.

The night and our stay in Ayutthaya was capped off with a walk to the block party style night market, taking place literally on the road with motorcycles parked around the perimeter. We attempted to find new and different foods stopping for one small plate at a time.

Bad Road Choices to Ayutthaya

Bikes loaded and panniers packed we were ready for our first day of touring since arriving nearly a week ago. We waved goodbye to the now familiar faces at Shanti Lodge and wondered why our coffee lady was absent today. Routing past the Dusit Palace we found ourselves on well marked bike lanes, a miracle!

Bike lane riding in Bangkok

Our bike lane luck ended quickly and being a bit rusty from our US bike tour we found ourselves thrown mercilessly onto a main artery in Bangkok. High speed merging contests with loaded trucks were not exactly what we were hoping for. Scrolling furiously on my Garmins tiny screen I would see no easy correction and so for nearly 20km we fought to maintain our sanity as well as our space on the death trap of a highway.

Hungry and spotting an opening in the concrete barracade we stopped at a small neighborhood located in a sea of highways a coming soon elevated train line we found the ever present food vender and with a bit of assistance ordered lunch. Fueled up with the amazingness that only a wok can provide we were soon pedaling again. Our stop disoriented us and we were confused by the overlapping highways, a few “wrong turns” and found our sanity and a quieter road headed north.

Life on the river, scenes from the road.

Turning off the smaller, yet still fast road onto a river road we let out a collective sigh of relief. Not only was this road the antithesis of the highway we started the day on, but we were welcomed immediately by a fried banana vendor!

Fried banana stop

Our newfound river road is ideal for bike touring. Low traffic, low speed, scenic and dotted with just enough civilization for Amanda to finish her fight with travellers diarreah.


The river road deposits us perfectly in Ayutthaya and we check into the first accommodation that hits our budget and quality requirements, Ayutthaya Place.

Ayutthaya Hostel

Following we looked for temple ruins located on the river, quickly realizing the potential flaws in open source data we gave up and just enjoyed a walk around the quiet part of town, a shot of whiskey from a group of friendly Thais and the motoring of boats along the river. Tomorrow we would explore the ruins and historical park.

Aimless Tourists

Originally booked for one night our morning ritual at the Shanti Lodge has been to extend our visit one more night; today was no different. A habit was starting to form and as we walked to our normal Thai coffee vendor and ordered the usual. The ever present tuk-tuk driver solicited us with the singular “tuk”.

“Tuk?”     “Sure!”

In tuk-tuk manner we were dropped off at the Dusit Zoo, a bit down the street from our intended destination of the Dusit Palace. Our revenge was had when we did not have any small denominations to pay. Luckily for all his wife works at the guesthouse, and we would settle the bill later.

King Rama V (so many Rama’s) was the first King of Thailand to visit Europe and was inspired the city layout and architecture. Ordering the covering of many city canals to widen the sidewalks, he also commissioned the building of Dusit Palace.

Our trip to Dusit palace coincided with thousands of Chinese tourists. Not wanting to obscure the photo bananza we opted to enjoy the palace and grounds from the outside; afterwards catching a taxi back to Chatuchak Market.  Unable to try anything on, Amanda went through much hemming and hawing around wrap skirts and the like. With time to sleep on the high pressure 100 baht ($3) decision we were ready! Writing this now, I actually don’t remember what she bought, but we did have “COCONUT ICE A CREEEAM!!!!!” Written as said by the numerous enthusiastic ice cream vendors!

Coconut Ice Cream

Back at the non-air conditioned hot box we got a tip from Matt at that a must see in Bangkok was a floating market. Presenting a problem for us as many were 50-60km away from the actual city and it was getting later in the day. Google to the rescue: Taling Chan Floating Market. We had no idea what to expect except it was a 25 minute cab ride away and the name of the palace contained the words floating market.

We arrived to a pier surrounded by people boats cooking and preparing (mostly seafood), while people speed by on longtail boats, seems legit. Learning quickly that 99% of the advertisements were simply fabrications we were content with our close and mostly Thai version of a floating market. We ordered some kind of seafood salad.

Seemingly wandering in circles, we ended up back in the vicinity of the Grand Palace. One of the more iconic temples in the city is Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, is rumored to be lighted in a most spectacular manner. Our taxi ride was to the Grand Palace, we were dropped off somewhere else. Photos ensued.

Capitalizing on the sunset peepers the best views of the temple are occupied by high end restaurants with bold claims as “Rustic Urban Thai food”, errm that would be a street cart. But more worrisome than their crazy marketing was the prices 195 baht for pad thai, we chowed on much delicious pad thai for around 30 baht. Tourists can act so silly. Whilst wandering looking for a view we found ourselves walking down some of the less desirable alleys, eek that smell.

The wrong alley

Knowing Bangkok would provide we eventually found a small thai owned shop, ordered a Chang and watched the boats float down the river in front of the beautiful, under construction Wat Arun.

Wat Arun

Our walk back to the room was mostly uneventful, being in a daytime part of the city, with the exception of a tuk-tuk parade that nearly ran us over.

Grand Palace at night
Parade of tuk-tuks

Chatuchak Market & The Grand Palace

Consulting a map, our guidebook, and our desire to see each corner of Bangkok’s local and tourist scene we hopped on borrowed single speeds and left from the Shanti Lodge destine for Chatuchak Market. The ride was the usual wrestling with cars for space while ourselves and the motorcycles weave through traffic. Accidentally turning down closed roads helped us avoid a bunch of traffic and we quickly learned if you can ride on it, nothing is ever closed! Arriving with two wheels we were directed as usual to the motorcycle parking.

Chatuchak is by far one of the largest markets we have every been at, with over 15,000 vendors selling literally everything from souvenirs to used clothing, teak wood tables to ceramic flatware, boutique wearables and dog treats can all be found in one place Chatuchak. Navigating the market in entirety is nigh impossible and random wandering seemed the best course for us. Your best bet is bring patience and comfortable shoes. Much of the market is geared for locals with vendors specializing in homeware and decorations, however the low prices and unique pieces made us longing for a shipping container to bring home. Eventually through the crowds and random aisles we found the artisan makers and a new (longer) camera strap was purchased as well as a stylish shirt for Amanda.

Tired of the overwhelming crowds and getting a bit of heat exhaustion we left the market and headed back to The Grand Palace this time properly dressed we were hoping to access Wat Phra Kaew, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Regarded as the most sacred temple in Thailand photography is prohibited inside; however the outside was equally as magnificent in its gilded, glimmering enamel and the massive stature of the pagodas, chedis, and spires.

Wat Phra Kaew in the Grand Palace
Happily Guarding

Riding back to our temporary homes at Shanti Lodge we spotted a bit of action at the park we a few days ago. Simply stopping to look we were quickly invited to a free buffet celebrating the life and generosity of deceased King Rama IX.

Bangkok is a common starting point for many travellers on the Banana Pancake Trail and with a crispy pancake cart 3 meters from our front door we figured we would try one. Chocolate-banana-chocolate!