The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

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Thailand Map 3a

The arrow indicates Hua HIn

7 October 1968

Dear all~

After tracking down the pawn-shop where my camera was lodged & getting it out of hock—sans the film that had been in it, which I had not begun to use—I departed Bangkok gratefully about 9:30 AM. Times will be approximate from here on out—no watch! Despite a hopelessly inaccurate map provided by Shell Oil Co, I managed to find my way. I’ll have to assume the highway was renumbered (from 5 to 4) after the map was made up. Breaking in the Honda held me down to 30 mph for the first 50 miles. and I was able to then pick up a little better speed as the day progressed. First stop was Nakorn Prathom (the english names for these towns are spelled differently on every map I’ve seen—yours probably are different, so use your imagination!), where I posted mail and viewed the positively immense Wat there. It’s a big stupa that gives the impression from a distance of being turned from a single block of marble. But of course it is not marble at all—it is brick like most of them, hollow, and has a covering of tiny tiles in the peculiar pink-orange shade of red marble. The effect is enhanced (at a distance) by large patches of grey which proved to be places where the tiles are falling off. But the thing is gigantic—easily 100 ft or more diameter at the base. The day was lovely, sunny & warm, and I pushed on through Petchaburi (or Rajaburi—same place) to Phetburi, which has a nice cluster of temples, Wats and stupas situated atop a small hill. The day continuing fine, I moved on—the road degenerating into a more enjoyable 2-lane sort reminiscent of Cambodia—& arrived at Hua  Hin about 4 o’clock; 253 km from BK.

Somewhere South of Bangkok

Now, Hua Hin is a delightful spot, situated on the east Thai coast (or western shore of the Gulf of Thailand). It has miles of white sand beaches, and is backed up by mountains—the end of the chain going up into Burma. The town is also right on the railroad, and the delightful chug of steam engines pervades my hotel room at times. There are a number of resort-type hotels, but of course I’m at a chinese hotel nearer the center of town. Poked about on the beach a while—will swim tomorrow—and watched trains and (alternately) lovely sunset behind the mountains. For a while it was possible to see a spectacular sun-set in one direction and an equally spectacular moon-rise over the water in the other direction. I got no rain today at all—the first such day for some while—although it was stormy close-by over the hills. And of course I am a bit reddish here and there from the sun, though not seriously burned. I remembered to “grease up” fairly early. Although the roads are good, they are dirty, and my shirt was black (from diesel smoke) in places when I got here. I washed it out first thing. Then me—I was black in spots too! Had a pleasant and cheap Thai-food dinner. Happily, I am seeing some smiling faces again, and the atmosphere is getting more rural.

Beach at Hua Hin

Recall I mentioned deterioration of the film which I carried for many weeks before having it developed. This photo is a good example. With about an hour of work, I can enhance it to look like this:

The Beach at Hua Hin, South Thailand, 1968

It looks as though I shall break down and take some pictures of Thailand after all, though I took none—and want none—of Bangkok. There is a nice steam-engine on display here, a 3-cylinder “Superheat” (brand) made in the USA ca. 1920. All the engines I’ve seen seem to be this type. What a delight to see them, and smell hot, wet oil—and burning wood—again.

3-Cylinder “Superheat” (brand) Made in the USA ca. 1920

The Thais maintained these engines wonderfully, even when they were retired and on display.

Between Phetburi and here one passes through an area where a lot of charcoal is made, in curious brick bee-hive-like charcoal ovens. The smell is unlike anything I’ve ever smelled, but is certainly agreeable. Along the beach there are countless small sand-crabs that apparently spend their whole lives digging holes in the sand; that which they displace they make into small balls, which gives whole stretches of the beach a curious “pebbly” appearance. And there are immense jelly-fish, which apparently are harmless, since many people fool with them.

Will probably slow down a bit now that I’m away from BK. The route seems to criss-cross the isthmus several times. My best guess is that I’ll stay, at least overnight if not longer, in Chumpon next, then Ranong or Kapoe, then Phuket (on an island and said to be very pretty). At Kra buri I will apparently be right across the river from Burma. Ranong of course is on the other shore of the Isthmus, but between Krabi and Songhla I will cross back over again through Sadao to Penang (also an island). By then of course I will be in Malaysia. But I rather imagine I shall take at least a week to get there, assuming the “natives are friendly”—or at least more hospitable than in BK. Honda is performing better, but has a whole new group of sounds to get used to. In BK I dismantled the seat, discarding all the springs in it (too stiff) and stuffed a whole foam-rubber pillow into it. Considerably more comfortable than formerly.

Have no address to advise in Singapore. Will probably cable as before. 30 for tonight—early to bed; if I stay here tomorrow it will have to be all day, since the next hop is a long one & will require an early start. But I think I’d better swim here where the weather is good—my experience in Sihanoukville being what it was!

Love to all~



Tuesday 8 October 1968

Arose as nearly as I can figure about 7:30 AM. After a leisurely breakfast, I drove around town (which didn’t take long as there is not much of it) a bit, then found a nice beach & went swimming & sunning for the better part of an hour. Couldn’t over-do is as most of me is still pretty unaccustomed to the tropical sun, which will burn very quickly. Poked around the RR station for a while & saw some nice engines. The RR has quite a lot of activity on it.

RSR Locomotive No. 882

RSR Locomotive No. 882

A very big staple in the diet of all the countries I’ve visited is dried squid; catching & drying them is a big business here. Fresh from the water they are spread out on loosely-woven mats and these are put anywhere the direct sun will strike them. Drying doesn’t take long, but it is a very odoriferous process, as you can imagine.

Drying Squid in Hua Hin, 1968. Pee-yew!

In the afternoon I found a nice road going back into the mountains. Actually, it goes over the first saddle into quite a large valley, perhaps 2-300 feet above sea-level, & meanders around in this before suddenly ending in a cluster of foot-paths, right in the middle of a farm. It was stormy over the mountains further inland, and later the storm moved near town, though only light sprinkles of rain actually hit the town. I took the opportunity to do a bit of cleaning, tuning and checking of the Honda. I’d forgotten to check the spark-plug gaps before leaving BK, and was sure from the performance that they’d been set at the factory recommended 0.024″. For some reason on my machine this results in poor pick-up at wide throttle; re-setting the plugs to 0.020″ cures this nicely, so now I can be a little more sure of response when I twist the handle-grip. On the roads that lie ahead, this probably won’t be needed anyhow. Except for an annoying rattle inside (hence totally inaccessible) the right muffler, all is well. The rattle developed some while ago, & the only cure is a new muffler, which is hardly necessary. I can put up with the rattle, knowing it is not a serious problem. Depart early tomorrow for Chumpon—unless something interesting deters me; — about 267 km distant. Only a little farther than the BK-Hua Hin stretch, but poorer roads (thank goodness—they’re much more fun) so a bit slower going I expect.

Love to all~


Next leg of trip: Chumpon. Lots of steam!



Written by Bruce

December 14th, 2009 at 10:23 pm