Oct 2016 Thailand work


Haew Suat fall

It’s Thai time again.  This time I am going for only 2 weeks.  Longer would kill me.  With only 1 weekend to explore I wasted no time.  Saturday I visited Khao Yai national park.  This park by far is my most favorite park here in Thailand with several picturesque waterfalls and dense forest with a lot of interesting critters.   I believed the above waterfall, Haew Suat fall, was in The Beach movie with DiCaprio.

The climate here was perfect.  A little misty and foggy in the morning.  Much cooler than Bangkok and zero mosquito.  I saw so many cyclists on the road and it made me missed home so much.  It is something I would be doing if I was home.  Some parts of the road seem quite steep and technical.  It would be a fun climb and challenging descent.

Monkeys are everywhere.  I was not lucky enough to see wild elephants but they do exist in the park.  It’s definitely required more than 1 day to explore.  There were other longer hikes but I didn’t have enough time.

On the way back to Bangkok I stopped by Chokchai farm for a tour.  It was ok.  I was not thrill with the fact that the tour guide spoke Thai the entire time.  Their milk candy was good.  I bought some to bring back to the States.


This weekend Bangkok happened to have a bicycle expose.  Well, of course I would be there.  The expose was more or less a market place.  Lot of shops selling goods.  There was a few branded bicycle makers there that I recognized included Shimano.  I spent a good 3-4 hours there played around with bikes and talked with folks.  I was tired with all the walking by the end of the day.

Complete trip photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/duclephotography/albums/72157673506878822




The locals named it Clear Lake because the water is so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom.  For almost the entire 26 miles of the trail along the river, rocks covered in moss.  Ferns are everywhere.  The Sahalie fall was flowing at full force.  I’ve not seen such beautiful trail like that in a very long time.

Meet Bend, Oregon.


If it was not for my Subaru I wouldn’t be on this road trip.  Eight hours drive, alone, is a daunting task.  And thanks to audio book I was able to learn something new during that 8 hours.  The drive was fairly easy.  3 freeways at low elevation.  Speed limit in most area is 65mph. I’ve been to Oregon a number of times, for both work and leisure but never to the central area (i.e. Eugene and Bend).

Bend is cool in a way that it possess both dense vegetation on the west side and a bit of dry desert on the east (e.g. Smith rocks).  The lava bed at the summit of McKenzie pass was very interesting.  Bend is not a too small of a town.  There are 80k people and counting.  Per capita I think they have way and I meant way too many tap rooms.  No I am not complaining at all.  I love it.  After a long bike ride/hike, nothing tastes better than an ice cold beer.


If you are looking for a mellow laid back vacation.  I highly recommend Bend.  There are ton of trails for hiking and mountain biking.  The foods are also delicious.  I could see myself move there.

Trip photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/duclephotography/albums/72157672361457392



Twice a week I would harvest this much tomatoes from 6 vines.    I lately find the joy in micro farming.   It’s second to my cycling in term of therapeutic.    I find it fascinating when stuff grow and the harvesting part is super rewarding.

Now that summer is winding down, I am thinking of what to grow for fall and winter.

The cycle of growing never end if one keeps on planting.


Conversation with cows


photo and words by Duc

[smart cow] Hey cyclist, I see you ride this road everyday. What would happen after you achieve your 10,000 hours?

[dumb cyclist] thinking – 10,000:~500/year = 20 years from now.

[dumb cyclist] uhm…probably won’t go anywhere with cycling. Just ride to stay in shape so I can eat ice cream and enjoy the view.

[smart cow] mooooo, ngu như bò (see google translation, smart cow is also bilingual). You can always use street view on google map and eat ice cream without breaking your back in the sun.

[dumb cyclist] ok cows, see you tomorrow!


Making new friends


Growing up Mum always told me, if you’re talented you will have no problem making new friends.   My trips to Thailand have always been long enough to be disruptive to my US life but short enough to not be able to have a meaningful relationship with the people here.

My coworker, in long pants, have been in and out of Thailand for 5 years but didn’t know such meet up volleyball games exist until I told him and let him comes along.   Most of my coworkers are either venture out to find “interesting” restaurants or do the tourists stuff.

Even though volleyball is no longer my go to sport but I still enjoyed it very much.  After 7 years I still can contribute to the team and making new friends.

Life of an expats.


Religion in Thailand


In a country that’s 90+% Buddhist it was to my biggest surprise to find a Roman Catholic Church within 15 mins walk from my hotel.  Holly Remdeemer Church is huge, not a small sack in a dump.  On sunday they have 8 masses, 4 in Thai and 4 in English.  My 9.45am mass was 80% filled


To make day goes by faster I keep routines I had at home and Sunday morning is church day.  

Arts in Thailand


“Why do you want to go there?” Some how the question made me startled a bit before I can explain to a stranger along the freeway in Bangkok that I wanted to see some art.   The sun was beating down hard and I was soaked in sweat. 

To occupy my time this weekend I decided to hit all the art and history museum in BKK.  

MOCA (museum of contemporary art) is located on the outskirts of Bangkok that no train or subway could reach.  I could made thing easy on myself by getting a taxi for 30mins and I’d be there.  Most locals don’t even know the existence of this place.  Somehow I made it to this MOCA  after a couple of hours by train, local bus and walking.  Lot of walking.  

On Sunday I visited the Siam and National museums.   Which are easier to get to. 

To sum it all up, arts in Thailand involved around Buddha.  Most of them are recent.  All the paintings at MOCA are in the 20th and 21st century.  

I think I’m ready to go home.  The next 3 weeks will be long.  My friends at home are conquering mountains and racing bicycles.    I’m stuck here in Bangkok checking out arts that people don’t care much.

https://flic.kr/s/aHskA84Ltf here are some photos


My beloved Viet Nam


Friday 5/19 turned out to be a big Thai holiday and my host company closed for the day.  I woke up at 4pm to catch the first flight out to Viet Nam to see my family in 7 years only to be turned down because I didn’t have a visa.  

Vietnam consulate happens to be next door to my hotel.  I can see their courtyard from my 10th floor hotel room.  For some reasons it escaped my mind that I needed a visa to even fly.  I’ve been traveling a lot lately and most places provide on-arrival visa at the airport.   I guess just not Vietnam.  They like to make it impossible for people to get in and out of their country. Why?

Five states of 200


The excitement state – it had been awhile since I last participated in a racing event.  This year I set a goal to finish a 200 miles ride with 20,000ft of vertical elevation called Devil Mountain Double (aka DMD).  It’s been on my bucket list for a long time but every year it rained on the event day.  Given this year is an El Nino year, I hit a jackpot with the weather.   The ride is on.

I’ve shared hotel room with other athletes before but they have always been the nervous/anxious type and most of the time they kept me up at night.  This time I shared hotel with my friend Brian.  To make sure we get up on time, 3.45am, he set his phone alarm, my phone, hotel wake up call and a back up one from his wife in San Jose.

At the start with 150+ riders, I started to wonder what will lay ahead of those 200 miles.  Will the wind be gentle?  Will I be ok on those steep climbs.  I’ve ridden 200 miles before and it was never an easy task but I have always manage to finish.  I was nervous but excited at the same.  Excited to be ridden on a 2nd hardest 200 miles ride in the California.


The cautious state – about 14 miles into the ride up Mt Diablo, we saw a big tree went down and blocked the entire road.  We all had to get off the bike and walked around the fallen tree.  The wind might have been at least 30-50mph.  At higher elevation the sun rise was beautiful with the view of the Bay Area below.  People were still deep in sleep while we were fighting the wind and inched up the hill like ants.

After the second rest stop at Morgan Territory, mile 35, I came to a road block by the firefighters.  Apparently 30 minutes before that a rider crashed and needed to be helicopter to the hospital.  Words went around that he was ok.  The road was opened again and the ride resumed.


The loneliness state – at miles 85 I came to a rest stop on Mine Road in Livermore.  That was 12pm.  I am close to 50% of the ride.  The gap between riders are increased.  Most people myself included were riding alone. Mine Road turned into San Antonio Valley Road  going toward San Jose.  It’s probably the loneliest road I have ever ridden my bicycle on.  On a regular day you can be out there all day and maybe, just maybe, you might see a few motorcyclists go by.  I turned on my music to keep myself company.  I let my thoughts and emotion drifted to different phases of my life.  Sometimes I cried.  Other times I laughed.

I wondered what the other 7 billion people on earth are doing at that very moment.


The anger state – around mile 135 and 4pm I made it to the top of Mt Hamilton and still felt pretty strong without any symptom of giving up.  I bombed down the mountain safely.  From the bottom of Mt Hamilton to my house is only 5 miles but it’s only 75% of the ride.  I wished I could go home and forget about this torture I am doing to myself.

Perhaps the hardest part of the ride is climbing Sierra Road.  With only 3.75 miles long, it erected in 1,900ft vertically.  That’s around 11% grade average and to climb that at mile 155, it’s pure torturing.  I cursed on every pedal stroke.  My face covered in sweat and tear.  I fucking hate Sierra Road.  About one mile up Sierra there’s a large group of Filipinos cheered us on.  There was one guy with a LARGE gong and he would hit it real loud as a rider rode by.  My frown turned into a smile.  At least someone care to give us a mental boost.  Someone can appreciate the hard work on the hardest road of the ride.

I was no longer angry once I reached the top.  On my best day I was able to climb Sierra in 34 minutes.  On my worst day like today, it took only 44 minutes.  I told myself “I am home free”.


The happy ending state – around 10pm (17 hours later) I rolled into the finish line with 4 other riders.  Two hours before that the sun set when I approached the rest stop in Sunol.  I made a pack with other riders to make it safer to ride at night.  This was my first time EVER riding at night so I have zero experience.  Good thing is I have been to this area before so I know what to expect.

During one of the turn one guy slipped on the gravels and went down.  He was scraped up a little bit but nothing broken.  His rear derailleur was bent but still good to ride.  We all stopped to make sure he was ok and together we continued on.

17 hours was probably the longest sport event I’ve ever done.  I was tired by the time I crossed the finish line but if I had to do another 100 miles, I think I would be able to.  I was not in any joint pain, though I took a couple of ibuprofen at mile 100.  As a first time doing DMD I was very proud of my accomplishment.  It had been awhile since my Ironman event in 2012 that I felt like I have accomplished something challenging and meaningful.  Something worth mentioning.  Most of our days, weeks and years go by without any challenges.  Mine included.  Perhaps that’s why I seek out to these events because that’s all I know these days.  I need some kind of stimulation.  A normal person wouldn’t spend 17 hours on a bike, yet I am fine with it.  Enjoyed it very much actually.

I finished climbing one mountain just to realize there are more to climb and the next one is harder then the one before it.  As much as hundred of people gathered at the starting line I found myself alone and the only noise I heard was from the early summer dried grass dancing in the wind.  I constantly asked myself “what am I doing out here?”  I kept my hope up that I would find the answer around the next bend on the road.  And that kept me going.


Flock of sheep


Statically speaking the more one rides the more chance of having an accident, so I came up with this idea.  I picked a route and stick to it.  I know the rush hour traffic well.  I know how many pot holes are there.  I see the same faces and they start to see me regularly.  I try to start at the same time everyday.

So the route I chose is to go around Alum Rock park and up Mt Hamilton to Blue Oak ranch.  15 miles each way.  Not until lately I start to have more appreciation for this mountain.   18 miles long, moderately steep but the scenery is beautiful despite the harsh condition.  Like today the wind was 30mph.  My skinny ass almost got blown off the bike.   Everyday I find something new and interesting to photograph.  If it was not the cloud or flowers then it’s a flock of sheep feeding at Blue Oak ranch.

This road and I start getting to know each other quite well.