Buriram and Shoe Repairing – Evrim and Elif Yiğit
Buriram is one of the small towns of Thailand. It’s in Isan region which’s at the east of Thailand and which can be considered as a more poor region. It owes its fame to host the biggest football team of Thailand. Town looks quite pretty with a water canals surrounding it as a half-moon shape and a couple of ancient temples at its centre. However this town which you can find very few information about has a location almost none foreign tourists visit.
We look for a spot to set up a camp in a volcanic forest park 8km away from the town near Buriram but it doesn’t seem pleasant to us over there. Since we cannot find any other national parks near around, we concede the fact that we have to spend the night camping in this park and pedal towards the evening market near there to eat. It takes an hour to fill our stomach completely. As we go back to where we left our bikes, a coincidence to put a smile upon our faces occurs. We meet a couple who’s interested in cycling and they invite us over their home. Since their house is small, we’ll have to stay in our tents on their garden but as we have too much in common with them about cycling, we’ll have a chance to have long conversations. The male was a music teacher and his wife was a nurse.
Music teacher and his wife
As we arrive to their house, we encounter a bike collection of 10-12. It’s not hard to understand that they’re interested in steel frames like myself. 4 of the bikes are equipped with XT and XTR components and one of them has a 10-speed system.
Bikes of our music teacher
Next morning we hop on our bikes and go down town. I replace my bike’s chain and outer tube. After the maintenance which lasted more than we estimated, we go to drink some soup together since we got hungry. The owner of the diner is a friend of our cycling fan music teacher and a good golf player. We finish up our soups among some of his awards and golf equipments and converse. After that, to repair my cycling shoes which’s lock mechanisms had broken and which I have to use my knife to take out off from my foot, we go to a shoe repairer. Lucky me, there’s an old pair of Shimano shoes and we tear them apart to repair my shoe’s necessary parts.
A cyclist we’ve encountered on the road.
After telling about Surin town, people we’ve met and what we’ve experienced, we can come to the important part. The thing I primarily want to tell about is a situation that I’ve seen but cannot explain why in Thailand. Here people are surprisingly in a well condition economically. I want to clarify the situation with a couple of examples. First scene is from the evening market. Here soups cost around 1,5-2TL. If you pay 5TL you can get a barbecue and eat unlimited meat, chicken, fish, calamary, shrimp, octopus, fruits and vegetables. Which means the price you’ll pay for food here is like this; You can fill your stomach for 1-2TL, for 5TL you can eat unlimited food. 6TL means: too much to be spending on food. Now let’s go back to our market. Here people sell food for 1TL and come to this marketplace with extremely expensive cars and this cars costs the same in Thailand as it costs in Turkey. Which means it’s possible to sell soups for 1TL and buy a nice car. Let’s have a look at the second scene; our music teacher and his wife who’s a nurse, has a Honda and a 4×4 jeep besides the bikes I mentioned. Third scene is our soup diner owner and his hobby of golf. Let’s consider a minor soup diner owner in our country, he just works during the day and have a nice house, car and a hobby like golf. Do you think that it’s possible? In short, this is the situation in Thailand. Most of us think that they’re poor since it’s too cheap here. However as you can see, they’re not poor. We’d met a woman in North Thailand, she had mentioned that she was poor, we had told her that she has a car and she cannot be poor since she can afford a car. As an answer she had replied as “of course I have cars, because I’m a farmer and I have fields”. She had had 3 cars.
I guess this much briefing is enough, let’s go back to where we left, to the shoe repair. As I was getting my shoes repaired, because it began to pour down, we get stuck in the store. After it stopped raining we realize how much time we’d lost to get all this done and have to go back to the teacher’s house to stay for one more night.
Now before wrapping up, I must tell about a fourth scene. However this fourth scene will be the hardest one for me to explain and it’ll be the hardest one for you to believe among all. Because during this kind of tour journals people tend to lie during telling about their experiences. They know that it’ll spice things up a little. I’m not opposed to these minor garnishes and in some journey books I’ve read I witnessed the sophisticated usage of these kinds of minor lies. I guess the major composition created by these liar voyagers is “Voyage to East” published by YKY from the series of Kazım Taşkent. I apologise for this but it’s quite hard for me to write the author’s name, but he had rendered the incidents in such an adventurous way that you read the book as you’re reading the adventures of Sinbad. This is a technical talent according to me but what I’m about to say will definitely not have such a technique and what I’ll say only will be what I’ve seen and experienced. A careful observer must have understood what’s about to be told already from the pictures we attached. Another point is that if we didn’t have pictures of this, I wouldn’t even dare to tell you about this fourth scene.
Fourth scene, the shoe repairer.
Repairman is a friend of our music teacher and unfortunately he doesn’t speak English, but thanks to the music teacher we can communicate with each other easily. At first, I have to mention that we didn’t go there to get my shoes repaired but chose to go there to hide from the rain as a stopover. However since I had the problems I mentioned about my shoes, I was thinking of removing the lock mechanisms and install a hook and loop system instead for a couple of days. I must admit that you hesitate to trust a person who doesn’t know anything else but repairing shoes who speaks a different language than yours about your cycling shoes which you’ll wear for 3-4 thousand kilometers more. After considering for a while I make my decision and we discuss what we can do.
Used Shimano cycling shoes I mentioned before suffice to repair my shoes. We repair mine with the pieces we took from those. As I wear my shoes, we make jokes about my Garneu Shimano mongrel-like shoes. I hope we can attach the pictures of the store as soon as possible. However I’ll keep on going as the picture is attached to the article. Now let’s have a careful look at the picture of the repairman’s store. First, bikes hanging down from the ceiling draws the attention. Since there are only the bikes which’re in the worst condition out there, this is not a much revealing situation. Second, bike equipments around gives the impression of a shoe repairer who’s interested in bikes. You must pay attention to the pictures around the clock on the wall, which had been taken during some races. I guess the trophies on the shelves and newspaper clippings are sufficient to reveal the repairman’s love of cycling. Now let’s have a look at the bikes a shoe repairer has; even if it doesn’t stand out much, the red Trek road bike must be carbon at the very back but I couldn’t be sure. The black bike frame at the wall across it is definitely carbon. As we’re speaking, he says that he’s the best around here in MTB races, he has won some of the trophies in MTB races, however he immediately adds that he’s an amateur cyclist. He shows his 3 fingers and tries to tell about something but since I think that it’s irrelevant with our conversation, I don’t try to understand it. As I go to the bathroom, it gets easier to find out about what the 3 sign he showed with his fingers mean. There’s a bike hangs on the wall as people passing by from outside cannot see. Even if I’ve been scanning the shop sitting out there, I hadn’t seen the triathlon bike in there until I went to the bathroom. The 3’s he showed with his fingers were triathlon races. I immediately tell him about the Ko Samui Triathlon which’ll be held in a short time but he says that he participates in regional races, he’s an amateur and Ko Samui is one of the major triathlons of Thailand.
Shoe repairer’s bike
Fourth scene is roughly like this. And be sure that our repairman is not a child of a millionaire and isn’t one of the lucky people that dedicated himself to his dream job of shoe repairing. Or he’s not a person that has succeeded in doing the impossible and earned big amounts of money. Our cycling fan is a shoe repairer who does one of the humblest crafts in a middle-sized town called Buriram where in my estimation around 300 thousand people live, of a country like Thailand where they don’t wear anything but sandals and even in this case he can make his dreams come true, ride the bike he wants. How? I cannot explain the reason either but I just know that the governement chose to give instead of to take. As I mentioned before, most of the essential needs are almost free in some limits.
Now let’s create a new scene and have a look at ourselves. Let’s think about cycling roads, parking spots we constantly ask for. I think these are not the problems we have to solve about cycling in the first place. As being a couple of people who can afford buying bicycles, maybe it’s a little selfish to ask for roads and parking spaces for ourselves. The point is to provide more people to be able to ride bikes, it’s not to build parking spots where they can safely leave their bikes which they cannot afford or it’s not to build roads where they can ride their bikes which they’ll never be able to have. Then where’s the problem? The problem is about our shoe repairers. Whenever our shoe repairers can afford a carbon bike, be able to ride the bikes they want, be able to attend races, be able to win races, then the problem will be gone. Then all of us can knock the municipal’s door. But until the shoe repairer can be able to afford the bike he deserves, there are more serious problems to struggle with.
Now two questions about the last two parts;
1- When will the people who have different sexual preferences will be able to involve in the society and work in supermarkets, gas stations, temples, religious places or at the events where they’ll represent their countries and comfortably go to schools and won’t be pointed at?
2- When will our shoe repairers can be able to afford high quality sports equipments, our soup diner owners can be able to play golf, participate in races and win a victory?
We already know the answer, Thailand is a poor country, it’s cheap and underdeveloped.