01-Jun-2002 -- June 1, 2002: After attempting 15N 102E yesterday without success, Steve and I were apprehensive about trying again. Our problem yesterday was that we did not speak Thai and our driver did not speak English. Lesson One when pursuing a confluence: speak the local language or hire a good interpreter. After trying to have the hotel staff explain to our driver the concept of satellite guidance, and the fact that I did not know exactly where our destination was, I thought he understood. After 25 minutes, our driver (provided by our company) turned around and headed back to the hotel.
Today, we hired the hotel's van. Their driver spoke much more English. Our destination was explained to him rather quickly, and he understood. The confluence was 8.41 miles from the hotel. I tried to explain that it was about 13 kilometers, so he would know how far to expect to drive. I wanted to show him on the GPS, but did not understand the miles to kilometers concept. Lesson Two: Know all the features on your GPS. I didn't know how to switch from standard to metric.
We went west on the Sari Buri road and then north on the Kohn Kaen road, to within four miles of the confluence. Our driver was more helpful than I had imagined. He looked at the GPS, and turned left off the major road earlier than I expected. It turned out to be the correct turn. We passed several Buddhist temples and miles and miles of rice paddies. Again, our driver took a correct left turn at 3.31 miles. The road we were on seemed to point us straight to the confluence. We wound up .28 miles from the confluence, on the side of a minor paved road. Steve and I instructed the driver to wait, as it was a long walk back to town. Dried-up rice paddies surrounded us, and cows grazed nearby. I told the driver we would be going into the field a short distance and then returning, so he was to wait for us on the side of the road. As we entered the field he started the van and pulled around to point the other direction for our return. We were very nervous thinking he was leaving. After several hundred yards, the dried up rice paddies started being muddy rice paddies.
Switching back and forth between the "GO TO" function and the Lat/Long read-out on my GPS, I managed to follow the raised paths between the paddies until I realized that the confluence was about 15 paces in front of me. I realized we were going to get muddy…at least it wasn't an active paddy, with eight inches of water. As we arrived at the confluence, the mud got deeper, almost up to the ankles. I stepped around in a small circle to get the correct point, but my Lat/Long read-out was set to thousandths of minutes. It took very small movements to get exactly in the right place. I tried to broaden the scale up to minutes/seconds, or just tens of minutes, but Lesson Two above bit me in the butt again. After several arm movements and few steps in five-inch deep mud, I got the picture of the confluence. Steve was busy taking pictures of me and the eight cardinal points around. The camera we brought did not take very good pictures, and I failed to tell Steve exactly what pictures we needed. Lesson Three: take the right camera and let everyone know what the Confluence Project needs to post to the website. We ended by each posing for the camera at our first "conquered" confluence. Then we had to hike back to the van.
Fortunately, most of the caked mud came off as we walked. As we neared the van we ran into a local farmer, who started asking us questions, in Thai. We motioned toward the van, and when we got to the van, we asked the driver to explain the situation. The farmer was delighted that we would come out to his farm just to take a picture. I don't think he understood the concept of satellite guidance either. Nonetheless, he was happy to meet us and sad to see us go, as are most of the Thais we have met. Can't wait for the next confluence.