Around the world by bike
(652km - 10days)
10 January – Rattaphum – Roadside Motel – 116 km
I ambled along as there was no rush to get anywhere. It's funny how unprecedented things can occur one after the other. Today, while I was cycling along and taking my sweet time, a man on a scooter started following me. This is something I have always found a bit disconcerting. After a while, he pulled up next to me and began chatting away in a language I did not understand. (I don’t think it was Thai.) I smiled and tried my best to communicate, thinking that he was asking me about where I was going or where I was from. Eventually, he gestured for me to follow him, and he pulled into an establishment that rented rooms by the hour. Ha ha ha ha! Well, I waved goodbye to him and continued along the way. Not long after that, I realised that he was still behind me. I was unaware of him because he was on an electric scooter. This had been going on for over an hour, so suddenly I lost it! I stopped, waited for him to pull up next to me, and shouted in his face: “What the fuck do you want? Get away from me!” Ha ha ha! This was too funny as I knew he did not understand a word. However, my tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions along with me waving my arms must have given him a clear indication because I never saw him again. Just to let you know, for those who have never done it, there is an immense pleasure in telling someone to "fuck off" in a language they don’t understand. On second thought, I should have gone with the man. At my age, I don’t get the opportunity very often. (If only he was a bit better looking.)
11 January – Roadside Motel – Bali Boutique Hotel -142 km
I left in a drizzle that continued throughout the entire day. I have become so used to good weather that this was mildly irritating. I put my head down, followed the main road, and hardly stopped except to fill up with water. Highway cycling is soul destroying and, was it not for the rain, most likely, I would have taken a side road. That said, I chose the easy option and stayed on the highway the entire day. Phew, and what a long day it was.
Towards the end of the day I started looking out for a camping area or a room, but somehow, I never saw anything to my liking; LOL, I’m still fussy as well. By the time I reached 140 kilometres, I had thought it a good time to settle for whatever came up next, and that happened to be the Bali Boutique Hotel. The name may conjure up images of something far more luxurious, but it was a lovely place and good enough for me.
12 January – Bali Boutique – Roadside motel - 113 km
I left on a heavily overcast morning and into a brisk headwind. I have not cycled into a headwind for ages, but I guess your time is your time. Headwinds never make for pleasant cycling, and again I did not stop often but kept at the task at hand. I did, however, stop to buy steamed palm cakes from the friendly lady by the roadside, just to keep my head in the game, as cycling into a headwind is indeed a head game.
As always, I passed some rather interesting shrines and temples, but the most interesting was the Suan Mokkh Garden of Liberation. Founded in 1932 by a Buddhist monk, his goal was to teach basic Buddhism. The monk founded Suan Mokkh after giving up the monastic system in Bangkok. He found the Wats dirty, crowded, and corrupt. He dedicated the remainder of his life to following the pristine Dhamma. Suan Mokkh is a forest monastery. As true Suan Mokkh can only be found within a silent mind, the complex is situated on 60 hectares of land at the foothills of the Phutta Thong Hill. What I like most is that people are encouraged to hug the trees and talk to the stones. I love that! I think I will return to this place. The visit was just what I needed to quiet my mind, and the rest of the way I was more relaxed albeit still riding into the wind.
13 - 14 January – Roadside motel - Champhon – 89 km
It was another day of battling into the wind, and it was no fun at all. I continued to Chumphom and headed straight for Farang Bar where I knew they had a few basic rooms. I felt tired, as can be expected, as I have been going for a long time without a break. I also stayed in Champhon the following day, doing laundry and working on my book.
15 January Champhon to Bang Saphan Beach – 105 km
I left thinking I was in luck and that the wind gave me a break but that was not the case. Again, I struggled into the wind. Under normal circumstances, this is quite a nice section but I had my head down and did what I had to do. Even after a days’ rest I felt tired on arrival in Bang Saphan.
16 - 17 January – Bang Saphan Beach – Pratchap Khiri Khan - 87 km
I left remarkably early thinking that I could get a few kilometres under my belt before the wind picked up. I took a shortcut through the village and left Bang Saphan with village dogs in tow. The stretch between Bang Saphan and Pratchap is one of my favourite rides, as the road runs flush next to the coast making for a stunning cycle. It did pick up a bit later but by that time I only had about 20 kilometres to go and I had already reached the stretch where I had to go onto the main road to get around a small nature reserve. The slip-stream from the traffic helped somewhat for the wind and it was midday by the time I reached Pratchap.
I headed straight for Maggie’s homestay where one can get a room for 180 – 200 baht. Maggie’s is a popular guesthouse and offers one or two air-con rooms in the main house but the majority of the accommodation is at the rear, consisting of very basic fan rooms with a shared bathroom. It is really the same as a dorm – just that you can’t see the others, but you can hear each and every sound they make. The biggest drawcard at Maggie’s is the communal area where one can laze about in a relaxed manner either on the sofas or a raised wooden deck in the garden.
I did not feel 100% and decided to stay another day at Maggie’s. I also took a walk to the shop to purchase a remote keyboard and mouse for my laptop as I was becoming very frustrated with the keyboard on the laptop that malfunctioned every so often.
18 January - Pratchap Khiri Khan – Hua Hin
I felt much better and cycled off to Hua Hin, half of it on small roads and the last half on the main road as there are no other options.
I passed a roadside shrine which I have seen on previous occasions. I’m fascinated by it and have made up my own story about it. The shrine is situated on the banks of a small river and to the right of it is a shelter housing a small wooden canoe. To the left is an enclosure with the most beautiful silk clothing, a dressing table and a few pieces of jewellery. The main shrine is adorned with flowers, female figurines and containers of makeup. My version is that the shrine is dedicated to a younger female (a child maybe) who drowned in the river. Or perhaps it is for a female River God.
The wind was not as strong as previously and it was a pleasant cycle to Hua Hin.
19 January - Hua Hin – Pattaya by bus
I was keen to try the ferry between Pattaya and Hua Hin but once at the pier I was told that it is not possible to take the bicycle on the ferry. I was slightly disappointed as it would save me cycling around the northern tip of the Gulf of Thailand which is a notoriously busy section as it is already part of the greater Bangkok.
Cycling out of Hua Hin, I passed the airport bus station and stopped to enquire. There was a bus ready to leave for the airport and they had space for the bicycle so I hopped onboard. From the airport, there is another bus to Pattaya/Jomtien, a two-hour bus ride. It was already dark by the time I arrived in Pattaya but it was only two kilometres from the bus stop to my place where Ernest was taking a break from his travels. We had loads to talk about and sat on the balcony till late in the evening.
The following days passed quickly as we lazed about. Ernest bought himself a second-hand bicycle as his old bike (old Saartjie) was dead and could not be brought back to life. He spent the following days setting the new bicycle for touring and I had a few things to update and get ready for the next tour in mid-February.