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THAILAND 

 (2248km -  83days)

 

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27 February Langkawi, Malaysia – Satun, Thailand – 35 km

The ferry to Satun was only at 13h00 and there was no rush to pack up. I first went for a run and then had a quick dip in the pool before we packed up. It was a quick and easy 22 kilometres to the ferry terminal. We checked out of Malaysia and an hour later we arrived in Thailand. It was a hassle-free entry into Thailand and we cycled the 12 kilometres to Satun town in the rain. Once in the town of Satun, we drew Thai Bhat, bought a new Thai SIM card for the phone and then went in search of a room which we found at the Pinnacle Wangmai Satun Hotel. Quite a name for such an ordinary hotel.

 

We took a walk to a large market, just down the road, and I was once again surprised at all the food that was on sale, from bugs to sushi, it was all there.

 

28 February Satun – Pak Bara Beach – 78 km

About 10 kilometres down the road, we turned onto a much smaller road, and what a great idea it was. Fortunately, Janice does not mind following me along the back roads, and she never complains about an extra kilometre or 10. The narrow road runs through small rural communities with wooden houses on stilts and where ladies cook on open fires and elderly folk swing in hammocks under the houses. We cycled past trees heavy with jackfruits and past cows with long ears. Each property seemed to have a mango and avocado tree in the front yard as well as a frangipani tree, all giving a very tropical feel to the day. We cycled through rubber tree plantations, where trees were planted in neat rows, making for pretty pictures. We stopped at a tiny roadside eatery for a plate of noodle soup. Needless to say, it was excellent. We tried to make conversation with the people we met along the way but to no avail. Towards the end of the day, we found a room at Pak Bara Beach and wasted no time at all to take a dip in the Andaman Sea.

 

1 March – Pak Bara Beach – Ban Thung Yao – 63 km

We were late in leaving as I first went for a run along the beachfront. The road led past oil palm plantations and pretty rubber tree farms with small villages and ornate temples. As on the day before, we found a secondary road that made for a relaxed cycle past pretty Karas scenery. The area is littered with caves, but we were too lazy to make long detours and only visited the caves right next to the road.

 

The caves we visited did not amount to much as the first one was deserted, and it appeared that one could only be entered by boat. The second one was on the opposite side of a small river, and we could not find a suitable way across the river.

 

We ambled on, stopping at roadside stalls for pineapples. The lady peeled and cut them for us. There was so much that we could not finish it all, which was not bad for $0.40! By the time we were done, it seemed that the word had spread that foreigners were in their midst as more and more people arrived to have a look and small children got unceremoniously dumped on our laps for photos. We reached the small village of Ban Thung Yao at around 15h00 and found a rather impressive hotel with reasonable room rates. With a name like the “Cupid Hotel,” it was not surprising that there were no rooms with twin beds!  

 

We waited for sunset and then took a walk to the local market for food. We were, as can be expected, a great nobility in this small village. As we walked along, we could hear the word “farang” (foreigner) repeated many times. Locals came on motorbikes (three at a time) to look at us! It was hilarious!

 

2 March - Ban Thung Yao – Trang – 56 km

Right from the word go, we were on the back roads, which made for a shady ride through more rubber tree plantations. We stopped and watched them harvest the rubber, a milky substance dripping from grooves cut in the bark. Our first water stop was at a coconut stall with the most delicious coconuts, full of water and with loads of flesh inside, which we could scoop out after the lady cut it open for us.

 

Then off we went, entertaining ourselves by trying to make a video, which did not work, but we had fun all the same. People peeped through doors and windows as we cycled past, and even the dogs ran for the safety of their homes, a sure sign that this was a not-so-well-visited area. We passed a multitude of shrines with red soda as offerings; what’s with that?

 

Apparently, when land is cleared, spirit houses are put up to house the displaced earth spirit. It is not really a religious thing; it’s just a custom. There are spirits that guard the land, and houses must be built for them, and offerings must be given. It’s what the Thais do, and red Fanta seems to be the most popular offering. We reached Trang early, found a good room at Yamawa for 350 Bhat, and then set off to the market for food. We had our fill of Pad Thai. How can we be in Thailand and not eat Pad Thai? LOL.

 

3 - 4 March - Trang – Krabi – 130 km

We left Trang, past the ever-present stupas and temples, on our way to Krabi. I had no intention of going to Krabi as I thought it would be too far. Janice, however, had other ideas and put her head down and hardly ever stopped. We followed the main road, and there were not many reasons for sightseeing except for some waterfalls and other interesting scenery. We passed rural areas where people live simple lives. All seemed to have chickens and a cow and were drying thin slivers of bamboo, which they use as rope. There were not any interesting places to overnight along the way, so we continued to Krabi, which we reached around 17h30.

 

I was proud of my friend for hanging in, never complaining, and sticking to the task at hand. Well done, Janice! One hundred and thirty kilometres on a loaded bicycle is a long day on the road by anyone’s standards. After a shower and a visit to the night market, it was back to our air-conditioned room to relax.

 

We stayed in Krabi the following day to give our legs a rest and to enjoy all Krabi has to offer. We took a boat ride to the local caves and around the mangrove swamps. The tide was out and we got stuck good and solid in the bud and our skilled boatman got us out of there with great difficulty. We spent the rest of the day in our very comfortable air-conditioned room only to reappear at sunset.

 

5 - 6 March - Krabi – Ko Phi-Phi (by ferry)

I went for my morning run after which we packed up and cycled to the local dim-sum restaurant for breakfast. It was a short ride to the ferry where we bought a ticket for Phuket via Phi Phi island. In no time at all, we were in paradise with limestone karst panicles sticking out of azure blue waters. Finding a cheap room in paradise was, however, more difficult than getting here. Eventually, we found a room with two single beds and air-con for 1 000 Bhat at Sabai House. It was by far the best deal we could find on this lovely but touristy island. From the minute we stepped off the ferry we were transported into a world of backpackers, with party buckets, tattoo parlours and, “You want massaaaaage?” This place has nothing on Sin City, LOL.

 

We headed straight for the beach where we rented a kayak and paddled around this beautiful bay for a few hours before returning to our room to get ready for the night ahead, LOL (only kidding).

 

The following day we were up early in order to be in time for the 7h00 scuba boat. It was a two-tank dive and worth every cent I paid. The water was lukewarm; the visibility excellent with an abundance of fish and swim-throughs.  On arriving back in Phi Phi, there was just enough time to hop on another boat for a half day snorkelling trip. Again, it was a pleasure and the trip back at sunset made the day.

 

7 - 8 March Phi-Phi Island – Patong Beach, Phuket – by ferry plus 20 km

The ferry to Phuket was only at 14h00 and we had a slow start to the day as there was no rush to go anywhere. The ferry arrived in Phuket at 18h00 giving us just enough time to cycle to Patong Beach via a rather steep hill. We found a room right in the heart of the action and paid for two nights. It was already getting dark with the result we had a quick shower and then headed to the beach looking for food.

 

Patong Beach is known for its parties and just about each and every shop was either a tattoo parlour, bar or massage house. The action goes throughout the night and when I woke the following morning to go for a run, the last of the party goers were staggering home, squint-eyed. Some, obviously, did not make it home as there were still a few bodies on the beach, lost to the world, good thing the tide does not come up very high! The rest of the day was spent updating blogs, sorting out photos, going for a swim, doing laundry and just lazing about.

 

9 March Patong Beach – Khao Lak – 106 km

It was time to leave our lazy existence behind and get on the bikes and peddle. It was easily a 50 kilometres ride before we finally got off Phuket Island. Although it was a very good road we turned off in search of a smaller road. We were not disappointed and soon were along the coast where brand new resort hotels replaced the nipa huts of the pre-tsunami era. It is a beautiful coast and one can understand the desire for resort hotels in this area. It was the day of the big spiders! We passed an area where we spotted huge (and I mean HUGE) spider webs and spiders. Each web had one really large one and then one or two smaller spiders.

 

For most of the day it was a hilly ride, and at the end of the day, I think Janice had enough of hills. We arrived in touristy Khao Lak in good time, found a room at Fasai House (not cheap). At least it had a lovely pool, and we wasted no time at all to dip in.

 

10 March – Khao Lak – Kuraburi – 90 km

We had coffee at the lovely Fasai House then set off heading north. Janice had bicycle problems, and we stopped at the local bike shop where they tried to fix her disk brake. It was a day of brake problems as I lost a brake pad and therefore had no rear brakes.

 

We turned off at a sign for a waterfall, which we missed altogether. None of us ever saw a waterfall or a sign for a waterfall, so we decided to continue along the back road which turned out to be a bit of a hilly ride. Janice’s back brake gave problems again, and we did what any good bicycle mechanic will do and sprayed it liberally with the WD40! LOL

 

It was a lovely ride through a rural and wooded area. It was a pleasure to be on the road. With our late start, we only arrived at Kuraburi at after 17h00 found a place at Tararin Resort. The word “resort” may bring a person under the wrong impression, as it was not the kind of place that will springs to mind when one thinks of a resort. It was, however, rather unique in that it was wooden bungalows on stilts next to the river. The room was large with a door to a tiny balcony overlooking the river. The floor was a bit on the sloppy side, and if not careful, one could easily slide right out the door into the river.

 

It was a hilly ride today. Fortunately, in Thailand, there is always a temple or shrine indicating the top of the hill, so we knew when we reached the high point.

 

11 - 12 March Kuraburi – Bang Ben Beach – 79 km

We were lucky enough to find a very good bicycle shop right in tiny Kuraburi! I had my brake blocks replaced, and Janice had her disc brake fixed. Phew, what a relieve that was!

 

By the time we finally left it was already late, and it was a hot and hilly ride to Bang Ben Beach. Good thing the Thais are fond of their Ice Coffee, of which there are always plenty along the road. Like the previous days, we passed many an ornate temple and lush forests, small villages and interesting roadside stalls. We passed cashew nut trees with its weird looking fruit, and I’m always amazed at how the nut actually grows on the outside of the “apple”.

 

The west coast is particularly scenic, and it was a beautiful ride. By afternoon Janice had enough of hills, and we decided to turn off the main road looking for accommodation. We found beautiful Bang Ben Beach and the Wasana Resort which suited us just fine. After a shower, we were off to the beach after which, we ate at the Wasana restaurant. I had the green curry (again!) and Janice the fish; both dishes were delicious. It was an early night.

 

We also spent the following day at our comfortable bungalow at Wasana Resort. We lazed around doing hardly anything except for cycling to the beach where we had a swim at a lovely deserted beach. At sunset, we cycled to the pier where boats lay high and dry waiting for the tide to come in.

 

13 - 15 March Bang Ben Beach – Ranong – 52 km

It was a rather short but very scenic stretch to Ranong. One knows you in the tropics, and a wooded area, if a grassy hill is so unusual that it becomes a tourist attraction. As always, we stopped numerous times to fill up with water, and I love the interaction with the shop keepers. They are mostly quite shy as I think very few foreigners stop at in their neck of the woods. We had no real reason for stopping in Ranong, but we did anyhow. We found a room at Casa Theresa, and in hindsight, it was a good thing as by evening Janice had come down with a bad cold.

 

Ranong is a rather sad looking place with a few odd farangs (like us) wondering about. It is a popular place for a visa runs to Myanmar and back, so there is always a few lost souls hanging around. We spent the following two days there as well, giving Janice time to try and recover from her cold. The only thing we did was to cycle the 2.5 kilometres to the hot spring, but once there we did not swim or even stuck our feet in the water as it was far too hot. Most people sat with their feet in the water, and I never saw anyone actually submerged in the water.

 

16 March – Ranong – Kra Buri – 60 km

Janice felt loads better, and we left Ranong heading further north. It was a beautiful road through dense forests, past waterfalls, and up and down hills with fantastic vistas over the surrounding area. We passed a multitude of monasteries and roadside stalls selling interesting nibbles as well as ice-cold sugar cane juice.

 

It was a short ride to Kra Buri; we did not want to push on as Janice was still not feeling 100%. We found a lovely little bungalow at Pannika Resort. That evening, we cycled to the local restaurant where I had the Tom Yam, and Janice had fried shrimp and cashew nuts. Both meals were fantastic and we, once again, ate far too much!

 

17 March - Kra Buri – Thungwualaen Beach – 80 km

Soon after leaving, we stopped at the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest point of the Malay Peninsula and a mere 100 metres from Myanmar located just over the Kra Buri River. The stretch of land between the Kra River estuary and the Bay of Sawi on the east coast is only 44 kilometres.

 

Soon after leaving, the road swung inland over the mountains to the East coast. It was a pleasant cycle with gentle hills past plenty of food stalls selling steamed dumplings. More interesting is the fact that the mountain we crossed forms part of a mountain chain that runs from Tibet through the Malay peninsula.

 

At first, we thought of stopping in Chumphon, but once there, we decided to head for the beach just 16 kilometres down the road. It was a good decision as it was a beautiful spot with pleasant bungalows (albeit with rather vocal geckos) across the road from the beach. I found a diving outfit just down the road and could not help myself; I dug into my limited resources and paid for a two-tank boat dive the following day. At sunset, we walked across the road to a little restaurant on the beach and sat there watching the fishing boats in the bay.

 

18 March, Thungwualaen Beach

Both Janice and I got up early, but we were too late to catch the sunrise over the Gulf of Thailand. Instead, we sat on our little veranda enjoying our morning coffee before I cycled off to the dive centre. The dive boat was anchored out in the bay, and we were ferried there by a small rubber boat. It was pure pleasure to be heading out to sea. Our first dive of the day was as eventful as anyone could wish for. It was only the dive master and me as the other guests were snorkelling. All went well, and we saw loads of fish until about halfway through the dive. Out of nowhere came a Tigger fish that attacked the dive master. He fended it off the best he could, but the fish kept going for him. The Tigger then turned on me and banged into my cylinder and tried to bite my hair (not that difficult with the bush of hair I have!). The dive master protected me the best he could holding onto my cylinder and hitting the fish with his “tank bagger”. We swam away from the reef as fast as we could, as he was obviously protecting his territory.

 

We continued the dive, and only once on board did I notice that the fish had bit a chunk out of the dive master's nose!! Have you ever!! Best was for him to return to the shore as soon as possible, and I got transferred (mid-seas LOL) to another boat. Best thing of all is that this was a true Thai operation, and all the diving staff and guests were Thai. Although little English was spoken, the food was truly Thai and absolutely delicious. I did two more stunning dives (even although I only paid for two), and although the viz was not fantastic, it was a pleasure to be in the water again. The fact that one of the dives was a wreck dive made it even more exciting.

 

19 March - Thungwualaen Beach – Bang Saphan Beach – 85 km

I first went for a jog along the beach, and after a quick swim, we cycled out of Tungwualaen. It was a most stunning ride, partly along the coast and partly inland past beautiful temples. We stopped at the Naga Buddha temple for a few pics as I find them beautiful and interesting. Along the way, I watched in amazement as locals dried and prepared nipa leaf rolling paper for cigarettes. The young leaves are dried in the sun and then neatly folded to be used or sold. I would have a lot more info if I could speak Thai!

 

We crossed rivers where fishing boats lay three or four deep waiting to go out, while villagers were busy drying the small fishes on large wooden racks in the sun. We cycled past the most idyllic beaches and even found the scenic coastal route with a cycle path and all! It was a lovely ride, and we continued to Bang Saphan Beach where we found very convenient bungalows across the road from the beach.

 

It was a hot and humid day, and we wasted no time at all jumping into the ocean! Once showered, we popped into the next-door restaurant where the food was delicious, and the bill came to a total of 190 Thai baht (two plates of food and beer).

 

20 March - Bang Saphan Beach – Ban Krut – 34 km

The stretch of coastline north of Bang Saphan is easily one of the most beautiful. We first had breakfast on the beach and then followed a small road that runs flush next to the coast, a cycle tourer’s dream. We ambled along past snow white beaches with palm trees and lone hammocks strung between them. It was so idyllic that shortly after leaving we decided to stay in one of these “brochure-beautiful” spots.  We spent the rest of the day doing close to nothing, except for swimming and enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

 

21 - 22 March – Ban Krut – Prachuap Khiri Khan – 70 Km

Janice felt energetic, and we cycled up the Khao Thong Chai Mountain to have a look at the temple. It’s a beautiful temple, high up on a hill, and we arrived at the same time as the first tour bus. We again ambled slowly along this wonderful stretch of coast. I was fascinated by a roadside shrine that was slightly different from the rest. Not only did it include orange Fanta instead of the normal red Fanta as an offering, but it was also adorned with bright, colourful plastic flowers. On one side of the shrine was a showcase with the most beautiful clothing -- it looked like silk -- and on the other side was a shelter with a small wooden kano with two wooden figurines. It all made me wonder what, exactly, it all meant.

 

As always, we passed a never-ending string of interesting stuff, from colourful temples to people going about their daily routines: fishing in small ponds, making charcoal from coconut shells, or selling wares from carts laden with goods. All of these things made for an interesting day.

 

We arrived in Prachuap in good time, just as the food stalls were setting up, which is always a good time to get to one's destination.

 

We spent the following day in Prachuap. Maggie’s Homestay is a laid-back place where just about everyone stays longer than planned. Janice and I had a whole host of things to do, and we spent the rest of the day doing normal chores. In the evening, we visited the Monkey Temple or Wat Thammikaram, or rather just walked to the fountain. There are plenty of monkeys (macaques) living at the temple, and at the base of the hill, they even have their very own monkey fountain. It was fascinating to sit and watch them.

 

These clever creatures have by now learned how to undo brick paving and use it as a tool to crush nuts and other stones. The most interesting thing was watching one who had found a shard of mirror and could not stop looking at herself. Mothers tenderly cared for newborns while young ones run amok. What I found even more interesting was the “Monkey Lady,” an elderly lady selling bananas from her bicycle to “farangs” like me at 20 Thai baht a bunch. She appeared to be from the lower strata of society but was as sharp as any business executive. There was no way of getting a picture of her before handing over the 20 baht! The bananas were priced the same as at the market but were clearly only edible by the monkeys. She was a clever lady! You go, girl!

 

23 March - Prachuap Khiri Khan – Sam Roi National Park – 74 km

We were slow in packing up, as Janice wanted to pop into the bike shop and they only opened at 9 o'clock. We followed the coast, stopping at pretty fishing villages for photographs. What an interesting day it turned out to be!

 

Along the way, we saw a rather interesting festival (or funeral). It looked like a Hindu gathering with an entire band, food enough to feed all of Thailand, dancing, and interestingly enough, the smashing of coconuts. While dancing or chanting, someone would randomly throw a coconut at a waiting “batsman” who would then whack it to pieces with a baseball-like bat. I indicated that I wanted to take photos and they, in turn, indicated that it was fine. I was, however, unsure of just how far I could push the permission so readily granted, and therefore stayed on the outskirts. After leaving, I was sorry as I’m sure one could have gotten some really fantastic pictures if one was bold enough to become part of the gathering.

 

We turned off of the highway and found the most beautiful little railway station. It was in such good condition with such beautiful gardens that we had to stop and visit. Unfortunately, the station master spoke no English, but we thanked him anyhow and were on our way again. Needless to say, we passed a whole host of beautiful temples! We amained for the Khao Sam Roi National Park as we wanted to visit the cave temple in the morning. We found the Baan Pak Rimkong guesthouse, a very convenient place on stilts right on the river with all the fishing boats moored outside our window!

 

24 - 25 March – Sam Roi to Hua Hin – 58 km

We took a 10-minute boat ride around the headland to the Laem Dala Beach. From Laem Sala Beach, we headed up the mountain, about a 15-minute walk to the top of the hill, and then a gentle down into the cave. Although we tried to be there between 11:00 - 12:00 to see the light shaft coming through the hole in the ceiling, there was sadly no light shaft! We took a few pics of this beautiful temple in the cave, and then headed downhill and back to our bicycles.

 

It was about 13:30 when we got back, which gave us plenty of time to cycle along the coast route via Pranburi to Hua Hin. Just before Hua Hin, we found a cycle path and it was an easy ride into this touristy town with all its expats. We found a room at Bird Guest House; a half rickety place on stilts over the water. That evening, we sat on the wooden deck enjoying the cool evening air.

 

The following morning, I went for a jog along the beach and had a dip in the ocean afterwards. The water, at 30˚C, did not, however, even cool me down. We headed to the local bike shop, as I was looking for a derailleur wheel, but had no such luck. Janice, however, was luckier and found new cycling shorts, a bicycle pump, and a handlebar bag with space for a phone.

 

26 March – Hua Hin – Samut Songkhram – 112 km

We were rather late in leaving, something that has become the norm. Fortunately, the cycling was easy and interesting. At first, we thought about stopping mid-way to Samut Songkhram, but Janice felt energetic, so we pushed on. There were a few interesting things along the route, one being that the Hau Hin airport runway crosses the road! Fortunately, this was via a bridge and not on the road! It remains, however, an oddity to see planes come in for a landing while heading straight in your direction!

 

We followed the back road as much as we could, to such an extent that we ended up between the salt pans and eventually had to push our bikes bike back to the road. The most amazing part of the day was watching workers frantically loading and carrying salt from the salt pan to the sheds. It was truly life in the salt mines as both men and women, of all ages, scooped salt into bamboo baskets hanging from shoulder poles, and then, with a bouncing stride, carted their heavy loads to the sheds. I was shocked at seeing what looked like kids, no older than 10 or 12 years, working in the salt mines. I did not expect to see that in modern Thailand.

 

I got thirsty just watching them work and had to stop at the nearest roadside stall where ladies were selling sugarcane juice. We gulped our ice-cold drinks down and continued to Samut Songkram, where we arrived with the food stalls already in full swing. We headed for Hometown Hostel, and as this was my third visit to this lovely hostel, it nearly felt like home.

 

27 - 28 March – Samut Songkhram – Kanchanaburi – 117 km

We first paid a visit to the famous Mae Klong Market (railway market). We did not have to wait long before a train came by and the traders hurriedly packed up their wares, making space for the train to pass. As soon as the train had passed, all the stalls were back in place, only to follow the same procedure when the next train came. It was already late by the time we left, and we kept a steady pace, not wanting to waste too much time along the way. 

 

A friendly man stopped along the way, handing me a large plastic bag with water, biscuits, flavoured milk. How awesome is that! As so often happens along the way, he said,” You cycling? You must be strong!” and I wanted to reply, “Out of all the things I am, strong is not one of them! Just look at the old woman at the market, carrying heavy loads on shoulder poles! That is strong!” Unfortunately, that is mostly a too lengthy and complicated reply in a foreign language. So, I smiled and nodded, got back on the bicycle and cycled down the road, knowing that strength is not one of my strong points.

 

Once I caught up with Janice, we stopped in the shade of a bridge to enjoy our snacks. In Kanchanaburi, we found a bungalow at Rainbow Lodge, located right on the River Kwai for 250 baht! No sooner had we offloaded our panniers than we were sitting watching the sunset over the famous River Kwai.

 

We also spent the following day in Kanchanaburi giving us more than enough time to explore the sad history of what is now known as the “Death Railway”. While looking at the rows and rows of graves at the war cemetery, an incredible sadness came over me as I, once again, realised that there is no limit to mankind’s greed for power. I guess there never was and never will be!

 

29 March – Kanchanaburi – Suphan Buri – 98 km

Another cyclist arrived at Rainbow Lodge, and we chatted for a while before setting off again. It was easy and interesting riding, as always, and a day filled with scenes of rice paddies, sugar cane fields, beautiful temples, and ancient ruins. Our first stop was at Wat Phra That or Wat Phra That Sala Khao. Excavations indicate that the temple was built in 1424 to 1488 during the reign of Phra Borommaracha 11.  It was hot and humid, and we were happy when a lady with a cart arrived, selling ice cold drinks.  Our second stop was at Wat Kuti Song, but I could find no information on it.

 

In Suphan Buri, we found a real cheap room at the very contradictorily named Delux Hotel. The room only had one faint light, to such an extent that we had to use our torches to find our things. Moreover, while having a shower, the towel rail fell off the wall. LOL!

 

30 - 31 March Supahn Buri – Lop Buri – 86 km

Some days are more interesting or bizarre than others. Today was a temple day, and we visited quite a few, all claiming to have something real special. We saw ancient ruins, the most beautiful Buddha statue in all of Thailand (so they claim), brown Buddhas, 300-year-old sacred trees, and statues of Buddha riding a huge bee! What was all that about? We followed secondary roads for most of the day with the result that we also came upon some very interesting roadside stalls. Not only did they sell the usual fruit (served with a sugar-and-chili mix) and woven articles, but they also served grilled rats! There really is never a dull moment when travelling by bicycle.

 

We arrived in Lop Buri early, but it was far too hot to go and look at the ancient ruins. The weather report stated that it was 37˚C, but it felt more like 40˚C. We walked out at around 5:50, and although still boiling hot, it was more bearable. However, the famous Lop Buri site was already closed by then. Instead, we took a walk to the Monkey Temple and then had a meal at the NooM Guesthouse where we stayed.

 

The following morning, we were up early to visit the temples before the heat set in. In the process, I saw one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed. At the Monkey Temple, one of the many monkeys gave birth, and I watched in wonderment as the mother cared for a newborn. It was a rather messy affair, and not for the squeamish, as she ate the placenta while possessively clutching her baby. Although she allowed me to come quite close, she did not tolerate any of the other monkeys close to her. If any of them approached her, she would hug the baby and placenta (both still attached to her) while aggressively baring her teeth. Eventually, she grabbed both baby and placenta, turned her back on the world and sat facing the temple wall as close as possible, hiding the baby and placenta from the world.

 

1 April – Lopburi – Ayutthaya – 64 km

It was a short and easy ride to historical Ayutthaya where the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya is encircled by rivers forming a most interesting place to visit. Even though I have visited this area on many occasions, I could never get tired of it. To me, this is where the Thais reached the pinnacle of their regional dominance and where the Thai culture was shaped into what it is today.

 

We found a room at the very interesting Baan Lotus; an old school house that is now a guesthouse. I could not believe when the people there still remembered me! I guess I should not be surprised, as the family who owns it are highly intelligent. It still, however, floors me when people remember me, as thousands of guests must walk through their door. We had a quick shower, and then hopped on the bicycles to visit the temples. Most of the temples were built in the Thai heyday, between 1350 – 1767. Strange how they could ward off the Western assaults, but eventually fell to the Burmese.

 

2 April – Ayutthaya – Bangkok – 80 km

It was a day of easy cycling into Bangkok. First, we followed a quiet road next to a canal, and then the road following the new Skytrain (still under construction). We sailed into busy and hectic Bangkok like two pro’s and arrived at our destination in the Khaosan Road area while the rest of Bangkok was still “siesta-ing”, LOL. So, came to an end Janice’s tour of Southeast Asia. Fortunately, we still have about a week to enjoy amazing Bangkok and all it has to offer before she flies home on April 8.

 

3 - 4 April Bangkok

Janice and I wondered around crazy Bangkok, walked along the canal and visited some of the very weird places in the city. That evening we met up with Andre and Anton (friends from the UAE) and ate at my favourite dim-sum restaurant in Chinatown.

 

The following night we met them again at their very fancy resort hotel for a bite to eat. On both occasions, Andre and Anton paid for the food - how nice of them!  

 

4 -7 April – Bangkok

The days passed quickly and soon it was time for Janice to pack up her bicycle and panniers and get ready to fly home to South Africa.

 

8 April – Bangkok

Janice packed up and took a taxi to the airport. It was a boiling hot day in Bangkok with the result I did very little in the line of activities. I handed in my laundry at the lady down the alley, where she operates a few machines under a makeshift shelter. The entire alley is piled with laundry bags except for a tiny space where she, seemingly, sleeps all day and night. That evening I returned to collect my laundry and on my arrival, she hauled out my bag amongst the hundreds of bags! Although she gave me a piece of paper with the amount and time I can collect it, there was no name or number on the paper. On collecting my laundry, she also did not ask for the paper, and you can understand my slack-jawed surprise as she handed me my laundry.

 

The following day I looked for cheaper accommodation and, once again found a room at Sleep Inn. It’s cheap, very cheap, and so is the quality of the rooms. I did not complain as it had a fan, air-con and a window plus “bathroom inside”, LOL.

 

I was hanging out in Bangkok, waiting for the jockey wheel to arrive and it was nice to do absolutely nothing for a change. I went for a run in the morning but my runs are not pleasant affairs lately. I’m struggling with the running, not enjoying it as much as I always do. It could be the heat or just the fact that I’m not doing it often enough. This morning my hamstrings were so tight they were painful, so I stopped in a park and joined others in doing stretches. LOL, I wonder what they thought. It felt a lot better after that, and after I warmed up a bit I did not feel the hamstring anymore.

 

Later I took a walk to Chinatown, stopping for a coffee and croissant along the way. I walked through the fish market with all it weird stuff and visited the flower market where it was cool and smelt divine, especially after the fish market. The vegetable market was equally interesting as there is always inevitably something I have never seen before.

 

“New Market” in Chinatown (which is not so new anymore as it has about two decades under its belt) is a remarkable place as it sells EVERY thing. It was another blistering hot day so I headed back by river taxi to my humble abode. At least I had air-con!!

 

That evening I had a massage to see if I could solve the hamstring problem and although it felt miles better afterwards, by bedtime it was back to its normal tight and painful state.

 

Most evenings I find a café where I have both a beer and something to eat cheaply. If they have Wi-Fi (that’s working) it’s an added bonus and I spend a good hour or three doing my photos and updates. I, however, don’t have the patience to sit for such a long time and normally leave before I’ve done all I should have.

 

In the day, I walk the streets of Bangkok, always finding interesting snippets along the way. One being the Holy Rosary Church built by the Portuguese in 1786 with a grant from King Rama 1, just four years after Bangkok was established as the capital. The church was built due to a rift in the Santa Cruz Church in Thonburi - not even the church seems to be immune to inhouse fighting.

 

Songkran was in full swing. Songkran is the Thai New Year's festival. The Thai New Year's Day is 13 April every year, but the holiday period includes 14–15 April as well. The word "Songkran", I understand, comes from the Sanskrit word "saṃkrānti", literally "astrological passage", meaning transformation or change. It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and is celebrated in Thailand, Lao, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

 

It was a busy day for most, as most Thais will go to the temple and bath Buddha statues. The temples were packed with devotees pouring fragrant water over rows of Buddha statues, making wishes, and getting blessed by the monks. Most shops were closed, as New Year celebrations, or “Rot Nam Dam", are traditionally celebrated with family members. Most people will go back to their home towns to spend the day there.

 

Songkran is also a water festival, and every man and his dog had a water gun. There was no escaping it, as large water containers were strategically placed along the streets for this very purpose. The streets were jam-packed with both Thais and foreigners, shooting or throwing water, and there was not a dry corner in all of Bangkok.

 

14 – 28 April – Bangkok Songkran Festival

There was a full-scale war out there! Each and every one was armed to the teeth with plastic water guns, and there was no escaping it. Both adults and kids were having the time of their lives. You give a water gun to a grown up, and they instantly become kids, and you give a child a water gun and carte blanche to shoot at anything moving – there is no bigger joy! The best part of Songkran is that people are out in the streets, laughing and having fun, and not sitting with their phones like zombies.

 

I took a walk to the amulet market where trade is based around tiny talismans. The amulets are mostly purchased by monks, taxi drivers and anyone who needs good luck. Some are really minute, only a centimetre or two tall. Stall owners also claim that some are antiques. I’m not so sure of that, as each and every purchaser peers through magnifying glasses, inspecting the pieces they’re interested in. There was also some weird voodoo-like looking figurines…I wonder what that’s all about.

 

My search of a good spot for night photography did not pan out and eventually I returned to the Geko Bar, which has become my usual nightly hangout. I hooked up with Silvia (from Germany) and Patrick (from India, who lived mostly in England but now in Spain). The Gecko Bar has become our unofficial meeting point, either for breakfast or for a beer in the evening. During the course of the evening, we also met Jeff, an English chap, teaching in Myanmar. I love Bangkok.

 

The days passed quickly and shortly after Songkran I received a message from Bok-Bok Bike that my jockey wheel had arrived. While they worked on the bike I scanned the internet for a cheap condo to buy. There was not much available at the price I wanted to pay but eventually I found one and contacted the agent. The next day I was on the bus to Jontien Beach to meet Benn, the agent from Immobilien Pattaya.

 

I like the little rabbit hole they showed me, as it was close to the beach (one kilometre) and had a lovely pool. It was also an older building and a fairly low rise building as it was only five storeys. It was, however, the price that mostly drew me to this particular unit. I paid a deposit to secure the unit and was holding thumbs that all would work out for the best. There was nothing more I could do, so I headed back to Bangkok.

 

28 April - Bangkok – Bang Saen - 80 km

It was time to leave the Big Mango and head south. A task that always sounds easier said than done. I followed the highway along a service road and soon I was back amongst dubious-looking food stalls and interesting roadside shrines. April is a hot and dry month in Thailand but no sooner was I on the road and the heavens opened.

 

A blessing in disguise, really. A golf driving range made the perfect shelter, and together with a few motorbikes we waited out the storm. It lasted surprising long but eventually we were on our way again. I turned down for Chonburi and then headed down the coast to Bang Saen Beach. What a lovely beach it turned out to be as well.

 

29 April Bang Saen Beach – Jomtien Beach - 56 km

What a lovely ride it turned out to be. I ambled along the coast to Pattaya where I first popped into the Immobilien office. I discussed a few things with Benn and realized it was still going to take a long time before all will be in place (if the deal ever comes off, that is). Buying property in Thailand is a bit of a legal mine field and I’m very much at the mercy of the Immoblilien company. This is not a feeling I’m used to so I was rather uncomfortable, to say the least.

 

I found myself a bed at Beachspot Hostel for 180 baht. There were only two beds in the dorm and no one but me there. Not a bad price for a bed with a door to a balcony overlooking the beach. It was, however, only a fan room and rather like a sauna but I could not complain at the price.

At around sunset I took a walk to the night market, got myself a beer from 7-11 and sat on the beach, enjoying the sunset.

 

30 April - Jomtien Beach

I went for a little jog along the beach and what a lovely beach front it is. The beach stretches for miles and my sore foot seems to be of no trouble to me when I run (how strange). Afterwards, I took a dip in the ocean and found the water so warm that it did not even cool me down. I was not complaining and waddled in the lukewarm water for a while before heading back to my room for a cold shower (which was also not all that cold, LOL).

I found a coin-operated laundry just down the road and spent the morning running errands and doing laundry. I was becoming like the Thais, out in the morning and then retreating to the relative cool of my room for the rest of the day, only to surface at around sunset again.

 

1 – 6 May - Jomtien Beach

I have been hanging around Jomtien Beach for a while now, and I’m keen to get back on the bike. Although I took a jog every morning, I wanted to move on. The reason for my inactivity is that I bought myself a small apartment and needed to get all the paperwork done. The little apartment is no bigger than my tent but comes with a bathroom, air-con, and a balcony!

 

The reasons for doing so are multiple as I needed to spend the few bob I had laying in my bank account on something more permanent (I was spending it far too fast). I wanted the most inexpensive place available as then I did not have to worry about the fact that it was not bringing in income. It will also give me somewhere to stay (for virtually free) forever (if I so wish). Thailand also makes a nice central and inexpensive base and is still one of the few places in the world where foreigners can buy cheap property (not land).

 

With the help of Benn from Immobilien Pattaya, I found just such a place. Benn was very efficient and helpful and got the paperwork done super-fast. Buying property in Thailand can be a legal nightmare for foreigners as all paperwork is in Thai! I was very much at the mercy of Immoblien Pattaya and could only hope that they were a reliable company. The boring part is that the flat is currently tenanted (something I should be thankful for), so there will be no playing house-house in my new apartment. Immoblien also helped me in opening a bank account in Thailand, which will make for convenient depositing of the monthly rent. The only problem is that I can only pick up the password for the internet banking from the bank in two weeks' time. The funniest thing by far is that I paid for it with my bank card! Now there is a first for you! I have never bought a property with my bank card, hahaha!

 

If anyone is thinking of buying a property in this part of the world, I recommend Benn Boniecki from Immobilien Pattaya. He is super-fast and super-professional. I am now the proud owner of a property in Thailand and, in one fell swoop, I went from traveller to expat! Hahaha!

 

7 May - Jomtien Beach

The days passed slowly as I waited to sign the relevant documents at the land office. I took the ferry to Koh Larn island together with Emmy and Katae from the Immobilien Office. It was a lovely day on the beach, and on my return, I had a bowl of mushroom soup from the local food vendor and just sat on the beach, watching the sun go down.

 

8 May - Jontiem Beach

A day of relaxing on the beach must have done me good as I was up at 5h30 and pounding the pavements of Jomtien Beach by 6h00. I even took three minutes off my usual time, hahaha. Still, it was no faster than a crawl, but I’m happy that I’m able to run 10 kilometres. A swim in the ocean afterwards and coffee on the beach makes for a perfect start to any day.

 

9 May - Jomtien Beach

It’s quite amazing how much we experience in a day and how many interesting things we see, if only we had time to reflect at the end of the day. This morning, while running along the beachfront, I not only saw fishing boats come back after a night out at sea but also ladies selling the catch of the night. Food vendors, in turn, sold noodle soup to the fishermen. I stepped carefully over troubled soles laying passed out on the pavement, empty bottles beside them. I run past sad-looking ladyboys walking home, shoulders hunched and high heels in hand, while dragging heavily on a cigarette and I saw monks begging for food on the beach.

 

I watched Thailand playing Afghanistan in the Asian Beach Handball Championships, I signed papers at the Land Office for the unit I purchased to be transferred into my name, I ate very spicy noodle soup and did laundry in the wastepaper basket. Phew, and that’s, most likely, only a small part of it.

 

10 – 11 May - Jomtien and around

I think I now know why caffeine is illegal in sport. This morning I went for a lovely ride off the beaten track out towards the hills and then past the airport and the turtle conservation centre before returning home. It was easy cycling and not far, about 80 kilometres or so. I got back around 3h30 and thought it a good time for coffee and cake.

 

While sitting there, a saw a jogger going past and it looked so good that I decided to go for a run. I headed back to my room, donned my running shoes and headed out the door. I had such a good run that I even went slightly further and ran 11 kilometres instead of my usual 10 kilometres!! OK, I know, it was not much further and quite slow, but still, I felt remarkably energetic. Maybe I should have coffee and cake more often, LOL. It works!!

 

12 – 15 May - Jomtien and around

I was so inspired with my running of the previous day that I tried it again (this time without the coffee, LOL). I did another 11 kilometres in the morning and then went exploring by bicycle. It turned out to be quite an interesting day. It was overcast, and it rained on and off, but it made for a good cycling day.

 

Most of the things I wanted to explore turned out rather fake, like the cultural village and the floating market. I did, however, come across a most unusual, let's call it a park, for lack of a better word. It was a large area with a beautiful lake, fountains and manicured gardens and plenty of temples, wats and stupas. I then headed to the “Big Buddha Mountain” which turned out to be a Big Buddha with a difference, as it was not a statue but an image carved into the side of a mountain, known as the Khao Chi Chan Buddha. It is an image of Buddha sitting cross-legged, with one hand resting on his knee and the other in his lap. The image is 109-metre-tall and 70-metre-wide. I understand that the image was designed using computer software and drawn onto the side of Khao Chi Chan using a laser. Apparently, this was done entirely at night. During the day, the image was fixed and adjusted, and when completed, gold was used to fill in the sculpture.

 

Again, is started bucketing down and I headed back to Jomtien for a large plate of green curry.

 

The following morning, I woke up with a stiff neck/shoulder; I think I’m getting to the stage where I need a carer. Anyone who wants to volunteer (with bicycle and panniers) can inbox me. I must have pulled a muscle even though I did not even swing from any chandeliers the night before! I, therefore, did not go for my morning jog (shocking stuff!) but did manage to go for a walk. What I like about Jomtien Beach is that fishing boats still come ashore here, and in the early morning, one can buy seafood directly from the fishermen.

 

I love wandering among the boats and fishermen as no boat in this part of the world would ever dream of going out without its prow being adorned with colourful ribbons, sashes, and/or garlands of flowers. I read that there are many spirits and deities watching over the boats and fishermen, and the prows of Thai boats are decorated to pay respect to “Mae Yanang,” a female spirit that resides in the body of the boat; it is also said that Mae Yanang is the goddess of travel. Maybe I should start adorning the bicycle with some of these coloured ribbons. My neck got somewhat better during the day, but still, by evening, I could hardly lift my beer. It’s a real pain in the neck!

 

16 May - Jomtien

I was getting impatient and cycled to the bank to enquire about the password, just to be told that there was one more form for me to sign. Why did they not email or phone me? In any event, I was not going to wait another week so I cycled to the property agent’s office, paid the transfer fee and gave them a copy of my bank account to arrange for the rental to be paid into my bank account.

 

With all that in place I was ready to finally leave Jomtien. I cycled back to my room, did my last bit of laundry and packed up all my things, that were by now all over the place.

 

17 May - Jontiem – Rayong – 80 km

A storm came in during the night and, once outside, it looked like a mini typhoon hit Jomtien. Pot plants, banners and branches were strewn across the road. I was not put off by this, as I was dead-set on leaving Jomtien. Under heavy skies I cycled out of Jomtien and did exactly five kilometres before I was forced to take shelter. Sometimes I’m just not the sharpest knife in the drawer!!

 

Nevertheless, I was happy to be back on the road and amongst simple roadside stalls and the odd chasing dog (I never thought I would say that!). The weather looked threatening all the way and by the time I reached Rayong, I found that I have cycled myself right into the mouth of the storm! The wind, by then, was storm-strength and I was clawing onto the handlebars with all my strength, dodging flying corrugated iron sheets, plastic tables and chairs, all being blown sky high. It was getting downright dangerous and I gave up looking for a camping spot. Even the fishing boats where pulled high up onto the shore to escape, what looked like, a very stormy ocean. I headed into town and found the Mee Dee Hotel where I was lucky to find a room at 350 Thai baht. Phew, it was not what I planned to do but at least I was out of the weather for now.

 

18 May - Ranong – Kung Wiman Beach – 101 km

The weather looked marginally better so I continued hoping that it would stay like that. Everywhere people were fanatically busy cleaning the debris from the previous night. Branches, trees and mostly trash coughed up by the ocean littered the road.

 

It turned out a lovely day, terribly humid but with a good cloud cover and no rain. I found myself on a scenic route with bicycle land and all! It is a beautiful coastline and it was a pleasure ambling along. I was mostly scouting the area for campsites in case someone wants to cycle this route. Just about the entire coast is good for camping as one can camp on the beach just about anywhere. I was enjoying the ride and it was good to be back on the road and amongst the, by now, familiar chicken barbeque and durian stalls. I passed a shop making durian crisps and even tasted some, not too bad at all! As always, there were a few weird things including mud sculptures.

 

Towards the end of the day I found Kung Wiman Beach which also had a very convenient Wat/temple. I asked the monks if I could camp there and (as always) it was no problem. It was a good site, under cover with nearby toilets and showers, a light as well as an electrical point. The only problem was that it was terribly hot and humid and the tent instantly turned into a sauna. I had, however, no choice but to crawl in as the mosquitos were large and plentiful.

 

19 May - Kung Wiman Beach – Trat – 98 km

I was up early as it was by far too hot to sleep in. I thanked the monks and once again found the scenic route. It rained and it rained!

 

Along the way, a lady on a scooter stopped and handed me a raincoat. How sweet of her. I did have one but it is normally too hot to wear. I did, however, don the raincoat she gave me as I could never refuse such kindness. I, as always, passed a whole host of interesting things. I stopped at some mud sculptures that were truly amazing, even although it looked like they have been done a while ago. By the time I reached Trak, I was sopping wet and happy to find Pop Guesthouse, a lovely set-up with a nice vibe and at a very reasonable price.

 

20 May - Trat, Thailand – Koh Kong, Cambodia - 106 km

I was a bit on the slow side leaving as it kept bucketing down. As soon as I had a chance, I was out of Trak and headed for the Thailand/Cambodian border. Again, it drizzled the entire day, which was not bad at all as it was not cold.

 

The section of road between Trak and the border is particularly scenic, with the mountains on the one side and the coast on the other - it makes for interesting riding. I hardly ever stopped, though, as it was just too wet to do anything but cycle. Once I reached the border, it was the usual money change, visa stuff, etc. All went smoothly, and soon I was on my way into Cambodia and on to Koh Kong, the first town one gets to just on the other side of the Koh Poi River.

 

In Koh Kong, I found a room for $6 and, as can be expected, it had the quality of a $6 room. I had a quick shower, dressed in something dry for a change and set off looking for a Cambodian SIM card for my phone and food. Both sounding much easier in writing than what it turned out in a country where not much English is spoken. Fortunately, there is normally pictures at the restaurants, and one can point to whatever takes your fancy, as I was hungry and in no mood to flap my arms and cackle like a chicken or snort like a pig.

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