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
1 March – Pak Bara Beach – Ban Thung Yao –
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
20 March - Bang Saphan Beach – Ban Krut – 34
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 -
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
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
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
8 May - Jontiem
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
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.
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
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
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
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.