Dumai, Indonesia – Port Dickson, Malaysia by boat
After a good
Indonesian breakfast, I loaded the bicycle and cycled the few
100 metres to the ferry ticket office. I was far too early but
cycled to the harbour anyway, checked in and waited for the Port
Dickson ferry, which departed at 11h00. The weather came in, and
it was a rough ride over the Straits of Malacca to Malaysia. The
ferry rocked and rolled and could have been called the “pitch
and puke” as seasick bags were in high demand.
We arrived in
Malaysia at 15h00 but the hour time difference made it 16h00.
The weather was rather stormy making for poor light as I headed
out of town in the direction of Kuala Lumpur. I did not get very
far, and once I spotted the Grandpa Hotel (here I have stayed
before), I weakened at the thought of a nice dry and comfortable
room. I was not going to make Peter’s place, so it made little
difference whether I stayed here or further down the road. I
took a walk to the Giant shopping mall, just across the road and
was like a kid in a candy store! I did not buy anything, just
looked at all the luxury items for sale.
8 February –
Port Dickson – Puchong – 81 km
My room rate
included breakfast which consisted of fried rice with a fried
egg and tea. It rained heavily during the night, and I was
rather pleased to see that the rain had abated and although
overcast it did not look much like rain. I hopped on the bike
and cycled to the relatively short distance to Peter’s place in Puchong.
It was a pleasant
ride on good roads (no potholes) through oil palm plantations
and past the well-known Malaysian Grand Prix circuit. I passed
fruit stalls and one of the largest solar farms I seen to date,
well done Malaysia! I managed to get myself on the toll road and
on two occasions sneaked past the toll booth without being
spotted, making for a quick and easy ride.
Once at Peter’s
place it felt like I was home and quickly settled in and it was
so nice to see the Yoong family again. I was also just in time
to join Peter to pick Janice up from the airport. Our planned
cycle trip was becoming a reality, and after supper Janice spent
the evening sorting out her panniers for our upcoming trip.
We turned in early
as we planned on waking up at 2 a.m. in order to head up to the
iconic Batu cave, Hindu temple and shire for the Thaipusam
Puchong – Batu Cave
We were immensely
lucky to be in Malaysia during the 3-day Thaipusam festival and
to be taken there by Peter. The festival is celebrated mostly by
the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month
of Thai (January/February).
It is a bizarre
and colourful event as thousands of devotees start their
procession to the cave in the early hours of the morning,
carrying milk pots as offerings and piercing their bodies with
spikes. On arrival, most will have their heads shaven and others
will walk in a trance-like state with bodies pierced by spikes
and hooks, accompanied by frantic drumming up the stairs to the
temple. The place was packed and one could hardly move as
hundreds of devotees made their way up the 272 stairs. What a
fantastic experience it was.
10 February -
Off I went for my
little run. I felt so much better as I have not run in a month
and it was seriously good to be out on the road. Back at Peter’s
place he was already waiting so we could go to the market after
which we had a huge breakfast spread like only the Chinese can
do. On our way back home, we stopped off at the local Indian
temple dedicated to the snake goddess Nagaswari Amman. It is a
temple like no other and is by far the most impressive and
beautiful temple I have been to.
In the evening,
Peter, Alice, Janice and myself went off to cycle around the
lake in Putrajaya, something that is always immensely enjoyable
and absolutely beautiful. Before returning home we once again
stopped off for dinner. It was time to get back on the road soon
or it felt that I was going to roll out of here.
11 February -
Janice and I were
getting our things ready to leave the following day. We tested
the bicycles by cycling to Tesco and got a few things we needed
for the road. It was also the last day of the Chinese New Year
(a week-long festival), and Peter arranged for a Hot Pot at his
house. He invited the most fascinating and interesting people
including two cyclists from South Korea, Lina and Siew, and
their warm showers host, Rose, and two British on motorbikes,
Maggie, Alice's cousin, Ginger, and her mother, my dear friend,
Saras, whom I met a year ago, while cycling in Malaysia. What a
great night, and so much food!!!
12 February -
Puchong - The Kabins - 50 km
The time had come
for my new cycling partner, Janice, and I to start our little
adventure to Bangkok. Peter was kind enough to cycle with us to
The Kabins and show us the back roads, and it was a pleasant
ride; mostly along smaller roads past the remanence of the
Chinese New Year festival. Janice did extremely well on the
first day, and we reached The Kabins early.
Our reason for
staying at The Kabins was mostly to have a luxury night on our
first day and to experience container living. The Kabins consist
of containers stuck on top of one another around a lovely
swimming pool. The rooms are luxurious and fitted with
everything one can need for a night, including a fridge, a
kettle, coffee, tea, plenty of plugs, and air conditioning. It
was boiling hot, and we wasted no time in jumping in the pool.
There is nothing quite like having a large swimming pool all to
yourself on a hot day. We spent the rest of the evening shooting
the breeze on our little veranda.
13 February The
Kabins – Kuala Selangor – 25 km
We left our fancy
accommodations at a leisurely pace and ambled along the coast
like a road. The road petered out from time to time,
requiring us to push the bikes on occasion. It was, however, a
lovely back road through oil palm plantations with just the
monkeys and the odd motorbike to keep us company. So much
happens on any given day when cycle touring that at times, one
forgets all the things you saw along the way. Good thing I have
We passed two
weddings, and what a beautiful sight. The wedding outfits were
exquisite, and I believe they don’t only have one but change
into different costumes two or three times. We passed creeks
where fishing boats were lined up waiting to go to sea and
temples where joss sticks were burning slowly, sending their
heavenly smell to the spirits.
We reached Kuala
Selangor early and booked into the Melawati Hotel, after which
we took a walk up the historic hill of Bukit Malawati with its
monkeys, cannons, and other interesting things. Bukit Malawati
was the administrative centre and stronghold of the
Sultanate in the late 18th and early 19th
century. A heavily
built from 1782 to 1826, once stood on the
summit of the hill, with the purpose of helping residents defend
themselves against the Dutch. The fort fell to the Dutch in
1784, but what makes this fort so historic is that it was the
first time a fort was recaptured by a local sultan from a
I did not feel
well and went back to the room to rest while Janice cycled to
the nearby nature park. Later we grabbed a bite to eat at the
local restaurant and ran into the Korean couple we met at
Peter’s place. We invited them to join us on a trip to see the
fireflies. It was a lovely evening, and we were amazed at the
thousands of fireflies. I don't think anyone expected that there
would be so many of them.
14 February -
Kuala Selangor – Sungai Besar – 60 km
We continued on
our country coastal road of the previous day, past heaps of oil
palm fruits and iguanas lazing in the sun. We passed small
fishing villages where fishing boats lay 4-deep waiting for the
tide to come in.
The day turned out
a frustrating one as Janice had a puncture, which was no problem
at all, but it was not your normal flat tyre as the hole was on
the inside of the tube, meaning on the rim side. This type of
puncture could only be caused by the rough edges spoke holes or
spokes working their way through the rim into the tube. We tried
to file the edges of the holes down, taped them up, fixed the
tube and were on our way again. It all lasted about 200 meters
before the tyre went flat again. Again, we went through the same
process and this time it lasted.
We continued to
Pantai Redang where we stopped at the wishing tree for a photo
or two. One is supposed to buy ribbons from the nearby temple
and throw them into the tree while making a wish. I don’t know
if it was our lack of following suit but shortly after leaving
Janice had a flat tyre again. We, yet again, went through the
same process but this time none of our patches wanted to stick.
We tried 4 or 5 times until our patches ran out. There was not
much we could do but grab the wheel and on the back of a
motorbike head for the nearest motorbike repair shop.
Fortunately, they had a new bicycle tube and in no time at all
we were on our way again. This time the tube held all the way to
Sungai Besar where we met a very friendly Malay man who is an
avid cyclist. He showed us to a local hotel and bought us a meal
and a drink. He was also kind enough to drive us around to the
local bike shops looking for rim-tape, patches and new glue as
we suspected our glue to be on the old side.
15 February -
Sungai Besar – Melintang Hotel - 50 km
Raja was waiting
for us outside the hotel as he wanted to join us to make a
video. It was about 9h00 by the time we left, and we followed
back roads, as has become the norm. We had loads of fun along
the way while Raja was trying to make a video of our cycling.
Along the way, we stopped for a coconut shake and met Wim and
Monique from the Netherlands going in the opposite direction.
They have been cycling in Southeast Asia for the past 17 years.
Each year, they come to cycle for two months, after which they
return home again. Raja left us and followed them back to Sungai
Janice and I
continued through coconut palm plantations, often stopping to
inspect what we found interesting, one thing being the kapok
tree with its fluffy seed pods, mostly used as stuffing for
mattresses, pillows, and soft toys. I also believe that, in the
folklore of Trinidad and Tobago, the story goes that a carpenter
carved seven rooms in a kapok tree, after which he tricked the
devil (or demon of death by the name of Bazil) to enter and then
locked him in the tree. People believe that he still lives in
Our small road
soon came to an end, and, fortunately, there was a ferry to give
us a lift across the river. Up the road from the river crossing,
we found a conventionally located hotel, which left us with 70
kilometres to Lumut the following morning, making for a perfect
16 February —
Melintang Hotel — Pangkor Island — 74 km
We followed the
main road as I did not want to go meandering too much, seeing
that it was going to be Janice's longest day cycling since
leaving Kuala Lumpur. I expected it to be a rather dull day,
but, as always, it turned out to be yet another lovely ride. The
weather was hot but perfect.
We crossed a
multitude of rivers, from small streams to large and wide ones
that could accommodate large ships slowly putting upstream. We
passed Chinese temples and Hindu shrines, and we nibbled on
snacks from food stalls along the road. Most fascinating was a
bird seller who showed us a pigeon with curly feathers—how very
Just before Lumut,
we popped into a camera store, and Janice bought herself an
18-200mm lens, perfect for travelling. Once in Lumut, we caught
a ferry to the island of Pangkor and found a room (albeit
expensive) at the Sea View Inn. It was a lovely place right on
the beach, and we paid for two nights, which would give us a
well-deserved day of leisure.
We woke to a
beautiful morning and I donned my running shoes and went for a
little jog along the coast. Back at our accommodation, it was
straight into the pool before we sat down for a complimentary
breakfast. We did our laundry and then hired a scooter to
explore the island.
We stopped off at
the remains of an old Dutch fort as well as the sacred rock. The
rock comes with an interesting story. It is said that a Dutch
dignitary’s child mysteriously disappeared during the Dutch
occupation. Rumours of a tiger attack were spread by some, while
others claimed that angry Malays took the child in hopes of
ridding Pangkor of the Dutch. The rock is inscribed with an
image of a tiger with a child in its mouth (if you use your
imagination) as well as the symbols of the Dutch East India
We rode all the
way around the island (or as much as the road allowed). It only
took about two hours as it is a small island measuring
approximately eight kilometres. Although a well-known resort
island it remains a fishing village where the main income is
still fishing or fishing related business. Another interesting
stop was at the blowfish-man who makes all kinds of interesting
things from dried blowfishes. He said that the blowfishes are
caught by accident in fishing traps and as they are already dead
he uses them for his art. He makes hats, clocks, lampshades and
all kinds of other interesting ornaments.
- Pangkor Island – Pantai Remis - 55 km
I first went for a
little run and then a quick swim again after which we had
breakfast and loaded up the bikes. It was a short ride to the
ferry where we boarded the ferry for Lumut. We had a few
technical problems which we wanted to sort out before leaving.
We cycled back to
the camera store where Janice bought her lens and traded it for
another one as the one we bought two days ago was not completely
compatible with her camera. Then we cycled around town looking
for a mobile phone repair shop as Janice’s phone packed up. We
were unable to find someone to repair her phone and in the end,
it was best to buy another one. It was 15h00 by the time we left
giving us just enough time to cycle to the nearby plantain Remis.
It was an easy
ride across many rivers again and past the ever-present spirit
houses and shrines. We stopped for sugarcane juice and watched
the lady at the stall make curry puffs after which we bought a
few and were on our way again. We found a lovely room at Pantai
Hotel. Later we walked out to the food stalls of which there
were plenty and were faced with a whole array of choices.
Eventually, I settled with a soup loaded with all kind of things
and Janice had a whole bag of interesting fried goodies. The
rest of the evening was spent setting up Janice’s new phone,
which sounds easier said than done.
Pantai Remis – Taiping – 54 km
The morning was
pleasantly fresh and overcast after the previous night’s rain.
Our days were starting to take on a comfortable rhythm as we
ambled along at a leisurely pace past, what has by now become,
the familiar sights of dense palm plantations overgrown by moss
and ferns, past heaps of coconut husks guarded over by spirit
houses, and past roadside stalls selling interesting eats at
dirt cheap prices. As always, we passed
a multitude of rivers
and mosques all making a pretty picture against a bright blue
We passed tiny
fishing “kampungs” where dogs barked and a rooster crowed,
indicating that this was their territory. Friendly residents
shouted “hallo’s” from behind banana plants, all wanting to know
where we were from. We stopped for refreshments at Trong Leisure
Farm & Resort, a pleasant enough place to spend an hour or so.
They also had chalets right on the dam that looked like a nice
place to spend a night. We, however, continued to Taiping, which
we reached early and found a room at the Casavilla Hotel. That
evening, we took ourselves off to the local zoo where one can
walk around after dark. It's an unusual feeling walking around
in the dark while listening to the chewing and snorting of the
- Taiping – Penang - 90 km
We were up early
in anticipation of a long day on the road. From Taiping to
followed the main road, something that never
makes for exciting riding, but it was the shortest way to get to
Penang. Janice put her head down and hardly ever stopped; she
kept a steady pace all the way to Butterworth, where we boarded
the ferry to the island of Penang.
It was Janice's
longest ride of our tour. She claims that it was also her
longest ride in the past ten years, but she did extremely well.
We arrived in Penang at around 15h00 and found a cheap hotel.
Janice, although dead tired, still had the energy to walk around
this amazing place with all its intersecting food and street
art. In the process, we ran into Lina and Jihoon, the two
cyclists from South Korea. What a small world it is!
The following day
was spent organising our visas for Thailand, doing laundry, and
walking around Georgetown, marvelling at all of the street art.
Penang – Pantai Merdeka – 43 km
We left at
leisure, boarded the ferry to the mainland, and continued our
way north. At first, we had no option but to follow the main
as soon as we had a change, we turned off onto a
smaller road, making for far better riding. Along the way, we
met a very friendly man who invited us to tea. He had been to
South Africa, and we chatted about Cape Town and all the things
he saw and did while there.
Along the way, it
started raining and although not cold, we were soaked to the
bone, and there was, therefore, little chance of taking pictures
or admiring the scenery. Once we reached Pantai Merdeka, we
found a rather pricey room at the Pantai Merdeka Resort, but at
least we could dry our clothes, as it seemed that the rain had
set in good and solid without any sign of lighting up. We had a
pleasant meal at the restaurant, and for once Janice could order
a 'non-spicy' meal, something that is nearly non-existent in
this part of the world.
Pantai Merdeka – Langkawi – 80 km
(included in the room price), we cycled to the waterfront
looking for a boat to give us a lift across the river. While
waiting for the boat to make its appearance, we watched the kids
play games in the sand and made friends with the local cats; all
the cats here seem to have kinky tails; it must be a genetic
boat arrived and saved us cycling a long way around to the main
road. We found the most beautiful coastal road past the tiny
fishing villages, farmlands with scrawny looking cows and lush
forests with beautiful mountains in the distance. It was a pure
pleasure cycling along; sometimes we had no idea if our little
path would come to an abrupt halt or change into a muddy pond.
Fortunately, it was only necessary to backtrack once.
After about 60
kilometres, we reached Kuala Kedah where we also found a ferry
to Langkawi Island. We were just in time for the 15h00 ferry. We
bought our tickets, and we also had to purchase one for the
cycles. It was a comfortable sail to Langkawi, and once there,
we first had to take the obligatory photo at the eagle and then
cycled the 22 kilometres to Cenang Beach.
Janice found us a
really good room, with air-conditioning, a refrigerator, and a
swimming pool. Not bad for 75 Ringgit in Langkawi. Although
Janice was tired and sunburned, we walked down the main road
looking for a local restaurant, something that was not all that
easy to find in touristy Langkawi.
We spent the day
on Langkawi Island with what felt like a million tourists. We
braved the crowds and joined a tour of the mangroves, which
turned out to be more of a tourist trap than anything else. We
got herded into a minivan that drove at breakneck speed to the
other side of the island where we, once again, were herded to a
waiting boat. We got the distinct feeling that we were part of
the tourist conveyor belt! The boat took off at high speed, and
the beautiful scenery became one big blur as we sped past high
cliffs and mangrove swamps, then eventually came to a halt at a
beautiful cave. However, there were too many boats lined up to
go through. Then, off we went in a spray of water to the bat
cave. We were given 30 minutes to look at the cave, which was so
busy that we had to line up to go inside. Again, we sped off,
this time to a floating restaurant, where we were given
40 minutes to look at fish in a pond and to order expensive
fish, if we wished. Off we went again. By this time, everyone in
the boat laughed at just how ridiculous the trip had become, but
we had to be back at 13h00, as the next trip started at 14h00. I
was sad that it was all
so rushed, as it was a stunning area,
with clear blue/green water and stunning limestone carats.
Eagles soared above us while monkeys played in the mangroves,
and if I'd had a canoe, I could have easily spent an entire day
The following day
we packed up but Janice noticed a flat tyre on her back wheel
and once again it was a puncture on the inside of the tube (the
rim side). Again, like the first time, we were unable to fix the
puncture. There was not much one could do but find a bicycle
shop and buy a new tube. By the time all was done, we decided to
stay another night and what a good idea it was. We spent a
relaxing day on the island, we swam in the lukewarm ocean and
that evening we took a walk to the beach and watched a beautiful
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.