Tuesday, 9 June 2015

CYCLING THAILAND (5)

THAILAND
 (866 km - 12 days)


26 May - Trat – Klaeng - 136 kilometres
It rained and it rained, at least it was nice and cool so I pushed on to Klaeng. There were a few interesting looking places along the way but with the rain I was not going to stop.  Everyday has a story and this day I wished for toilets spaced at regular intervals along the road. I was happy to reach Klaeng and found a good hotel right at the intersection where I had to turn off.

27 May - Klaeng – Chon Buri - 108 kilometres
It was a much shorter day, which I was happy about. The rain abated and it was back to the hot weather. It is amazing just how quickly an accident can happen. Yesterday, a truck overturned seconds in front of me. Imagine being next to the truck when that happens - one will be pancake-flat. Amazingly enough, the driver crawled out and appeared to uninjured. 

This day I saw another accident; this time a scooter and a vehicle. In the light of a cycle tourist killed in Turkey I was, once again, acutely aware of how vulnerable I was on the road. I always make the mistake of assuming that all countries will have the same traffic rules as the ones back home. Although traffic rules are mostly international, I must remember that each country has its own interpretation of these rules. The fact that the road has a good shoulder does not make that shoulder is a cycle lane and I did my best to stick as close to the edge of the road as possible.

28 May - Chon Buri – Samut Prakan - 85 kilometres
I followed the new elevated highway for a while and, fortunately, soon reached a turn-off and headed along the coast on a smaller road. It turned out to be a bit of a frustrating day as the intention was to find a room on the outskirts of Bangkok and then take a bus or taxi into town the following day to buy a new pannier.  I desperately needed a new front pannier, and wanted to get in and out of town as quickly as possible. That was easier said than done and once I reached my destination I could not find a cheap room anywhere. There were plenty of hotels, but they were rather expensive. Eventually, I found a love motel, complete with a convenient chair and all, LOL. In the end, I think it might have been better to cycle right into Bangkok, do my business and cycle out again.

29 May - Samut Prakan – Oena Resort, Khet Bang Khun Thian - 40 kilometres
I found a taxi, negotiated a good price, and set off into the city. I found the panniers (which they only sold in pairs), so there I was with 2 brand new panniers. I also found a new lens cap, which I desperately needed after loosing my one on the boat trip (long story).  It was after midday before I got back to my love-motel, where I left the bike. My plan of avoiding Bangkok did not work so well. As I rounded the northern tip of the Gulf of Thailand, there was no avoiding the city limits and I soon found myself in the heat of the day in the worst traffic one can image. I decided to call it a day and rather try again the next morning.

30 May - Oena Resort – Samut Songkhram - 85 kilometres
It turned out to be quite an interesting day. Firstly, I did not plan to go to Sumat Songkran but turned down into the village in any case. I found a rather nice hotel and then set off to the well-known Railway Market.

The market is quite an amazing place as at first glance it looked like an ordinary market, sheltered by low-hanging awnings/umbrellas, but if you look closely, you noticed that you were actually walking on train rails.  Every time a train came, stallholders needed to pack up and make space for the train to pass. Unfortunately, no trains came and I understood that they were working on the line.

It was the weekend, so off I went to the weekend floating market and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The market is very popular for people from the city and I never saw a single westerner. The food was excellent and served directly from the boats.

For 50 Bhat I went on a boat tour to some of the interesting temples along the river. Although everything was in Thai, the Thai people are so kind and friendly and were eager to translate and tell me what the various temples were all about. It was after 6 p.m. by the time we got back and the market was a hive of activity.

31 May 2015 - Samut Songkram – Cha-Am - 95 kilometres
Although I have cycled this route twice before, it was nice to follow the coastal/scenic route south. The road was pan-flat, past numerous salt farms and fishing villages. The road even had a cycle lane!!! I reached Cha-Am just as the weather came in and it was a good excuse to find a room.

1 June Cha-Am
In fact, it was so beautiful I stayed another day and went for a long walk, and even a short (very short) jog.  I had my laundry done, did my hair and even got a manicure, as well as a pedicure.  I was ready to go again.

2-3 June - Cha-Am – Prachuap Khiri Khan - 125 km
It was a flat and easy day on the road past plenty of roadside stalls selling fruit and colourful noodles.  Just before Prachuap the weather came in, and although I was going as fast as I could there was no escaping the rain.  In Prachuap it was easy to find a room as there were plenty of places to stay.  Again, I decided to stay another night; it was so good to be right on the beach.

4 June - Prahuap Kiri Khan – Bang Saphan (Nipa beach bungalows) - 93 km
It was an especially scenic stretch and I took my time before heading further south. For the first time in many months I met another cyclist on the road - an Italian guy who lived in Cambodia for a while and is now cycling back to Italy.   Thailand is so very famous for its beaches that I could hardly believe that one could still find long stretches of snow white beaches without a single person.   Even the “resorts” were low key and tucked away behind bougainvillea’s and frangipanis with just a few hammocks strung up between palm trees.  By the time I spotted Nipa Beach Bungalows right across the beach, I was ready to call it a day.  What a stunning stretch of coastline this is. 

5 - 6 June - Bang Saphan – Sea Beach Bungalows - 99 km
Again, it was a most glorious day; this time a little more hilly than the previous days. The idea was to head for Chumphon as I was running out of time on my visa and needed to get out the country. 

Just before Chumphon I reached a coastal village with beautiful accommodation.  Just as I stopped to enquire, I spotted another cyclist also looking for a place to stay.  Peter Yoong from Malaysia was a lovely, friendly guy and we both decided to rent rooms at Sea Beach Bungalows.  As we sat chatting on the little veranda, I spotted the Italian guy also looking for a place.  At first he did not recognize me with my clothes on (LOL). 

That evening the three of us went for a bite to eat and it was really nice to chat to other cyclists.  It turned out that Peter was a Warmshowers host and he kindly invited me to stay at his place when I got to Malaysia. 

The following morning was a stunning day again, and I decided to stay one more day and had a long walk and a swim before going for breakfast. 

7  June - Sea Beach Bungalows - Hat Yai
I left things rather late and had to make a B-line for the border.  I cycled to Chumphon and from where took a bus to Hat Yai.  It was much further than expected and we only reached Hat Yai after dark.  There was not much I could do but take a room and make a break for the border in the morning.  

8 June Hat Yai, Thailand –Alor Setar, Malaysia - 105 km
It was an easy cycle of about 55 kilometres to the border and the crossing into Malaysia was effortless. I wish all border crossings were this smooth. Not only was it smooth, one automatically gets a 90-day stay. I love this country already. Another 60 kilometres down the road I cycled into Alor Setar gateway to Langkawi, but I was not going there - I just wanted to find a room for the night.

No country is perfect; some are just closer to paradise than others. With the food in Malaysia being a good mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, I was in my element and, therefore, placed it close to the top of the paradise list. I, unknowingly, found a room right next to the night market and was spoilt for choice!  I scoffed down more than one Roti canai as they were a mere RM1 each. Yum, yum, yum.

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