Monday, 28 September 2015

CYCLING THAILAND

THAILAND
IN SEARCH OF THE ELUSIVE INDIAN VISA


12 September - Thailand/Malaysia Border – Hat Yai - 60 km
I cycled the short distance to Hat Yai, found myself a room and had a relaxing day. I played on the computer and in the process managed to delete my entire Flickr account. Agggg!I don’t use it much for photo sharing but more as a place to store my pictures, so there were 100’s of pictures. I also spoke to Lois and we made an arrangement to meet in Bangkok on 23 September. I better get moving then.

13 September - Hat Yai – Patthulung - 97km
Along the way two youngsters on a scooter stopped and gave me a 100+ sports drink; how sweet of them. The people of Thailand are so kind, always waving and greeting as I cycle past. I cycled past many fruit stalls selling delicious-looking tropical fruit. I got the idea of making short movie clips of my days, but it did not work as well as expected. It was actually quite difficult. For some or other reason, I couldn’t play my GoPro videos on my laptop, even though I have downloaded all the necessary programmes. I found all this very frustrating and gave up in the end and went to bed.

14 September - Patthalung – Thung Song – 97km
I stopped for breakfast at Route 41 and met the most wonderful people. The owner is a photographer and he gave me one of his postcard books.  I felt a bit sluggish but soldiered on as the weather was a bit overcast and a good day for cycling. I made the mistake of having a late lunch after which I felt so lazy that I decided to take a room right there. That’s why I never have lunch along the way; it makes me so lazy and I can’t get going again. Fortunately, there was a good and inexpensive hotel in town with large, bright rooms and a spacious ground floor area for storing the bike.

I wanted to sort out my photos but could not get connected to the internet, so nothing came of that.

15/16 September - Thung Song – Ban ThaRua (Surat Thani intersection) - 108 km
It seemed that I was going slower and slower, and then I realized that I have cycled over a 1000 kilometres without a day off. The rain came in, and I had to hide for an hour or so before continuing. I cycled on to the Surat Thani intersection where I found lovely rooms next to the petrol station.

17 September - Ban ThaRua – Bamboo Hotel - 30 km
There was a gap in the weather, so I left my accommodation in a hurry. I did not get very far as it was less than an hour before a new storm moved in. I struggled on for another few kilometres, but when I reached a petrol station with a convenient hotel, I pulled in and got myself out of the weather.

18 September - Bamboo Hotel – roadside cottage - 90 km
The weather forecast gave me around three hours in the morning of cloudy skies before the thunderstorms came in again. Along the way a spotted a sign for a spa and thought: “Why not?” First, I had to walk for a bit through the forest and then found lovely baths. I did not spend a long time as it looked like the weather was coming in again.

Fortunately, they were wrong, and I cycled nearly the whole way without getting wet. Just as the weather came in I was right next to a 24-hour joint and could not believe my luck. Normally these 24-hour places are love-motels but this one had some cute bungalows at very reasonable rates. Not that I was going to argue about the price in that weather, and I was more than happy to unload my dripping wet gear in their little cottage. Fortunately, they also had a small store where I could get cup-noodles, beer and crisps. I was more than content.

19 September - Roadside Cottage –Chumphon - 90 km
Cup-noodles were obviously not designed for maximum energy but as the weather forecast showed only cloudy skies in the morning with thunderstorms later in the day, I wasted no time in getting on the bike. I pedalled like a women possessed in the direction of Chumphon. There was no sightseeing on this day, just the occasional water stop and then off again.

Along the way, I could see the impact the rain of the last few days had. There was water everywhere, rivers were in flood, drains were blocked, and if your house was not on stilts, you were in trouble.

I pulled into Chumphon before midday and before the rain came. I headed straight for The Farang Bar, a place where I have stayed before. It was not as lively as before, but the rooms were cheap at TBT250.

20 September - Chumphon – Nipa Beach Bungalow - 110km
I felt tired so stopped for breakfast after about 20 kilometres. Not that it helped much, and there was nothing else I could do but carry on. At least this part of the coast is scenic and always a pleasure to cycle.

For the first time in many months, I saw other cycle tourists along the way. They were (as most people on their way south) in a great hurry to get out of the country before their visas expired. We chatted for a while and then continued on our respective ways.

By the time I reached the turn-off for Nipa Beach Bungalows, I was happy to call it a day.

21/22 September - Nipa Beach Bungalow – PrachuapKhiri Khan - 100 km
It is amazing how quickly one gets used to the cooler weather. The temperature was back to the mid-30’s where the previous couple of days were around 27C. Even the snakes seemed to enjoy the warmer weather, and I kept a beady eye out for them basking in the sun.

When I woke the following morning, I was happy to pull the blanket over my head and continue sleeping. There was no need to rush anymore as Lois was not coming to Bangkok, as expected.  I did little the rest of the day, except for making the final touches to the new blog. At least that was done; it was more work than expected, especially after I deleted all the photos from my Flickr account.

23/24 September - PrachuapKhiri Khan – Hua Hin - 101 km
The day passed quickly as I picked up a bit of a tail wind. Hua Hin is, for some unknown reason, a very popular place, especially amongst westerners for both short and long term stays. The narrow lanes between the main road and the ocean are lined with western restaurants and bars (with prices accordingly). All, of course, with a Thai companion on the arm.

I found a basic room on stilts over the water, and it was easy to stay an extra day. I did little as it rained most of the day,which I did not mind as I was snug in my little room.

25 September - Hua Hin – SamutSongkhram - 118 km
I had a most pleasant day on the road; it must have been due to all the rest days!  The weather was excellent, and I found interesting back roads. I followed a river of sorts and the road ran through luminous green rice paddies; past large, brightly coloured temples and past small riverside fishing villages where the dogs lay sleeping in the road and hardly bothered lifting and eye.

I seldom pass through these villages unnoticed and friendly locals will always shout a greeting, or giggle and point. I arrived in SamutSongkhram just as the food stalls were setting up, which is always a good time.

I found a hostel and although the rooms were tiny, I was the only one there and had all the space to myself. It was Friday night, and the streets were lined with food stalls; I could literally pick and choose from the numerous carts lining the street.

26 September - SamutSongkhram – Bangkok - 98 km
Instead of following the main road, as I normally do, I weaved my way through the village roads towards Bangkok. It was a far more enjoyable ride with scores of “Hello,farang!” and food stalls. The interesting thing is that when buying anything to drink along the way, it automatically comes as a takeaway in a handy plastic bag which can be hooked onto the handlebar.

The last 30 kilometres into town was along Phetkasem Road, which turned out to be a complete nightmare. Gridlock traffic made for a slow and frustrating ride. Eventually, I turned off onto a smaller road which meant I had to take the ferry across the river. This was not a disaster, but the stairs to and from the ferry made for a whole performance with the heavy bike. Fortunately, many hands made light work and soon I was at Peachy Guesthouse, my old trusty accommodation in Bangkok.

27 September - Bangkok

I did virtually nothing the whole day. It was Sunday and I could only go to the Indian Embassy the following day. I also read that it takes nine working days to process the visa. I guess I will be in Bangkok for a while. 

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