What we had planned to be an easy ride became the worst day of the whole trip. We had accepted a big project for the weekend to be finished by 8 am European time today, unfortunately the last 2 hotels lied about their internet, as usual. And, on top of that I had my first puncture of the trip!
I was working until check-out this morning, then we decamped to the nearest restaurant to finish the project and send it. It was gone midday before we even started today’s journey. As a result of the late start we decided to just follow the main highway into Phuket, with the heavy traffic, fumes and noise. Oh, and the headwind, as if we didn’t have enough to deal with.
So, it was head down and pedal, for 33 km. There was not much to see, a few resorts and country clubs, lots of new lobsters (blindingly white tourists who are not wearing tops and don’t realise that they cannot feel the sun as they bomb around on their rented scooters…they’ll be sorry tonight!) and the usual round of temples.
When we arrived at the hotel we were very hot, 3 hours in the hottest part of the day.
We have cycled 2802 km from Saigon to Phuket, had 1 half day of rain, Macià has had 7 puncture, and me just the one, no major breakdown, no accidents and lost about 30 grams in weight! (who said exercise helps you lose weight?).
The next few days are for sorting out the bikes to fly (local bike dealer is helping there), deciding what to leave behind and what to take home, catching up with the missing days on the blogs and planning the next adventure.
And I am looking forward to not being so hot and not eating spicy food for the next 9 months at least!
We woke up and we found a place to have breakfast around 9 am. I was looking for a Muslim restaurant and I found one. It was full of families with kids. I ordered some sort of sweet pastry which is typical from here, with fried egg, and an ice coffee smoothie to drink.
It was full of families with kids. It looks like there’s many Muslims living in Takua Pa.
Today we’re finally reaching the Indian Ocean coast, which is one of the places that were the most affected by that tsunami a decade ago. Actually, on our way, we passed a tsunami victim cemetery. Oddly, it was just right next to some big dumpster.
We left the main road to take a quieter one going through small villages. Here in Thailand, towns do not seem to be grouped together, but houses are randomly scattered. Some kilometers later, we stopped for a drink.
That second stop was to have an ice cream and beer. Steve is quite tired and I usually have to wait for him for some time every time I stop. Right after this stop, I saw a sign saying “Phuket 130 km”. The last kilometers before the coast were a steep downhill.
We then followed the road by the coast for some time (maybe 45 minutes) and we stopped to have an ice tea. There was some sort of stall with two very nice girls who thought it was funny that I could speak some Thai. I left my bike by the road and they didn’t understand why I did that, until Steve came and saw it, so they understood.
Khaw Lak is extremely touristy. It’s the typical street parallel to the beach with all the hotels, restaurants and shops, and there is no other street. We stayed at Khaolak Grand Hotel. There’s nothing “grand” about it, it’s simply a hotel with a pool. It’s practical that it has a bar with a terrace where I can finish a project. I have a huge project to finish for tomorrow.
We leave our hotel some minutes before 9 planning to have breakfast in some other place down the road in Khaw Lak. We found a modern place with “breakfast packs”. Steve ordered the bacon and eggs (obviously) with toasts and butter and I didn’t like what they had so I just had an iced matcha to drink.
We followed the main road by the coast that went up and down. There is some traffic as this is a very touristy area. One hour later, we find a shop and buy some stuff.
One hour later, we stopped again at some sort of charity organisation. The young waiter kept answering in English to me so I had to ask him to speak Thai.
After that, we went through an area of several temples and small pagodas. Today’s route mainly followed the coast so we sometimes saw the sea. It’s funny because Khaw Lak is by the sea and we spent the whole day there yesterday but as we are not really beach people, we only saw the Indian Ocean for the first time today as our route forced us to pass by it.
Although we ‘only’ did 50 km today, we stopped almost 5 times. This heat has something to do with it. At some point we saw some cows crossing the road.
Khok Kloi seems to be a proper town with a town center with restaurants and shops. However, the restaurant we found online was actually closed when we got there, so we cycled to the shopping mall instead. There was some sort of fast food place in it called Chai Lai, which had burgers, chips and other unhealthy food. Our accommodation tonight is outside the town so we shopped for “night provisions”.
As we set off this morning the town was filling up with tourists, there must be something we missed last night!
The route today is easy, one road until the last 2 km, and it was all uphill. We are on the main road to the west coast so it is busy with trucks and fast moving cars, but there is a wide shoulder most of the way which makes it easier.
Because of the heat (40C again today) we stopped every 10 km or so for a drink and a sit in the shade, all in the little shops alongside the road.
Not a very inspiring ride, and we had a taste of tomorrow’s climb in the last km before we turned off the main road (300 m first thing tomorrow, then all downhill). The highlight of the day was passing a milepost with ‘Phuket 200 km’…yeeey, nearly there.
Tonight we’re staying in Khao Sok, a very touristy town which is the base for people who want to do hiking trips or stuff with elephants. It’s basically one single street full of hostels, hotels, resorts, western restaurants and Thai massage places. The most used word in this street is probably “Tour”.
The bright side of Khao Sok is that we can have a break from Thai spicy food which we have been eating EVERY day so far.
We actually did start early this morning, well, early-ish.
After a good breakfast we set off up the hill, which started at the front of the hotel. It was a long steady 5 km up to 277 m and then a crazy downhill the other side. Then long rolling hills for the rest of the day.
After yesterday we expected the road to be busy, but strangely enough it was very quiet, everyone must take the day off on Friday. Tomorrow we hit the coast again, then it’s 2 days ride to Phuket. so far we have done 2600 and something Km on the bikes.
The bad news is that I think there is something wrong on my bike, I may have broken a spoke, but I can’t see it, but the wheel is slightly of line at least. I will have to turn it upside down and have a real look. It just have to get me to Phuket…fingers crossed!
Tonight’s hotel is very new and shiny, and in the centre of a small town with not much in the way of restaurants, so it is spicy Thai food again tonight (I don’t mind spicy food, but after 3 months, and they seem to go totally over the top in Thailand, it will be nice not to burn my mouth at dinner time).
Takua Pa seems to have some Muslim population, like in most of the South. There are several restaurants with the Muslim flag. Perhaps worth trying for breakfast.
We left the motel around half past nine, as usual, and took what turned out to be an awful track to avoid the main motorway. Luckily, when the track ended, we were on a new road with not much traffic through the countryside.
We soon stopped for some breakfast as soon as we found the first town (Khao Than). We had some spicy (yeeey) noodles with soy sprouts and peanuts. I think Steve is a little fed up with so much spicy food.
Then we went through the district capital, Tha Chang, a town with lots of shops, restaurants, etc. The plan today is to stay at a hotel we booked on Agoda which is in some sort of motorway service area. We are very close to the big city of Surat Thani but we won’t go there as we don’t have time to detour (we must get to Phuket in time).
As we were getting close to the motorway where that service area was supposed to be, we ran into a group of French cyclists who were (as they said) heading to the airport. They had toured Thailand and it was time to go home. They were a group of 5 or 6 people. They spoke English with a strong French accent.
Our hotel is in this service area which has a restaurant, a 7-Eleven and other small shops. Our room is very modern and clean and has a window to the service area. Not the most beautiful place but very convenient as we have everything here.
We have some lunch at the downstairs restaurant. It is some sort of self-service place where you take your tray and point at the dish you want. I went to the 7-Eleven and was trying to tell them I don’t want a plastic bag but everyone gives me weird looks when I do that. This is such a strange thing to ask in Thailand.
Sortim de la mena d’estació de servei d’autopista en la qual vam dormir ahir per passar gairebé tot el dia seguint carreteretes secundàries fins a Ta Khun. És una bona ruta, la d’avui, amb molts arbres i pocs cotxes.
Sembla que la zona per on passem avui és de producció de cocos. Hem trobat molts llocs plens de muntanyes de cocos amuntegats. Els treballadors ens saludaven quan hem passat. A mig camí, hem entrat al Districte de Kiriratnirom. No tinc ni idea de com és.
En general, la ruta ha estat força planera. La segona aturada ha estat a una petita cafeteria moderna. Com sempre, he deixat la bici a fora i l’Steve l’ha vista. A fora, és com un forn, i un lloc amb cervesa fresca i aire acondicionat s’agraeix molt.
La segona part de la ruta passava per moltes plantacions de palmeres. Suposo que són per fer oli de palma. Com que Tailàndia no té Google Street View, alguns dels trossos no eren asfaltats.
La tercera aturada ha estat a la botiga d’una dona. Quan hem arribat, encara no hi era i hi havia el seu home. L’Steve tampoc havia arribat. Llavors ha vingut i hem xerrat en tailandès. M’ha preguntat on vaig, d’on sóc, etc. Ha estat molt pacient amb el meu tailandès i l’he entès força bé. Li he demanat si li podia fer una foto per recordar-la.
La destinació d’avui és una mena de població de l’interior, prop de les muntanyes, sense massa turisme però amb alguns hotels i restaurants. Hem intentat trobar on menjar però al final hem acabat en un lloc de menjar ràpid que estava prou bé (la gana ajuda a triar ràpid) dins d’una mena d’hipermercat.
La dona de la pensió em responia en anglès quan jo li parlava tailandès. Al final, després de mesos suportant aquesta situació, li he dit que no l’entenia perquè no parlo anglès. S’ha quedat molt sorpresa i li ha fet molta gràcia. He hagut d’intentar no haver de dir res a l’Steve perquè no es notés l’enganyifa.
Today we woke up and had some breakfast (toast, instant coffee) at the guesthouse. There was a friendly cat which wanted to be cuddled on my lap. Then it was time to follow the highway for some time. Lots of trucks and traffic.
There’s 130 km to Surat Thani, the next big southern city. After some time riding, we stop for a coffee at an apparently brand new cafe. The staff seemed very excited to have their first Western tourists. They did not speak English and were happy to hear me speak Thai.
Then we left the highway to take a smaller countryside road. It was quiet with not many cars and continuously crossing the railway tracks. We found a small town with a shop with a bench that had some curious cute kittens. I fed them some food.
Today was incredibly hot, with no clouds or rain, 100% sunny. Steve could hardly cope with the heat and I wanted to visit a “forest market” which required a small detour so we separated and agreed to meet further on when I come back from the forest market. It was full of Thai families and kids.
It was a huge area with lots of beautiful stalls selling all sorts of products, food, honey, toys, etc. There were “bar stalls” and places to sit down. I walked around but did not buy anything. Then I cycled to the point where Steve agreed to meet me.
We had lunch at the place where he was waiting for me: some beer and rice with vegetables. It was inexpensive and very tasty. As usual, I forgot my glasses there and the owner chased us back on his scooter to give them to me as we were riding away.
Tonight we are staying at an Airbnb with a girl and his mother. It was a little disappointing as she kept speaking English when I tried to practice my Thai with her. The room had no outdoor windows and it was inside their house. They could hear any noise we made. But apart from that, we had our own kitchen and bathroom and we slept well.
In the morning, we leave around half past nine, after taking a picture with the mother, the daughter and our bikes in front of the house. As we are in the wrong side of the road, we must cross it (it’s hard, cars go very fast, it’s a motorway!) to pedal on the left side. We follow the motorway for a while.
A while later, we leave the motorway to take secondary roads. There’s beautiful rural landscapes today.
Some time later, we get tired and feel like a rest and something to drink. We find some sort of rural shop with a tin roof. The owners are Muslims, very nice people. They speak Thai with me. They want to take pictures with us. For Muslim people, there’s a lot of physical contact (too much…). It looks like they’re not very used to meeting Western tourists here.
We pass by several mosques in today’s route. In Southern Thailand there’s many Muslims, but they’re ethnically Thai (in the past, they spoke Malay, but they “converted” into the Thai language and culture some centuries ago).
Today we also passed through palm tree plantations. I suppose they’re for making palm oil?
We also passed by rice fields. We booked a room last night at a motel by the motorway which looked like it had good value for money. When we got there, the owners were an older couple. We’ve got our own bungalow. It’s clean and quite new.
Some time later, the light went out and we had no Internet. We thought it was only our motel, but it’s actually the whole area. I cycled to the town centre (1o minutes) to see if I could find Internet as I had to send a job. There’s a 7-Eleven and a cafe where we had a drink before going to the motel.
When I got to the town centre, the electricity had come back already. I bought some shit at 7-Eleven and then I came back. We walked to a nearby restaurant which was quite good. It had a shop and the restaurant had a good range of dishes. It was a good experience.
Last night’s hotel was in the middle of nowhere and for dinner we had to phone our order in to a restaurant and it was delivered 20 mins later, so this morning there was no breakfast.
Leaving after 09:30 we thought it would not be a problem finding one of the local food places open for breakfast, but we were wrong! Finally we found a little place next to the river that was open for pork and noodles, and we watched them sacrifice a fresh pineapple for our smoothie.
After breakfast we set off on an easy ride with light winds and not too hot, and passed another touring cyclist going the other way, the first for a few weeks (he did not slow down for a chat, just waved and sailed past).
At the halfway point we had stopped for a drink and a cool down, as it had started to get hot again, when another 2 cyclists went past, going our way! 3 in one day…a record!
The second half of the day was those wonderful up and down hills again, with little shade. And it really started to get hot, hitting 39 C by the end of the ride.
We are in a real town (provincial city) tonight, Chumphon, so there will be lots of food and beer to make up for the starvation rations we have been on for the last few days (or so we keep telling ourselves).
Once again we planned to get up at first light…failed!
For some reason Matt did not have the route in his GPS so he had to follow me until we could stop somewhere to sort it out. We started on the usual back roads, but had no choice but to take the main highway for most of the day.
Once we joined the main road we stopped in a little bar for a drink. The owner was very impressed at Macià’s ability to speak Thai, and while his wife was making our coffee he made some blue tea for us. While the tea was brewing he poured a shot of the local hooch and brought out some dried bananas and honey. Apparently, he makes the dried bananas himself and sells them. When it came time to leave we tried to pay and he refused any money, telling us it was all free.
The rest of the day was just a long slog alongside fast moving traffic.
When we arrived at our accommodation for the night the road was closed as they were rebuilding a bridge, so we had to go past the hotel to the end of the road works, cross over into the construction area, and back track to our home for the night. Once again it was in the middle of nowhere, but we found a small restaurant, which looked totally out of place with its modern style set among the banana trees. It appeared to be run by a young couple with him cooking and her working the restaurant part. They seemed a little shocked at the amount we ate, but the food was great.
Since we arrived early, Macià decided to go to the nearest town (4 km) to have a haircut and buy some things at the local 7 eleven and fruit at a fruit stall.
As expected, it rained during the night. When we woke up the roads were wet, but the rain had stopped…for now. As there was very little wind it was difficult to see which way the clouds were going.
So, after breakfast we made sure everything was waterproofed and set off. Tonight’s ‘resort’ is in the middle of nowhere, so we stopped off at the ever faithful 7-11 to stock up on snacks and water.
The route was fairly straight forward except for a little ‘Stravaesque’ detour. Strava has this annoying habit of not letting you use roads that are there, no idea why, so to counter this you have to make a fake route that takes you to the point Strava stops, and then restart at the other end of the problem road. The main outcome of this is that Strava tells you it is 30 Km, but you end up only doing 23 (this is not always the case, the first time we encountered this little problem Strava ‘straight-lined’ the second part of the route, what we expected to be 60 Km left us riding in the dark and spending the night is a small village. The actual route was 140 Km down a winding river valley).
Today was another short ride due to work and the rain did stay away, apart from the odd spot. Tonight’s accommodation is actually a nice little B&B run by a young couple who do everything, dinner was nothing special, but what was there was good (and I think they have never had 2 hungry cyclist before, we ate a lot!).
Since Macià had a big job to finish, we decided to stay one more night here. It is a nice guesthouse in an isolated location, but they do food so what else can we ask for? It looks like they only have 3 rooms. Prices are very reasonable and you have your own private beach (which we did not see as we had work to do). The owners are shy but very kind. They do not say much. There are other guests: a German/Croatian couple. It looks like she is a transexual but you can hardly tell.
The idea is to get closer to Chumphon tomorrow. There is a friendly Germ who is helping the couple (who I think are not the owners themselves) in exchange for free accommodation and food. He does garden stuff.
Yesterday was another work day, so no riding.
Today started sunny with a good breakfast, and we set off just after 9. The rain had passed over and it was hot and sunny…again.
The plan was to stop at half way for a drink, but Matt got another puncture! This one was a real pain, though. It was impossible to find on the outside, and just a tiny bump on the inside, but when you ran your finger tip over it you knew it would be more trouble. It took a good 20 mins to pull a very short piece of tyre debris out, and 2 mins to refit the tyre!
The day was non-stop ups and downs, I tried to push the downs hoping to keep the momentum going, but apart from a few hills most of the ups were too long for it to work. So at the end I was very tired.
We are staying in what looks to be a fairly new ‘resort’, again run by a young couple, and again there are no shops or restaurants within walking distance. I really need a good meal and a lot of cold beer!
We didn’t see the sea once today!
The wind was still against us, but the roads were very quiet, which is always good. It is a relatively short day and there is no rush so we took our time, but ended up only taking one break.
The area is being developed for tourism and there are new ‘resorts’ popping up everywhere, but there are still new plantations too, with bananas and coconuts being planted everywhere.
The day ended on the wrong side of an 8 lane highway, which we had to cross. Luckily they are not trying to kill you here, and the drivers can read a crossing well, so when they see you setting off they slow down enough and no one uses their horn unless it is a real panic.
The hotel is very new…and empty. We went out looking for dinner at about 17:30 to find almost everything closes at…17:30! So, we ended up eating in a roadside café and raiding the 7-11 again.
After breakfast in a nice little café we set off across that 8 lane highway again.
The wind had come round a bit more today so it was just behind us in places.
Strava let us down big time today, the route we had planned along the beach just did not exist, so it was a bit of random navigation to find the way through. Eventually we got back on the right road, and found the sea again.
We only had one stop again today, but it was a long one as we were not push for time.
The second half of the ride was through a thick plantation of coconut where the light was very dim and my GPS went into night mode, not very helpful!
When we got back to the coast the air became very thick and hot, a good prediction of rain.
This section of the coast is not very popular with the tourists for some reason, with a few resorts and less restaurants. The only reason we chose tonight’s hotel is that it had 2 restaurants near by. As we had arrived just after lunch we checked out the first resto, which wasn’t too bad, and in the evening we went to the other, which although it was more basic the food was good and the staff very friendly.
After the attempt to over charge us, we decided not to spend our rest day here but to move further south.
The route appeared a bit complicated on the map, but once we set off it was easy to follow with the main junctions being stationary due to traffic, so it was just a case of weaving through the parked cars!
Another potential problem was that we would have to join the main highway quite soon as it came very close to the coast and there were no other options without crossing it and going up into the hills. Must to our surprise, as we approach the highway the was a newish real cycle path, about 20 m before it, totally separated by trees and stuff! As we turned left we could see the path continuing off to the right, which means we could have taken it much earlier and cut out some of the town.
As the path was so good we decided to stay on it past the point we had planned to turn off and only left it at the last possible place, back on to the country roads. And then the head wind started.
The rest of the ride was into the wind, not too strong, but enough to make you drop a gear.
As we turned onto the coast road we came across another cycle path, but with no way to get on it. It had a 30 cm kerb with no ramps! So, we stayed in the road.
Just to add to the annoyance, tonight’s hotel sign could only be seen if you came to it from the south, as we are coming from the north we sailed straight past it, even though the GPS was telling us we were there! We added another 3 K to the day looking for it.
As we were taking a rest day here I took the opportunity to change my now slick rear tyre, 2000 Km and it has worn out. We are now running Schwalbe snakeskins as a temporary fix until we get home.
Having arrived at the beach we were looking for the Foresta resort, it should be just down here to the right…
After stopping for a drink and asking for directions we reached the end of the town without finding the resort. Obviously we had passed it, but where? Backtracking we stopped at a bar that had no staff, and then a beachside bar for a much needed beer. Our hotel was about 200 m further up the road.
The reason we had missed it was because the sign was one sided, facing the way we were travelling, so to see it we would have to have been looking over our shoulder.
The resort is based around a central pool area with the rooms opening onto small terraces, the room was quite small but comfortable. There were only two other couples staying there so it was very quiet. It has its own restaurant in front, which is quite busy during the day, and the food is well priced and good.
As we were taking a day off we had a whole day to explore the surroundings. This end of the town is full of expensive, beach side resorts and restaurants, which we managed to resist. The bar where we had stopped the day before overlooked a beach popular with kite surfers and we had lunch there today.
I took the opportunity to finally replace my back tyre with the spare I had been carrying for the last 4 weeks!
Setting off early after a day off, the wind had change a it to the north, but not enough for it to help. Cycling along the coast was very pleasant and cool first thing in the morning, and just as it started to heat up we headed into a national part where we were shaded by the forest.
As it was a long day we decided to take it easy and stop every hour or so for a drink. This worked out well until right at the end!
Out of the forest we were back on the coast for a while before turning inland to meet the highway again. This time there was no cycle path, just a wide shoulder, but the turbulence from the trucks helped.
This last section was uphill and in full sun, with no shade at all. At the top of the hill I decided to take a break in one of the bus stops with a little hut…the next hut had been burnt down, bugger!
Tonight’s accommodation is a small motel style place built around the car park. It was run by a very nice couple, and the room was big and well kept. We decided to walk to the town centre for dinner but seemed to miss everything except a sushi bar. When we ordered our food the owner said, ‘you must be hungry, that is a lot of food’…little did he know!
Having devoured our meal we went to the 7-11 next door for more.
We couldn’t find a taxi so we went back to the sushi place and if he could call a tuk-tuk for us. ‘It will be here in a few minutes’ he said…30 mins later he called them again…15 mins after that we decided to walk home!
On our way we passed a 5 star hotel and asked them to call us a tuk-tuk, 2 mins later it arrived, and we were on our way home.
Another hot sunny day. Plan A was to get some tubes fixed as we had 2 flats in the last few days, before setting off for the day. In the heavy traffic in town we were separated just long enough to lose sight of each other (some of the traffic lights are red for up to 5 mins!). As a result I waited for Matt on the route, but it was possible he had left to town by a different road, so we spent half the day cycling alone.
The number of little cafes/shops has dropped dramatically over the last few days, so it was almost mid day before we met up again. We stopped for lunch in a ‘farm restaurant’ we had read about hoping for something good, but it turned out to be a tourist trap on the side of a highway…with no internet!!!
After lunch the route took us down some long, straight, boring roads, but they were virtually empty, so it was not all bad.
Our bed for the night is with another Warmshowers host, Paul and Natt live in a home made of shipping containers. As is normal here in Thailand, their house has a large outdoor area covered by a roof with just the kitchen and sleeping areas inside. We went to the local town for dinner, and had a good nights sleep in the quiet countryside.
After breakfast with Paul and Natt we set off south again. More long, straight roads away from the traffic with not much to see. Taking these back roads makes the ride longer, but it is preferable to hacking down the side of the highway.
As we got closer to Hua Hin, we found a large road with a good cycle path on it, although we were only separated from the traffic by a lane for the scooters.
We were obviously getting closer to a town as the number of tourists on bikes and scooters increased.
The town itself was not very big, but is a popular place for tourists going by the number we saw, and it must be popular with the Scandinavians as there are shops advertising that they speak it!
When booking the hotel on Agoda I received and e-mail confirming the room I had booked that was a little confusing, it had the room name right but the details were wrong. I had booked a large room, but the details were those of a small room. Sure enough, when we arrived they tried to give us the small room, to get the room I had booked they wanted to charge us more! This is a scam we have come across before, and usually happens when you pay at the hotel, not online. With a short conversation with the owner, and threatening to make a complaint to Agoda, he finally relented and gave us the right room at the agreed price. (I have since reviewed the hotel through Agoda’s website and my review has not appeared…another scam to stop people being warned?).
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