Monday 16 September and Tuesday 17 September 19. Surat Thani to Pang Pring beach. 96km and a day off.
As planned, we had cold omelette and rice for breakfast (which actually tasted much nicer than it sounds!) and then headed off into grey drizzle, which lasted for most of the morning. We thought the road we had chosen would be quiet as it was a secondary road that skirted the coastline but unfortunately it was surprisingly busy – at least until the intersection for the port towards the holiday island of Koh Samui. Thankfully it quietened down after that. It wasn’t an unpleasant cycle but it wasn’t the most exciting either as there wasn’t much along the road…
There was also a distinct lack of places to stop for a coffee until around the 70km mark, by which stage we were pretty pooped after 4 hours of solid cycling. We had a bite to eat and a drink and then finished the 26km to our destination and all I can say is that it was worth every pedal turn to get there. A B&B literally right on the beach and our room had this view…
Much more luxurious than our usual accommodation but when we saw it online we decided to treat ourselves to two nights after having cycled nearly 500km over five days…
It’s run by a Belgian guy, Rudi, and his Thai wife Tae who were both so friendly and welcoming – Rudi even gave us his scooter to use to get around the area while we were there…
We also learned a lot from him about life in Thailand from an ex-pat perspective and we discussed everything from the Thais over-fishing their waters, the litter and plastic everywhere, children riding scooters to the over-commercialism of the tourist islands. The Thais definitely live in the here-and-now with very little thought for the future so Rudi tries to educate locals about the long-term damage they are causing. A good example is the dumping of rubbish – though there’s a weekly collection the locals still insist on dumping their rubbish on river banks. It stays there rotting and smelling until November each year when the monsoons come, the river rises, and it all gets washed out to sea, ‘cleaning the rivers’. They then start again – all quite sad. Although it might look idyllic, it shows that the same problems exist in the world wherever you go!
Our day off was very pleasant. We tried to have lie-in, but as our bodies are set to wake up at 5am we were awake then although we did laze in bed until 6! The early morning view was pretty spectacular…
We then spent much of the day mooching about on our balcony overlooking the sea, just chilling out. We had a Thai massage, chilled, ate lots, chilled, had a snooze, chilled….you get the jist! It was very easy to just sit, relax and watch the ever-changing sea.
In the evening we went for a walk along the beach and watched as loads of small, sand-coloured crabs disappeared down holes in front of us. We were also lucky enough to spot some dolphins close to the beach – a really special moment as a pod of at least 10 swam passed us. Some of the dolphins were pink (probably albinos) and others were the usual grey – and all were beautiful to watch. Not a chance of getting a photo, so we just watched them instead!
On our way back from dolphin-spotting we met Rudi and Tae in front of their fantastic house so we did a little photo shoot…
For some inexplicable reason we both had low expectations for southern Thailand and had assumed that it was going to be lots of over-commercialised tourist resorts. It’s turned out to not be like this at all – at least not the route we have taken.
Wednesday 18 September 19 – Pang Pring Beach to Pak Phanang – 93km
When Rudi said that he would get up early to see us off in the morning Tae just laughed, as he’s not an early riser apparently. But it was actually us that were up a bit late – we’re not sure what happened to our alarm but we didn’t hear it. Obviously we were so relaxed from staying on the beach that our bodies didn’t want to leave! So, Rudi was up and we weren’t! Though we were sad when we finally said our goodbyes we left in a very buoyant mood. The short break had definitely done us good.
We weren’t too late on the road in the end though and the cycling was easy, so we scooted along well. Other than a supermarket stop the cycling was pretty uneventful. We’d learned from Rudi that the village where he lives is predominantly Muslim, though if you go inland towards the highway, no more than 2km away, it becomes more Buddhist. This Muslim influence in the region was very obvious on our cycle today as we passed more mosques than we have done in a while – probably since Bangladesh – and the clothing people were wearing had a definite Muslim look. This influence comes from Malaysia, which is a predominately Muslim country and apparently many of the people on the Thailand side of the border feel more Malaysian than Thai. This influence has also spread further north over the last few years, causing some friction as some of the Muslim community want independence or to rejoin Malaysia. Historically southern Thailand was part of Malaysia so as we head south towards the border we are likely to see more of these Muslim influences.
Our accommodation tonight was a cheap ‘love hotel’, very obvious from the fact that there was a mirror on the ceiling and another one on the wall – make of that what you will, but it made us chuckle! Once again we were in a small fishing village next to the beach – very un-touristy, though it did have a small concrete pier, which we went to have a look at…
There was only one place open to eat and our expectations weren’t too high, but we were absolutely proven wrong when we were served one of the best meals we’ve had for a long time!
Thursday 19 September 19 – Pak Phanang to Kradang-nga – 102km
A functional day of cycling along a flat road that ran parallel to the coast, and at times we were just a matter of metres away from the sea…
Nice enough scenery and it was pleasant going through lots of small fishing villages. The people in this part of Thailand are particularly friendly and the ‘hello count’ went up considerably today and was very reminiscent of Myanmar and Cambodia. Lovely to have people waving and shouting hello to us throughout the day.
We went from one “love hotel” to another – but there were no mirrors on the ceiling in this one and the quality and cleanliness were so much better in today’s! We had our usual afternoon snooze just as heavy rain started and woke an hour later to thunder and rain that sounded like someone was throwing the raindrops down rather than just letting them fall. The beach wasn’t that far away and we had intended to go for a walk to have a look, but the rain just didn’t let up so we hid from it and stayed dry!
When we arrived at our accommodation we asked the woman on reception if they served they food, which she said they did up to 10pm. Great, we thought, because we were in the middle of nowhere and would have had to go out on our bikes to get something. Fast-forwards to 6pm and we go to order some food as we’re starving, as only hungry cyclists can be, to find that the woman isn’t there, presumably gone home, and there’s a young lad who says that no food is available. To say that we were pissed off was a bit of an understatement! It was getting dark and we didn’t really have much food on us, so had to go out. We took the bikes back to the main road to look for a cafe or restaurant, but there were none open. Luckily there was a shop where we managed to get a pot noodle (yum! hear that sarcasm!), pot sludge (the only way to describe pot rice and once again yum!) and some very unhealthy snacks. We retired to our room to eat the pot noodles and pot rice in annoyed grumpy silence! Our first real food failure for a very long time.
Friday 20 September 19 – Kradang-nga to Hat Yai – 74km
To make up for our food disaster from last night our early morning ride took us right along the beach front and through fishing communities for the best part of 35km. It was warm, but not hot and there was little traffic and we both really enjoyed it…
….some of the best riding we have done for a long time. After this we got back onto the main road and for the next 10km or so it was also reasonably pleasant – the road took us across the two Tinsulanonda bridges, which are linked together by an island…
Hat Yai our destination for the day is the largest city in southern Thailand, so as we got closer the traffic got busier and the journey a lot less pleasant, but the early morning ride more than made up for it.
Our main reason for coming to Hat Yai was to get our rear wheel rims replaced. Ma, the mechanic in Bangkok, had been in touch with another mechanic in Hat Yai who would replace our cracked rear rims with new ones, which we had sent out from the U.K. Unfortunately the mechanic was not working on Friday so we had to hang around on Saturday to get the bikes fixed, which meant staying two nights.
Reports and reviews on line had said that Hat Yai wasn’t worth visiting as there wasn’t much worth seeing there. We rather disagree! There are very few western visitors and tourists come predominately from Malaysia and Singapore. The city has a really nice feel to it and is likened to how Bangkok was years ago, so we rather liked it. Our accommodation was near the centre and right next to loads of places to eat – as one Malaysian chap who spoke to us in one of the eateries said “this is where the locals, not the tourists, go” and he seem pleased that we had chosen to eat there!
We dropped our bikes off to be fixed on Saturday morning and had a mooch around the city, indulging in some of these unusual things to eat…
We think that they are made from rice and are filled with corn, spring onions and something unidentifiable – the spring onion one was our favourite! We visited the very spectacular Chue Chung Buddhist Temple…
….as well as the local morning market…
Then I had a haircut whilst Martina went for a Thai massage. It was all very relaxing!
Unfortunately all this relaxation was rather undone when we went back for our bikes. The rims had been replaced and the mechanic had done a great job on them. He’d also replaced my belt and chain ring, so I took my bike for a test ride around the block. I only got 100m when the brand new carbon belt snapped. We had a good look at the break and it looks like there’s been a manufacturing problem on the new belt. But luckily we found out when we did, which meant that the mechanic could put the old one that has already done 26,000km back on. We then spent the evening trying to find somewhere on the way to Singapore to get a new one. We think that there’s a place in Kuala Lumpur so we’re keeping our fingers cross that the old belt keeps going as far as there…..and just when we thought we were done with bike repairs!
Comment by Lorna
Lorna 24 September 2019 at 11:11 pm
Check out these folks. https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1mr&doc_id=13549&v=Ddv
Should be Linda and mike stuart blog. They currently in Malaysia. Came from Sing. And had been NZ and Aus. Could be a few tips. Enjoy
Comment by Clare
Clare 23 September 2019 at 2:39 pm
Catching up on blogs (have added my gmail address to get updates now) and can’t believe I missed your injury Martina!!! So relieved you are ok, though make sure you get a new helmet when you can as it will be compromised now after a heavy bash (I have to buy a new riding hat every time I fall off and bash it, gets expensive… ;).
The trip still looks amazing and I’m still insanely jealous. Missing you loads and can’t wait till you are home (though I’m sure you can!).
Lots of love
ps. Happy very belated birthday Nigel! xx
Comment by Martina
Martina 24 September 2019 at 11:01 am
So lovely to hear from you Clare and yes I am still on the lookout for a decent helmet to replace the one I bashed!! We will be home soon enough…and looking forward to catching up with you too. Xx
Comment by Bairbre
Bairbre 23 September 2019 at 7:18 am
Catching up and read 3 blogs in a row, dissapointed I wasn’t 4 behind…. Entertaining and fascinating as always, besides generating admiration/envy, definitely responsible for grin and laugh-out-loud moments, love the way you two write! And great for a Monday morning instead of starting into a week of work….
Comment by Martina
Martina 24 September 2019 at 11:04 am
Thanks Bairbre. Still plenty of adventures to write about yet…and hoping we will have you to join us again on some in the future! Hope you had a great birthday. Nigel says “welcome to the newly 50s club”!
Comment by Lorna
Lorna 23 September 2019 at 12:59 am
Will you riding on to Singapore? East or west coast. I love those little treats too. I will be sad when you’re done to not have your great adventure to follow. Enjoy.
Comment by Martina
Martina 24 September 2019 at 11:27 am
We will be going west coast towards Singapore….likely via Penang, KL and Malacca. And we still have Australia and New Zealand to go yet so you still have another 6 months of our ramblings to follow!
Comment by Eva Szalay
Eva Szalay 22 September 2019 at 4:53 pm
I love the sandal marks on your feet guys 🙂
Comment by Martina
Martina 24 September 2019 at 11:05 am
We were actually wearing skin-coloured sandals….!