The Ups and Downs: Cycling Southern Thailand

Pak Meng to Krabi 50 kms
Krabit to Ao Luek 47 kms
Ao Luek to Phang Nga 60 kms (Ian only; I took a songthaew with bike in back)
Phang Nga to Khao Lak 50 kms (Ian only; I took a songthaew with bike in back)
Khao Lak to Li Guesthouse (110 kms from Khao Lak Ian only; I took a mini bus)
Li Guesthouse to Ranong (98 kms Ian only; I took a mini bus)
Ranong to KraBuri (25 kms Sue; 60s km Ian — I hitchhiked part way)
KraBuri to Chumpon (60 kms (Ian only)
Chumpon to Sara Resort 45 kms (near Chumphon airport)
Sara Resort to Ban Boek 55 kms

Perhaps I jinxed myself on the last post with my ‘wonderful day in Thailand.’ The cold that Ian caught jumped over to me and I ended up with bronchitis. Both Ian and I were in denial and made the crucial mistake of thinking I’d get better with a day of rest and sure enough, I did not recover in one day and cycling in the heat after that while ill made me even sicker. Eventually we hit a clinic and after two sessions of intravenous antibiotics over two days I began to improve. I then took the two weeks off the bike I should have taken in the first place and I am now back on my feet and cycling although not with my normal stamina.

That being said, if I had to get sick on this trip I’m glad it was Thailand (not Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam). The medical care was very good and comforting. For the most part the accommodation here is plentiful and inexpensive and generally nice. It is easy to arrange transportation, even with a bike. The one time I hitchhiked I was picked up by the second car (which happened to be a pick up truck) that came by. There is usually wifi around and that kept me somewhat occupied when Ian was on the road and I was hotel bound (although all Thai resort staff let their kids use the hotel internet and so the wifi quality is worse now than it was four years ago when we were last here. Proof? It generally works well in the middle of the night when all the rug rats are sleeping and is crap when they are awake – that and every kid I see around any resort is glued to a computer or ipad.)

The other issue now is heat as we are approaching the hottest time of the year. Last time I was here my cutoff was around 35 degrees. I rode when it was close to 40 one day and really struggled. The same is true now although maybe a comfortable cutoff is closer to 32. Yesterday I rode at 36 and although I managed on the flats the few climbs I did were a nightmare where I had to walk the last few hundred meters and found myself short of breath, heart pounding and body generally suffering from extreme heat. On the last climb, also the steepest of the day, I dug into a bag of ice I had bought 15 kms earlier and put an icepack on my head for 5 minutes. I also doused my body with ice water as I slugged up the hill…I think I saved myself from heatstroke by doing so.

The lesson is we should really be up at 6 and on the road by 6:30 and finished by 10:30. But my husband likes to sleep in and even when we get up early it seems to take forever to get on the road! Ian does not suffer from the heat…

Despite all that I highly recommend southern Thailand for cycling. I have seen beautiful scenery a lot of the way – from karst formations to mountain jungle and ocean views with beachside roads. We have generally had lots of choice for good accommodation – I’ve noticed that in the four years since our last cycling trip here that standards are up. There is often air conditioning, almost always hot water, and western style bathrooms. We’ve been very lucky (ok staying slightly higher budget than last trip) with finding hotels and guesthouses with pools.

The roads are in good shape and there is usually a paved shoulder. We are now cycling the “Royal Coast Route” and it has a marked cycling lane.

The food is fantastic and plentiful. This has always been true in Thailand as the Thais love to eat out. We eat at Thai hawker stands (chicken satay, pad thai, soup, chicken and rice, green curry, fried basil leaves and pork) and there are now a lot of road-side restaurants. We see a lot more Thais travelling on holiday by car (a big growth in terms of the middle class here) and I think this is why there are more restaurants and Thai resorts.

Late yesterday afternoon we pulled into Bang Boet, a small stretch of beach that has a few cheap resorts (collection of very basic bungalows) and is mostly a fishing village. It feels like Thailand 30 years ago and is rough and rugged but very charming. We are the only people staying at the ‘resort’ and the only non-Thais in the village.

After such a hot day it was a great treat to discover a very new looking pool. I shared it with three Thai boys who spent their time trying to drown each other and cannonballing right next to me and giggling with every splash. (An adult came out and I guess he told them to cut it out for my sake although I really didn’t mind but couldn’t communicate because of language.) Nevertheless, when Ian joined us in the pool they lent him one of their snorkeling masks and we all became friends, giving each other the thumbs up as we got out of the pool.

The woman running the resort doesn’t speak a lot of English but is as usual with Thais in these kinds of places amazingly accommodating. I managed to say we were hungry (as the resort restaurant did not look open) and after a bit of charades and me pulling out a few Thai food words (gai – chicken, khao –rice), she was off on her motorbike and came back with chicken and rice for two and four chang beer. We ate seaside and shared the remains with three of the resort cats who all decided to hang out with us on our little picnic bench under a thatched roof by the sea. We watched the Thai fishermen get their small wooden boats ready to go out for the night’s fishing. And then we watched Thai kids taking a last dip in the ocean and the few that were out of the water playing tag with a Thai beach dog.

And then we decided to stay another day.

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