Sunday 6th March, 2011

Distance: 89km (Total: 10,971)

Breakfast at the market of coffee, sticky rice with bananas and fried doughnuts.   Despite our best efforts to leave early to avoid the heat we were still soaked in sweat after half an hour.    The humidity seems to be increasing every day and it’s making the cycling seriously hard work.

We spotted a great looking restaurant and decided stop for an early lunch of ginger and lemongrass chilli chicken, fried pork with garlic and pepper – awesome!!   After a long rest we decided we try to cover the distance to Khao Lok.  The last few kilometres were pretty tough with it being so humid and seemingly impossible to replace the lost fluids.

On nearing Khao Lok we started to see lots of tourists on motorbikes and passed some very expensive looking beach resorts.   Khoa Lak isn’t that nice but is where diving trips to the Similan islands depart so was heaving with tourists.   We found a decent bungalow for 500 baht and spent the afternoon lazing about and trying to rehydrate.

We decided to take tomorrow off the bikes and maybe hire a motorbike so we can go and take a look at Phuket island.  It doesn’t sound like the sort of place we’d like to stay but Mike wants to go and take a look at all the boats so hopefully we can be there and back in a day on a moped.

Saturday 5th March, 2011

Distance: 81km (Total: 10,882)

It’s just so hot and humid during the day it’s essential to get up early to avoid the worst of it.  We retraced our route back inland to the number 4 and cycled through Kapoe.  Today was more of the same great road winding through the hilly jungle with a big shoulder and hardly any traffic.

Lots of mosques in this area.

We stopped at a petrol station for our daily ice cream when an old guy on a moped pulled up and came to talk to us.   He was an American living in Thailand and very excited about our “totally awesome bicycle adventure”.  “Man, this is the way to do it!”   He then subjected us to a 15 minute rant about “dumbass, no imagination backpackers doing the guidebook 1-10 best things to see in Thailand”.  “Man when I came here first we didn’t have a guidebook, we just went off exploring by ourselves.”   He didn’t look like shutting up so we made excuses, bought a big bag of fruit and set off again.

We arrived in Khuraburi by lunch time and ate what’s now becoming our favourite of basil leaf pork and rice.   We found some newly built bungalows run by a nice guy and had a relaxing afternoon sweating from doing nothing.   Another great day cycling in Thailand.   We’re really loving it here it’s just a great country to cycle in and travel through in general; the people are lovely, the food is fantastic, accommodation is easy to find and nice and cheap.

Iced tea in a plastic bag.

The best place to get dinner is takeaway from the local night market as most of the locals seem to do.  So we had a huge papaya salad, 1/2 a roast chicken with sticky rice and some delicious little sweet pancake balls.

Friday 4th March, 2011

An early start today to begin our walk around the coastline in Hat Bang Ben.   We’d been warned to wear good shoes as the going would be tough in parts.   We set off through the jungle and soon found ourselves on another deserted beach.   We followed the coast and were soon scrambling over rocks, through mangroves and chest-deep in water trying not to get the camera wet.  It was great stuff and we were glad we’d decided to stay another day.

Our little bungalow at Wasana Resort.

Miles and miles of beautiful deserted beach.

A horseshoe crab.

We were soon climbing over rocks, and wading through deep water.

And round every corner was another deserted beach.

And another.

For hours we walked along deserted coastline before we saw signs of life and a little village near Wasana Resort. Some people invited us into their house to sit and eat mango with chilli sauce which was great.


School kids.

The resort owners sister made the best papaya salad we've ever tasted. For our first one she used 2 chillis, Mike insisted on 6 for the next. She told us Thai standard was 17 chillis!!!

Taking a little bike ride in the afternoon before the storm. It's started raining at the same time every day for an hour or so in the late afternoon. Cools things down nicely.

Thursday 3rd March, 2011

Distance: 61km (Total: 10,801)

We had a great nights sleep thanks to the air-con in our bungalow.   We stopped at the market for breakfast of coffee with condensed milk and the deep-fried doughnuts that everyone here eats.   These markets are great in the morning with lots of friendly, talkative people, and it seems like most places have separate day and night markets.

Back on the number 4 we had to take a short section of a dual carriageway to get out of Ranong.   After that the road was great again and as this is supposedly the most uninhabited area of Thailand we didn’t see anything much for the next 60km other than jungle and hills.   Just before Kapoe we saw a sign for the beach and decided to go and check it out.   This part of Thailand is a Muslim area and the number of women wearing head-scarves has slowly increased and we’ve started seeing a few more mosques.  It’s also the area that was badly damaged during the 2004 tsunami and as we cycled through mangroves towards the beach we saw lots of warning signs directing people to higher ground in case of emergency.

We stopped at this buddhist retreat in the morning where we were chased by about 6 six dogs. What is it with dogs and bicycles?!

Typical roads for today.

These signs start appearing as you approach the coast.

We hit the jackpot and found a lovely little place called Wasana Resort run by a Dutch man and his Thai wife.  They told us this west coast is a popular route for Dutch cyclists and many of them stop here on the way.  We spent the afternoon just chilling out in their peaceful garden before taking a walk down to the beach to find an amazing 14km of sand with not a single other person on it.  After what we’ve seen we didn’t expect to see that in Thailand!  We had a great dinner and sat up all night drinking beer, playing connect 4 and chatting with the resort owners.   They told us about a long walk around the coast and as it’s so nice here we decided to stay tomorrow and check it out.

The deserted beach at Hat Bang Ben.

Wednesday 2nd March, 2011

Distance: 68km (Total: 10.740)

After last nights storm it was really misty this morning.   We had breakfast at the market in Kraburi of coffee, tea, fried eggs and some deep-fried doughnut things.   It was delicious and with so much other great food being cooked up in the market we were tempted to just stay there all day and eat.

A misty start to the morning.

We set off on the number 4 which was a great, winding road through the jungle with a few hills.   We turned off to go take a look at a cave and after being chased by 4 dogs found ourselves on a quiet country lane with nobody around.   Suddenly we heard the shouts of monkeys and just ahead of us they began to cross the road, stopping to stare at us.   More and more appeared and there must have been 60 of them, some with babies clinging to their stomachs, making loads of noise and running across the road.  They disappeared into the trees where they sat watching us nervously.   We were both pretty excited to be seeing our first wild monkeys and sat watching them for ages but they wouldn’t come down and say hi.

One of the monkeys.

The cave turned out to be pretty impressive too.  Inside we could just make out thousands of huge bats flying about and both of us emerged with shoes covered in bat poo.

The bat cave

Stick insect.

It was so humid today and we were both soaked in sweat after just a few minutes cycling. Thankfully there are plenty of places selling chilled watermelon and pineapple to cool down with.   We’ve also rediscovered ice creams as they just haven’t been available in Vietnam and Cambodia.

One of many rest stops today.

Just outside Ranong we stopped for an amazing lunch at a stall run by a lovely lady. The people in Thailand are just so friendly it's great. We arrived in Ranong at 2PM after another relaxed day of cycling. This is the way to do things here - there's so much to see (and eat!), and it's so humid that there's no point rushing.

Arriving in Ranong.

After finding a bungalow we took a motorcycle taxi to the night market.   Loads of amazing food and the whole town seems to go there to buy takeaway dinner.   We tried a little of everything from papaya salad, dried crispy fish, curried fish eggs, grilled fish and meat kebabs and sweet coconut rice with fresh mango – delicious!

Tuesday 1st March, 2011

Distance: 72km (Total: 10,672)

We struggled to find food this morning for breakfast in Chumphon so had to settle for strong, sweet coffee with condensed milk.  On leaving Chumphon we spotted a huge Tesco so Mike disappeared inside and emerged 40 mins later with food for the day.  It’s just like being in our local Tesco mecca: it’s huge, sells everything and best of all you just know where to find it all.

We’ve decided to head over to the west coast of Thailand and take the quieter roads south along the coast.  Once we’d left Chumphon the road was fantastic, bendy, smooth tarmac with great views across the border to the hills of Mayanmar.  We cycled through jungle with brightly coloured birds, butterflies and flowers.  Really amazing, but the Thai’s seem to like to keep guard dogs and we’ve had a couple of them chase us today.  Alex shouting at them seems to do the trick of scaring them off though.  The people we’re meeting along the way are all big, beaming smiles and so friendly.

The huge Tesco on the outskirts of Chumphon.

Great roads all day today.

We decided to keep it short today to ease ourselves back in gently.  We’re in no rush now so took a few detours to visit a disappointing waterfall and a couple of temples.  Lunch was fried basil leave beef, rice and fried egg and was amazing.  By the time we’d finished lunch it was so hot we were glad we didn’t have much further to go today.

The disappointing waterfall we took a 10km detour to see.

A very hot and sweaty lunch. When we'd both finally cooled down it was time to leave again.

In Kraburi we found a brand new hotel with a huge room for 250 baht for the night.  Everything in the room other than the bed was still wrapped in plastic.  Sat in our room in the evening there was a loud noise and to which Alex said “was that thunder?”, to which Mike replied “can’t be, it’s blue skies outside”.  A few minutes later we heard it again and looked outside to see a wall of black cloud approaching.  We thought we’d make a dash for the shop to get some food before the rain started.  Everyone driving past us was beeping their horn, pointing at the storm and warning us to go the other way.  We made it back just as it started to chuck it down.  We haven’t seen rain for what seems like months so it was great to be in the middle of a proper downpour with lots of thunder and lightening.  The streets turned to rivers and the power was knocked out in the whole of Kraburi for the next 4 hours.

Big storm heading our way.

We found a place open for food and had amazing dinner of papaya salad, fried rice, seafood soup and deep-fried pork.  We’re loving Thai food now we’re in places you can get the real stuff and not the westernised versions of everything that they serve up on the islands and tourist resorts.

It’s great to be back on the bikes but we’re both really unfit after such a long break.

Monday 28th February, 2011

Sad to be leaving Koh Tao after a great few weeks we boarded the early morning catamaran back to the mainland.   Travelling in Thailand is a piece of cake; the resort booked all our tickets and phoned ahead to book a room for us in Chumphon.   We were driven to the harbour where we were then given a sticker then it’s “wait here”, “go there”, you don’t have to think or worry about anything – it’s great!

Chumphon has a great night market that we’d missed last time we were here so we spent the evening sampling the local food.   The lovely lady at the Suda Guesthouse had looked after our bikes and they were just as we’d left them. There was a pile of panniers and helmets from some other cyclists who’d done the same but decided to take their bikes with them.

We’re both looking forward to getting back on the bikes tomorrow, feeling fully rejuvenated after a long break from cycling.

Day 294-312: Koh Tao

Wednesday 9th to Sunday 27th February, 2011

We had an amazing 3 weeks relaxing, swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking on Koh Tao.

On our first day in Koh Tao we swam for 1 hour to reach a little bay we’d been told was great for snorkelling.   It was, and we spent hours surrounded by thousands of brightly coloured fish before swimming back.   4 hours swimming meant we both got seriously burnt, and Mike managed to slice his foot open on some sharp coral too.   Alex was terrified for the whole 1hr swim back a shark would smell the blood and try to eat one of us.

We made a couple of trips over to the busier side of the island where the party is at.   And we met up with Payam and Leyli, our friends from Tehran for a few days which was nice.

Our favourite way to spend the day was an early breakfast then taking a kayak to Mango Bay where for a few hours we were alone in paradise in the clearest water with so many brightly coloured fish and coral.   Then the dive boats would turn up causing all the fish to disappear and it was time for us to slowly paddle back to Hin Wong Bay for an afternoon of massage and working on our tans.


Most days we took a kayak out to explore all the little secluded coves.

The bay just across from View Rock had amazing snorkelling and a private little beach.

Sunset at Sairee Beach.

One of the little gheckos living in our bungalow.

There's nothing like a Thai massage after a hard morning kayak.

A very happy and relaxed Alex and Mike.

Tuesday 8th Febuary, 2011

We still had the little backpacks we’d bought in Hong Kong for our hiking side-trip so were up bright and early packing what little we needed for a couple of weeks on the island.   We stored the bikes and our remaining luggage in the guest house garage hoping it would still be there when we return.

A minibus collected us and took us to a cattle truck packed full of backpackers.  It’s amazing how much stuff some people have with them.   I mean, what do they have in those things?!  Some of them are bigger than they are.  And then they have another one half the size strapped to their front.   We have all our camping gear, bike tools and spares, heck we even a kitchen sink and we haven’t got half as much gear as most of the other people in the truck!

Anyway, surrounded by chain-smoking travellers we took the packed 3 hour ferry ride to the island.   We got a bit of a shock arriving at the island to find lots of other equally packed boats pulling into the harbour of what is quite a small island.   We drew some baht, bought a snorkel and mask and jumped in a pickup taxi to the opposite side of the island which we hoped would be quieter.  We’d heard good things about a remote resort called View Rock so wanted to go check it out.

There’s a good reason the only vehicles on the island are 4*4 pickups – the roads are seriously steep.   So steep we’d struggle to make it up one on an unloaded bike so it was a good job we’d left them in Chumphon.   Going up the main hill in the centre of the island we were both holding on for our lives as it felt like it could tip over backwards at any point.  The driver stopped at the top of the hill and refused to take us any further as it was so steep down to the bay we wanted to be in.   So we had to pick our way down the steep, bumpy track on foot.

We finally made it to View Rock dripping with sweat but totally blown away by the view down to the bay.  An amazing place with fantastic views and lots of rocks, with little bungalows perched among the palm trees on the steep hillside overlooking crystal clear water.   Just what we were hoping for and a great place to relax after the chaos of Bangkok.   We won’t be going anywhere for a while.

The view down to Hin Wong Bay.

Monday 7th February, 2011

We seem to be spending far too much time on trains and hardly any riding our bikes lately.   But keen to visit an island and have some beach time we decided to take a train to Chumphon, the jumping-off point for Koh Tao.

We’d been told we needed to arrive 1 hour before our train departed to pay for the bikes and load them onto the cargo train.  Loading bikes onto trains in Asia is always a little chaotic with nobody really sure where we should put them and no assurances they would still be on the train when we arrived in Chumphon.

We eventually arrived in Chumphon after a very slow 9 hour journey and found the guest house we’d booked ahead.   They offered to book our ferry tickets to the island of Koh Tao and assumed we’d be leaving our bikes in their garage while we were away.   We hadn’t considered leaving them but they seemed nice and we decided we’d be better off without them on the island.   One slightly worrying thing is we’re often asked how much our bikes cost.   We’re guessing the average bike in Thailand isn’t that expensive so are reluctant to confess to the true value, especially when leaving them in the trust of a stranger.