When we headed East out of Bangkok we started the part of our trip that is entirely unnecessary to get us to Europe – a loop through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos then back into northern Thailand. We go this way for two reasons, firstly we are enjoying south east asia and want to see as much as we can while we are here and secondly because we won’t be able to make any of the high passes on the Pamir highway before winter anyway, so have some time to kill waiting for spring (provided our money and enthusiasm lasts that long!).
As soon as we got ourselves settled in at Pan and Neemo’s hostel, Granny bike, we knew we would find it hard to leave. The place is perfect for cycle tourists, with plenty of space to store our bikes, all the tools we could dream of to fix them and a quiet, green, clean space to rest and write.
We had a very lazy start out of Prachuap with neither of us feeling much like riding fast. A coffee spot with a view back over Prachuap caught our eye after about 7km, so we decided to have an early stop. Just as we finished we spotted another cycle tourist and waved her down, ending up spending another half an hour chatting to Georgia who is teaching maths in Bangkok, but has holidays for 3 weeks. Another 3km down the road we stopped again and did something we hadn’t done yet in our trip – locked our fully loaded bikes and left them so that we could go and look at something. We’ve locked the bikes before, just only when our stuff has been locked away in a guesthouse. All our most valuables are in the handlebar bags which we can take with us so we didn’t feel too bad about it. We walked up to a cave with two reclining buddahs which was nice and cool compared to the very hot sun outside. Our bikes and belongings were of course safe and sound when we got back to them. Thailand feels relatively safe, especially outside of the very touristy towns, but it wouldn’t be something we’d do everywhere.
We didn’t rest once we made the coast and carried on North. Bryony’s friend Eleanor was holidaying in Bangkok with her partner, so we hoped to be able to catch them there.
From Paknam we used coastal roads to weave our way towards Chumphon. In the morning we stopped at a viewpoint with a temple up an extremely steep hill (similar to Law road for Dunedin cyclists). We managed to ride the whole way up, but its extraordinarily hard with the heavy bikes. Was worth it for the view though. We stopped for lunch at a friendly restaurant for some kind of tandoori chicken. It was quite different to the indian style but delicious. In the afternoon we made our way back to highway 41 and joined the roaring traffic for a few hours until we found a highway resort near Champhon. Neither of us felt much like going into the city, I think after all our time off in Ao Tonsai and before leaving Malaysia we were enjoying the rhythm of biking again.
We arrived in Krabi drenched, with Bryony’s front panniers filled with water after the 20km ride. Luckily we found a good, big room in a guesthouse to dry everything out, although the room was on the 4th floor (panniers aren’t the easiest things to carry). The rain didn’t ease up which made looking for dinner challenging (and wet). Bryony was hoping to explore Krabi a bit, particularly to visit the buddah at the top of the hill that she saw when she visited with Reta in 2010, but the rain halted those plans. Plan B was watching Harry Potter and an early night. Continue reading
Since climbing with Gabe and Astra at Golden Bay over new year we’ve planned to take our climbing shoes travelling with us. South east asia has some world famous climbing so it would be a shame to ride right past it! Our first climbing stop was at Ao Tonsai, in the Krabi district. We caught a longtail boat from Ao Nang and it only took 20 minutes to get to the beach. If you haven’t ridden in these boats before they are pretty unique. A stripped down car motor drives a prop at the end of a 2m pole, so the driver can turn in a small space and drive in very shallow water. Very noisy though. Continue reading
The ferry got into the port at about 5, and customs was easy (although we were last through again, the bikes being a bit of a pain to unload). One of the officials got our attention, then walked away using the hand signal we would normally use to shoo someone away. Turns out this means ‘follow me’ and he was showing us a place to put the bikes while went through immigration. Had the satisfaction of telling the taxi driver befriending us in the queue that we wouldnt need his services because we were bicycling. I dont think that will ever get old. Continue reading
We ended up spending 5 nights in Penang without even realising it. We spent the first 3 with Claude and his daughter Lena in Batu Feringghi, about 14km out of Georgetown. It was wonderful to have a base to recover from our colds, finally do some laundry and rest our legs after the ride over from the East coast. Batu Feringghi is home to lots of European immigrants so we found everything we needed there, like more sunscreen. Each night Claude took us out to dinner somewhere new. On the first night he introduced us to his neighbours, Swiss cycle tourists who have been riding for the last 7 years, recently with their daughter. It was interesting to trade stories and get some idea about what we have ahead of us.