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 had an early start the next day and were fueled by bananas from the old man who helped run the resort. We escaped the highway early on and headed back towards the coast. On the road we saw our first live snake, which wasn’t very happy when Bryony startled it and reared up, nearly wobbling Bryony off her bike in fright. We’ve seen plenty of squashed ones, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but we’d rather not see too many more (just one more, happy enough for a photo). It started to get dark just before lunch and for once we managed to time in properly and reached a restaurant 5 minutes before the rain set in. Within minutes the dirt on the side of the road was mud and puddles had sprung up, but by the time we’d finished lunch and a coffee it was only a small drizzle and nice and cool to ride, dropping from ~35 to 22ºC during lunch. In the afternoon we spotted two big buddah being constructed on the hill. We rode up to both, although the second was so greasy and slippery that we couldn’t ride past the first rest point. We tried to push, but that was also impossible, so we left them there to walk around. We were shown around by a monk who spoke about as much English as we spoke Thai, but we managed to learn some things from him. The temple featured two sections of forest – one with statues and figures of people (and dinosaurs) who were going to heaven, and the other with all the people destined for hell. It was pretty dark, especially with the thunder and lightening. We ended up spending two hours, after having coffee with the monk and refusing food because we really did need to find somewhere to stay.
We left the temple in light rain and after accidentally ending up at a 1300 baht resort found a guesthouse by the sea near Bang Saphan Noi instead. We were the only guests of a young couple who run the place and enjoyed our big room with a private garden shower (netted though, to keep out the mosquitos. We watched Thai drama on tv with them after dinner. Somehow the door to our room managed to latch itself from the inside, so we couldn’t get in and had to climb over the neighbouring rooms back yard to get in.
We were more than ready for a rest day by this stage (we’d ridden 7 days without a rest and covered nearly 600km) so we set our sights on Prachuap Khiri Khan. It was raining lightly when we set off, but didn’t eventuate to anything more. We had a well timed lunch again at a seafood restaurant. After eating, James asked to use the bathroom and followed the direction they pointed. When he turned to confirm he was going the right way the lady showing him waved her hand and smiled so presuming he was on the right track and he walked straight into her bedroom before remembering that in Thailand the hand signal for come here is what we think means go away. The sort of shooing gesture of flicking the back of your hand. The staff and other customers found this hilarious, but we could not find a way to describe why it happened! We got back onto the highway near Prachuap thinking some mindless riding would get us there a bit faster, and because it was the most direct route. Unfortunately roadworks and traffic made it awful, so we turned back off and weaved through some small, sometimes dirt roads to get in. We even spotted a couple of dairy farms. Very small compared to the ones in NZ but from the look of things the cows aren’t too much different. A lady was standing by the road yelling at one cow to hurry up while the rest were waiting in the shed. Prachuap is a small seaside town so it was easy to find Pan Cake B&B where we planned to stay. It’s a small place with only 4 rooms set back off the street with a garden and was super relaxing, except for the incredibly sqwarky bird. Our host was very friendly and had great English (she is married to an Australian man who was back home while we were there).
We ended up staying for 3 nights because our first day was so busy running errands that we didn’t do enough resting, and we were close enough to Bangkok that we could guarantee seeing Eleanor. We visited a few bike shops to find James some gloves (a combination of sweat and rain caused them to rip). We also visited a home that looked like bike shops because they had so many bikes inside which James tried to walk into while the people that lived there and some friends were eating outside. It was a little embarrassing but they spotted Bryony’s distinctive cycling tan marks on her arms and were very friendly. They even waved when we saw some of them out riding. We found gloves at a shop across the railway lines and were charged less than the ticket price, and given some puncture repair patches which, given our current record, might come in useful.
After the heat wore off the day we visited a temple at the top of a hill guarded by some reasonably aggressive monkeys. We didn’t carry any food, but they were quite keen on Bryony’s bag (luckily it has a shoulder strap so can be worn across ones body). At one point a monkey tried to come at Bryony, so James moved in front of her to protect her and ended up pushing her down the steps and whacking her in the jaw. It was decided that Bryony should probably just protect herself. The view was great and the monkeys interesting, but a little aggressive. There was a lady at the bottom selling food to feed them, so don’t imagine that helps. We also visited Ao Manao beach for a swim, and we planned to visit the friendlier monkeys there. The beach is part of an airforce base however, and we had to sign out by 6pm so we missed them. According to our host there was a night market planned, but we decided to eat indoors as the looming clouds were ominous. Before our meal arrived rain was pouring so hard we couldn’t hear each other speak. We had some kind of clay soup pot with a fire beneath it and a bunch of raw liver, pork, shrimps, an egg, vegetables and noodles for us to cook. We watched the family beside us and copied them.
We are definitely riding through farming landscape – pineapples (really delicious ones, we hang a bag of chopped pineapple on the handlebars to snack on), some palm, shrimp, coconut and cows. We’ve seen lots of other fruit too including dragonfruit which grow on some kind of cactus. The shrimp ponds have noisy aerators and a bit of a fishy smell. They aren’t as bad as the fish drying farms though where thousands of tiny fish are laid out to dry on racks. We don’t have a picture because it smells too bad. We see heaps of lorrys piled with coconuts taking them to places where weathered looking men break off the outer husky shell by hand. It looks like hot, hard work and the piles of coconuts seem so daunting. We aren’t sure where the husks go, but there are plenty of them. Another thing we’ve been seeing for ages in these rural areas but never took a photo is the terrace style house standing alone. They look so lonely, the long skinny house in an empty field.
We probably won’t go 8 days without resting again, we were both a bit drained and tired by the time we reached Prachuap. By the time we eventually left though we were well rested and ready for the last leg into Bangkok.