Week 5: East Coast of Southern Thailand

A post by Lucia

Day 29: Nakhon Si Thammarat to Sichon

Today has definitely been the prettiest day of the whole trip so far. It was a real reflection of what I had imagined cycling in Thailand would be like before we left the UK to begin this adventure. We cycled out of Nakhon Si Thammarat, which seemed to be a nice city. Colourful lanterns stretched above our heads as we cycled away from the hustle and bustle and into an army base, of all places. Although there were guards on the entrance, it was clear to see that all vehicles and bikes were being allowed through. It was beautifully kept, with exquisite portraits of the Thai King adorning the gates to each building within the compound. 

After we left the army base, we continued to cycle along a fairly busy highway. Luckily, we had our generous hard shoulder which allowed us our own space away from the belching traffic. Surprisingly, it was a very nice road to cycle down as there were numerous, stunning garden centres to our left which I enjoyed seeing the beautiful green plants and flowers for sale. In addition, there were many stores selling ornaments for the locals to put outside their houses. Colourful spirit houses (these are shrines to protect the spirit of their home), different types of bright animal statues – including many of cockerels. After some research, I’ve learnt that the significance of the numerous cockerel statues may be in reference to King Nareusan, who had a wager with a Burmese prince over a cockfight. (Cockfighting appears to be very popular in Thailand. As we have cycled through the smaller villages, we have seen plentiful cockerels, often roaming freely but many are kept in cages to keep them separate from the other cockerels.)

An example of what these cockerel statues look like; these ones were outside a hotel resort we stayed at one night.

As I mentioned, today’s cycling was the prettiest day of cycling so far. Amazing, bright blue skies with only a few tufts of white clouds were the backdrop against magnificent towering coconut trees. It was just stunning. We found a quiet restaurant next to the beach where we stopped for food and a mid-afternoon swim. The Gulf of Thailand sea was deliciously warm but also such a refreshing treat. Fortunately, the restaurant had toilets and ‘showers’ (basins of cold rainwater and buckets to throw the water over our heads). So we were able to wash the salt water off before continuing our day’s cycle.

It’s a hard life being a bicycle tourist!

As we were cycling along, we suddenly came across this vibrant, buzzing market. We stopped to have a wander around (one at a time, we need one person to look after the bikes). Again, this is one of the many reasons bicycle touring is such a brilliant way to see a country. If we were zooming past in a coach from city to city, we would never stumble across these markets and small villages where we get a real insight into what life in Thailand is really like away from the touristy sights. 

No plastic here: fresh langsat fruit straight from the field to the market.

Fresh fish: from the ocean to the market daily.

This lady seemed pretty happy with her fresh fish: so fresh in fact, it leapt out of her basket onto the floor in front of us!

Adam was not so impressed with how many rambutan fruits I bought…!

We were considering camping this evening, somewhere near the beach or finding a cheap ‘resort’ to stay in. We decided on the latter, because as dusk approached Adam started to feel slightly unwell, so a bed and aircon were needed. 4G appears to be excellent so far in Thailand, so we were able to stop cycling and look on Agoda for a cheap place to stay. We booked it there and then, turning up 10 minutes later. In this area of Southern Thailand, there are many of these ‘resorts’. Individual, one story buildings in a terrace which consist of just a room and a bathroom. There is also a ‘driveway’ outside the front which is the perfect place to unload our bikes. The room is usually big enough to bring the bikes inside. 

Although this room had a beautiful mural painting on the wall, it was also little obsessed with ‘Hello Kitty’…

Adam felt too unwell to go out again for food, so we stayed in. I still had some snacks left over from the previous few days, so didn’t go hungry. We will have an unplanned rest day tomorrow to allow Adam a day to recover. We think it’s heat exhaustion from some sunburn. Hopefully, with some rest in an aircon room and plenty of water, he’ll be feeling better soon. 

Day 30: A rest day/recovery day in Sichon

Adam awoke feeling no better, so we decided a complete rest day was in order. I ventured out on my own to find something suitable for breakfast. It was the first time I have cycled out on my own; it was nice to be out in the early morning with just one empty pannier on the bike, ready to be filled with some shopping. I bought some freshly made waffles, as well as some grapes, sandwiches from 7/11, bread, jam and two 1.5litres of water. I also paid another 600 Thai baht for a second nights stay here. (This is the top end of our usual budget for Thailand). We have absolutely made the right choice to rest today. Perhaps we are going too quickly; all the advice we have heard from other cycle tourists is, ‘take your time’. So once Adam is feeling better, we will continue to make our way, perhaps more slowly, up the east coast of Thailand towards Bangkok. 

The stunning mural paintings were outside in the ‘driveway’ area of our room as well.

Day 31: Sichon – Khanom

As Adam was feeling slightly better, but not 100%, we decided to cycle today but make it a short day. We cycled 38.4km to a small seaside town further up the coast. We were not sure whether or not we would go to the island of Ko Samui. There are pros and cons for going/not going. It is a tourist destination, and therefore that means inflated prices. However, it is a beautiful island with stunning beaches which would be nice to relax on. That being said, we are coming into this so called, ‘monsoon season’, and think it would be rather pointless going to a wonderful island when it’s pouring it down… we also lived in Cyprus for 3 years so have had our fair share of beautiful beach opportunities. So I think we’ve decided to give it a miss and tomorrow cycle to the next big city, Surat Thani. (Although I also wouldn’t be surprised if we change our minds again! 😂) That being said, we’re sure that there will be plenty of tranquil beaches to explore as we continue up the east coast towards Bangkok, let’s just hope the monsoon season is late! 

Today has been a really nice, steady, easy day. The Maps.Me app came up with another grade A route that resulted in those peaceful roads lined with palm trees. The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun shone down ferociously, but those aforementioned palm trees provided some nice shade at times. We stopped for dinner and ordered it twice it was so good! 

These stunning roads make us very happy.

Day 32: Khanom to Surat Thani

After a breakfast of traditional Thai noodles from a local cafe, we set off ready for our 77km day. As we left Khanom which is a fairly busy town, we cycled past a beautiful, white, Buddhist temple. We are becoming accustomed to seeing these stunning pieces of architecture as we cycle by; we don’t always stop, but we’re always in awe. It never gets old. I have to pinch myself often: I feel so happy to be here with Adam, cycling every day. I’m enjoying it even more than I thought I would! 

A daily viewing in Thailand.

It was another blisteringly hot day – who knows where this so-called ‘monsoon’ is! After leaving the busy town, we soon got onto the quieter roads we love. Adam found an amazing road through a rubber tree plantation / forest. The shade from the trees came at just the right time.

I was so very grateful for this shady road on such a scorching hot day.

This, kids, is where rubber comes from!

The picturesque and tranquil Thailand roads continued. We had a ‘cool pop’ stop and treated ourselves to an ice-cream each; they went down amazingly! The local man who owned the shop came over and attempted to have a conversation with us. This resulted in him saying things in Thai to us, with us not understanding and just nodding and smiling, guessing what he might be asking and replying with things such as, “We’re from ENGLAND,” “We’ve cycled from Singapore,” “We’re going to Bangkok,” with a few hand signals for good measure. The gentleman was very friendly, smiley and laughed with us. He held Adam’s arm, admiring his tattoo. He showed us his multitude of tattoos: lots of signs and symbols all over his arms and he flashed his stomach, revealing more of the same. I wonder if he used to be a monk; I have read that many Thai men become a monk for a period in their lives in order to receive good karma and merit.

Our day continued and we pedalled past locals having a midday snooze, scrappy dogs giving us half-hearted tired barks, mounds of coconut shells and for a little while, alongside a sparkling but muddy brown river. 

We stopped for lunch at the usual road-side Thai cafe. We got chatting to a lady who had very good English, helping us communicate with the owner and chef of the cafe. She was there with her son and mother, and asked us about our journey. As we got talking, we told her about our plans: she couldn’t quite believe her ears! She told her mother, whose English was not as good. Consequently, the mother paid for our lunch which was so very generous of her. As the family were leaving, out of their car they brought us corn on the cob and langsat fruit. We were extremely grateful.

This is the kind of road-side cafe we stop at most days when cycling in Thailand.

After refilling out water bottles from the jugs on the table, we were on our way again. Side-note: We are finding it more difficult to refill our water bottles for free in Thailand. In Malaysia, every hotel or restaurant would have a water dispenser where you could help yourself to water. Here, the hotels and guesthouses only have one small bottle of water each with no refills. This means we have to buy large water bottles every day, which I really don’t like doing. Luckily, restaurants and cafes often leave jugs of free water on the table and give you a cup full of ice (which has been fine so far for our stomachs!) so that’s good at least.

Another hot afternoon of cycling awaited us. The roads became busier towards the city of Surat Thani. Luckily, Adam had booked our accommodation on the outskirts so we didn’t need to cycle into the city. We stayed at a place called, ‘Cheaper Hotel’, and it really stood up to it’s name! The room much resembled a prison cell, with bare concrete walls. I keep thinking to myself though that we are quite ‘soft’ at the moment, and our expectations will soon plummet when we cycle through other countries. 

We’ve been discussing our route a lot at the moment, and we feel a change in the tide coming… 

Day 33: Surat Thani to Tha Chana

We awoke in our prison cell after a good nights sleep (although we’re finding the beds in Thailand are very hard!) We made our way out of Surat Thani, with a quick stop at 7/11 for our usual sandwiches for breakfast and snacks for the day. Adam was delighted that they stocked nutella, so we treated ourselves to a jar and grabbed a huge bunch of bananas too. 

It was fairly busy leaving the city, which was to be expected, but we had a large hard shoulder which is always appreciated. We decided to add 10km onto our day so that we could cycle down the quieter roads. We have found it’s always worth cycling a little extra distance for the wonderful sights we get to see and experience. 

A quick snapshot taken on my phone whilst cycling on our favourite back road routes.

So today’s wonderful sights included: towering coconut trees in front of that backdrop of brilliant blue sky; palm trees reminiscent of Malaysia; small wooden houses – often on stilts and isolated from any others; in comparison, larger, more modern houses – usually brightly coloured. All of these things nestled within green jungles of trees, bushes and plants. Those poor, aforementioned cockerels: the lucky ones wandering in front of houses, the unlucky ones captured in small cages, awaiting their next fight. Their captors, groups of middle aged Thai men, crowded around a small TV screen, watching cock fights with, most likely, bets placed. We cycled over bridges crossing winding, brown rivers.

Poor cockerels! But this is an age-old tradition in Thailand.

Most of today’s roads were good, with the odd gravel track thrown in for good measure. Mid-morning, we stopped for our favourite jambana sandwiches and nutella/banana sandwiches. As we were sat devouring our much-needed snack, four dogs jogged over to see what all the fuss was about. They initially barked, weary of these new faces. But as soon as they saw that we were eating, they were all waggy tails and dopey eyes. There was a puppy amongst them who was particularly cute and playful. I gifted them some very old snacks we had leftover that looked less than appetising for us, but they devoured in seconds. 

I wanted to put this puppy in my pannier, she was so cute!

Our mid-afternoon snack was much the same, with a short nap thrown in for good measure. Towards the end of the day, we found ourselves cycling alongside the sea on what almost felt like a cycle path. It was lovely. We arrived at our hotel resort. Although the owner was friendly enough, it’s safe to say we weren’t overly impressed with the room: full of mosquitoes, cold shower, no flush on the toilet, very weak wifi – first world problems hey! We were only a little perturbed because we had paid 500 baht for the room, which is quite expensive for us, so we expected a little more. It wasn’t so bad though.

We had to cycle out a little further down the road to find somewhere to eat: a small, beach-side restaurant which was incredibly picturesque. The food, although slightly more expensive than we’re used to, was the best we have had so far in Thailand. A huge, seafood soup with big chunks of white fish, succulent prawns and a plethora of flavours and spices. Just amazing.

The discussions about a change of route are continuing…

Day 34: Tha Chana to Pak Langsuan

Our morning routine continues: today was a jambana sandwich morning and a little bit of bike maintenance. We checked out and set off for a steady day, beginning alongside the sea: a lovely way to start the day.

It was a very straight forward ride today, just continuing up the coast, always heading north. We were mostly on more of a main road, rather than the back road routes, but it wasn’t busy. It was a podcasts type of road, lost in our own thoughts and just enjoying the rhythmic pedalling along the flat road. As it was overcast today, it wasn’t too hot. We even enjoyed a burst of rain, but it didn’t last long. The elusive ‘monsoon’ is teasing us.

Stunning, green Thailand.

We stopped after 40km for lunch, at the usual roadside cafe. We managed to ask for pork noodles; noodles and pig is usually understood by both Thais and ferangs (we are ‘ferangs’ which means “white westerner” in Thai!). The meal came in a clay pot with thin rice noodles, chunks of pork, beansprouts and plenty of flavoursome broth. Delicious. As we were waiting for change after paying, I spotted a suspiciously western-looking man, slowing cycling past on a touring bike! I waved and he cycled over – our first encounter with other cycle tourists in Thailand! Angus (Scottish) and Christian (English) were also cycling from Singapore, heading up to Chang Mai. It was really great to speak with other bicycle tourists and compare our experiences of Thailand. They were lovely guys, and hopefully, we’ll bump into them again, although I think they’re slightly faster than us! 

We finished the day, escaping from the rain which finally unleashed itself on the land, in a restaurant in this small town our hotel was on the outskirts of. It was such an interesting and quirky coastal town. All the houses were clumped, higgledy piggledy, either side of a narrow road where cars, scooters and bicycles raced down. Bustling with people, it was an assault on the sense after the quiet roads we had just come from. In the cafe, we enjoyed another of the best meals we have had so far in Thailand (the food seems to be getting better and better as we head north). Another broth with delicious seafood, with soft rice to bulk it out but so flavoursome still. It felt so good to be safe from the onslaught of the rain, sipping and eating such a delectable meal.

Luckily the rain died down somewhat, allowing us to cycle the final 2km to our hotel resort. A much nicer room than last night and for much less too. Tomorrow we continue up the coast to Chumpon. 

Day 35: Pak Langsuan to Chumpon

Today has been a long day, but far from the longest we’ve had. As I type, I feel so tired my arms and hands are aching! (The tiredness is nothing to do with the large Chang beer I just enjoyed with our dinner… obviously!)

We set off slightly later than optimal for completing an 86km day, but we had stayed up fairly late discussing our route plan, which is very exciting! As we set out pedalling for the day, the sky was overcast which meant it wasn’t as blisteringly hot as normal for 10am – a pleasant change.

We planned to stop for some breakfast somewhere as soon as we saw an appropriate place, but unfortunately, that was to no avail. We managed to buy a big bunch of bananas which kept us going until lunch. The morning’s cycling provided another beaut of a route; quiet roads lined with towering palm trees and very few vehicles.

Yet another back road route pic…

We eventually found a roadside cafe selling hot meals, and we both devoured another plate of pork and rice. We had cycled just under 40km by this point and were in definite need of food. 

The day continued on with much the same; plentiful tranquil and peaceful roads. We cycled alongside the railway tracks, on a narrow road that was sometimes tarmacked, sometimes gravelly. After a few days of almost completely flat roads, today had a few cheeky hills. Added onto this, the clouds parted and down came the sweltering rays from that fireball in the sky. All in all, it was a long, hot, sweaty, partly hilly and gravelly day of cycling. We didn’t stop as much as usual, as we had set off late and knew we needed to cycle hard to make our hotel by nightfall. 

A peaceful, narrow road we had been following all of a sudden spat us out onto a busy, main road in Chumpon. Adam was having some trouble with the microphone on his camera; the cable had broken. There is a huge electrical store in Chumpon so he was able to pick one up no problem. He also invested in the new GoPro 7, which will really improve the quality of our youtube videos and add another perspective, as it captures action footage really, really well with the new gimble feature.

Continuing onto our accommodation for the night, I was very ready to stop for the day – my legs and bum felt rather tired! In an efforts to keep costs down, we always look for the cheapest accommodation wherever we stay. In this instance, the room had no aircon, but a powerful fan, which so far is just the ticket.

We dumped our bags, showered quickly and headed out to find food asap; we were ravenous. Luckily, two buildings down from our hotel was a lovely, reasonably priced restaurant. We both went for the traditional Thai green curry with sticky rice. It went down a treat, followed by an ice cream each. After a long day cycling, we decided it was only right to treat ourselves. 

Tomorrow we are cycling another 80km further up the coast. When we look on a map, we still can’t believe how far we have come since Singapore! We have a good spreadsheet where we plan our routes with rough distances and average daily kilometres needed to cycle in order to complete the route through a country in time before the visa expires. The average daily kilometres needed for Thailand is 55km, this does include rest days. However, our thought is as the terrain here is mostly flat, it’s nice to make some distance so that we can enjoy a few more days off in places of interest, particularly Chang Mai. I still think that we are going at a nice steady pace. We know other bicycle tourists cover much more daily miles or kilometres than we do: but we’re all about the journey, not particularly the destination. 

If you are still reading… thank you! I know these posts are rather long, but if nothing else, they will serve as an amazing memory for us when we’re grey and old.

Lucia xx

Just a couple of tired, sweaty bicycle tourists in Thailand.

2 comments

Another brilliant read Lucia, thank you for sharing! Xxx xxx

Michael Lees

Absolutely brilliant, blogs very informative, interesting and well written, guys keep up the good work, I am sure when you have cycled all day the last thing you feel like is blogging, I do appreciate the lengths you go through, to keep us all informed of your endeavours.

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