Week 7: The Road to Chiang Mai

Day 43: Hua Hin to Phetchaburi

So we have decided not to head into Bangkok. We are happiest in rural spaces, away from the manic hustle and bustle of big city traffic and more expensive meals. We like the smaller cities and towns for their vibrancy and life, but mega-cities are not our thing. We were planning to go to Bangkok for no other reason than it’s the capital and a ‘must-see’ on the tourist guides. But we’re not really tourists, we’re bicycle travellers and we have come to realise that we would much rather spend the extra days we’ll save by not going to Bangkok up in northern Thailand, hugging the Thailand/Myanmar border, experiencing the ultra-rural life in the highlands. It’s such a feeling of liberation carving our own unique route and not just heading to the places the guidebooks tell you to go. 

We had some ‘admin’ to do this morning in Hua Hin, namely posting back some items we were no longer using. We managed to send back approximately 4kg of excess weight which wasn’t needed. After a guilty and regretful breakfast in McDonald’s (our first in Thailand), we set out for the day. As I had a slightly dodgy tummy and wasn’t feeling great, I was very happy that it was quite overcast today. This meant it wasn’t too hot which made for a pleasant days ride.

The roads out of Hua Hin were understandably busy. We liked Hua Hin: it was touristy and had many Westerners (namely older white men with younger Thai ladies…) but it had a friendly and spirited energy that we really enjoyed. It is on the coast, but our route in and out didn’t take us to the beach so we didn’t see it. We’ve seen a lot of the sea and coastal roads over the past week or so, therefore we didn’t feel like we were missing out. 

We hit the road following the river, which we stayed on for quite some time. Although it began as a dual carriageway without a hard shoulder, the traffic was light. It was very much a straightforward day, following ‘medium busy’ roads all the way to Phetchaburi. When the traffic was almost non-existent, we cycled side by side, talking with one another which I always enjoy. Other times, we each listened to podcasts, enjoying being in our own little world. I must admit, the views we experienced today are nothing to write home about: I think we have been spoiled so far. Although we did spot some monitor lizards and even a pair of eagles, which was very cool.

Maps.Me and Adam do a pretty good job of finding the quiet roads (most of the time).

As we were cycling through the busy streets of Phetchaburi (a bustling town), nearing our hotel we found a lively night market. We spied the food we would try later when we went back for dinner after checking into our hotel.

This hotel is definitely one of the quirkiest we’ve been to so far. The front of the hotel is almost like a shop, but also a cafe with a jumbled and cluttered backyard over-looking the river. Our room is upstairs; we had to step over piled up sandbags to enter another door into this building. The shared bathroom is at the bottom of some narrow, wooden steps; we had to side step up them as we struggled to carry our 4 panniers and a handlebar bag each up to our room. As this is a wooden building, the floorboards on the landing are, in places, starting to warp, illuminating the chattering Thai women in the room below. Our room’s window has no glass, but jail-like bars behind a fly screen. With a, presumably broken,  ancient air conditioning unit mocking us and rendered useless on the wall, we are reduced to one fan, oscillating slowly next to the bed, offering a momentary respite from the humid room. But we are not complaining: we like quirky! It will certainly be memorable. As I type, I can hear local Thai men and women in the cafe across the road, talking animatedly over the sound of gentle jazz music.

In the downstairs area of the guest house, a man and a young child were making paper crafts. They took a piece of paper with a pre-printed design on it and used a hammer and a thin chisel to “hole-punch” a design. The man invited us to have a go. It was much harder than he made it look.

Here is the child trying out the hole punching craft.

This is my attempt.

After dropping our bags, showering and a quick rest, we headed to the night market. We were not disappointed. Stall after stall of colourful and tasty food. We are now two full and satisfied bicycle tourists. Tomorrow we are cycling up to Ratchaburi. 

The night market in Phetchaburi with many, many delicious foods.

Day 44: Phetchaburi to Ratchaburi

As we believed we only had 50km to cycle today to our booked accommodation in Ratchaburi, we decided to have a lazy morning in our hotel room, getting up to date with website admin and updating our page on ‘crazyguyonabike’. We left the hotel at midday and set about finding somewhere to enjoy brunch. 

Leaving Phetchaburi. This has to be one of the biggest Thailand flags we’ve seen so far.

We found what we thought was just a normal, cheap Thai cafe and sat down at the usual metallic table and plastic chairs. When the owner came over to see what we’d like, it became clear that they spoke absolutely no English. Zero. So we endeavoured to order some rice or noodles with chicken or pork. We know the words for chicken and pork, so we tried to say, “chicken or pork with rice?” Unfortunately, they didn’t understand a crucial word in that sentence: “or”. 10-15 minutes later, we were brought: sticky rice, salad, chicken AND pork…! It was a feast! We couldn’t turn it down (namely because it was so delicious!). The owners son (I think he was his son) kept displaying youtube videos of his Dad on Thai TV programmes, something about his chicken and the way it was cooked. We smiled and nodded in approval as the man looked proudly at the screen. When we came to pay, the owner wrote 450 on a piece of paper. Holy moly. We usually pay about 80 baht for breakfast. Whoops! We really need to communicate more clearly! At least we had full bellies for the day ahead. 

We then realised that it wasn’t 50km to Ratchaburi as we had thought; it was nearer 70km. Another whoops! It was nearing 1pm, which didn’t leave us with all that much time to cycle 70km with our usual stops. Adam did some quick calculating and thought he could reduce it to 60km with some careful navigating.

Cycling in lush green paddy fields as we head away from Bangkok.

We left Phetchaburi taking a side road, heading through the quiet residential streets towards the countryside.  I was so glad Adam brought us this way, rather than the original route along busier roads. The scenery around us was absolutely stunning: vibrant, green paddy fields stretched out to our left and right, with sporadic coconut trees sprouting here and there. The road was surprisingly good seeing as it was labelled a footpath on the Maps.Me app. It was tarmacked at first, leading onto a gravel road which was completely manageable. After a little while, it did get a little muddy but again, it was manageable as the mud wasn’t too wet. We did cycle through some rural roadworks; the Thai people are very relaxed, just waving us through with those big smiles.

We cycled through a couple of herds of extremely muddy cows. Back in England, I can sometimes be a little-scared walking through a field with cows (especially if I’m with our dog). We managed to slowly cycle through them unscathed! We copied the herdsman’s call to get the cows to move out of the way – I think we nailed it.

The route we were taking led us to cycle along a small river, with the odd house next to the path. We had a not unusual encounter with one residence’s hounds: about 4 or 5 of them rushed out, aggressively barking with intent. To me, it seemed they were really coming for us. And I just broke down. The fear, panic and stress just overwhelmed me and I burst into tears. “I can’t do this anymore Adam!” I blurted, still terrified as the dogs were surrounding us, with more up ahead joining the pack. “I don’t want to be here!” He got me to cycle close to him, acting as a barrier between me and the dogs. As we continued cycling, I couldn’t stop the flow of tears. (I’m a soft, emotional soul!) We had a long talk, and of course, my comments were fuelled by my terror and mental state in that upsetting situation; I didn’t really mean it. Of course I want to be here and of course I CAN do this. I need to believe in myself and understand that I just cannot quit. Well, of course, I can if I want to – but I would forever regret it. Adam hit the nail on the head when he explained that, I have never been in a situation where I have been really, extremely fearful of something. I’m lucky to be able say that.

Each encounter and each time I face my fears, I will get a little stronger. And when we cycle back into Beverley in Yorkshire, when we have successfully cycled back to the UK, I’ll look back on moments like this, where in that moment, I felt like I wanted to quit, and be genuinely proud of myself, for facing my fears and continuing on when the going got tough. Not everyone reacts the way I do in these situations – but we all have our own personal battles. 

After a little while, with the day falling through our fingers, we really needed to make up some miles so we weren’t cycling in the dark. To save some time, we headed onto the frantic and slaving Highway 4 – particularly busy as we’re not that far from Bangkok. As usual, there was a large hard-shoulder, but cycling along these roads is never pleasant. We covered many kms, cycling for just under 2 hours along these industrious roads. 

Even though the busy traffic on highway 4 is horrid, the views towards the mountains can be epic.

Just as the sun was descending in the early evening sky, we arrived into Ratchaburi and found our hotel. They suggested leaving our bikes in the main lobby area which we were really not keen to do. So we made a few trips and heaved our bikes up two flights of stairs into our room. After the usual shower and washing a few clothes, we headed out to a local night market – we love our night markets! We enjoyed more delicious Thai food (pork and noodles in a broth) and treated ourselves to an oh-so-sweet and scrumptious cake: well deserved after today. 

Day 45: Ratchaburi to Kanchanaburi

After spending far too long in bed yesterday morning, and with 80km of cycling planned for the day, we made an effort to not laze around too much and get off bright and early. Well… it wasn’t too early, but leaving the hotel at 0930 wasn’t too bad! Adam had some final camera bits he wanted to buy and he thought they would have them at the ‘Big C’ shopping mall, which was conveniently on our route out of Ratchaburi. Successfully making his necessary camera purchases and buying us a nice breakfast of smoothies and donuts (so very healthy!), Adam then led the way and we got on the road at about 1030.

A healthy and nutritious breakfast of baked goods…

The Maps.Me app route led us along highway 4 out of the city, which wasn’t too busy (we didn’t even really realise it was Highway 4 until we looked at Strava that evening!). Today was a really pleasant day of cycling; we were very happy with the route. Mainly straight roads with not too much navigating required (compared to other days when Adam needs to get his phone out every few kms). We came off Highway 4 after a while and the views around us became greener as we began cycling through the always ravishing Thai countryside. Our route took us along a river for a while: a quiet, flat road which we found to be nice and relaxing.

A local Thai person with a fully loaded bicycle.

We stopped after about 2 hours of cycling at a coffee shop. I bought an iced coffee whilst Adam enjoyed some rest in the shade. As I was buying my coffee, a family were in the small cafe, enjoying the air con and some cold beverages also. In broken English, the owner asked me where we were cycling to. When I told him Chiang Mai, everyone in the cafe was astounded! With such shock and huge smiles on their faces, I could tell they were thoroughly impressed. In broken English, I managed to understand the owner asking me if we were going anywhere else, so I briefly told him the other countries we are intending to cycle through in S.E Asia, China and then all the way back to England. More surprised laughter and nodding heads followed. They were such lovely people: as I joined Adam outside, we were brought glutenous rice coconut snacks wrapped in banana leaves, these dried sweet bread snacks and chopped pineapple. Such generosity! Counting that as our lunch, we set off again. It was 1330 – we planned to cycle another 2 hours before stopping again.

The route continued to blow us away with beautiful scenery. We had a particularly memorable straight length along the 3273: it was a ‘main road’ type road, but the traffic was very thin. Stunning paddy fields stretched out on both sides. As the crops were low, we could see for miles around us. Magnificent hills and mountains dominated the horizon, varying in shades of colour depending on how close they were. Lost in podcasts or music, we each soaked up the memorable vista and atmosphere of this moment in time. To our right, we were blown away by the grand temple, ‘Wat Tham Suea’, nestled on the hillside looking down on its visitors. The road became very busy as we cycled past the parking for this obviously popularly visited temple. We chose not to visit, it was outstanding enough seeing it from a distance. (Also, Adam flew his drone over for a closer look!) 

The road we were taking brought us to the foot of some of those magnificent hills we had seen from a distance. With the towering, rocky hills to our left and the river to our right, it really was a special cycling moment. Definitely a moment to remember. 

Simply stunning.

Before we knew it, we had arrived into Kanchanaburi. We hadn’t taken our second rest stop, but we felt like we didn’t need it with the beautiful views. As is to be expected, the roads suddenly became busy with traffic. Making a U-turn, we cycled into a residential area within the city in search of our hotel. (These are the type of roads that make me nervous: territorial dogs protecting their home. Lucky for us, none came out). After a bit of searching, we found our hotel: ‘Canaan Hotel’. It’s basic but clean and the people working here very friendly. As we have booked two nights, planning to take a rest day tomorrow to explore a local waterfall and to see the famous bridge over the river Kwai, we have booked a room with air-con. The hotel is cheap and close to the bus station to get the bus to the waterfall tomorrow and a local night market.

As usual, we showered and had a little rest before going out to explore the night market. We tried ‘mango sticky rice’ for the first time; Adam enjoyed it. I wasn’t bowled away. We tried some other local foods and made up for our light lunch. After picking up some fruit and banana crepe dessert things (which are delicious!) for breakfast tomorrow, we headed back to the hotel just in time before a torrential downpour released itself onto the city. As we sit on our comfortable bed (the first bed that hasn’t felt like a wooden mattress in a while!), watching the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ – in light of our current location – we feel cosy and happy safe from the rain. We are looking forward to a day off the bikes tomorrow, and a rare bus trip to explore the local area. 

Kanchanaburi night market (near the bus station).

Another Roti stop ūüĎĆ

Day 46: Rest day in Kanchanaburi

The timetable for the bus from Kanchanaburi to Erawan waterfalls.

Unusually for us on a rest day (or any day for that matter!) we set an alarm for 0700 and we were up and at the bus station for 0750 to catch the first bus to Erawan Waterfalls. As our hotel is a convenient 2-minute walk from the bus station, we also had to time to grab a quick breakfast from 7/11 which is opposite. 

The bus journey was such a treat actually! It’s a small local bus (the 8170) which was packed considering the early time. It costs 50 baht one way per person, so all in all 200 baht for both of us to get to the waterfalls and back. In our opinion, it’s definitely worth getting the bus from Kanchanaburi rather than cycling: it would take 3 days to complete the visit otherwise (a day of cycling to get there, a day to enjoy the falls because you really want to make the most of it, then a day of cycling back on yourself, as the road to the falls only leads you to Myanmar!)  It’s 65km to the falls from Kanchanaburi, which took about an hour and a half in the slightly ramshackled bus. The industrial, busy roads gave way to the rural, Thai countryside – rolling green hills and the shimmering, wide river.

The first time we’ve been in a motor vehicle for weeks.

We reached the falls and realised that we had to pay an additional 300 baht admission fee per person. At the time, we were pretty gutted to be honest! Although in GBP 300 baht isn’t much (it’s about ¬£7), it is still way over our daily budget. We look for hotel rooms around that price! So in total, for the two of us to visit the falls it cost 800 baht, which is just under ¬£19. And we were soon to learn that it was definitely worth the money. 

Erawan Waterfalls is made up of 7 tiers of stunning waterfalls, reached by a 1.5km hike along a steep path through the jungle. We’ve been finding the website ‘travel fish’ a handy resource for information about Thailand, and it has a great page about Erawan National Park, including the waterfalls here. We spent about 5 hours at the falls, walking slowly between each one and going for a swim here and there. I only swam in the second one, which has a large pool before the river continues to flow downstream. It wasn’t until I had joined Adam in the water, that I realised there are many fish in the pools, ready and waiting to nibble the dead skin off the feet of swimmers and bathers. It wasn’t painful, but a very peculiar and unnerving experience. It’s safe to say I freaked out when I realised, throwing myself onto a rock and lifting as much of my body out of the water and away from the suckling fish. I took a lot of coaxing to return to the water to swim out to the waterfall, but I’m glad I did. (Although when I say swim, I mean I wrapped my arms and legs around Adam’s back and he basically piggy backed me through the water!) But the experience and memory of fighting through such an extreme weight of cascading water to then sit on a rocky nook and hang out, peering through the gushing water at the pool and swimmers on the other side, is not one I will forget in a hurry.

Some of the “suckling” fish

The entrance fee was worth it for views like this.

Adam went for a swim in pretty much every waterfall.

The path leading upwards to the consequent waterfalls was often slippery and muddy in parts, with some steep steps. Adam was like an excited child on Christmas day, gleefully bounding into each waterfall, GoPro in hand, exploring and relishing his surroundings. Slightly more demurely, I decided to absorb the beauty of each waterfall without jumping back into the water. It was a calming experience to witness these amazing sights. As we neared waterfall 7, you have to walk and climb in parts over a small waterfall and pools of water, so if you’re reading this and thinking of heading to the falls, make sure to take some shoes that have good grip and that you don’t mind getting completely drenched. I stupidly wore my white converse trainers… they are now my brown converse trainers. Also, go as early as you can. When we had descended back down the path and were heading to the Visitor’s Centre area to catch the bus back to Kanchanaburi, the 1st and 2nd waterfalls were extremely crowded. This was at about 3pm. It was certainly not quiet on our hike up, we were almost constantly joined by other tourists, mainly French and Russian we found. 

The 7th waterfall really was worth the wet and muddy hike; the sheer height and magnitude of it took my breath away. Although we went over our budget today, we enjoyed being tourists for a day and we are so glad we took the time to visit this stunning area of natural beauty. After all, isn’t this what travelling is all about?! 

After another crowded and hot bus back where I resembled a nodding dog, (I always fall asleep on bus journeys, with my head lolling all over the place! It amuses Adam greatly to take pictures of me… he could fill a whole photo album by now.) we were back in Kanchanaburi and ready for a little rest after our day of muddy hiking and waterfall frolicking. After 6 weeks of cycling, we are fully in the cycling ‘zone’ now, so I found today’s hike, despite being a short one, pretty exhausting! I usually switch off and relax on our rest days as well so I often find I’m more tired. 

Everybody (but Adam) sleeping on the bus home.

We enjoyed another evening at the night market, enjoying Pad Thai with sweet roti canai for dessert. Tomorrow we will continue north, heading in the direction of Sukhothai, which is where we will most likely have our next rest day in about a weeks time. 

Day 47: Kanchanaburi to Nong Prue

As usual, we didn’t set an alarm so once we were awake, up and ready we left our hotel and got back on the road. With a quick stop off at 7/11 as usual for breakfast (we love the hot chicken burger!) and snacks for the road, we headed to the famous ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’.

Built by the Japanese in World War II, the railway the bridge covers completed the rail link between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma. Several bridges, including this ‘River Kwai’ bridge, were built at the same time. According to Wikipedia, between 180,000 and 250,000 Southeast Asian civilian labourers and about 61,000 Allied prisoners of war were subjected to forced labour during its construction. About 90,000 civilian labourers and more than 12,000 Allied prisoners died. I’m glad we took the time to visit this site before we left Kanchanaburi. As Adam is technically still in the British Army, it holds significance for him to visit a place where so many British soldiers tragically lost their lives. Coincidentally, a train was travelling across the bridge just as we arrived. It was busy with tourists and looked like a pleasant place to spend some time exploring the local area as there are some museums and a British War Memorial, but the road was calling, so off we pedalled. 

The Bridge over the River Kwai

We began the day on route 323, which was fairly busy with traffic, but as usual, we had a generous hard shoulder. After this, we took the 3398 and then the 3086 all the way to Nong Prue, so there was little navigating required from Adam. It wasn’t a particularly ‘pretty’ day, but the roads were straight and the hard shoulder continued to be good. We were cooled by the overcast weather, avoiding the rain and staying dry which is always appreciated!

It was a straightforward day with not much to report. The roads were good but nothing ‘spectacular’ view wise. We stopped a couple of times to eat our 7/11 snacks and for lunch – the usual chicken and rice went down a treat. 

One of the many statues we’ve come across in Buddhist temples.

Cycling into Nong Prue, a young man on a scooter with a toddler in front of him slowed to our pace and gave us a big smile and wave, encouraging the toddler to wave hello. We waved back as we looked for a guesthouse to stay for the evening. We had seen someone else had stayed in a guesthouse on their ‘crazyguyonabike’ page in this town. But after a fruitless search, we couldn’t find the same one. So we cycled along the main street through the small town, looking for somewhere to stay. The man on a scooter drove past us slowly again, and asked us if we were looking for a hotel. We nodded and he indicated we should follow him and he would take us to one. What a nice man! He did just that. The hotel he brought us to was just passed a police station. After the man had gone on his way, Adam suggested we ask at the police station if we could camp in their grounds. We had heard that other people have done this in Thailand with no problems. 

So we cycled up to the station and asked – success! We camped outside the front of the station, underneath a tin roof which was a car park area in front of the ‘investigation room’. They said we could use their toilet and they even offered us cold water, coffee and some fresh fruit. We got asked for some selfies and, despite having very little communication, a few good laughs. Another free nights accommodation in the bag is always a good thing. We spent a bit of time in the tent planning our route for the rest of Thailand. We still have roughly 30 days to enjoy this diverse country. We are considering heading to the North West to do the Mae Hong Song loop.

One of the more interesting sleeping spots of the journey so far.

We had a tin roof above the tent which meant no waterproof covering=cooler night sleep in the humidity.

Day 48: Nong Prue to Nong Chang

My eyelids heavy and body slightly constricted in my silk liner, I am abruptly awoken by a car exhaust springing to life. It reverses out of the space it occupied next to our tent. I pull my eye-mask off my eyes and blink in the bright morning sunlight. Next to me, Adam is already awake, scrolling through his phone, most likely reading the BBC News headlines. “Good morning, how did you sleep?” “S**t.” I reply – not the most accurate or joyful word to begin my day. It seems the police station is the trendiest and busiest place for all the local stray dogs to hang out during the night, and we were treated to their displays of dominance through their incessant barking and mauling of one another whilst we attempted to sleep. I look at my phone, it’s 6am. As the tent is already starting to heat up with the first of the day’s hot rays of sunshine, we resign ourselves that there is no more sleep to come, and set about packing away and setting off bright and early.

One of the few days of the journey where we actually woke up early enough to watch the sun rise.

We hit the road an hour or so later. My spirits and energy lifted slightly after my sink wash in the police station. Our first road is a rural road, lined with sugar plantations and pineapple crops. Shortly after this, we turn onto a 4 digit road: single lane both ways with a considerate hard shoulder. We didn’t know much about this route or what it would be like. We were pleasantly surprised that today turned out to be extremely enjoyable and picturesque. 

Similarly to yesterday, it was a straightforward day navigation wise and we made good progress by setting off early and along the smooth tarmacked roads. Our initial destination target was the town Ban Rai. As we got closer however, we realised that we had time and energy to push a little further, to Nong Chang. Despite a slightly broken sleep (for me – Adam can sleep through pretty much anything!), I felt good about having a long 100+km day. We hadn’t had one since Malaysia, we had the time and we were both in the right mindset. We had plenty of stops though and enjoyed some delicious food: an amazing, huge stick of barbecued chicken and sticky rice, general snacks from 7/11, fizzy drinks for energy, chicken and salad for lunch which was SO tasty, fresh pineapple and juicy sweets. We definitely didn’t go hungry and had plenty of energy for the long cycle.

Not much beats freshly bbq chicken on a stick.

The roads surprised us: they were stunning. We were gifted with a combination of huge mountains in the distance, vibrant green paddy fields and magnificent rocky outcrops. It certainly wasn’t flat, we enjoyed a few rolling hills but they made the day even better. I never thought I would say this, but it’s really satisfying to, in my case, ‘granny-gear-crawl’ up a hill, sweating profusely in the blazing sun, and be rewarded with the cool breeze of the blissful downhill. We listened to some great podcasts, including one on the Adventure Sports Podcast. They were interviewing Willie Weir who has cycled 60,000 miles, bike touring across countries and continents. It was an enlightening and inspiring listen; if you’re into bicycle touring or not, I would highly recommend it. This inevitably led us onto some meaningful and close conversations, as we can often cycle next to each other with the huge hard shoulder. One of the great things about bicycle touring: unbroken, quality time with one another.  

These huge bike lanes make cycling through Thailand extremely pleasant. These should be placed on all UK roads.

As we approached Nong Chang, we were again looking for somewhere to stay. About 10km prior to arriving at the town, I spied a resort which wasn’t on Google Maps or Agoda (our usual hotel booking website). We cycled in. Although they spoke little English (which is very common, we really should make a better effort with our Thai), we managed to communicate that we wanted one room for one night. So we have a spacious room with wifi and aircon for 400 baht. Not the cheapest accommodation but definitely not the most expensive we’ve had. After camping last night, it’s nice to have the space to wash our clothes and have a proper shower. Luckily, they also provided food, so we were able to buy a good-sized portion of chicken and rice which finished our day nicely.

Tomorrow we continue heading North, towards Kamphaeng Phet and then Sukhothai. It is a wiggly route – but we like wiggly! It allows us to really experience this exquisite country.  

Just one of the ever-changing landscapes of Thailand.

Day 49: Nong Chang to Salokbat

After a long day in the saddle yesterday, we didn’t rush off at the crack of dawn. We began the day with another healthy breakfast of Nutella sandwiches and jam sandwiches; we left our comfortable hotel room at about 10.00 –  clean, wet clothes securely attached to our rear racks and panniers alongside our new favourite piece of kit. A couple of days ago we had a brilliant find: two sticks just the right length with a ‘Y’ at the top – perfect for a ‘stick stand’! It can be a bit of a pain finding somewhere to lean the bikes outside a shop or cafe (we tried to attach kickstands to our bikes in the UK but they broke, unable to withstand the weight. Our surly bikes are not designed for kickstands). These ‘stick stands’ are the perfect solution; it’s so nice to be able to just lean the bike against the stick and not have to pull it up a large curb and find somewhere precarious to lean it against. PLUS – the ‘stick stand’ has another purpose: (everything on a bike tour needs two purposes, otherwise it’s not worth carrying it!) a dog repellent! We would never actually strike a dog with the stick, but it’s great to wield the stick above your head, screaming wildly with your best war cry, when an aggressive dog decides to hunt us.

Our free “stick-stands” made from good old fashioned sticks.

Today was flown by. Again, with not a great lot to see in this region of Thailand, we stuck to the straight, flat roads with their charitable hard shoulders, and pedalled without a great lot of effort but making considerable distance. We didn’t have a definite target or destination for the day; with a couple of different options, we left them open to see how the day would unfold. The roads led us through a lot of unoccupied Thai countryside: beautiful, green fields stretching out to our left and right, with tall grasses blowing in the gentle breeze. It was another scorching hot day, but we find that when we’re cycling there is that soft wind cooling us down ever so slightly! It was a relaxing cycle, as there weren’t many houses in the countryside it allowed me to feel at ease, knowing that it was unlikely there would be many territorial dogs to chase us. Stray dogs with no home very rarely give chase. However, with our trusty sticks and with each day that passes, I am growing in confidence.

We cycled through several towns, allowing us to keep our water topped up and our bellies satisfied. As we had stocked up with snacks, we didn’t stop for a proper lunch. 7/11 sandwiches, fresh pineapple from a little fruit stall and chocolate biscuits kept us appeased. Stopping when we saw nice views and wanted to take photos, videos or just soak in the environment for a while, we kept a leisurely pace. 

Local farmers setting fire to their crops. I’m not sure what the purpose is. To aid fertilisation? To control overgrowth?

A decision point came near a town called ‘Lat Yao’. Adam had spied a hotel, the only one he could find on Google Maps or the Maps.Me app, but it would make our day another 100km ride. We decided to head towards it, and if we found another place to stay on the way there, we would take it. We could have found somewhere to camp, however, I’ve had a dodgy stomach for a couple of days, and it’s always more comfortable in a hotel room – especially when they’re so reasonably cheap! 

So we cycled towards the busy Highway 1 – one of the busiest roads in Thailand that links Bangkok to Chiang Mai. On the way, we were overtaken by three Thai men on road bikes. They gave us friendly waves and in a little while we spotted them sat outside a small roadside stall. They beckoned us over and offered us some delicious iced snack: crushed ice drizzled with sweet, pink sauce. We gratefully accepted and began to enjoy their offering. We attempted to converse but they spoke no English and our Thai is woefully inadequate to zilch. They enjoyed peering at our bikes, inspecting the different parts. As we made our way through the frozen treat, we realised there were bits of bread and pieces of sticky hard, white fruit. A strange but satisfying gift to get us through our final kilometres. They asked us if we had somewhere to stay tonight (“Hotel?”) We tried to convey that we were looking for one on the nearing Highway. One of the men drew a map on the back of an envelope, confirming there was a hotel 15km away, along that busy road. We thanked him, much obliged that he confirmed our thoughts on our accommodation for the evening.

Setting back off for the final leg, we were feeling tired but the delightful evening sun descending in the sky renewed our energy. We thoroughly enjoy riding at this time of day; dusk often results in a wonderful scenery around us – and today didn’t disappoint. Although Highway 1 was, to be expected, busy with heavy and noisy traffic, as usual, Thailand provided us with an excellent hard-shoulder. Spotify playlists loudly playing on our speakers, we pedalled hard – enjoying the fast pace to reach our final destination. A huge monkey statue welcomed us into a busy, motorway resort (hotel). Unfortunately, they were full! Dismayed, we ventured back onto the highway, reassured that there was another hotel 4km up the road, or so we were told.

We spent about 18km on the dreaded highway 1. It wasn’t actually all that bad but we won’t be making a habit of cycling on highways.

As darkness enveloped the sky, we cycled into an area with many shops and restaurants lining the road. We stopped and enjoyed an absolutely delicious pork, rice and vegetable meal. It was so, so tasty and much needed after 97km. Lights switched on, into the black night we then cycled, taking a left turn off the highway onto a slightly quieter street which was where the hotel Adam had spotted on Maps.Me was located. 

We found one hotel: 600 baht – too much for us cheap bicycle tourists. Knowing that there were other hotels further up the road (this wasn’t the one we had spotted earlier online), we decided to take our chances to find another, cheaper place. Second hotel: 300 baht – much better! We took it, and delightfully the room has wifi, good internet, a comfortable bed not made of wood and a warm shower. 

And relax! We’ve cycled 216km in 2 days and we’re pretty chuffed with ourselves. On these flat roads where there’s not a whole lot to see except pretty countryside, it’s nice to make the miles up so we can enjoy perhaps an extra rest day somewhere interesting. Tomorrow we cycle to Kamphaeng Phet, where we might possibly enjoy a rest day to enable us to explore the UNESCO world heritage site there. 

Week 6: Onwards to Bangkok?
Eating Bugs and Climbing Mountains in Thailand

1 comment

Such great detail Lu, I absolutely love reading it, you have a brilliant way with words. And of course it makes me feel almost like I am there experiencing it with you! (If only!) xxx xxx

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