The Land of the Smile

Finally. We had arrived. In Thailand. In Bangkok to be more precise. One month late, but better late than never. The third leg of our journey has begun. We were so excited, about the warm weather, the cleanliness, our wonderful hotel in Bangkok, the food, the shopping haven, the people, the supermarkets – they have Tesco’s everywhere and you can get whatever your western stomach yearns for – actually we got excited about everything.

Room with a view

Room with a view

We’ve also become invisible. I am again the 44-year-old woman no stranger cares about, Johan is my 49-year-old companion, also nobody cares about and we’re just happy. We can talk on the streets without being interrupted by some strangers who desperately want to know everything and help us even though we don’t need any help. We can cycle in our sports outfit including helmets without being laughed at, while people still greet us, welcome us and give us their thumbs up when they see us touring, but that’s about all. And we enjoy it so much!

We spent three crazy days in Bangkok. Crazy, because we actually really needed a break from everything including cycling but woke early every day to spend all day in the city shopping and sightseeing until we came back to our wonderful hotel late in the evening. We wanted to do everything, even having a drink at Sirocco, a posh bar overlooking Bangkok and recommended by Johan’s brother Reinier, but were denied access as our wardrobe would have offended the other guest’s taste buds. Neither shorts, sandals, flip flops nor sneakers are allowed there and my beautiful pink wedding dress was already on its way to Empfingen😉.

Bangkok skyline with its colorful taxis

Bangkok skyline with its colorful taxis

At the Royal Palace

At the Royal Palace

At the flower market

At the flower market

Chinatown

Chinatown

Lunch "Bei Otto" in Bangkok with beer, Wiener Schnitzel, baked potatoes and Suabian potato salad. Mmmmmmh!

Lunch “Bei Otto” in Bangkok with beer, Wiener Schnitzel, baked potatoes and Swabian potato salad. Mmmmmmh!

So we saved our money and instead spent it to replace our threadbare bike trousers, get the long-needed shirt for Johan, new waterproof bags for our tent and mattresses as both our bags had a few holes and with the pouring tropical rain we do not want to risk that our sleeping gear gets soaked. My new bike trousers turned out to be crap as they don’t protect me where they should. In Thailand they only sell unisex models which should fit all but me of course. Hence, after one 80km-cycling day I ripped open my skin and it still hasn’t fully healed after more than a week not on the bike. I am still thinking how I could recycle these trousers but most likely they will get buried on Ko Samet, despite their misbehavior!

As planned we left Bangkok on Thursday, February 7, an adventure in itself as we had no map for Bangkok and road signs were either illegible or non-existing. The traffic was quite moderate compared to what we were used from Indian cities except for the harbor area, where we shared a poor and narrow road without shoulders but huge holes with many, many trucks. This was also when we decided to buy a map, as we just couldn’t find our way out of this huge city. I think it took us about three hours and 30km to get out of there an onto the highway heading south.

The heat and humidity were breathtaking, literally. We had to stop often for drink breaks as we weren’t used to cycling in such hot weather and we decided to stop early, after only 40km. It was a wise decision as the iced coffee we had earlier that afternoon wasn’t a great idea, we both reacted with upset stomachs.

A bike path for a few kilometers

A bike path for a few kilometers

We continued the following day along the highway and along one after the other city or industrial area. Cycling was easy on great roads, but far from being pleasant as we were missing nice scenery and quiet roads. Something that had to wait for later as our only goal was to get as soon as possible to the island to start our vacation. We reached Si Racha, a small fishertown about 20km before infamous Pattaya and decided to stay two nights to get used to the heat. We stayed in one of the many stilt houses, an interesting experience, especially if you are sitting on your terrace and your neighbor is using the bathroom (these houses don’t have sewers, all goes directly into the sea). We didn’t really get excited about a swim in the sea there….. as you can imagine.

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The next cycling day was as uneventful and unpleasant as all previous days as the scenery didn’t change and we were just grateful that the cycling itself went OK as we had good road conditions and even tailwinds from time to time. After another stop at a beach hotel right before the ferry to Ko Samet, our first swim in the sea and a good night’s airco sleep we finally took a morning boat to Ko Samet to start our well-deserved vacation. We found a beautiful little hut in the more quiet northern part of the island, with WiFi, airco, fridge and direct access to the lonely beach. Our vacation had begun!

On the boat to Ko Samet

On the boat to Ko Samet

Mermaid's welcome at the pier on Ko Samet

Mermaid’s welcome at the pier on Ko Samet

Our new home for 10 days and 11 nights

Our new home for 10 days and 11 nights

'Our' view from 'our' new home

‘Our’ view from ‘our’ new home

In total we spent ten full days on Ko Samet. Originally we only wanted to stay one week but Johan’s stomach continued to be very upset and he went to see a doctor to finally get rid of the problem. Some antibiotics and other pills did the trick and since Monday he is feeling well again and we decided to leave tomorrow, Thursday, February 21.

Ko Samet is a beautiful little island and we walked a lot as our new home is about 2.5km outside the village. There are a lot of small but also a few bigger beaches but we concluded that we liked our beach the most, as we were most of the times the only ones there.

'Our' beach

‘Our’ beach to the left…

...and to the right

…and to the right

As Johan’s health didn’t allow much activity at the beginning we really relaxed, enjoyed our self-cooked food, fresh bread from the bakery, went for a swim, went to the village for some grocery shopping, often twice per day, exercised our neglected muscles, got a nice Thai massage, planned our route through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, read a lot, slept a lot and I tried to get used to the new wildlife around me: lizards, that let themselves fall down from the ceiling right next to me with a loud ‘pflutch’ and scaring me to death, geckos calling their names in the evenings and sometimes showing up during the day, spiders, cockroaches and snakes. Unfortunately we didn’t see any hornbills, as the island’s information map promised.

Johan repairing the second puncture on the island - we decided to no longer use our bikes for 'personal' reasons!

Johan repairing the second puncture on the island – we decided to no longer use our bikes for ‘personal’ reasons!

Is this a blowfish?

Is this a blowfish?

Our friend Rudi, the gecko, he's about 50cm long

Our friend Rudi, the gecko, he’s about 50cm long

Before I even saw the first snake I couldn’t sleep one night because I thought about snakes crawling into our hut. One night, we were just in bed, we heard loud noises from the bathroom as if someone was throwing himself against the door. I didn’t dare to leave the safety of my bed, but Johan, my super hero, went to the bathroom door, however, also didn’t dare to open it but instead knocked on it heavily. That tells you already how scary of an experience that was! This noise went on for a few minutes and then disappeared. Nothing was to be seen the next morning.

Yesterday we walked all the way south to the other end of the island, about 9km one way. We walked through forests, along the beach, cove-hopped, had lunch and drinks on one of the beaches and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, until Johan spotted the first snake: just crawling out of a palm tree next to the beach. Snakes are by the way my most feared animals. Later, when we walked home we saw another huge snake – about 1.5 meters long – with a mouse in its mouth just laying next to the path we were walking on and crossing it when we went passed him. This time I spotted the snake and run away screaming. By the time we had our camera at hand the snake had disappeared in the forest. I still get goose bumps if I think about it and I’m afraid that’s not the last one we’ll see.

Beautiful beaches, ...

Beautiful beaches, …

a scary golden-tree-snake,...

…a scary golden-tree-snake,…

free climbing,...

…free climbing,…

...cove-hopping,....

…cove-hopping,….

...yummy grilled insects for lunch,....

…yummy grilled insects for lunch,….

....and this all in one day to reach the bottom of the island.

….and all this in one day to reach the bottom of the island.

Not are we the only ones on our beach, we are also the only ones walking on the island. Everybody is either taking taxis, renting motorbikes or quads. The worst is that everybody seems to think they can ride these vehicles, but they can’t, as the roads on the island are just undulating dirt paths with huge rocks in between, something more for experienced riders. Unsurprisingly we saw a few accidents or people walking around bandaged. The tourist information’s map even warns to ride a motorbike the last kilometers in the south as the climbs are so extremely steep and the roads so soft and sandy that we would not have managed to push up our fully loaded bikes. We actually hardly managed to walk it as the path was so slippery.

Today is our last vacation day, back to work tomorrow again. Let’s hope we’ll cope well with the heat, we’ll be able to ride on well-maintained roads with little traffic and find nice and cheap accommodation along the way. If all goes well and we’ll get our Cambodian visas we’ll cross the border on Saturday. We’ll stay in Cambodia for about three to four weeks before we move on to Vietnam. I will continue writing about our journey, but updates might not come in as regularly as they used to as WiFi connection will most likely only be available in the bigger cities, if at all.

Thanks for reading and staying connected with us through the blog.

5 thoughts on “The Land of the Smile

  1. Very much enjoying your posts. After India I had hoped you would have found things easier, but I see the catalogue of mono disasters and fears continues. Ill-fitting shorts, tropical downpours, tummy bugs, dangerous roads, bugs and snakes. You are not exactly selling the prospect of us following you anytime soon! I hope you find a downhill with tailwinds stretch before long and travel safely.

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