1 – 7 July, 2013 – After a few hundred kilometers of cycling in the lowlands of northeast Thailand we were back in the mountains. Not the real big ones but high and steep enough to make us sweat and pant, especially because the climb started after 100km against the wind. We were on our way to Khao Yai National Park and took for the first time roads that were not on our map. The previous evening I looked up a route on Google maps as we wanted to avoid the oh so busy highways. And surprisingly it went really well. Once again thanks to great signposts even on the smallest back roads but also thanks to many helpful people on the way. We didn’t get lost a single time.
As I wrote above, after a strenuous day and about 100km cycling we started to climb hoping for a place to stay. We stopped at the first guesthouse. They wanted to charge almost 50 EUR for the night so we decided to continue pedalling. The second place we found was much cheaper, still not what we are used to pay but we were too tired to continue and as it was already almost 6pm we wanted to stop before it was getting dark as we were once again cycling on a four-line highway. The hotel was great, a stylish room with huge windows overlooking the jungle. We felt a bit like fish in an aquarium but didn’t really mind as the view was fantastic. Service and cleanliness weren’t as fantastic but we were glad we had found a place to eat, wash and sleep.
We slept in the next morning (until 7am ;-)) and continued our journey to the park late which is never a good choice in this hot and humid season as the temperature was already in the lower 30’s. After a tough day, the heat and Johan not feeling too well we decided to have a long lunch break at a holiday resort. As such a nice idea especially if there are nice lounge chairs, WiFi and food. However the service was really bad, food portions extremely small and extremely expensive and staff more interested in their computer games than us. By 3pm we continued a bit and checked into a homestay an hour later.
By now we were about 60km before the national park and cycled through undulating valleys that resembled more the Tuscany in Italy than Thailand. The moment I thought this I saw the sign ‘Tuscany valley’. Surprise, surprise. Along the road were hundreds of luxury hotels and resorts and more signs for new resorts to be built in the future. Absolutely amazing. Before lunch we arrived at the park entrance and decided to look for a guesthouse outside the park to organise our visit to the park.
Hotels were either expensive or run down so we decided to camp in the garden of one little hotel as they had camping facilities anyway. And we still paid as much as we usually pay for a guesthouse room. One downside of camping at people’s houses or at a hotel is that most of them have cats and cats like to play, especially with our tent. Which as such in fun to look at, but the holes in our tent aren’t fun, I can tell you. We can hardly get them off the tent and as soon as they are thrown onto the lawn, they are back again: on the tent, under the tent, in the tent, hanging on one of the pole cords and having their fun of a lifetime!
The following day we spent finding a tour organizer to visit the park as we wanted to see as many wild animals as possible. Khao Yai is Thailand’s oldest and most visited national park, covering an area of more than 2,000 square kilometers. It was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005 as it incorporates one of the largest still intact monsoon forests in mainland Asia. 200 wild elephants live there as well and we were hoping to see a few of them.
We had a great day in the park with a very knowledgable guide, trekked through thick jungle and grassland, saw many wild species, but no elephants. Johan attracted a leech between his toes exactly the moment he took off his anti-leech socks. Thankfully the land-leeches are much smaller and less disgusting than the water-leeches, but still, everybody was scared of getting one as well.
As the park day started early and ended late we decided to stay another day at the guesthouse to catch-up on other stuff.
Our next destination was Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, as Thailand was called until the 17th century. Another UNESCO world heritage site with many old temple ruins and a lot of other sites to visit. Getting there was easy despite a distance of almost 130km as we would descent all morning and cycle on flat roads all afternoon. We checked into a beautiful 100-year-old wooden guesthouse, had a delicious Thai dinner and slept early. Despite the ‘easy’ ride, we felt the many kilometers and were really tired.
1 July, Pa Kham – Wang Nam Khiao, 119km
2 July, Wang Nam Khiao – Lam Phra Phloeng, 37km
3 July, Lam Phra Phloeng – Khao Yai, 64km
4 July, Khao Yai – Pak Chong, 16km
5/6 July – rest days
7 July, Pak Chong – Ayutthaya, 127km
Total distance cycled: 13,890km of which 1,304km in Thailand