Another race against time

20 – 25 July, 2013 – Not only did we enjoy the guesthouse, Phetchaburi is a nice little town itself and our travel guide didn’t promise too much: the town has temples and palaces like Ayutthaya, jungles and cave shrines like Kanchanaburi and access to the coast unlike either of the two. We could easily have spent a few more days there, but we had to move on as we wanted to meet with our friend Sonia on Koh Samui. Almost a mission impossible!

We visited the Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park atop a small hill surveying the city. The palace and surrounding temples were built in 1859 as a retreat from Bangkok and built in a mix of European and Chinese styles. This visit almost became another mission impossible as the steep footpath passes a troop of unpredictable monkeys. There were warnings everywhere: ‘Don’t feed the monkeys’, ‘Don’t tease the monkeys’, ‘Beware of monkeys’. And these monsters were everywhere around us, I got really scared as they would constantly follow me and come really close – I am sure they could smell my fear – that we decided half way up to give in and leave again. But a nice Thai guard saw what happened and came with his moped and a slingshot and guided us all the way up. Thankfully as it would have been a pity to miss the beautiful palace and temples. Interestingly the monkeys did not approach Thai people, so on our way down we decided to just stay close to a Thai family and walk down with them. It worked!

A monster waiting for Baerbel to pass

A monster waiting for Baerbel to pass

On top of the mountain

On top of the mountain

A small temple next to the palace

A small temple next to the palace

Dinner at the night market

Dinner at the night market

The next day we left Phetchaburi and said our goodbyes to the ‘two Ns’. All morning we continued following the scenic and quiet coastal road that even has a dedicated bike path which isn’t used for parking. We had lunch at horribly touristic Cha-Am where we again saw lots of old men with beautiful young Thai girls. Brrrrrrr! The afternoon continued less scenic but on the very busy three- to four-lane highway #4. On top we passed a horrible motorbike accident which we both wouldn’t forget for a while. We actually had to stop at the next possibility because we were both trembling from shock. I’ll spare you the details. We continued cycling on this highway most of the afternoon, got again a bottle of water each, this time handed over from a moped and finally left the busy road by 4pm. As accommodation on this part of the coast is costly we decided to camp at a temple with a few other Thai people who happened to sell on a local market.

Goodbye Nisa and Nit

Goodbye Nisa and Nit

'Our' road for the morning

‘Our’ road for the morning

Fisherman's house

Fisherman’s house

My t-shirt matches perfectly with the color of the boats ;-0

My t-shirt matches perfectly with the color of the boats ;-0

Mirror rice paddy

Mirror rice paddy

Market view in front of the temple

Market view in front of the temple

Our bivouac at the temple

Our bivouac at the temple

Cooking for the market people

Cooking for the market people

Early the following morning we continued our journey through a beautiful national park until the road suddenly ended – at a camp site! We couldn’t believe it as once more there was a coastal road through the park on our map, but it wasn’t nowhere to find in reality so we turned and cycled back knowing we would loose a lot of time on a race against time. Today would become the day of a million breaks as it felt as if we would stop forever. First coffee break was at 9.45h, followed by lunch at 11am. Shortly after lunch – we by the way still cycled along the coast on quiet roads – we met a French cycling couple who had been on the road for seven years now. Shortly after we exchanged our contact details (approx. 5min later) we stopped for another coffee at a resort, where we got more water for free (a special offer for cyclists from the resort), sold a bracelet to a nice woman from the UK now living in Bangkok, continued cycling for about 30min, got hungry once more, stopped once more and got fruit for free, continued riding again with a still hungry stomach when suddenly signs posted along the road state ‘Buy one pizza, get one for free’. Our goal was now to find this restaurant and have pizza. After about an hour cycling a beautiful resort appeared on the left hand side and when we came closer we found out it was the pizza place. We parked our bikes and couldn’t get in there fast enough to order two huge and tasty pizzas. By the time we left it was already 4.30pm, normally time for us to find a place to sleep, but we needed to pedal a bit more as we had a deadline to meet. About two hours later we found a horrible and run-down resort, where we were greeted by some nasty and barking dogs. We had to call for a while until two women appeared and asked an outrageous price of 20EUR for one of the worst places ever. But as they had no other guests we were able to negotiate the price down to 10EUR. Unfortunately we stayed as the next day we passed through a nice little town just 15km away with a lot of small and handsome places to sleep. But these things you cannot know in advance and we survived the night.

First break

First break

A beautiful coastal road just for us

A beautiful coastal road just for us

Against the wind - all four days!

Against the wind – all four days (Johan is posing the wrong way)!

Leaving the coastal road for infamous highway #4

Leaving the coastal road for infamous highway #4

Highway #4

Highway #4

Meeting the French on a hill made by Johan (we've been cycling on flat roads!)

Meeting the French on a hill made by Johan (we’ve been cycling on flat roads!)

Our little horror setting by the beach

Our little horror setting by the beach

Beautiful morning at the same horrible place

Beautiful morning at the same horrible place

The third day of our race against time we cycled all day long through the rain. As we again tried to avoid the busy highway, we tried to cycle through another national park. At the park entrance we were already told that we cannot cycle through it despite roads going through the park. After having asked many questions we convinced the guide, that we could cycle through the park, we told him we didn’t mind unsealed roads. He then let us into the park and we cycled for about 3.5km to the park information. There we asked again and same answer: no, you cannot cycle through the park. This time, because it seemed to be too dangerous, too many dangerous animals such as scorpions, spiders, king cobras and other snakes. We continued asking other people and in the end decided to go back to highway 4, just for the sake of it and to not lose any more time. By the time we were back on the highway it poured. The rain was becoming so hard, that the rain drops were pricking my face like small needles. We didn’t bother anymore to put on our rain gear as we usually become as wet inside as outside. By lunchtime I was frozen despite the temperatures still being in the low 20’s. Even after a two-hour-lunch break the downpours wouldn’t stop and we decided to continue our journey. Despite cycling through jungles along the coast it wasn’t fun at all and we stopped early again. As a fruit seller didn’t have change for the bananas we wanted to buy, the nice woman just gave them to us for free, our breakfast was secured. Luckily we also quickly found a nice little guesthouse with a cold shower and a great restaurant close-by and did not have to camp in the rain.

The following day should become one of our most strenuous days in Thailand. Still feeling yesterday’s pain and bad weather it didn’t go from the first minute we stepped on the bikes. To make matters worse, it continued raining all morning and we fought against a tough headwind on undulating roads. And besides a good self-made breakfast we couldn’t get any food along the way other than chips, sweets, some salted nuts and ice-cream. A very bad diet if you have to cycle hard. The landscape was fantastic though, still along the coast and lonely beaches, still through forests and for the first time long stretches of no civilization at all (except for the perfect road of course). After 6pm we arrived shattered at our chosen guesthouse and the lady recommended us to take the night ferry to get on time to Ko Samui. We first weren’t really excited about the idea as we were so tired, but then thought it to be a good idea as we would safe the hotel and were one island closer to our meeting with Sonia. Oh if we had known then……

Beautiful beaches,...

Beautiful beaches,…

...lush green jungle next to quiet roads,...

…lush green jungle next to quiet roads,…

...a power nap....

…a power nap….

...and never ending roads.

…and never ending roads.

On the ferry we had a bed each, which was great, except that we could go on board at 10.30pm only as we wanted to watch our bikes closely and Johan helped the staff to park it safely. We arrived on our first island that day at 4am, disembarked and hung around in the harbor as non of the ferry agencies were open at that time. However, by 5am a few backpackers started to gather. We were quite surprised as we were told the first boat would only leave at 9.30am and Johan started to queue with them while I was watching our bikes. After what felt like hours Johan came back annoyed telling me that there were no ferries for us today all was fully booked and we decided to buy a ticket for the following afternoon at 4.30pm. As I really wanted to see Sonia and she would leave two days later, I was a little disappointed as I knew there wasn’t really much time left.

In the meantime Ko Tao came to life and a few restaurants and bars opened. We sat down somewhere and had breakfast. Johan tried once again to check for tickets and came back about 20 minutes later with a big smile on his face telling me he could buy tickets for us for 9.30am today, we would just lose one of our already bought tickets as they don’t reimburse them. We agreed to do it just to learn, that our bikes had to go separately. How could they even think about separating parents from their children???? Rudi and Smokey alone on a boat? No way, not with us. So we decided instead of going directly to Ko Samui to take a boat together with our bikes and just hop onto the next island Ko Pha-Ngan and from there try to find another boat to Ko Samui. Done deal, we bought the tickets, entered the second ferry within a day, sandwiched between hundreds of other tourists and in the glistening heat and arrived by noon on Ko Pha-Ngan.

What expected us there was beyond our understanding. Hundreds of young people, tall, small, large, skinny, not so skinny, fat, chubby, pretty, ugly, boring, funny, crazy, dressed-up in the smallest bikinis and swimming trousers I’ve ever seen, faces and bodies painted in all kinds of colors, tattooed on every possible and impossible spot of their bodies, drugged and drunk waited to hop on a ferry… to happiness maybe? Well, we learned later that it was the night of the full-moon party, which explained it all. While we walked our way through the hundreds and hundreds of people blocking the way I was just thinking to myself, please let me get out of here as quickly as possible before I burst out screaming and behaving like a weirdo myself.

Within no time Johan was able to secure four more ferry tickets to Ko Samui, two for us and two for our bikes and we happily settled down in a cafe, had lunch and killed time until our final and third embarkment for the day. The last journey was the shortest and after about 30 minutes we arrived on Ko Samui, looked for a hotel as it was already too late to cycle to the other side of the island, had a nice Thai dinner and went to bed on time.

Our night ferry

Our night ferry

Can you spot our bikes between all the other cargo?

Can you spot our bikes between all the other cargo?

P1080839

"Can you please get up, you are sitting on my diving equipment?!" Oooops!

“Can you please get up, you are sitting on my diving equipment?!” Oooops!

DSCF5131

DSCF5163

VACATION FINALLY!

Distances cycled:

20 July, Phetchaburi sightseeing, 10km

21 July, Phetchaburi – Kao Tao, 103km

22 July, Kao Tao – Noi Bay, 107km

23 July, Noi Bay – Ban Krut, 86km

24 July, Ban Krut – Chumphon, 133km

25 July, Ko Tao – Ko Samui, 4km

Total distance cycled: 14,696km of which 2,110km in Thailand

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