14 – 19 August, 2013 – It took us six days to reach the Malaysian border and we managed to arrive there one day before our visas would expire. These six days were fantastic despite our sore muscles, three weeks without any exercise had taken their toll. I think the route we chose was the most scenic of all Thailand and we enjoyed every minute on our bikes. We tried to follow the coast most of the times and mainly cycled on low-traffic roads. We could also tell that not many tourists are visiting this area as we were greeted by everyone, our photo was taken from motorbikes or cars just driving slowly next to us and every few minutes we heard ‘Hey you!’, ’Hello’, ’Farang, Farang!’ (The latter is the Thai word for foreigner). Sometimes it was just the bleaking of a goat or the mooing of a cow we mistook for a warm welcome to the area.
We loved this part of Thailand so much as it was very rural with a lot of farmland, rice paddies, rubber and palm-oil plantations, many beautiful vegetable gardens around wooden houses, thousands of coconut palm-tree and thick forest in between. Towards the end of our Thai journey and the closer we got to the Malayan border it became more and more ‘junglish’. Along the coast we also saw a lot of mosques in between the many temples, for us a very exotic feeling hearing the imam praying once more, the first time since Turkey. We were told that most fishermen in this area are muslims.
Along the way we also enjoyed coffee and delicious cakes at our favorite coffee shop Amazon, not to be confused with the online bookseller of the same name! You never know what the next country will bring!
We did not enjoy the daily failures we encountered as of day three. It started with Johan’s bike and a broken spoke at his rear wheel, the next day another broken spoke, same bike, same wheel. Followed the next day by another broken spoke, again same bike, same wheel. The fourth day, after we surprisingly managed to buy 30 new spokes at the first bike shop we found, my bike gave in with a broken spoke at the back. And guess what, the fifth day another spoke broke in my rear wheel. On the sixth day Johan had a flat tire. Our stove also stopped working and it took Johan two days to fix it again and on top Johan’s new camera doesn’t focus anymore. Very annoying! But thankfully I am cycling with handyman Johan, or Johan the Fixer, who can repair almost everything.
One night we slept at a warmshower host in the middle of a forest in his small wooden house where Pad lives with his wife, a cat and a dog. It took us almost two hours to find his house as we couldn’t reach him over the phone and we once again wished we had GPS with us. Despite the trouble getting there – we almost gave up – we had a great and relaxed evening, delicious Thai food and continued our journey the next day relaxed and well fed. Thank you Pad and we hope to see you in Europe next year!
As this is our final post about Thailand it is time to write a bit about some oddities of this country as well. But let me first let you all know that we very much enjoyed our two months in Thailand, if it wasn’t for the visa we could have stayed longer. Even though we couldn’t visit the far North of the country we saw fantastic and diverse landscapes, met wonderful, ever-smiling, helpful and welcoming people. We of course ate great food and could hardly get enough of their famous Pad Thai dish. We cycled almost 2,700km on sometimes very busy roads, on often quiet and lonely roads, got lost a hundred times, but who cares?, and got confused even more times about how Thai’s explain the way, but again, who cares, as we have the time of the world.
But now to the peculiarities of Thailand, not always to be taken too seriously… First of all, the dogs continued to be annoying until the very last kilometer, since Romania we’ve never seen so many stupid dogs and Johan started to carry stones with him for our protection. Most petrifying were those dogs jumping out of the scrub while we were pedaling and dreaming on our bikes. Thais love their dogs and most of them weren’t really pleased when we tried to protect ourselves (me yelling and Johan throwing stones).
Very strange to us as well were all the people with whitening powder and cream all over their bodies. Men and women of all ages could be seen with it, it looks so horrible as it isn’t spread equally over the skin, it looks more as if they accidentally fell into a bucket of flour. They use it on kids as well and we are seriously hoping that it is just sun protection in their faces and not whitening cream. It is by the way also almost impossible to find cosmetics such as moisturizer, body lotion or deodorant without whitener. This can’t be healthy! And sadly but true, we encountered the ‘whitening procedures’ all over southeast Asia. Asians just love white skin and they do a lot for it if they can.
And now the traffic rules, I still doubt they exist, but this is what we discovered and this actually as well is true for all Asian countries we travelled through.
Rule #1: The slower you are the lesser rights you have on a road. There is one exception, pedestrians. As a pedestrian you just go wherever you want, never look back or forth or right or left, just go, motorized vehicles will go around you. As cyclists usually don’t make any noise and our bells are being ignored we always give every pedestrian a wide berth, much safer for us!
Rule #2: If you sit on a motorbike or moped you also just do what you want. Never look right if you turn left at a crossing or the other way around, you anyway have priority. Every moped comes with two mirrors and if you think they are used for checking the traffic you failed! They are only used to check if the hair or makeup still looks OK.
Rule #3: Cars, or should I better say pickup trucks and SUVs as you hardly see anything else on Thailand’s roads, never brake or indicate directions. I even doubt cars have brakes or indicators, all they do is go as fast as possible and turn whenever they need. Most likely these are considered gadgets and come as an extra and most people save some cost on them.
Rule #4: Trucks. What can I say about trucks other that they stink and that diesel filters definitely don’t exist in this part of the world. Usually we’re coated in black after a truck has passed and can’t see anything for the next few hundred meters. They of course also always have priority even if they don’t and they like to park on shoulders or bike lanes. But at least most of the truck driver took a wide berth around us as to give us some space on the streets.
Rule #4: As bus driver you are the king on the road and seemingly always late, hence all of the above applies to busses. On top they really love to cut cyclists – cyclists don’t exist and/or are invisible unless they have a Thai flag the size of a football field on their bikes – by passing and stepping heavily on the brakes right in front of a cyclist to welcome a few more passengers. If you are ‘lucky’ this happens in a city and you get passed by the same bus several times and the procedure is the same as before.
Thank you again Thailand, it’s been a great country and we’ll be back one day for sure.
14 August, Koh Samui – Khanom, 54km
15 August, Khanom – Nakhon S.T., 122km
16 August, Nakhon S.T. – Hua Sai, 82km
17 August, Hua Sai – Phattalung, 85km
18 August, Phattalung – Khuan Ru, 78km
19 August, Khuan Ru – Perlis State Park (MY), 81km
Total distance cycled: 15,245km of which 2,657km in Thailand