Sleepless in Chanthaburi

At 9am sharp our boat left to bring us back to the mainland. We did some grocery shopping and hit the road again – for about 30km along the beautiful coast and then back to the four-lane highway aiming for Chanthaburi. Despite  our late start, the constantly changing wind and a long lunch break to avoid cycling in the heat we managed to arrive in Chanthaburi before dusk and went straight to the river guesthouse, where we had quite some fun.

It started with a sick receptionist who hardly managed to help us because she constantly had to run to the bathroom to throw up. The poor thing came back, sweat all over her face to answer one of our questions and then to either go directly back to the bathroom or to lay down on the nearby couch. As we always look at the rooms first before we rent it, Johan got a key to one of the free rooms. He came back asking the receptionist if he could see a room with a bigger bed as the two of us don’t manage to sleep in a single-90cm-bed. So he got another key to a room with a single-100cm-bed – still too small for us! Back again, he asked if there were other rooms available with bigger beds or with bigger bet, but the receptionist denied. When we asked if there were rooms with two beds, she gave Johan another key to look at the third room. You need to know that we cycled 110km that day and all rooms were on the third floor with six flights of stairs to walk up and down at around 32 degrees. The rooms Johan looked at had about 50 degrees, we noticed that when we finally managed to get a room with two beds facing each other and opened the balcony door to feel the fresh breeze outside ;-). The room was tiny but clean and with air con, so within 30min the room temperature was bearable. The downside of this room was that it faced the highway but we thought better some noise from the street than not sleeping at all in a mini-bed. We should have known better!

When we switched on the air con it made an enormous noise and at first we thought it would ‘slow down’ as soon as the main work was done. Well, that of course didn’t happen and it continued to be as loud as a running truck engine, and unfortunately I chose the bed underneath the air con, which meant for me a loooooong night with hardly any sleep. The next morning I didn’t even hear the alarm go off. This has never ever happened in my whole life! On the positive side, we couldn’t hear any street noise and Johan slept extremely well and woke me the next morning full of energy. This is also one of the hotels that pack mattresses in plastic before they put the bed sheets on.

Friday was an exciting day for us as we would cross the Cambodian border. In the morning I checked once again if the border we were aiming for was open and if we could get our visas there as I read that they close it from time to time if there are shootings!!!! Cycling was great, even though we had strong headwinds the first half and cross winds the second half.

Riding through the Thai jungle

Johan speeding downhill through the Thai jungle

The perfect lunch break: a hut with a breeze in the shade and two hammocks

The perfect lunch break: a hut with a breeze in the shade and two hammocks

Thailand has been country number twelve on our trip and we cycled 359 km in total. I have to say that Thailand is a fabulous cycling country. I know we haven’t seen much of the kingdom but so far all roads were in great condition with wide shoulders on even tertiary roads. Sometimes the traffic can be a bit heavy, that’s the only downside so far. There are food stalls or 7-eleven supermarkets everywhere, which meant for us we never had to bother much about buying food in advance. I am already looking forward to the 7-eleven raisin-almond rolls when we’ll be back in a few months. For all cyclists, if you can cope with the heat, Thailand is your country.

We crossed the Thai/Cambodian border effortless, the Thais were happy to see us leave and the Cambodians were happy to take our dollars, let us fill in a few forms and stamp our passports.


I find it always so much more exciting to cross a border over land than to arrive on an airport. What amazes me the most is that you immediately see, feel and smell the difference. The contrast between Thailand and Cambodia could hardly be starker. On the Thai side we cycled the last 40km through jungle with huge palm trees, banana trees and other foliage plants you usually only see in European living rooms. At times the crickets were singing so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves anymore. Cambodia on the other side had been completely deforested and cultivated while the fields were either brown as everything was dry and harvested or black from controlled burnings. People again yelled and waved at us from far away. A short minute I thought we were back in India. But the big difference is that mainly the children wave at us and scream their ‘hellos and bye-bye’s’. Some are even clapping their hands and give us their thumbs up, very cute. The nicest are their genuine smiles when they see us. Their faces light up and a welcoming hello comes out of their mouths. Not a single time we were asked for money or anything else. We are also fascinated by the lady’s sense of fashion: they are wearing colorful  pyjamas with Mickey Mouse or animal or flower prints. At first we thought they were just coming out of bed, but there were too many wearing this style of clothes. Looks a bit childish and funny, but must be really comfy, maybe I should consider this outfit if my shorts continue to cause trouble :-).

Different trucks in different countries

Different trucks in different countries

The saddest difference is the sudden poverty as Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. People along the road live in small huts or stilt houses where life takes place under the houses in the cooling shade. Today’s modern Cambodia still faces many challenges and despite international support the country’s infrastructure improves only slowly in no small part due to the corruption. Even though there are some improvements in cities the majority of Cambodians neither have clean water nor electricity. Healthcare remains inadequate and land mines and unexploded ordnances are still an issue. This summer’s elections will see what the future will bring.

And by the way we got some more online coverage on our trip, this time from the Dutch online cycling website Sint Christophorus.

Next time I will update you on some dark chapters in Cambodia’s history. Stay tuned if this interests you.


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



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.


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,…



...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.