After a week in Bangkok we are heading to the south. Here we hope to find the white beaches and the friendly Thai, who are always named in the travel guides. To reach the south we first have to conquer all the traffic.
With our loaded bicycles we cycle from one traffic light to the next one. We are surrounded by smelling bikes, noisy cars and slow trucks. The roads are busy, but there is still enough space for our tires to move around. To cycle out of Bangkok is an ugly challenge and it doesn’t leave a very nice impression of this city.
Hundred long kilometers take us on four-, six-, two-, and double highways to the village of Damnoen Saduak. The main tourist attraction here is the floating market. There should be a traditional market on the many canals in the village. It’s known as the last ‘real’ market which is not there only for tourists. Marlous and I arrange a boat for the next morning so we can have a look at the market. At 7.00 am we step into our boat and everything goes a bit different then we expected it to be. In stead of a wooden peddle; our captain has an enormous outside motor at the back of his boat. In this ‘idyllic’ way we are sent of on the quiet waters of the village.
With a lot of noise we pass boats loaded with fruits and vegetables. As soon as we enter a new canal where there are tourist shops on the side the motor of the boats stops. The first shop owner grabs our boat with a wooden stick and we have to convince him that we didn’t come to buy a wooden elephant. The captain doesn’t understand us and tries it again at another tourist place. Here they tell us that everyone makes a stop of ten minutes at their beautiful shop. We try to explain that we are crazy tourists, and that we don’t like these shops. The captain is confused and treats us on an extra round along the boats with fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately it’s only a small part of the market that we like. The rest doesn’t come close to our expectations and disappointed in Thailand we start cycling again.
Thailand becomes very small for a while at the part where it has to share the land with Burma. There is only one road here which is a highway with a lot of traffic. So we stare at the horizon with our mouths closed and we cycle further. Maybe some cyclists like the smooth and flat tarmac here but we prefer a quieter road. The towns on our way aren’t very nice and it doesn’t make us stay for a long time. There aren’t many old buildings; the brick buildings between the huge roads don’t give any ambiance.
We decide to take a day off in Hua Hin. This seems to be a real beach destination overloaded with Scandinavian tourists. All the signs are in Swedish, Danish and in Norwegian. Even the Indian clothes maker tries to sell his clothes in Swedish. In our eyes Hua Hin is a typical Thai beach place; the beach is yellow, the sea is polluted, there are many western restaurants and too many ‘old men’ bars where western guys are looking for young Thai girls. I am not too old, too fat, and too confused for these bars and I can escape the ladies relatively safely. It’s a good thing for me that Marlous holds me strongly and walks trough the streets to find a nice and quiet restaurant without the special girls.
After an enervating day of rest in unique Thailand we continue cycling in the search of more ‘nice’ things. The road gets less crowded and the environment contains more nature and less service stations. It’s easy cycling here and before we know it we cycled the planned 100 km of the day. Khiri Khan gives us immediately a better feeling. There aren’t almost any western tourists and the atmosphere is cozy. When we enter the village we pass a pond where monkeys are having a swim. They jump into the water from a high rock and they swim like professionals. In the village itself is a big market going on and we hear there will be a party in the evening. The beach is quiet and abandoned and it’s great for a food walk. There are boats of the fishermen everywhere ready to go on sea.
We are not alone for a long time because high in the sky we see guys jumping out of planes. The parachute festival of Khiri Khan has started. We want to see the sunset from the highest point of the village. There is a temple on top of a monkey rock. The name is well chosen, because it’s full of monkeys. We giggle, we crawl, we jump and we run but we don’t reach the top because of all the monkeys. In the middle of the stairs there is an enormous monkey laying and with every step I take it show me his teeth. Those are quiet some teeth and I decide not to argue wit Mister Monkey. In the evening there is a fair and it’s a real Thai happening. The ambiance is great and for the first time in my live I have a gun in my hands and under encouragement of a Thai boy I win a teddy bear for Marlous.
After all the kilometers on wide roads it’s great to have the opportunity to take a small coastal route. It’s immediately different and surrounded by palm trees we are heading south. We have a hard time finding a place to sleep and in the end we pitch up our tent in the garden of a big resort. The sea is not very special here as well and we decide to cross the country to the west where the Andaman Sea is. There we have to find those white beaches and the bright blue sea! From Chumpon the road lies below the Burmese border and leads to the west coast. It’s a very nice day of cycling and it’s a quiet day for Thailand. We are surrounded by tropical green and we see many types of trees. We encounter a Danish German guy who came cycling from Singapore. He is very enthusiastic about the island of Phayam which gives us a bit of hope.
Just before Ranong the sky turns black and soon we catch the first drops of water. We find a shelter in a small hut along the way while the rain comes out of the sky, which is a luxurious treat for the dry country. Once a day there goes a boat from Ranong to Koh Phayam, which should be a small and relaxed island. The luggage of the passengers who come along on the boat is thrown in the front of the boat. Our bicycles are put on top of the luggage and together with two other guys we try to make everything a bit better. A nice boat trip follows and Marlous meets a Dutch family who travels for three months trough Thailand.
Ko Phayam is a quiet island in comparison with the other locations we have seen. There are no cars and on the three paths on the island there are only a few bikes riding. We head our bicycles towards one of the beaches and we end up in the guesthouse of Kop. This is one of the most enthusiastic, friendliest, happiest, nicest and most positive minded Thai we have met. It’s great to talk with Kop and he shows us that not every Thai is in a bad mood and uninterested as we started to think. Thanks to Kop we can continue cycling for a while trough Thailand on our way to Malaysia. We don’t do much on the island. We visit Bob, Claartje, Marie and Jan who Marlous already met on the boat. It’s nice to talk Dutch and to hear their stories about Thailand. We decide not to stay for a long time in Thailand. Our planned two months appear a bit two long for us in a country we don’t really like that much. We like to stay longer in Malaysia and Indonesia to find Saté and Babi Pangang. After a couple of days on this nice island we return to Ranong. Thailand didn’t steal our hearts, but who knows: we keep on cycling in this country for two more weeks.
* Bangkok – Damnoen Saduak: 104km
* Damnoen Saduak – Petchaburi: 79km
* Petchaburi – Hua Hin: 70km
* Hua Hin – Prachuap Khiri Khan: 98km
* Prachuap Khiri Khan – Ban Saphan Noi: 121km
* Ban Saphan Noi – Chumpon: 94km
* Chumpon – Ranong: 126km
* Ranong – Ko Phayam: 11km
* Ko Phayam – Ranong: 12km