Day 8 – Kuraburi to Khao Lak

December 9th 2012

Day 8 was billed as a very short day in terms of cycling, and at just 50 miles it was in comparison with the others. But 50 miles when it is 33 or 34 degrees outside still saps your energy big time.

I was up at my now very customary 6am, and into breakfast early at the Greenview resort in Kuraburi. We were the only western visitors in the resort, although there was still a ‘western’ option for breakfast, which was always a big plus for me. The thought of chillies and spicy fish for breakfast is just not my thing I’m afraid, certainly not when all you want to do is stay cool for as long as you can. Plus it is always helpful to just get a few ‘normal’ carbs into your system and have a settled stomach before a day in the saddle, even if otherwise I’d very much be a proponent of “when in Rome”.

Today then was almost cool to start with by comparison to other days, although I think this was because we were in a valley with a breeze blowing through it. I’m sure it was never below 25c even at night however. Our first 30 or so km were fairly uneventful, but then the interest ramped up significantly as we went on.

I don’t think I had realised that this area of Thailand had been as badly affected by the terrible tsunami of 2004. Everyone remembers Indonesia and the Philllipines, but to be told today that over 20,000 Thai people died in the tsunami was a shock, and a poignant one too. What is perhaps more significant (and evidenced all the way along this south western tip of the country) is that an untold (but many many thousands) of Burmese nationals died here too. No-one has a clue how many, as, like today, there are so many Burmese people here unregistered, and so many thousands of bodies went either unaccounted for, or were never even found. Very sad.

A morning feed stop - and an always welcome selection of fruit and cooling drinks etc.

A morning feed stop – and an always welcome selection of fruit and cooling drinks etc.

One of so many rubber plantations we cycled through en route.

One of so many rubber plantations we cycled through en route.

The above picture from the rubber plantation gave me the opportunity to ask about Thailand’s exports, and Esso (who was really knowledgeable and helpful always with all of my questions) told me that rubber is still one of Thailand’s main exports, along with (of course) rice and increasingly, computer and car parts.

And so we found ourselves shortly before lunch at Bang Muang, where two fishing vessels (trawlers, 60 tons each) had been washed over 2km inland on that fateful day. They still sit here to this day, as no one can or even wants to move them. Slightly further down the road there was a cemetery/memorial to the dead. It was slightly unkempt, and I was told that part of the reason for this was the bitterness felt by (some of) the Thai people for the media coverage which focussed almost entirely on the foreign, as opposed to the indigenous, people who died in their country. That may be the saddest part of all really.

The entrance to the tsunami cemetery....

The entrance to the tsunami cemetery….

These boats are a stunning 2km inland.

These boats are a stunning 2km inland.

Just further on we went to the beach at Ban Nam Khem, which bore the brunt of the disaster. A memorial wall has been erected here, but the rest of the place is somewhat desolate. The beach area is a place for fisherman to bring their catches in, but what was apparently a booming beach resort area ( and you can see why, it is stunning), is now neglected and deserted. No-one wants to build on a place where so many people lost their lives, and I suppose for all anybody knows, another tsunami could come again at any time. There are newly built tsunami-alert stations dotted around the coast to hopefully mitigate against the effects of further future tragedy.

The memorial wall commemorating the dead at Ban Nam Khem.

The memorial wall commemorating the dead at Ban Nam Khem.

Following a very pleasant and extremely (head and all) fishy lunch on the beach, served by the most enthusiastic host I have ever come across, we headed off for the final leg of the day, a brisk 25km down to Khao Lak. Khao Lak is a beach resort, with a cosmopolitan flavour. Our hotel, the Takolaburi Resort, was in a stunning beachfront location.

Our lunch spot, strangely and also very sadly deserted.

Our lunch spot, strangely and also very sadly deserted.

I was in the sea within about 10 minutes of arriving (9 and a half minutes of that was walking to and from my room), as I was desperate to cool down. Sadly the water was probably even warmer than the Gulf of Thailand, and was perhaps 28 or 29 degrees. It felt like getting into a hot bath, even with the air temperature at 34, so was no relief at all. I decided instead to make my way to the hotel pool, which was beautiful, but was also overflowing with Russian people playing pool volleyball, and making so much noise that I thought my ears would burst.

The Takolaburi Resort, Khao Lak

The Takolaburi Resort, Khao Lak

I therefore found a quiet spot overlooking the Andaman Sea and had a nice quiet Singha beer, and wrote his very dialogue.

The very lovely and stupidly quiet beach at Khao Lak on the Andaman Sea.

The very lovely and stupidly quiet beach at Khao Lak on the Andaman Sea.

The evening was spent just the four of us in the resort, and was a very quiet affair. dodging the mosquitoes in the resort, which were plentiful. The next day would be our last of cycling, a 70 or so mile ride down to Phuket. The weather forecast was turning, and we may get rain ahead of us, but we nonetheless all looked forward to our last day of experiencing the wonderful Thailand landscape from its very core.

Here finally are the days stats from my Garmin:

http://app.strava.com/activities/31606431

Bring on the final day πŸ™‚

Day 7 – Ranong to Kuraburi

8th December 2012:

We’d been told to expect another hard day today, but not as bad as the day before (Chumpon to Ranong). If anything however, this was the toughest day. This was caused at least in part by the fact that it ended up a rather large hill (well not that large, but large by Thai standards).

Today just basically undulated and undulated. Unlike some of the flat roads on the Gulf of Thailand side, the Andaman Sea side is quite different. Most of the ride was also inland, and in fact we never saw the sea at all today.

Sunrise from the Tinidee hotel in Ranong.

Sunrise from the Tinidee hotel in Ranong.

Heading out of Ranong early in the morning, and seemingly busy for a Saturday, we were soon back out onto National route 4, which is for the most part a very quiet road and a single lane in both directions. We made great time first thing whilst the air was cooler, and notched up around 40km by our first stop. Suwat brought us our customary bananas (Dirk’s favourite!), watermelon, jelly drinks, electrolyte drinks, pineapple and the like, and it was all delicious as always.

We're on the road to somewhere....

We’re on the road to somewhere….

.....and geting closer to Phuket (our final destination) all the time - we've now done 600km already!

…..and geting closer to Phuket (our final destination) all the time – we’ve now done 600km already!

The area down in this part of Thailand is principally Muslim, and the waves and greetings from the local children were all just as friendly – we just noticed headdresses and mosques in plentiful supply.

We stopped for lunch at a little place next to a petrol station which was just fantastic food. We had soft shell crab, red snapper, chicken with cashew nuts, prawns in garlic, and a green curry. The service and hospitality were just perfect. It’s was yet another example of a place where if you had been passing you would not as a westerner even think to stop, and yet what a chance that would have been missed!

Another delicious lunch stop.

Another delicious lunch stop.

We had covered 92km by lunch, and so in theory the afternoon was a fairly easy haul, as it would be only 34km or so. This didn’t prove to be quite the case however, as first Esso, then Phillipa, then Esso again, punctured, and each stop in the blazing heat took its toll. The difference between moving with wind resistance and stopping, even in the shade, is quite severe when it is 35C out there.

It's easy to smile, even with a puncture, when you have a friendly man in a support van to come and repair it for you!

It’s easy to smile, even with a puncture, when you have a friendly man in a support van to come and repair it for you!

And then of course there was the hill at the end. Never overly steep, but at around 5% average and about 2 or 3km in length, it was hard work, exacerbated by the fact that Esso and I pushed it pretty hard. I was wiped out by the time I got to the Greenview Kuraburi resort.

I was so tired when I got there that I didn’t even have the energy to go for a swim, but instead just relaxed and sat around looking at the lovely scenery, which was amazing. The resort was on its own in the jungle, and set by a lake. The noise from the cicadas was almost deafening.

view rfom by room at the Greenview Resport, Kura Buri

View from by room at the Greenview Resport, Kura Buri

Today had wiped everyone out I think. Dirk in particular was pretty drained for most of the day as he was still recovering from his bout of food poisoning.

The pool at the resort.

The pool at the resort.

Dinner was a fairly low key affair at the hotel, but of course delicious as always. I think we saw no other westerners at this hotel at all, the last time we would be so ‘remote’. This for me was a shame, as ultimately I loved the ‘real’ Thailand much more than the commercialised areas.

The following day would be a short one, only about 45 miles, as we would be doing some sightseeing of the area hit badly by the 2004 tsunami. I think everyone will appreciate the comparative rest after about 400km being covered in the last three days alone. We are also yet to see a cloud, not that we are complaining at all, but it does take its toll in terms of sapping the energy.

And finally the stats of the day are as follows, another 80 or so miles done:

http://app.strava.com/activities/31421887

Day 6 – Chumphon to Ranong

7th December 2012:

Day 6 was billed as the toughest day, and in terms of mileage and also ascent gained it lived up to its promise. And yet it was also the best day so far.

We had all got up early in the Chumphon Cabana Hotel, as EssoΒ had told us last night that if we couldn’t make it to Ranong by 4.30, then Suwat would be forced to pick us up in the bus and transfer us the rest of the way. Whilst this threat wasn’t specifically made at us, it was there for a reason, and for everyone’s sake, including Suwat’s. After all, what would be eight and a half hours out on the road would be enough for anyone – you have to draw the line somewhere.

It was decided that we would all be on the road by 7.45, just to make sure we got a good start, and so we were. Breakfast was quickly consumed down at the beachfront bar, and the soft lapping of the sea in the Gulf of Thailand, what would be our very last view of it in fact, will stay with me for ever.

My last view of the Gulf of Thailand as the early morning rays shone through from the beach.

My last view of the Gulf of Thailand as the early morning rays shone through from the beach.

The pace was good all morning, and aided by slightly cooler air, and a desire to get to Ranong in time, spurred everyone on. We had done 40 miles or so by 11am, and were half way across the country by then. The journey took us basically due west towards Myanmar, or Burma as I (and most people I know) still prefer to call it.

Aground about this point we came to the Isthmus of Kra, the narrowest point of the peninsula where Thailand and Burma meet Malaysia. Both countries together are just 20 or so miles wide at this point, and we travelled along the river for a while within what was just a stone’s throw of Burma itself.

The Isthmus of Kra - Burma is the other side of the river from me. Goodness knows what the sign says!!

The Isthmus of Kra – Burma is the other side of the river from me. Goodness knows what the sign says!!

Having stopped briefly to take some photographs at the river we began moving again towards our lunch stop. I would have loved to have somehow found a way to say that I had stepped over the border onto Burmese soil, but sadly it wasn’t possible, and anyway lingering in this heat was stifling – the heat in this jungle area was so oppressive away from the coast where at least there was always a light breeze.

Lunch was in a great place on a pontoon on the river, as seen below:

Lunch on the river, which river I'm not sure, but the food was fabulous.

Lunch on the river, which river I’m not sure, but the food was fabulous.

Heading now due south again we headed up our first serious climb of the trip so far. It was only about 2km long, and at about 5% average gradient, but in this heat that was a slog which really took it out of you. I also found out afterwards that it was a Strava segment, the first we’d come across so far. If I’d known beforehand then I wouldn’t have stopped for a drink half way up πŸ™‚

After the climb there was the pleasure of a 7km descent, which was great to at last let a bit of wind resistance get to you. We got to Ranong, our destination for the night, at about 3.30, well inside the 4.30 cut-off. We’d still been out though for not far off 8 hours, including stops, cycling for 5 and a quarter. My Garmin showed 83 miles travelled, but it failed (I think due to heat exhaustion, a bit like me) for about 5 miles, so I think we covered nearer 88 in total, and did about 2,300 feet of ascent. Good going in the still of the jungle, and had I not drunk about 10 litres of water I doubt I would have made it at all.

Our stopping place was the excellent Tinidee Hotel in Ranong, which despite some bad reviews on Tripadvisor was a really nice place, so don’t believe them! In the evening we were taken to what I can only describe as a very ‘local’ restaurant. In fact I’m not sure Westerners had been there before, as most of the dishes were either indescribable, or unpalatable, at least for my namby-pamby Western tummy. We survived unscathed however, and at least there is always rice to fall back upon!

Tomorrow we would head to Kura Buri, another 130km or so, in the midst of the jungle, and so it would be another gruelling day, but we had the satisfaction of knowing that we had the toughest day behind us, and were now over half way on our adventure. All good!

Here are the stats for the day, minus about 4 miles or so lost along the way:

http://app.strava.com/activities/31289147

Day 5 – Ban Krut to Chumphon

6th December 2012:

Today (day four was a rest day at Ban Krut) was marked by many quite memorable things. The most prominent of which I think was the most amazing sunrise I think I have ever seen. I was awake at about 5.30am, and thought I should take a walk down to the beach (which was all of about 75 yards away) to see what the day might bring. After all, it is not too often in your life that you get to wake up with an uninterrupted view of the Gulf of Thailand is it?

The sun pushed its way through a few wispy clouds sat on the horizon at about 6.20. Sat as I was the only person for miles around I had this beautiful thing all to myself.

The sun begins to light up the eastern sky over the Gulf....

The sun begins to light up the eastern sky over the Gulf….

....and then the whole sky is awash with colour as the sun itself peers over the horizon.

….and then the whole sky is awash with colour as the sun itself peers over the horizon.

Following breakfast shortly thereafter we met up again with Esso and Suwat, and were ready just before 8 to hit the road for our toughest day so far. The ride took us on an incredible journey, through many fishing villages (including a memorable trip to the end of a pier where a multitude of Burmese workers were unloading the day’s catch and mending nets). We again followed the Gulf of Thailand for most of the way, which will be the last time we see it. It really is such a stunning and unspoilt piece of nature.

The fishermen unload their catch......

The fishermen unload their catch……

....whilst others try their luck from the jetty.

….whilst others try their luck from the jetty.

I was happy that Esso decided to push the pace a bit more today. Whether for my benefit or his I don’t know, but it gave me the chance to finally stretch my legs a bit. Dirk was unfortunately struggling with the after effects of a bad bout of food poisoning the day before, and so opted to take the back for most of the day. I felt for him, as cycling when you feel so bad, and in that heat, must have been really tough. I was happy though that I also got the chance to get a bit of a spurt on, as it gave my legs the chance to get pushed as hard as almost I could in places.

Following Esso down another really busy Thai road :)

Following Esso down another really busy Thai road πŸ™‚

Following a break for lunch in another great ‘restaurant’ which just appeared from nowhere, we headed back down to the coast towards our last stop on the gulf, Chumphon.

Another day, another great lunch stop.

Another day, another great lunch stop.

Altogether today we covered about 72 miles, our longest so far, and got in about 500m of ascent altogether, so the roads were becoming more varied and undulating finally after being pretty much pancake flat so far.

Arriving at Chumphon Cabana, which was again right on a deserted beach, it again took about 5 minutes from arriving to get into the sea, which was again really warm, when I wanted it to be cool!!

The beautiful unspoilt beach  at Chumphon.....

The beautiful unspoilt beach at Chumphon…..

.....but the pool was much cooler thankfully!

…..but the pool was much cooler thankfully!

This was the hotel taken from the beach - Spiceroads had done us proud again.

This was the hotel taken from the beach – Spiceroads had done us proud again.

So after a very invigorating Thai massage close to the beach and then dinner, everyone was pretty much finished for the day. The stats follow below:

http://app.strava.com/activities/31157611

Tomorrow we would cross Thailand altogether, and get to within apparently 20m of the Burmese (or Myanmar as it is called these days) border. It would be 80 miles plus, and quite hilly apparently. Couldn’t wait!

Day 3 – Prachuap Khiri Khan to Ban Krut

4th December 2012:

It was almost a shame to leave the beautiful view and sunrise of Prachuap Khiri Khan behind, although it should be said that none of us would really miss the hotel. The Hadthong, it has to be said, has ‘had’ it’s day, and it was a long time ago. But what a beautiful sunrise to wake up to, so how can I possibly moan!

Another beautiful sunrise over the Gulf of Thailand - wish I could wake up to this every day.

Another beautiful sunrise over the Gulf of Thailand – wish I could wake up to this every day.

Today’s ride was a fairly short one, of around 46 miles, but was the most interesting so far. We started with a stunning ride around the most beautiful headland, and along a deserted and stunning beach. It made you want to just stop there for the day, and lie on the beach doing nothing whatsoever. Maybe that will be for another time!

Shortly after the headland we crossed through an Air Force base, and literally rode across the runway before coming to a rocky outcrop which contained a large number of dusky langur monkeys. I’d never heard of these things before, but Suwat obviously had, and he stopped the van and produced a large bag of monkey nuts. This had the desired effect of bringing about 50 of them out of the trees (they’ve obviously done this thing before, they weren’t shy), and literally fed out of our hands.

Here are some piccies of them:

The langurs (also called leaf monkeys) appear from the trees, a little nonchalant at first....

The langurs (also called leaf monkeys) appear from the trees, a little nonchalant at first….

.....but soon were literally eating out of the palms of our hands.

…..but soon were literally eating out of the palms of our hands.

Cute little things, aren't they?

Cute little things, aren’t they?

The babies are a quite amazing orange colour.

The babies are a quite amazing orange colour.

Following on from this nice distraction, we headed down the edge of a busy main road (the only real one we have come across so far) for a not very interesting 25km or so before finally heading off the highway towards our rest stop for the rest of the day and the evening, Ban Krut. Ban Krut sits amidst a 12km bay and is in the most idyllic location. Getting some speed up finally on our way down towards the coast was great, as the pace has been pretty pedestrian so far, averaging a moving pace of around 15mph.

Cycling through a fairly typical Thai town...

Cycling through a fairly typical Thai town…

.....and onto a more typical quiet road heading now back down towards the coast. The roads were almost always as smooth as this one is.

…..and onto a more typical quiet road heading now back down towards the coast. The roads were almost always as smooth as this one is.

At the coast itself we stopped at a temple, which was located up a short but steep hill on an outcrop of rock by the beach. The hill was only 150m long or so, but the gradient touched 16% (averaging 8%), which in this heat is a tough ask for certain. The temple is amazing, and sits above a large golden Buddha.

The huge Buddha sat below the Wat Tang Sai Temple

The huge Buddha sat below the Wat Tang Sai Temple

Just walking up these steps was a tough ask in this heat - what the heck were we doing cycling!

Just walking up these steps was a tough ask in this heat – what the heck were we doing cycling!

And at the front of the temple itself.

And at the front of the temple itself.

Wat Tang Sai temple was built only around 10 years ago to commemorate the King’s 50th year on the throne. Both on the inside and out the decorations are beautiful, and the stunning views up and down the coast which greet you once you have walked up another hill and then a lot of steps are absolutely stunning:

The view north from the temple......

The view north from the temple……

....and the southbound view. Our resort was slap bang in the middle of this long bay :)

….and the southbound view. Our resort was slap bang in the middle of this long bay πŸ™‚

As we gazed at the beautiful view of these beaches below us, Esso told us that this is where we would be spending the next day and a half. “How awful!” I exclaimed to him, and I am not totally sure as yet that he actually got the irony in my voice.

If you look at www.kawapanga.com/wat-tang-Sai/ you can find out much more about the palace…..

Leaving the temple and back on the bikes it was a short hop to a tiny rural shack for lunch of Pad Thai. I realised then that the ‘Thai’ food in England doesn’t bear much similarity at all to the real Thai food. It is just amazing.

Our resort, the Keeree Warree Resort and Spa, was only a further 2km. Set by the beach, and with individual beach villas for rooms, the place is in an incredible spot, and just what the doctor ordered after three days in the saddle. I was in the sea within about 15 minutes of arriving. It seems somewhat churlish to say that the sea was not refreshing at all, but it wasn’t as it was just too warm!! The ‘problem’ was soon solved by walking around 15 metres back to the hotel’s salt water swimming pool, which was much cooler. Perfect!

The Keeree Waree Resort and Spa, Ban Krut, from the beach....

The Keeree Waree Resort and Spa, Ban Krut, from the beach….

.....and looking up the coast from the same spot - the temple we just came from is in the distance on the hill.

…..and looking up the coast from the same spot – the temple we just came from is in the distance on the hill.

My bedroom for the next day and half was an individual bungalow - bliss :)

My bedroom for the next day and half was an individual bungalow – bliss πŸ™‚

And so that was that – we were here for a day and a half as the next day was a rest day. Spiceroads were spoiling us! The rest day was strategically planned however, as for the three following days we’d be doing 130km or more each day, with hills to boot. I reasoned that there couldn’t be much of a better place anywhere to just chill out, and so that is precisely what I resolved to do. I love Thailand!

The days stats were as follows:

http://app.strava.com/activities/30868649

Day 2 – Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan

Monday 3rd December

Day two began way way too early for me, as I woke up at 4am, almost unthinkable for me. I just couldn’t get back to sleep, and so was out for a walk by about 5.30 longing for breakfast to come around. Thankfully by 6.30 it did, and thankfully too the idyllic locaction of the Putahracsa Hotel in Hua Hin was rather a splendid place to be anyway, so ‘musn’t grumble’ as they say.

Following breakfast, all packed up and ready to go for day two, we were met by Esso and Suwat at reception in the hotel at 8, and thankfully they had a replacement bike for me. The one I had yesterday, with a 50cm frame, just wasn’t going to cut it, and this was much better, at 54cm. I thanked them gratefully for sorting this out for me without fuss, and so credit goes to the Spiceroads team for doing this, and everything all week in fact, so seamlessly and easily.

We set off through the busy streets of Hua Hin, and after a stop to try to purchase some new pedals for Dirk at what proved to be the the most ignorant shop owner’s premises I have ever come across (we hence did not buy any pedals), we were on our way. The weather was again cloudless and very hot.

Here are some photos from the day’s ride:

Taking a break by the Gulf of Thailand

Taking a break by the Gulf of Thailand

Cycling down towards the sea, the Gulf was always as

Cycling down towards the sea, the Gulf was always as calm as this.

Thai fishing boats from a bridge over the river.

Thai fishing boats from a bridge over the river.

I didn't stop to either feed it or find out what sort of monkey it might be......

I didn’t stop to either feed it or find out what sort of monkey it might be……

Lunchtime came along and all of a sudden we found ourselves literally right on the beach for a fantastic lunch at such a glorious location. I just didn’t want to leave, ever:

Our table for lunch, not a bad spot I'd say

Our table for lunch, not a bad spot I’d say

And the food was fantastic too - this was flaked deep fried fish - delicious.

And the food was fantastic too – this was flaked deep fried fish – delicious.

In the afternoon on our way down towards Prachuap Khiri Khan the ride was great, and varied, if still pretty flat. We did get caught up in a strange bunch of cows at one time too:

Just as the scenery starts getting a bit more varied......

Just as the scenery starts getting a bit more varied……

......some very very odd cows came and stared us out!

……some very very odd cows came and stared us out!

Eventually we came close to our destination, and then were halted once more by animals! This time it was monkeys, not sure which type, but the main road was literally covered with them, and we had to wait until they headed back to their roost:

Entering Prachuap Khiri Khan - this time monkeys stop play!!

Entering Prachuap Khiri Khan – this time monkeys stop play!!

Upon getting into town finally we came upon the somewhat dilapidated hotel called the Hadthong. It was probably great in 1956 or so, but am not sure much had been done to it since that time. Still the views from my balcony were absolutely to die for:

The Hadthong Hotel, balcony view over the Gulf of Thailand.

The Hadthong Hotel, balcony view over the Gulf of Thailand.

Not entirely sure what to make of some of the contents of the mini bar though - clearly the last two items weren't meant for Westerners, whatever they were!

Not entirely sure what to make of some of the contents of the mini bar though – clearly the last two items weren’t meant for Westerners, whatever they were!

So there we were, our first full day’s cycling had been so eventful. We were out for seven and a half hours, although we only cycled for about four and a half, and covered 71 miles. We’d got to see so many things, and so much beauty – the Gulf of Thailand is just incredible.

Here are the day’s stats from my Garmin:

http://app.strava.com/activities/30724809

In the evening after another delicious meal at a beachside cafe we got to do another walk around the local market. This time we were the only westerners around, and so it was even more interesting to see the sights and sounds of the real Thailand. Tomorrow would be a straight shot down the coast again to a place called Ban Krut, where we would spend a day and a half as the fourth day is officially designated a rest day. Hope it’s a great place to chill out………

Day 1 – Petchaburi to Hua Hin

2nd December 2012

The first day’s ride would take us from just south of Bangkok to just north of Hua Hin, a distance of just about 40 miles. It was warm up day really, and a chance for everyone to stretch their legs, get used to the bikes, the roads, and just to get going on Thai soil, or should I say Tarmac.

I was met at my hotel in Bangkok by the trip leader, Esso, whom I took to immediately. There’s a slight niggle which sits in the back of your brain (or mine, anyway) when you send a heck of a lot of money to a company in Thailand that you’ve never heard of, that something could go badly wrong. So the fact that Esso was there in the lobby ahead of the scheduled meeting time of 7.15am, immediately made me relax, and the day was perfect from there in practically every regard.

We were four people altogether (in terms of clients), David and Phillipa from Guildford, and Dirk, originally from Germany, but now living in Tokyo. We were first driven by another Spiceroads guy, Suwat, in the support van, for about an hour or so to get us out of the chaos of Bangkok. Cycling there would be taking your life in your own hands as far as I am concerned, and the Spiceroads team obviously agreed.

Stopping at a petrol station, we unloaded the bikes, got togged up, and were away. The bikes are all shiny new Trek 2.1 models, which is great. Mine was a tad on the small side due to some administrative error, but when I mentioned it they said they’d have me another bike for tomorrow, so that would hopefully be fine.

And we are ready for the off!

And we are ready for the off!

The ride was pan flat, on quiet roads, which were in the main billiard table smooth. They put UK roads to shame, and these were in the main back roads away from the beaten track.

We stopped for regular breaks each 20km, where the support van would stop ahead of us and feed us fresh pineapple, mango, biscuits and water/coke. Stopping was both a blessing and a curse, as whilst it was great to get the fruit and the hydration etc., stopping meant you had no breeze any more, and got to realise just how hot it was. Too hot for me for cycling, that’s for sure. It was around 34C for most of the time, and the sun beat down relentlessly too, and the roads were open, never in shade. I have never cycled in these sort of temperatures, and I was glad that the pace was fairly sedate.

The ride had so many notable features I can hardly begin to recount them all. The endless views of the Gulf of Thailand; the many salt farms; sustainable agricultural/sea reclamation projects; endless happy Thai children calling out “sawadee kraup” (hello) along the way; the numerous dried fish stands; rabid dogs by the side of the road, and snakes on the hard shoulder, to name but a few. These are not things I normally see trundling around in Oxfordshire! One of the (clearly) rabid dogs came after us at full pelt at one point and was promptly hit by a car coming the other way. I didn’t like to see (or hear) that, but the only saving grace is that it saved me doing a Mark Cavendish impression to race away from it – which would not have been even slightly funny in this heat.

We stopped for lunch by the beach and ate in some family restaurant. We didn’t get to choose lunch, it was just brought out for us. We’d been told that we were eating Thai food (i.e. we wouldn’t be able to choose Western alternatives) and that was a great thing as far as I was concerned. We had stuff like crab omelette, squid in lime stock, prawn cakes, and garlic shrimp. I’ll only say that it was one of the most amazing meals I have ever had. The flavours were just intense and incredible. The crazy thing about this is, is that had I not been taken there, there is no way on earth I would have stopped at all at this sort of place.

Our lunch stop.....delicious food was had.

Our lunch stop…..delicious food was had.

Upon arrival at Hua Hin in the early afternoon, we were left to our own devices. We stayed at the Putahracsa Hotel, and what a shock, it was stunning. After all this is only a cycling trip, and when you arrive dirty and sweaty from a day on the road, any old creature comforts will do. But this place is something else. Check it out on the Internet, that’s all I’m saying. In fact I’ll say more – if I ever go back in Thailand and find myself within 100 miles of the place I’m going back there.

Pool view from my room at the Putahracsa Hotel, Hua Hin

Pool view from my room at the Putahracsa Hotel, Hua Hin

View at front terrace of hotel overlooking Gulf of Thailand

View at front terrace of hotel overlooking Gulf of Thailand

Hua Hin is a beach resort with plenty to recommend – it is apparently where affluent Bangkokers get away for the weekend, and I can’t blame them. It is a tourist (ie for Westerners also) resort in its own right too, and so we weren’t the only British voices in town. In the evening we went to a beautiful beachfront restaurant and had more stunning Thai food, again all chosen for us by Esso. The green curry was to die for, and the only downside is that I will never again want to eat the Thai food we get back home in the UK, it just doesnt compare. After dinner we took a tuk tuk down to the Night Market in Hua Hin, which is a mixture of food, drink, and craft/jewellery stalls, and fascinating with it.

At the night market, Hua Hin. Fascinating!

At the night market, Hua Hin. Fascinating!

I am already getting to see in this one day probably more than most tourists to Thailand ever see, and that is a stunning and very special thing, especially as that is all a bonus on top of the cycling which I came for.

So the stats from the days ride are on the following link:

http://app.strava.com/activities/30531831

Tomorrow is a full day, about 135km. Can’t wait……