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