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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I therefore found a quiet spot overlooking the Andaman Sea and had a nice quiet Singha beer, and wrote his very dialogue.
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:
Bring on the final day 🙂