December 10th 2012
And so the last day of the trip rather unceremoniously arrived with a 6am wake up call in the very hot and sticky resort of Takolaburi, just north of Khao Lak on Thailand’s south west coast. I was glad that is would be the last early morning of packing, getting ready, checking out of a hotel all by 7-something in the morning. It is a (sort of) holiday after all 🙂
And so by 7.55am we were off and rolling towards our final destination, the island resort of Phuket, some 70 miles to our south. Passing the tsunami warning station in the first 100 metres brought a sober warning of the dangers of the area that we were in, and shortly after leaving Khao Lak we saw an even more sobering memorial to the disaster of 2004.
This was another boat, this one a police frigate, which had been carried 2km inland on that fateful day. The place where it still lies is being turned into a tsunami museum, and there are many pictures on display already outside as either tributes to lost loved ones, or another very sad one that I saw of bodies lined in trenches covered with ice to prevent decomposition.
We then hit a good pace towards the island of Phuket itself, eventually passing over the bridge that connects the island to the mainland.
Upon arriving in Phuket it was almost like being in another country altogether. The roads became generally busier, the road signs bigger and more ‘international’, and the landscape/vegetation less dense and jungle-like. Our resort, Surin Beach, was probably 35km or so down on the west coast of the island, and we eventually got off the busy roads, and skirted our way along the coast and past the airport on back roads. We also had some very threatening clouds overhead, practically the first ones we had seen all week, although they thankfully never broke, but it did get pretty dark for a while.
And then all of a sudden we were in the resort of Surin Beach, and at the Manathai Hotel. It was over, just like that. It had been again another great and varied day’s riding, and it was almost an anticlimax that it just sort of stopped. Surin Beach is certainly a lot more westernised than any other place that we had seen along the way too, and so it was almost a shock to the system to be taken into what was like being in another world.
The Manathai Hotel was as good as anywhere we had been all trip, and so once again Spiceroads did us proud with their choice of accommodation. Following a brief dip in the most welcome private plunge pool I have ever been in (actually the only private plunge pool I have ever been in, but very welcome nonetheless), we had our final farewell dinner to the Spiceroads guys down on the beach.
The final tale of the tape for the day per my Garmin is as follows:
So altogether we had covered around 850km (around 520 miles) in the 8 days cycling, and for me, it was just the ticket. The terrain was never too challenging, and the pace never too quick, but ultimately I got what I came for and more. The roads in Thailand are in great condition, and apart from the odd rabid dog or moped riding the wrong way, you never ever feel threatened in any way by other road users like is so often the case in the UK.
It would be remiss of me not to finish this series of posts without a final word about Spiceroads. I picked this company blind, from so many on the internet, and other than a couple of Tripadvisor reviews, knew nothing about them at all. It was a leap of faith, a last minute decision, that could, very easily, have not been anything like it promised. In simple terms, they absolutely overdelivered, which is so refreshing, and made for a great time all round. From the quality of the bikes, the accommodation, the food, the backup, the communications, and the friendliness, from the time of booking until the time I got home, they were brilliant in every way.
I often judge companies that I deal with in terms of how they perform when something goes wrong. With Spiceroads, you just knew it wouldn’t go wrong in the first place. From the little touches (you never had to ask for anything – I never asked for my water bottle to be filled, it was just done for me automatically, like 10 times a day), to the timeliness, to the advance organisation at every hotel we stayed in, and restaurant we stopped at, it was all perfect. They had thought of everything, and then made sure it happened. I honestly couldn’t think of one thing to criticise them for at all. Unlike so many travel companies I have dealt with, you didn’t have to fit in with them, they were there to make you get the most out of your trip, and that is excellent.
Oh and even more finally, to Dirk, David and Phillipa, thank you for being such wonderful travelling companions. It is strange sometimes being thrown together with people you have never met before for 24 hours a day, but you were all just great!
And so into 2013 – Happy New Year to everyone. I want to get 3,000 miles cycling in this year (double my 2012 total), and don’t think I’ll be doing any running! My main aim is I think six (I’ve just plucked that from the air, but why not!) new mountain summits, of which Aconcagua and Mont Blanc are top of the list. Watch this space…….