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……