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 🙂

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