On February 24th 2016 our new adventure started.
Finally, we were able to launch! After an eight-hour train ride from Bangkok and a few days in the hotel in which our last year’s journey had ended, we left we our beloved hotel in Chumphon rather late and started off with a small detour (thai style) on the wrong side of the road.
Throughout the whole day we enjoyed palm forests, small villages and green fields. Everywhere we went the locals were delighted to see us and wanted to know where we were going.
The route of the first day took us to Pak Nam Tako, Tungtako 63km from Chumphon. There we poked our heads into the run-down Sunny Beach Resort but the room was shabby and expensive so we decided to go further. Some friendly villagers we bumped into steered us towards a homestay 3 km away, which looked great, however the owner wasn’t around so some other locals guided us towards the ‘Bungalow’ hotel on the outskirts of the town. Very simple but clean. The highlight of the day was when the man who guided us to the hotel before dusk, later, drove us 3km in his private car back to the beach to enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant. He waited in the car while his daughter was sitting with us (presumably to learn English?) but would neither eat nor drink! Afterwards he drove us to the grocery store, back to the hotel and wanted nothing in return. Just amazing!
A beautiful ride was waiting for us on the following day. We rode 47km to Lamae along the 4012 road, which followed the sea. I drank my first soda of the day in a small store where the woman shopkeeper chatted with me whilst I became friends with her dog "snow". She then offered to give me her dog!?
In the afternoon I stopped at Green View Resort, as agreed with Rudi, who started a little later. The owner was waiting for me at the gate and led me to a great little bungalow next to the sea. When I had stowed my luggage, he then showed his worm farm and the plants which he grew with his bio-soil. Lemons grew under a small verandah, as old coconut shells filled with live strawberries hit against one another in the breeze while the wind picked up.
The next morning, it stormed and rained like crazy. The sea threw high waves on the beach while palm trees bent and swayed under heavy rain. Stuck at the guesthouse, we chatted for a while with the owner of the organic farm. She talked to us about her day to day life and explained to us that she does not use MSG or serve alcohol in the restaurant.
Coming back to our bungalow we noticed that in the heavy rain, water had come in through a window and most of Rudi's clean clothes were now partially wet. Nevertheless as the rain had now subsided, we had no option but to pack up our things and head on our way.
The road was not spectacular. We ate lunch at a very run-down resort, then rode 38km on the 4012 to the Boo Yee Resort in Tha Chana. Once at the resort we were greeted by an old but very proper Thai gentleman. He even put on a special hat to look formal for guests, although it actually made him look like one of the Blues Brothers. He showed us the hotel’s amenities and the very well cleaned rooms for the area. When it came time to sort out the formalities he would only deal with Rudi. Rudi had to fill out all the paperwork and provide only his passport. The man explained to him where to fill what on the form. This was all quite strange as Daniela was the only one of us who could speak Thai! He was very accurate, very business like, even though the hotel was located miles from any form of civilization. I think that it is rare for lost foreign guests to stumble across this region.
The following day was very tiring, once again we were separated. Immediately after the late start, it began to rain. I spent the whole day alternating between searching for shelter and waiting for the heavy showers to pass. The route ran along the 4014 road. Towards the end of the day I rode in the rain because I was tired and just wanted to get to the destination. The 417 finally ended the 76km it took to get to Surat Thani.
Bang na San, an unexpected highlight of the trip
Surat Thani has not much to offer as a city, so after a few days rest we continued south on the 4009. We travelled the 44km to Ban Na San fairly quickly, as were motivated to escape the pollution since the road was a three-lane highway. Ban Na San turned out to be a total highlight of this leg. The small town is idyllically situated on a river. Strikingly, many people seemed to be physically active in this village. Running and cycling are common. Our hotel was located in the middle of the market, the rooms were rather old-fashioned, with ancient carpeted floors and skirting on the beds. We found the residents of the town particularly friendly and helpful.
Whilst wandering the streets with a bag of stinky laundry, we happened to meet the local English teacher who gave us directions to the coin laundry. Upon arrival we were surprised to discover that the teacher had driven to the laundry to meet us and to ensure we found the way.
However in Ban Na San vegetarian food can be hard to come by. For instance when I inquired at a restaurant if they have vegetarian meals, the employees said: 'no! "You go to 7 eleven".
With a heavy heart we left Ban Na San the next day, to ride on small roads through villages and forests in direction of Chai Buri. The track was breathtaking! As we turned onto a narrow street, which Google had proposed to us, a local resident in a car stopped us, speaking in Thai to me. As far as I understood he tried to tell us, that it was impossible for us to take this road! Another man came along and agreed with him, mentioning that is was dangerous to go any further on the road. We thanked for the advice and never the less continued on. Soon we got to understand why they had warned us. The path led through the jungle and soon became a forest road. We progressed rather slowly, however, the environment was a pure joy for our eyes.
During the first stop back on the tarred road, a young Thai offered Rudi his guitar so he could play some tunes. He then diligently took pictures of Rudi. A few kilometers down the road, a local approached us as we drank a soda. He showed us a photo of Rudi playing the guitar on his phone! We laughed, quite surprised about the small world! After 67km we found the only hotel in Chai Buri, facilities consisting of pink bungalows with rather interesting interior design. In the evening, as we were on the look out for good dinner, the local bicycle club of Chai Buri invited us spontaneously for a drink. The conversation we had was made possible by using bits of Thai and mainly our gesture skills to talk with the guys of the bicycle club, which resulted on both sides in loud laughter.
The last day of this stretch of the journey took us on main streets and highways to Krabi and then on a more scenic road to the beach town of Ao Nang. The route was unappealing and so we moved quickly in order to reach our goal. From Krabi onwards we could enjoy the typical rock formations of southern Thailand, sticking up next to the road. Unfortunately we did not find the hotel of Rudi's friend right away so that we had to take a detour of several kilometers additional to the 82 km we already spent riding that day! Totally exhausted we arrived at the destination at dusk. We spent the next few days in Ao Nang, before flying to the island of Belitung in Indonesia, in order to observe a total solar eclipse.