On November 4th Fred the bike is embarking on a six month journey across Southeast Asia. Starting in Singapore, Fred plans to make his way up the west coast of Malaysia, across Thailand, Cambodia, up through Vietnam and into Laos. After that... who knows? Fred invites you to follow him through his adventure. Any advice from fellow travelers is always welcome.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chumphon-Ban Bang Boet

Total Distance:94.32km
Total Time:5h55m42s
Average Speed:15.9km/h
Maximum Speed:45.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:1581.18km

Yesterday I resumed my cycling experience. I regret to inform you that I have encountered yet another delay in my trip. What we all knew would inevitably happen finally did. I injured myself. Before you start to freak out and assume the worst, let me assure you it is not that bad. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let me go back and describe the days events for you.
I arrived in Chumphon on the 26th. I stayed there an extra day in order to do a Visa Run. I had originally planned to do it in Ranong, but Chumpohon eliminated having to back track for a day. The Visa run was quite an experience. They take you a van to the Burma-Thai boarder where you then take a boat to an island in Burma. The island us completely desolate. The only thing there is a Casino. You sit there for an hour, at which point you get back on the boat and reenter Thailand. Simple as that. Another 15 days on your visa. It all went well and the next day I was ready to hit the road.
I woke up early in hopes of making all the way to Prachuap Khirikhan, which is a long and gruelling 180km or so from Chumphon. However, having spent the last week exerting the bare minimum in physical effort that is needed for human survival, I suspected I might tire out and be unable to make it the whole way. As a backup I could stop in Bang Saphan, about half way through the two cities. There are two roads that go from Chumphon to Prachuap. I opted to take the secondary highway as it runs along the coast and would make for a more scenically pleasing ride. I stand by my choice. The view, although nothing spectacular, was nice and I had the road almost completely to myself. The only downside was the rather harsh head-wind which slowed me down significantly. At one point I was travelling on only the smallest of inclines, unable to push myself past 10km/h. Despite the wind, it felt good to be on the road again. I was instantly reminded of why I chose to do this in the first place. It is so nice to be able to take in every inch of a country. Experience everything it has to offer. To often people travel to only the major cities and resorts in a country, never really seeing it's true culture. The ride, though tiring, was great.
After about 60km I was starting to get tired. I decided to stop for a break at the side of the road. That's when it happened. There was a slight decline getting off the road. I planted my feet ion the ground steadily guiding my bike down the hill. All of a sudden I lost my balance. I toppled over, bringing Fred down with me. With him all geared up he's quite heavy. My leg got wedged under him and one of the pedals gauged a fair sized chunk of skin from my leg. I got up and tended to my bloody leg. Everything seemed to be okay. The cut was deep, but did not render me unable to ride. It didn't seem to require immediate medical attention. A sat for a bit, drank some water, and got back on the bike. When I started riding I received a most unwelcome surprise. My knee hurt with an intensity I have only ever felt once in my life. Panic start to set in.
For those of you who don't really know me, now would be a good time to tell you I have spent the past two years recovering from a rather bad injury to my knees. I tore various ligaments in them while skiing a couple of years ago. The healing process was a long and unpleasant one. One I don't wish to repeat. So I sure you can imagine my fear when I found myself unable to pedal my bike.
Given the circumstances I think I handled it fairly well. Don't get me wrong. there was a fair amount of panic involved. However I was able to collect myself and come up with a plan. I was still pretty far from Bang Saphan. There was no way I could ride there. Worst case scenario, I could hitch. A single woman riding a bicycle through SE Asia is brave, but hitching... that's just plain dumb. I would only do it as a last resort. I saw a sign for Ban Bang Boet Beach 25 km away. Luckily a lot of the terrain was downhill. I could coast through the downhill parts, and walk my bike for the rest. So that's what I did, the whole time praying there would be some sort of resort there. It was a risk, but my best bet.
Upon arrival a sense of relief filled my body. Three resorts, all of which cost a pretty penny. Desperate times call for desperate measures though. I wasn't about to go in search of another place to stay when I couldn't ride and barely walk. The people there took pity on me and gave me a discount. 1000 baht, down from 1500. Still pricey, but what can you do. This morning I woke up early, arranged for a ride to Bang Saphan and caught a bus to Prachuap Khirikhan. Ban Bang Boet is pretty "one horse". The possibility of needing to see a doctor still exists, so I'd rather be in a city where I have access to a hospital and buses to various places if need be.
Today was my first bus ride. I didn't like it. Watching the landscape zoom by didn't do it justice. I missed my bike. I missed my method of travel. I'm in Prachuap now. My leg feels a little better. I think I'll rest here one more day. Hopefully I'll be able to ride, but if I have to I'll bus it to Bangkok. I only have 13 days to get to Cambodia, so time is of the essence.
So that's the story of my first, and hopefully, last injury. I'm optimistic that everything will heal and I'll be back on track by the day after tomorrow.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ko Phangan

I know I said i would stop with the dilly-dallying. That I would get down to business and resume my life as a cyclist. However the lure of Ko Phangan was just to much to pass up. I've spent the past week on the island. Basking in the sun, meeting good people, and eating good food. Then there is the party element that went along with my stay on the island, but I'll let you use your imaginations on that one. So here it is. What I Did On My Christmas Vacation...
I had nearly lost faith in the islands of Thailand. I had heard such great things about them. The other travellers I met made them out to be these care free paradises. After visiting Ko Phi Phi and Ko Samui, I far from shared this opinion. I found them to be nothing more than a haven for those wanting to practice behaviors which are considered taboo at home. All the businesses, big and small were run by westerners. People taking advantage of this country which, over the past month, I have grown quite fond of. There was no Thai culture to be seen. They were plagued with western commercialism. Every inch reminding me of why I left home in the first place. How ever Ko Phangan restored my faith.
Don't misunderstand. It is still a very touristy island. But it seems to attract a different kind of tourist than the likes of Phi Phi and Samui. Phangan is truly "beach culture". Swinging hammocks, dreadlocks and bikinis, late night parties, and smiling faces. It was refreshing to find a place to just chill out and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. I managed to score a bungalow in one of, if not the best places on the island. Liberty Bungalows has it all. Beach Front properties that exist away from the ubber busy Had Rin Beach. A place where you can really relax. Don't even get me started on the food. It is run by the best chef in the world. You name it, she can cook it...and she can cook it good. I spent a small fortune on food Not because it was overpriced. Actually it was quite the opposite. But because everything was so good. Every morning started with a fresh, wholesome breakfast. After dinner the night would conclude with a rich delectable dessert. I could go on for hours about it. I really could, but I won't. Lets just say it was the perfect place to spend Christmas. I'm glad I took the chance on Ko Phangan.
I have now returned to the mainland. The boat ride here was brutal, as I spent a good portion of it with my head over the edge of the boat tossing my cookies overboard. Tomorrow I go to Ranong to do a quick boarder run, then it's back to business. I have 15 days to get to Cambodia. I estimate 9 or 10 will be strictly riding. I plan to stop in Bangkok for a couple of nights. Unfortunately, due to the time crunch, I have little time for other stops.
So there you have it... "What I Did On My Christmas Vacation".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

What canI say? Thailand has made me somewhat lazy. I have been here for almost a month, and cycled very little. Now I am in Ko Phangan, enjoying tha layed back atmosphere and soaking up the sun. Hey, it's the holidays. Holidays are for rest and relaxation, which percisely what I intend to do. There's no harm in that. Well, there's not a lot to report. I just wanted to check in and let you all know I'm still alive.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ko Samui-Sarat Thani

Total Distance:99.85km
Total Time:5h19m25s
Average Speed:18.80km/h
Maximum Speed:51.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:1486.86km

It seems although now I'm just riding around in circles. After spending a four nights on Ko Samui I decided to head back to Sarat Thani and start heading for Bangkok. I don't know why, but I didn't like Ko Samui all that much. I guess it due to how over-run by tourists it was. It was easy to forget all together what country you were in. It was slightly depressing, how this beautiful piece of Thailand had been completely corrupted by the western word. Pizza places out number noodle houses ten to one. It was time for me to go.
I left my hotel on Chewang Beach early in the morning. In an attempt to avoid a couple of hills I had hit on my way there, I decided to go the other direction. Not only was it twice as long, but there was twice as many hills. At least now I can say Fred and I did a full loop around the island. I caught the car ferry back to Don Sak. While on the ferry I began to feel rather nauseous. I chalked it up to sea sickness. However, once off the boat it didn't subside. The whole 70km back to Sarat Thani my stomach burned. I seriously thought I might die. Once in Sarat Thani I checked myself into a hotel and slept for the next 24 hours. It was probably something I ate. I'm feeling much better now.
While I was laying in bed I rethought going to Bangkok. I have to be the world's most indecisive person. I decided to give the islands one more chance to impress me. Tomorrow I head for Ko Pha-nong. Hopefully it will leave me with a better impression of Thai Beach life.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Surat Thani-Don Sak (Ko Samui)

Total Distance:77.99km
Total Yime:4h11m37s
Average Speed:18.6km/h
Maximum Speed:51.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:1387.01km

After arriving late in Surat Thani I rode around aimlessly looking for a place to stay. Once again, my Lonely Planet guide failed to produce any information that was the least bit accurate. Finally I found a place to stay. It was not a bad little place. The woman who ran it was quite the animated little character. She stood no more than five feet tall and, although due to the language barrier I can't be sure, seemed rather impressed with me and Fred. She even went as far as to check my tires fore me before I left in the morning. I left a little later than usual, around 8:30am, as I didn't have that far to go. I got on my bike and rode down the 401 to Don Sak Pier, where I could board a car ferry to Ko Samui. There are passenger ferries that are closer to Surat Thani, but a car ferry is always easier with Fred.
It wasn't that far to the ferry. Just over 70km. In comparison to some of my more recent trips, it should have been an effortless ride. It should have, but wasn't. My legs burned from riding that hill in Khao Sok the day before. It was the first time since coming to SE Asia that I've really felt the effects of the previous days ride. I made it there in one piece though, which is all that matters. I boarded the ferry at 12:30 and was on my way to Ko Samui to spend some more time lying on a beach. Rough life, I know.
I don't know how long I'll stay, as it is rather expensive. There's a couple of other islands to hit up on the east coast as well. It's sort of up in the air right now. One thing is for certain, come Christmas day I'll be lying on a white sandy beach.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Takua Pa- Surat Thani

Total Distance:167.02
Total Time:9h49m15s
Average Speed:17.0km/h
Maximum Speed:55.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:1309.01km

Takua Pa was somewhat of a one horse town. Actually I would have been shocked if they had a horse. However, I did really enjoy it. It is a major hub for bus transfers to other cities, with many people who have breif stopovers in the town. There is a night market there that is probably one of the best, if not the best I have yet to encounter. They have everything and anything you could possibly want there. From food, to shoes to camping equipment. I had a great meal, or should I say meals, from the various vendors there. Although there is only the one hotel, and it was a little pricey it was a nice treat. It was clean and comfortable. Two things which are often sacrificed when looking for the best buget hotel in a city.
Initally I had planned to make my way to Cambodia. After giving it some thought, and realizing that would put me in Bangkok for Christmas I changed my mind. Bangkok seems like a depressing place to spend the holidays. I wpould much rather spend it on one of the East Coast Islands. I decided to start making my way to Ko Samui, via Surat Thani. I awoke the next day and set off early, as it was going to be a big day. I had no idea how big. It was a misty morning. It was a little cool, which was nice for a change. About forty-five minutes into the trip, as I was cycling throught the fog, I could see something approaching me. It was rather large. At first I thought it was a truck, but it wasn't quite that big and was moving far to slow. As it began to emerge from the haze, I finally realized what it was. An elephant. My heart began to pound and I started ripping through my bag, looking for my camera. I was so excited, I hadn't yet seen a wild elephant. Then the fear began to set in. Are elephants dangerous? I don't know. I've only ever seen them in zoos.
Okay, so as it got closer I realized there was indeed a guy walking behind him. It wasn't actually wild. It would have been a much better sory if it had been. It was still pretty cool though.
I continued along my way, heading toward Khao Sok National Park. I had wanted to stop there, but the park fee is expensive. Not really worth it for a one day visit. Looking back I should have taken a couple of days and stoppped. It's my first real regret of the adventure. While I didn't go through the park, I did ride along the outskirts of it. It was amazing. One of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Lush green forest, high mountain peaks, filled with all sorts of wild life. The ride up to the summit was no easy feat. It was actually pretty excruciating. Very possibly the hardest thing I've ever done. Well worth it though. I'd do it again in a heart beat. Words can't even begin to describe how beautiful it was.
The ride through Khao Sok took a good few hours. I thought it would take half as long, so I was quite set back time wise. I decided to take a nice long break afterwards. I was tired and still had a ways to go. I stopped at this little family store in the middle of nowhere. The people didn't speak English, but I could tell by the expressions on their faces that they were good, kind people. I sat for about an hour watching them play with their kids. Laughing and having fun. Running around their store, which also doubled as their home. It was amazing to see that these people who had so little were probably the richest I'd ever seen.
I reached Surat Thani around 7pm. Not to bad, but it was already dark, which made finding a hotel a chore. It was probably my hardest day so far. It was probably the best too.

Phuket-Takua Pa

Total Distance:134.32
Total Time:7h03m01s
Average Speed:19.1km/h
Maximum Speed:44.5 km/h
Total Distance So Far:1142.00km

Okay, so I spent a little longer loitering around Phuket than I had initially anticipated I would. As it turned out I really enjoyed it. I stayed in the city, at the On On Hotel. Phuket town is significantly less busy than the surrounding beaches. It isn't so swamped with beer swilling tourists. The travellers in the city tend to be the ones with a greater appreciation for actual Thai culture. Over all it was a pleasant stay. I did manage to make it out to the Phi Phi islands. It was a short lived trip. I suggest anyone heading that way take at least a few days to enjoy it, as there is an abundance of things to see and do there. That having been said, make sure you are prepared to deal with a piece of Thailand that has been completely consumed by Western culture. Aside from the breath taking beaches and scenery, one could easily forget what country they are in. None the less, it is worth the trip out there.
After spending what could be perceived as a little too much time in Puket, I was ready to hit the road again. I've been cycling for a month yet without receiving a single flat tire. To my dismay, when I pulled my bike out to leave Phuket, the rear wheel was completely flat. As if that weren't bad enough, about half way through the days trip I received yet another puncture. I completely blame "British Rob", whom I met in Phuket. Rob if you are reading this, I just want you to know you're a total wanker. I don't consider myself to be a superstitious person. However in this case I'll make an exception. The day before I left, Rob just had to ask how many flats I had gotten. When I told him none, he just had to marvel at what luck I had. WANKER! He completely jinxed me.
The trip to Tukua Pa was nice. It felt great to be back out on the road. I rode through Khao Lak, which was scenically the nicest part of the day. There was many hills in that area but, although long, they weren't very steep. I almost stayed the night there, as it was only 30km from Takua Pa. However the cheapest place I could find was 500 baht, which I was unwilling at the time to pay. The economical value of the On On had spoiled me. As it turned out, once in Takua Pa, I discovered there was only one hotel which cost 600 baht a night. I guess it serves me right.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Be Advised!

To all of you whom are currently travelling in Thailand, be advised. After spending my time in Phuket, under the assumption I could re-enter and gain another 30 day visa, I awoke to discover that as of this morning the Thai Government has changed it's policy on visa re-entry. Over land travellers will now only be given a 15 day visa upon entering Thailand. If you are arriving via air however, a 30 day visa will still be granted to you. The plus side is you can now re-enter as many times as you wish, as opposed to the former 90 day maximum. This is particularly bad news for any cyclists out there planning to do Thailand by bike. My advise to you is don't dilly-dally, as I have been doing. I'm now in a position where I have to pedal my nicely tanned behind off. If need be I'll take a bus into Cambodia. Just thought you all should know.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Phang Nga-Phuket

Total Distance:104.51km
Total Time:5h09m37s
Average Speed:20.30km/h
Maximum Speed:41.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:1007.68

In light of my less than enjoyable Phang-Nga experience, I had decided to wake up early and try to leave before sun rise. Not just because I wanted to get out of Phang-Nga. I also wanted to beat the heat and make it to Phuket by late morning. To my dismay, when I went to leave my hotel, I found the doors were locked and there was nobody to let me out until about 8:30. The song "Hotel California" rushed into my head, and I started to chuckle. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". Once the gatekeeper came and freed me from my cage, I was off. Unfortunately, I rode in the wrong direction for about 20km. Once I noticed the signs were all pointing me toward Krabi, I turned around and back-tracked. So much for an early start.
Despite the events of that morning, and of the previous night, I remained in surprisingly high spirits. It's hard to complain when you're surrounded by a beautiful, lush paradise. Plus I have nobody to complain to.
Once again the day was unforgivably hot. I have to start riding either in the early mornings or evenings. By the time I hit Phuket I was, once again, completely drained. The ride was a nice one though. I have been quite enjoying the terrain in Thailand. There are quite a few hills in comparison to Malaysia, but none that are overly steep or long. It helps keep things a little more interesting. I haven't had any run-ins with dogs in awhile (knocking on wood as I type). Perhaps the vicious beasts are contained to the southern tip of the country. Some how I doubt it though.
Given that I was pressed for time, I had initially planned to make my stay in Phuket a rather short one. However, once getting here I decided to revamp my plans a little. I've decided to head up to Ranong, where you can take a day trip into Burma, receiving another 30 days upon reentering Thailand. This way I can take my time around this area, as I am really enjoying it. Right now I am staying in Phuket city. I will spend a couple of nights here and then look into staying on one of the near by beaches. The hostel where I'm staying is very cheap. Depending on prices in the beach areas, I may continue to stay here and just ride down during the day. It isn't very far from Phuket town. I am staying at the On On Hotel, which was used in the filming of the movie "The Beach". A little cheesy, I know, but as I said the price can't be beat.
I know I am moving at a relatively slow pace. Most cyclists keep moving every day, or at least every second day. I am on vacation however. What fun would it be if I didn't stop to smell the roses?

Krabi (Ao Nang)-Phang Nga

Total Distance:106.98km
Total Time:5h31m35s
Average Speed:19.36km/h
Maximum Speep:49.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:903.17km

Upon arriving in Krabi I had wanted to go directly to the beach and skip the town all together. I drove around for hours, in the dark I might add, trying to figure out how to get there. Finally I gave up, rode back to town, and checked myself into a hostel for the evening. As it turned out I'm glad I did. Krabi is actually a not bad little town. The next morning I woke up, received some proper directions, and headed down to Ao Nang beach. Ao Nang was beautiful. Sandy beaches, clear blue water, and mountainous cliffs. It was enough to take your breath away. Like many of the beaches I've visited on my trip, it was rather touristy. I'm looking forward to finding one that is not so inhabited by tourists. I spent a few days there soaking up the sun, swimming, and doing a little kayaking. Overall, a good break. After that, Fred and I hit the road once again.
I was hoping to make it all the way to Phuket in a day. The heat of the Thai sun , however, proved to be a bigger challenge than I had anticipated. I reached Phang-Nga by the early afternoon and was completely wiped out from the heat. I opted to spend the night and go the rest of the way the next day. Probably a smart choice. Had I continued I'm sure I'd be lying dead from exhaustion and dehydration on some highway in Thailand right know.
I had heard good things about Phang-Nga. Various people had suggested I stop there if I couldn't make it the whole way. It's most commonly known for "James Bond Island", which is a nearby island where they filmed...you guessed it, on of the 007 movies. Don't ask me which one, as I don't know and don't care. Aside from this tourist attraction I found Phang-Nga had very little to offer. It has, up to this point, been my least favorite stop. There was nothing to do or see. and I found the people to be quite rude. I did see a fair amount of other travellers there, all of which were sporting glum looks on their faces. I can only assume they were having similar experiences. I decided to call this one a right off, packed it in early, and went to bed. The way I look at it is if, in the past month, this has been the only place that I've really disliked, I can't complain. You can't win 'em all.