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.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

And So Concludes Our Little Story...

All the arrangements have been made. Flights have been booked, Fred has been put into storage, I've even purchased a backpack. It feels weird, carrying my life on my back as opposed to my bike. I feel so normal. Just another regular Canadian Backpacker. Parting ways with Fred was no easy task. I would have loved to have taken him on one last ride before we went home. It was time for a break though. Actually, it was probably time for a break a long time ago. I'm just too stubborn to have admitted it. It's done. The final decision has been made. 100% sure. I can't help but feel a little sad.
Well, it's been quite a journey. Starting from Kuala Lumpur, heading through the beautiful beaches of Southern Thailand, exploring the ancient ruins of Cambodia, up through the ever changing landscape of Vietnam, climbing the monstrous mountains of Laos and Northern Thailand, and heading all the way back to Singapore. It's been everything I imagined it would be and more. I've learned so much. I've seen so much. I've ate so much. Through the rain, the heat, the wind, through the good times and the bad, through it all Fred has been the trustiest of travelling companions. I couldn't imagine having done it without him. He will be sorrily missed.
Now it's time to move on. This is the start of a new adventure. A significantly shorter one, mind you, but an adventure none the less. I don't feel right using the same blog for my Indonesian Adventure. If you want to continue to follow what I'm doing you can do so through www.indogabby.blogspot.com. I'm sure it won't be as interesting as The Adventures Of Fred The Bike (whether or not you found it interesting I don't know, but I hope so), I try to keep you entertained though.
And so concludes our little story. Fred and I would like to give you our thanks for following along. It was one hell of a ride!

Fred The Bike & Gabrielle

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kota Tinggi-Singapore

Total Distance:69.86km
Total Time:4h14m11s
Average Speed:16.5km/h
Maximum Speed:44.0km/h
Total Distance:11,120.35km

My last day riding! Probably my last day riding. I'm so indecisive. I gotta work on that. Today we are at a probability of 85% that Fred will NOT be accompanying me to Indonesia. It's a lot harder than I though it would be to leave him behind. We've been through so much together. My ass has been adhered to that bike for pretty much eight months now. 85% probability.
I don't like biking through big cities with my bike all loaded up. Today I had the displeasure of going it twice. Once in Johor Bahru, and once in Singapore. I got pretty turned around in JB. I don't see why that can't just put up a big sign that says "SINGAPORE" and has an arrow pointing in the direction you have to go. It would make sense wouldn't it? Maybe they just want to toy with tired,confused, foreign cyclists. All's well that ends well. I found my way out... eventually.
Singapore, on the other hand was a breeze to get through. Everything here is clearly labelled and straight forward. It's such an organized city, and so clean. I love it. If the cost of living here wasn't so high, I might never leave. I was pretty excited when I went into the store and saw gummy candies today. I had been craving them for a while. A clean city with gummy candies, what more can a girl want.
So, I'm back where I started. I think this is it. I think it's the end. I think. Tomorrow flights have to be booked, things have to be arranged, final decisions have to be made. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Rompin-Kota Tinggi

Total Distance:154.79km
Total Time:8h52m14s
Average Speed:17.4km/h
Maximum Speed:49.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:11,050.49km

The ride to Kota Tinggi proved slightly hillier than the day before. Still it was nothing to really complain about. the hills were a little steeper, a little longer, but still nowhere near comparable to those of Laos or Norther Vietnam. The road became even more desolate. Cities and villages were fewer and farther in between. I enjoy riding amidst nothing but nature. It causes less distraction. After weeks of never having to go far without hitting at least a small village I didn't anticipate it though, and didn't properly gauge how much water I would need. I ran out and had to ride an hour without water. I was starting to freak out a little. After an hour you start to really feel dehydration setting in, which is worrisome. I have pretty good luck. Just as I was starting to panic i pulled up to a town where I could "fuel up".
Kota Tinggi is a fairly big town, or maybe a small city. I'm not sure how you would classify it. It's main attraction seems to be a rather large shopping mall, where the locals flock to at the days end. I was not so inclined to do so. There isn't much else to do there. It's too bad. Kota Tingii is actually in a pretty choice location. Situated on the banks of a river amidst the tall trees of the surrounding forest and within close proximity to both the ocean as well as Singapore, Kota Tinggi could easily capitalize on passing through tourists if they spruced things up a little.
One more day! One more day of riding and I'm done. At least I'm probably done. There's still this voice in the back of my head saying "take Fred to Indonesia". I'm about 90% sure I'm going to leave him in Singapore. I feel like I'm abandoning him. Sorry Fred!


Total Distance:137.31km
Total Time:7h43m42s
Average Speed:17.7km/h
Maximum Speed:49.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:10,895.70km

For some reason I thought making a stop in Kuantan would be a good idea. I was wrong. Not that there was anything wrong with Kuantan. As far as a place to stop for a night it was fine. However I probably should have pushed on a little further. I guess I thought it wasn't as far as it actually was to Singapore.
I stayed in a pretty nice, not to mention a little expensive hotel on Kuantan. Sometimes I'm not the best budget traveller. It was nice though. It was clean and in the morning they had a really great all you can eat breakfast buffet. It was the best breakfast I've had in eight months. Still having quite the distance to travel i probably should have forfeited breakfast, but it came complimentary with the room. Free food is the best kind.
The road to Rompin was hillier than I had anticipated. It was the good kind of hills. Rolling hills, where you can catch enough speed going down one to almost make it to the top of the next. Entering Malaysia through the North, the east coast was very developed and filled with resort after resort. The view of the South China Sea was nice, but grew a little dull after a while. This area, the area between Kuantan and Jahor Bharu, is a lot more desolate and came with a change of scenery as well. The surrounding landscape was much more of the wooded National Park Variety. I like the beach, but at heart I'm a mountain girl. I always feel a little more at ease when travelling through a park of forest.
The name Rompin is misleading. One might expect it to be a "rompin', stompin" good time, but it's not. It consists of about four hotels, a 7/11 and a KFC. I suppose that's all you really need, especially when just making a quick overnight stay. It gave me a chance to spend a good night catching up on some reading and resting up.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Total Distance:49.71km
Total Time:3h03m02s
Average Speed:16.4km/h
Maximum Speed:39.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:10,758.39km

Cherating, finally a place that really had everything I was hoping to find in Eastern Malaysia. A nice beach, a laid back atmosphere, good food, a couple of good places to hang out at night, good people, and not too expensive. It's a shame that many people skip this little beach town on their journey down the East coast. Well, maybe it's not so much a shame. I'm sure if it were buzzing with westerners it would probably not have been such a pleasant experience. I had really only intended to spend a night there, but one night soon turned into two, which became three. I thought about hanging around for a fourth, but decided against it.
Kuantan is relatively close to Chatering. Here resides the largest Mosque in Eastern Malaysia. Other than that it acts as a transfer point for busses to other, more exciting places. It's a bit of a dull city. I had considered trying to make it all the way to Mersing, but after evaluating my map and realizing it was well over 200km, I decided against it. The short trip to Kuantan puts me within reasonable distance to Mersing and I should be able to make it there tomorrow. After that, in theory anyways, there is only one more day of cycling until I hit Singapore. Although the wind has been kicking up along the coast, slowing me down. It may take an extra day to make it through Malaysia. Time will tell.
The ride here, short though it was, was nice. The road was relatively quiet. I didn't have to head out too early, and I arrived in the early hours of the afternoon. It's always nice to reach a place and be able to cycle around and check things out, as opposed to arriving dead tired and going straight to bed.
If I do decide to travel Malaysia sans Fred, this means there will only be two (possibly three) of these entries left for you to read. Can you believe it? I'm almost done.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kuala Terengganu-Cherating

Total Distance:162.92km
Total Time:9h04m06s
Average Speed:17.9km/h
Maximum Speed:35.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:10,708.68km

Since being back in Malaysia I've had great experiences with the people here. However, I must confess, I find myself slightly disappointed. There really is not much to see or do here, and everything is rather expensive. I spent two nights in Kuala Terengganu. While there is a couple of islands off the coast, it has become quite apparent that visiting all these islands is a little out of my price range, so I stayed on the mainland. There were the usual sights there, a Mosque, a Palace, but nothing that really made me stop in my tracks.
After a couple of days I decided to head off to Chatering. The ride there was generally nice, except for one 20km stretch of road. Everything was going pretty smooth until, all of a sudden, I found myself among a big bustling highway. It was loud and windy, and everywhere I turned were power plants and oil refineries. It was really unpleasant. Like I said, it only lasted about 20km, and other than that the ride was pretty nice.
One definitely doesn't have to worry about finding a place to stay in this part of Malaysia. You could actually walk down the east coast and, given the amount of beach resorts which seem to pop up about every few kilometers, have no problem with accommodations.
I arrived in Cherating the night before last. I think it may just be my favorite place in eastern Malaysia so far. It's a quiet little beach town. There are a reasonable amount of tourists here, but they don't flood the beach like in the Perehntian Islands. The guesthouse I'm staying at, for once, is not too expensive and the owners are extremely friendly. However, all good things must come to an end. Tomorrow I'm taking off again. I think I'm pretty much just going to work my way to Singapore where I'll catch a flight to Indonesia.
I'm thinking I might have to leave Fred behind on my Indonesia adventure, although nothing has really been decided for sure. First of all, if I fly I'll have to pack him up and reassemble him once in Indonesia. Secondly, getting from island to island may be a huge pain with a bike. Finally, it's so damn hot! I think it might be nice to just take a bus for a while instead of baking in the hot Asian heat all day every day. If I get any more tanned I'll be hardly recognizable to my family when I get home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kuala Besut-Kuala Terengganu

Total Distance:113.87km
Total Time:6h11m32s
Average Speed:18.4km/h
Maximum Speed:35.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:10,545.76km

My time spent on the Perehntian Islands was great. I did absolutely nothing. It was perfect. A much need period of relaxation. It really is a beautiful place. It was, however a lot more expensive than I had anticipated. In fact, all of Eastern Malaysia has been more expensive than I had anticipated. I've had to resort to staying in dorms, which are my least favorite of budget accommodations. I guess it beats sleeping on the street... depending on the dorm, that is.
Although it has been a little hard on the old wallet, Malaysia is not without it's benefits. The people here are incredibly nice. Before leaving for the island I left Fred with the people at the travel agency where I purchased my ticket for the boat ride over. They stored it for free, which is unheard of in any of the other countries I've visited on this journey. When I got back Fred was there safe and sound. The people who were taking care of him even gave me some free snacks for the road. On my way out of Kuala Besut, three separate people stopped me to ask where I was going and make sure I knew that there was a shorter way to get there than taking the main highway.
Even though I was given directions on how to get to Kuala Terengganu, I still managed to mess it up. I started off on the short cut route, just as had been explained to me, but some how I ended up back on the main highway. In my defense, road signs in Malaysia aren't the best. It was a total drag! Not only was is a detour getting back onto he main highway, which I hadn't intended to do, but it's a longer route. What should have been 95km turned into almost 115km. There was a large portion of the highway that was under construction. This meant no shoulder to ride on. Luckily it wasn't very bust at the time and the speed limit was only 30km/h. I didn't maintain 30km/h, but close enough that people weren't too agitated when they had to drive behind me waiting for a suitable stretch of road to pass me.
Getting into the city was a little confusing too. I had a hard time finding the city center. Once again, Malaysian people did not disappoint. A nice man on a motor cycle saw me looking at a map and offered to let me follow him to where the bulk of hotels and guesthouses are. It was a nice thing that probably saved me hours in aimless wandering.
Kuala Terengganu is a pretty little city. There are a few sights. You know the usual... mosque, temple, palace. Mostly I like it for it's architecture. It's very pleasing to the eye. A beautiful city to just look at. While I'd love to just sit here doing nothing, it is unfortunately time to move on.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kota Bharu-Kuala Besut (Perehntian Islands)

Total Distance:58.27km
Total Time:3h17m16s
Average Speed:17.7km/h
Maximum Speed:45.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:10,431.89km

Leaving Kota Bhura was my first day cycling back in Malaysia. Overall it went pretty well, although I found the road signs a little confusing. They aren't as straight forward as in Thailand, which sticks me as a little odd as Malay is written in roman script. I made it to Kuala Besut in one peace though, which is all that really matters.
From Kuala Besut I took the boat out to the Perehntian Islands. It isn't really possible to bring a bicycle with you, so i had to leave Fred in storage at one of the travel agencies. I hope he's safe there. It seemed pretty secure. I guess we'll see when I get back. i intend to spend a few days here. Do some snorkeling, laze around on the beach, that sort of thing. I've been going pretty hard lately. I can really use a little break, and this seems the perfect place to do it.
The Perehntian Islands are a beautiful sight. They are often described as a backpackers paradise, which is a pretty fair statement. The white sandy beaches gaze out upon a crystal blue ocean. There is all sorts of wildlife, both aquatic and on the land. They have sharks, stingrays, and a verity of other exotic fish. There are giant lizards roaming around. It's really an interesting place. However, talking to some people who have returned here after visiting the area years ago, things have changed a lot. Good snorkeling can no longer be done off the shore. The fish are a little sparse and the coral is starting to die. You pretty well have to charter a boat to take you out further in the ocean if you want to see anything spectacular. There apparently has been quite a bit of development over the years. It has become a tourist hot spot, so everything is busy and prices are high. Still it is a great place.
One great thing about biking in Malaysia is the ability of the people to speak English. Not everyone speaks English, but it is easier to find people who are fluent than other places I've travelled.It's nice to have conversations that aren't limited by a language barrier. The people here are nice. Less cyclists pass through Malaysia than Thailand or Vietnam, so people are generally more curious when they see you, not to mention a little more willing to help you out. For example, where I am storing my bike they are not charging me. They seemed pretty content to hear all about my trip as payment for locking Fred up in their office.
A major downside of taking a bit of a break from cycling is the pain of getting back on the bike. I'm already dreading how hard it will be. Especially in this heat.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Narathiwat-Kota Bharu

Total Distance:77.65km
Total Time:4h18m05s
Average Speed:18.1km/h
Maximum Speed:41.0km/h
Total Distance So far:10,373.62km

I've decided the southeast of Thailand is my least favorite part of the country. Every stop has bee sort of a disappointment. Narathiwat was no exception. It was loud, dirty and smelly. For some reason hotel rooms run about double in this area what they do elsewhere. The one I ended up with
was pretty bad, hosting some of the biggest cockroaches I have ever seen. You know that urban legend about the guy with the cockroach in his ear? Well today I swear I could feel something moving around in there. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that it's all in my head.
I set out for the border crossing at Sungei Kolok, about 65km from the city. I was headed here based on the fact that "Lonely Planet" says this is where you have to go to enter Malaysia. There is a border crossing there, but what they fail to tell you is that there is also one only 30km from the city. Once on the other side you only have to travel 20km to Kota Bharu, as opposed to the 45km from Sungei Kolok. Why oh why do I keep listening to this stupid book? Luckily I was smart enough to figure it out. Mainly due to the giant sign that said "BORDER", and had an arrow pointing to the border.
Well, I made it to Malaysia. I've almost gone full circle. Next stop, the Perenthian Islands for som Rn'R!


Total Distance:204.16km
Total Time:10h47m51s
Average Speed:18.9km/h
Maximum Speed:35.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:10,295.97km

I had toyed with the idea of spending a day in Songkhla. However upon arriving there I could see nothing spectacular about it. The next day I was off. I didn't want to make the same mistake I did in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Finally I got a break from the wind. For about an hour, what little wind there was actually was at my back. The farther south I head, the less dense the traffic is. This may have to do with the recent civil unrest occurring in this particular region. In spite of it, the people still remained friendly. The scenery wasn't the most exciting, but it was nothing to scoff at either, It certainly beats the Bald-Ass prairies of Alberta.
I experienced my first leg cramp today, and it was a bad one. I was making such great time too. Once the cramp hit my calf though, I was forced to stop for almost an hour and try to rub it out. It helped a little, but the cramp was still present throughout the rest of the ride. It was rather unpleasant. Of course, it had to happen on the longest ride of my journey. That's right. I broke my personal best distance. 204km in a single day. I hate to toot my own horn (oh, who am I kidding? I love to toot my own horn), but of all the cyclists I have met on this trip I am the only one to break 200km in a day. I might add that I've done it three times, not including the day I did 198km.
Due to the leg cramp, the last hour of the ride had to take place in the dark. I've had to do this a few times, ride in the dark. At first it really freaked me out. I've learned the best thing to do is stay calm and take it slow. I had really great lights for my bike before I left Canada, but I lost the charger for them. I haven't been able to find anything that lets you see very well in the dark. The easiest thing to do is use the headlights if passing cars to guide you.
As I was biking in the dark on my way to Narathiwat I looked up at the sky. It was pitch black and the stars were just starting to appear. I sat there looking up and as I did a shooting star went flying across the sky. It was sort of a perfect way to end my visit to Thailand.

Nakhon Si Thammarat-Songklha

Total Distance:187.10km
Total Time:10h13m32s
Average Speed:18.2km/h
Maximum Speed:43.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:10,091.81km

The Decision to stay an extra day in Nakhon Si Thammarat was a regrettable one. There was really nothing to do or see there. The city was dirty and loud and lacked any aesthetic appeal what so ever. The only plus was that it gave me a chance to rest up. What's done is done. If I could go back in time and reverse the decision to stay an extra day I would, but I can't. There's no use in going on about it.
The days ride to Songklha brought me down a nice coastal road. It was rather busy, but the view of the ocean made up for it. When you cycle for long periods of time it is best to try and find something to distract you. Otherwise it seems like you are sitting there forever. I can think of no better way to escape from the reality of what I'm doing than staring out into a never ending ocean. Unfortunately, being that close to the sea often comes along with a strong wind, and today was no exception. It wasn't that bad though. The strong headwind lasted only about an hour before dying down. The rest of the day went pretty smooth.
Although I was biking in the wind, I couldn't help but smile when I rolled over the 10,000 mark. I can't believe I've cycled 10,000km across this continent. It seems like just yesterday I was just starting out. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun.
Just before hitting Songkla I stopped for a small break. As I was sitting there a Thai woman approached me and started taking pictures of me. She spoke to me in Thai. Naturally I didn't understand a word she was saying. Then she started showing me the pictures on her camera. It was filled with photos of different cyclists, most of which were stopped in the the very same place I was sitting. It's funny. I haven't met any other cyclists since being back in Thailand. I was surprised this woman had encountered so many. Who knows. Maybe she has been sitting there for years just waiting for foreigners on their bikes to pass by.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Surat Thani-Nakhon Si Thammarat

Total Distance:147.86km
Total Time:7h47m21s
Average Speed:19.0km/h
Maximum Speed:55.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:9904.71km

Spending the night in Surat Thani was just as i had remembered it... boring. I find the people here not as friendly as elsewhere in Thailand. In there defence, it is a hub to get to the islands, so I'm sure they see a lot of ignorant travellers. I arrived there late and left early, so it isn't like I had to spend a lot of time there anyway. Unlike Chumphon, there are no breakfast places catering to early travellers, so I was back on my 7/11 morning diet.
The ride to Nakhon Si Thammarat, again, takes you down a rather busy highway. This one wasn't so bad though. the first half of the ride is actually really beautiful. This is the road you take if you are going to take the car ferry out to the islands. It is lined with limestone peaks. It is a little hilly, but mostly small rolling hills. I really like this kind of terrain. Shortly after leaving Surat Thani I came across a Thai cycling team out for their morning training session, or rather they came across me. they slowed it down and biked with me for a little bit before taking off, leaving me to eat their dust. Being on a fully loaded bike with touring tires as opposed to racing tires, there was no way I could keep up. They were good fun. It was nice to have people to chat with for a bit. The second half of the ride wasn't quite so nice. The road opens up, the limestone peaks disappear, and the hills turn into a flat highway. The wind picked up quite a bit and, with a lack of trees around, there was no escape from the hot afternoon sun. By the time I arrived in Nakhon Si Thammarat I could feel I had been exposed to too much heat. I actually thought I might throw up.
Nakhon Si Thammarat, according to Lonely Planet, is a little bit of a tourist destination. However, there a lot of things that Lonely Planet say that are completely incorrect. I think this is one of them. It is just a big city, with no real attractions aside form the temple. I have yet to see one other foreigner here. None the less I opted to rest up here for a day. The sun was just a little to much yesterday. After my last bout of sunstroke, I thought it best to spend a day out of the heat. I checked into a nice hotel. Nice for me anyway. Nicer than anywhere I've been staying. They actually have air conditioning hot water, television with three movie channels and, get this, ROOM SERVICE! I took advantage of all these things and spent a quiet evening inside my nice cool room eating curry and watching "No Country For Old Men", but not before taking a nice hot shower. You would think after biking in the heat all day a hot shower would be the last thing you want. You'd be wrong. I just never feel totally clean bathing in cold water. The hot shower was great.
Well I'm almost in Malaysia. I know I keep saying that. Every time I do it becomes more true though. This time I am actually almost in Malaysia. I figure another three days of cycling at most. I might stop off one more time for a day along the way. Biking ever day starts to wear on you. Even if there isn't much to do where you are, sometimes it's best to stop and give yourself a break. Just like I'm doing now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chumphon-Surat Thani

Total Distance:201.84km
Total Time:10h56m48s
Average Speed:18.4km/h
Maximum Speed:42.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:9756.85km

I spent the night in Chumphon. It isn't the most exciting place in the world, but pretty good as far as a travelling hub. There are plenty of cheap places to stay, book stores, even a couple of bike shops. There are a few restaurants that double as travel agencies. This was actually really convenient for me. They open and close according to when the boats to Ko Samui leave. This means if there is a 5:30am boat, which on this particular day there was, they will open the restaurant between 5:00 and 6:00 to cater to those coming or going to the island. It also means I was able to get a good breakfast before embarking on what was sure to be a very long day. Usually, as nothing else is open when I leave a city, I am doomed to eat my breakfast at 7/11. I'm getting a little sick of cornflakes with yogurt and bad instant coffee, so this was a nice treat.
The ride to Surat Thani took me back onto the main highway. As usual it was loud and busy, but at this point I'm starting to get used to it. On thing I can't get used to is the amount of roadkill you see biking around Thailand. It is really disturbing. No word of an exaggeration, I see at least 30 dead dogs every day. No one wants to see that! The roads are also often covered in broken glass from redbull bottles that have been discarded out of the windows of cars. You have to be careful about punctures. I've had pretty good luck so far ( I am knocking on wood as I type). Other than that the Thai highways are in great shape, and they are really nice to ride on.
It was a long, long day. Once again I broke 200km in a single day. Between the two cities is actually slightly less, but after riding around looking for a place to stay I rode just over 200km. Surat Thani is far from my favorite Thai city. I don't know exactly what it is I dislike about it so much, but I do. The worst part is I've been there three times. The last time I was there I had food poisoning and was stuck in bed for two days. I guess in comparison, this time wasn't so bad.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ban Bang Boet-Chumphon

Total Distance:88.61km
Total Time:5h47m11s
Average Speed:15.3km/h
Maximum Speed:44.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:9555.09km

After a great meal and a good nights sleep, this morning I was off once more to continue my journey. Thinking back on it now, I remember that the reason I was able to continue on down this road after I had fallen and injured my leg last December was because it was mostly downhill. All I really had to do was sit there and steer. I had sort of forgotten that part until today. As I climbed up the hills around Ban Bang Boet, it all started coming back to me. However, in comparison to the hills of Northern Vietnam, Laos and Northern Thailand, this was nothing. There was a bit of a head wind as well. The elements slowed me down a little today, but it was still a beautiful ride.
It's been months since I've seen the ocean. It feels great to be back. I have yet to actually submerge myself in it, but that is bound to come soon enough. Just the sight and smell of it is so uplifting. Mountains are great and all, but there's something about peering out into the deep blue sea that... wee, it's hard to explain.
I'm back in Chumphon where, surprise surprise, I have already been. I suppose I could have gone a little further, but today was a particularly hot one. Plus, there is a book exchange here and I am in pretty desperate need of some reading material. Nerdy, I know, but it kills the time when there is nothing else to do.
I'm almost back in Malaysia. It is just a matter of days. I'm looking forward to it, although I will have to brush up on my Malay. I didn't pick up that much the first time around, but I knew the basics. I have completely forgotten them. My next day riding should bring me to Sarat Thani (or surrounding area). Until then...

Prachuap Khirikhan-Ban Bang Boet

Total Distance:136.01km
Total Time:8h00m08s
Average Speed:16.9km/h
Maximum Speed:43.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:9466.48km

Okay, so i totally wussed out and stayed in Prachuap Khirikhan an extra day. In my defense I was tired and suffering from some weird form of diaper rash caused by my crappy new cycling shorts. It isn't the most exciting of places, but not a bad place to hang out for a day or two. Both times that I've been there I have been able to meet other travellers. A little conversation after a couple of straight days of cycling is always nice. Otherwise I start to do a little nutty and begin engaging Fred in conversation. However, I'm sure seeing some insane foreign girl talking to her bike while riding it down the highway provides the good people of Thailand with some entertainment.
I swear I'm trying to hit different stops than the last time I rode through here. It just isn't working out that way. I had hoped to make it all the way to Chumphon. When I stopped for lunch I assessed how much longer I had to go. According to my calculations, if I biked without stopping I could have made it there just as the sun was going down. Biking without stopping for a rest seemed unlikely. Add the blistering heat and the strong head wind, not to mention the heavy and very annoying traffic and what you end up with is a conclusion to stop sooner than expected.
From my previous experience biking this route I knew there were places to stay in Bang Saphan, Bang Saphan Noi, and Ban Bang Boet. Bang Saphan was to close to justify calling it a day, and I had already been to Ban Bang Boet, so I decided on Bang Saphan Noi. I must have missed the turn off or something, because where I ended up was back in Ban Bang Boet.
For those of you who don't already know, the last time I was here I had fallen of my bike rendering me unable to walk let alone cycle. I ended up stranded in Ban Bang Boet, stuck in my hotel room which was costing me a small fortune. This time around was a much more pleasurable experience. I managed to find a more reasonably priced room and was able to walk around the town a little. It is actually a really nice place. It is a tiny fishing village right on the ocean, with a few small resorts. It is mainly visited by Thai people and not western travellers. It's very quiet and a great place to just relax and take in the view of limestone peaks jutting out of the endless ocean. At night the fishing boats all turn their lights on illuminating the sea. It's a beautiful sight. Another great thing about it is the food the fish, being that it is a fishing village, is fresh and cheap.
So, I didn't make it to Chumphon, but at least this stop got me off the main highway. Tomorrow I will be able to enjoy a nice peaceful ride along the less busy secondary highway.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Phetchaburi-Prachuap Khirikhan

Total Distance:163.22km
Total Time:8h49m26s
Average Speed:18.5km/h
Maximum Speed:34.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:9330.47km

I thought maybe I would have an opportunity to hit up some places I didn't see on my way up in January. As it turns out, both stops since leaving Bangkok have been places I've already been. Looking at the map it doesn't seem like there is much I missed before anyway. For once in my life, I did a pretty thorough job.
Phetchaburi was pretty much just as I had left it, up to and including it's lack of accommodations. There are a few, you just really have to look for them. When I was there last time I stayed at a place that was pretty far out of the way. This time I opted to search around a little more for something closer to the highway. After about an hour of aimless riding around the city I found somewhere. It was a bit of a "flea-bag", but really cheap and conveniently located, so I'm not complaining. Although there was something living outside of my window. Possibly a rat, but I didn't open the curtain to check. Sometimes you would rather just not know.
The ride to Prachuap Khirikhan, like those of recent, proved to be nothing spectacular. Just another loud main highway. It was quite nice approaching the limestone peaks that scatter themselves throughout Thailand's Southern regions. It is a pretty sight, but made less enjoyable when you have dogs chasing you and cars honking there horns over and over and over...
That's right. The dogs are back! I've learned how to deal with them a little better. Some of them chase you just for the thrill. To these ones you stop your bike and stare at them and, usually, they back off. However there are those you look at and you know they have rabbis. To these... ride like hell!
So, this is something you could go without knowing. However travelling alone leaves you with nobody to complain to. Here, you all get to act as my surrogate travel companions. I recently invested in a new pair of cycling shorts. WORST CYCLING SHORTS EVER! My butt is in so much pain. Sitting down is torture. Hopefully I'll be able to make it through tomorrows ride.


Total Distance:156.96km
Total Time:8h21m27s
Average Speed:18.8km/h
Maximum Speed:41.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:9167.25km

As anticipated, I was in Bangkok for a few days. I really didn't do much. Slept, ate, caught up on some reading and, being that I was in the party central of the universe, had a couple of nights out on the town. In all honesty I could have done without a second visit to Bangkok. Especially such a lengthy one. The city starts to get to you after a while. Everyone is trying to sell you something. The Tuk-Tuk drivers are relentless. Then there's the ultra seedy element, but I won't even get into that. I suppose, like all big cities, it's not without it's perks. There is a wide array of... well, of everything. There are also a few parts of the city that aren't too bad.
Taking Fred for a ride around the city is one thing. It's a little fun weaving in and out of traffic. However trying to make our way out of the city in a completely different matter. To no surprise exiting the Bangkok city limits took a good four hours. Traffic was horrendous. The one way streets were confusing. On top of this, I didn't really know which way to go. I just sort of guessed and hoped it would all work out. Miraculously it did. I guess I'm more intuitive than any of us thought. Eventually I did make my way out of the city, and it was all pretty smooth sailing from there. It was loud and busy but, having ridden this route before, I more than saw that coming. Phetchaburi isn't that far away, but when all was said in done I had bike nearly 50km at the time I exited the city, turning a 110km ride into nearly 160km.
And so my journey back to Malaysia begins. Having seen all this before I'm going to try keeping the stops to a minimum. I might still hit up a beach on my way. We'll see if I pass anything good. However the goal is to do a straight shot right down to the border. I am slightly lazy though, so I wouldn't be surprised if it takes me longer than I anticipate.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Total Distance:90.29km
Total Time:5h16m19s
Average Speed:17.1km/h
Maximum Speed:35.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:9010.29km

Well I'm back in Bangkok, with just over 9000km under my belt. Bangkok is sort of the type of place you love to hate. It's loud, dirty, and full of the sleaziest of sleaze-bags. However it is also pretty darn convenient. For those travelling via bus or train it is a great hub. You can get pretty much anywhere in the world through Bangkok. It also has a great variety of places to eat, drink, and shop. Anything you need or want you can get here... and I mean ANYTHING! Everyone tells themselves they will just pass through and ends up staying at least a few days. Most people who are travelling the area for long periods of time end up here on multiple occasions. I, apparently, am no exception. I arrived today and have come to terms with the fact that I will be here for at least three nights. I need to stock up on bike supplies and books. I have sort of a long stretch ahead of me where these things may not be readily available. It is also my last chance to do a little shopping in Thailand. What can I say, it turns out I do have some girly tendencies after all.
Once again I took busy highway 1 today. It was loud and busy, but it went pretty fast. That is until I hit Bangkok. While the city is relatively easy to get around, especially having been here before, the same can not be said for the sub-districts. I find the outskirts of the city really confusing and have gotten lost every time entering or exiting Bangkok. At least this time I was expecting it. I arrived in the Bangkok area at 12:30 this afternoon and didn't actually get to my guesthouse until 4:30. If you are wondering about why my riding time is so low, I actually disconnected the cycling computer after about an hour of aimlessly riding around. It was frustrating but, like I said, I was expecting it.
While this may not be the ideal place for some Rn'R, it will have to do. I've a;ready seen most of the south of Thailand, so it's going to be pretty much a straight shot to the Malaysian border. I still have no definitive plan after that. Talking to some people the other night I'm now leaning towards making my way to Sumatra. Unfortunately, this would probably mean going sans Fred. We'll see.
I still have a while before I head home, but still I feel my trip rounding to a close. It has it's ups and downs. I'll be said to return to the same old song and dance, but I do miss my friends and family and I'm getting excited to see everyone.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Total Distance:71.54km
Total Time:4h04m57s
Average Speed:17.6km/h
Maximum Speed:32.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:8920.00km

Spending a couple of days in Lopburi was nice. I got a chance to see more ancient ruins from around the Ayuthaya Period. While they are beautiful and spectacular to look at, they are all starting to look a little similar. Being that I am now in Ayuthaya, the former capital from this period, I will undoubtedly be seeing even more of these ancient ruins. After that I think I'm done with it for a while. No more temples for at least a couple of weeks.
As I said, Lopburi was nice. I especially like the monkey's. I always get such a kick out of watching them. Although you do have to be somewhat careful around them. many of them carry disease and some can be just plain nasty. As of yet I have had no negative monkey experiences, but I've met quite a few people who have.
Riding to Ayuthaya was not terribly exciting. However the way there did pose the option of a secondary highway, which I did take. It was nice to be off the main road for a while. Today's trip was a relatively short one. I thought it would be even shorter, but I guess I was wrong. Again, for a change, it was nice to hit somewhere in the morning hours, completely forfeiting having to ride through the heat of mid-day.
I had forgotten how nice the Thai drivers are. they are pretty courteous on the road. They often honk there horns, but usually just to say hello. Even when it is to tell you to move out of the way it is usually followed by a wave or a thumbs up. Unlike Cambodia and Vietnam they are not excessive about either. One honk, that's it. they don't drive behind you laying on there horns trying to drive you crazy. It is easy to stay in high spirits riding through Thailand.
I can't believe I'm almost in Bangkok. Just 80km away. Tomorrow will be spent here in Ayuthaya, but the next day I should be rolling into the capital of Thailand with just over 9000km under my belt. After that it's one long jaunt down to the Malaysian border. I've toyed with the idea of stopping off at one more island before I leave Thailand, but it's looking doubtful. I eager to make my way through Malaysia and down into Indonesia. Not only is Indonesia of particular interest to me being that it is part of my background, but I'm also excited for a little bit of a change in scenery. In particular the volcanoes. That is one thing I have yet to see on my trip. I should hit Indonesia by July, putting me back on Canadian soil in August. However these things seems to change pretty frequently, so who really knows. At first I was going to leave Fred in Singapore and just do the regular bus thing through Indonesia, but now I'm thinking I might bring him along. I've gone so far with him already it would be a shame to leave him behind.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nakhon Sawan-Lopburi

Total Distance:126.21km
Total Time:7h01m48s
Average Speed:17.9km/h
Maximum Speed:38.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:8848.46km

Sorry I've been so lazy about updating the blog lately. For a full update you might want to read the last few entries.
I awoke early this morning to get a good head start on the day. It wasn't nearly as far as yesterday, but I thought it was best to give myself some extra time. I was tired from the ride to Nakhon Sawan, and if the head winds persisted I knew it may take me a while to get to Lopburi. As it turns out the head winds did persist throughout the morning, but died down in the afternoon. It was nice when they finally stopped. I took the main highway again, so there's not much to tell you in terms of things I saw. No nature, no wildlife, nothing.
Lopburi is a quite little city. There are a few temples to see here. I've seen a lot of temples, but I'll still give them a gander. There is also I pack of monkey's that roam around the city. It's always amusing to sit and watch the mischievous little buggers. I can't see myself being here for too long before I head down to Ayuthaya. There are some things worth checking out, but not so much to keep me hanging around.
I'm almost back in Bangkok. I'm starting to really hate capital cities. You always intend to pass through quickly but end up stuck there for at least a week. The good thing is I should be rolling in just over the 9000km mark. Hurray for me!

Sukhothai-Nakhon Sawan

Total Distance:186.01km
Total Time:10h18m21s
Average Speed:18.0km/h
Maximum Speed:27.4km/h
Total Distance So Far:8722.25km

Sukhothai was great. It's sort of thought of as the Thai equivalent of Cambodia's Ankor Wat. Having seen both I can tell you it doesn't even come close to the vast ancient empire of Ankor Wat, but it was nice all the same. The ruins of the ancient city consist of a series of old temples. There are five separate sites, all consisting of at least a dozen temples, stupas and chedis. They are pretty far spread and it makes fora great day of easy cycling.
After spending a day seeing the sights I was, once again, on the road. This time I was headed to Lopburi. It's pretty far from Sukhothai. Over 300km, so I knew I would be making a stop on the way. I took the main highway. There really wasn't much of a choice. It went quickly, but traffic was dense. Constantly riding along side zooming cars can wear on you. The scenery... well, there wasn't really any to speak of. It was flat and dull, but as I previously stated I'm just happy to have a break from those hills of the north. There was a rather strong head wind. My least favorite thing in the world. It slowed me down quite a bit.
There are things I had almost forgotten about riding in Thailand. Some good, some bad. The good: There are gas stations everywhere where you can stop for a break. Each one is equipped with a coffee shop, 7/11, and a toilet. That's right, no more squatting in the bush for yours truly. I also missed the rain shelters. They are little benches along the side if the road with roofs where you can stop to get out of the rain or the unbearable heat. The bad: DOGS! The dogs are back in full force, trying to get a mouth full of cyclist meat. At least they keep you moving. There's also a fair amount of road kill. It can be pretty gross.
I stopped in Nakhon Sawan. It's a fairly big city, but aside from that I can't tell you much about it. The next stop is Lopburi. I should spend at least a couple of nights there. Then off to Ayuthaya and back to Bangkok.


Total Distance:37.80km
Total Time:2h01m58s
Average Speed:18.5km/h
Maximum Speed:28.0km
Total Distance So Far:8536.24km/h

Well, there isn't a lot to tell on this one. I left Sawankhalok relatively early and made it to Sukhothai in the mid-morning. It was nice. It gave me a chance to have a full day of rest, which I really needed. Sukhothai is a great little place. There's not much to the actual town, but the surrounding ruins of the ancient city are definitely a sight.
I am officially out of the mountains. While they provided for some interesting rides and intense challenges, I'm sort of happy to be back on flat land. True, there's not that much to see. The view can be down right boring, but it will be nice to get some good distance in.


Total Distance:184.98km
Total Time:10h24m53s
Average Speed:17.7km/h
Maximum Speed:58.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:8498.44km

Once again my Lonely Planet guide book has failed to live up to my expectations. This is not saying very much for Lonely Planet, as my expectations of them after nearly seven months of using their book are extremely low. Upon arriving in Lampang I checked into a guesthouse as per the suggestion of Lonely Planet. Usually I don't take their advice on such matters, but accommodations seemed few and far between. They description in the book was as follows, "sometimes you just need to pamper yourself, and there is no better place than the Riverside Guesthouse". It seemed although this would be a pretty safe bet. WRONG! The first night I was pretty tired and fell asleep as soon as putting my head on the pillow. All night I could feel something biting, but I just assumed I had a mosquito in the room. The next morning, when I woke up, I had an alarming discovery. Droppings from a small animal beside my bed (this is not what was biting me the previous evening, I'm getting to that). Normally I would have complained, but the people attending to the guesthouse spoke little to no English and making a complaint would have been pretty hard. I thought (or at least hoped) that it was from one of their cats. That perhaps it was in my room before I got there and, in my tired state, I had failed to notice it the day before. In retrospect, I think the culprit may have been a rat. The following evening I wasn't so tired. That's when I discovered what had been nipping at me the night before. BEDBUGS! I hate bedbugs, but I guess nobody exactly loves them. Except, perhaps, the writers of Lonely Planet. I can tolerate a lot of things, but bedbugs is not one of them. It shows laziness on the part of the owners. They can easily be prevented by spraying the room regularly with a can of bedbug spray that can be purchased at any 7/11. All night I could here a hissing noise coming from the bathroom. I knew instantly what it was. Not wanting to deal with it at that point, I got up and shut the bathroom door. Sure enough when I peeked inside the next morning, three of the biggest cockroaches I've ever seen. So, in conclusion, If you consider dealing with rats, bedbugs and cockroaches pampering yourself then, yes, the Riverside Guesthouse in Lampang is the perfect place for you.
That morning I headed for Sukhothai. I had gotten literally no sleep the night before, so I knew I wouldn't be able to make it the whole way. All things considered, I did not to shabby. I opted to take a secondary highway, which led me on the cusp of yet another National Park. It was absolutely stunning. There were a few steep slopes, but they were not very long. Overall it went pretty smooth. I made it to Sawankhalok, only 40km from Sukhothai and checked into the first hotel I saw. Thankfully this one was bedbug free and I was able to get a good nights sleep.
So, I guess I'm back on the long and gruelling days. I don't really mind. It gives me a certain sense of satisfaction to go so far in a day. Plus, there are some stops coming up that aren't that far spread, so I'll get a little bit of a break.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chiang Mai-Lampang

Total Distance:106.00km
Total Time:5h45m49s
Average Speed:18.4km/h
Maximum Speed:58.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:8313.46km

After struggling to make it only half way to Pai, I opted to take the bus back down to Chiang Mai. It seemed to be the logical choice. I'm a tough cookie, but not that tough. Pai is a great little mountain town. It's the ideal place for a burnt out cyclist to rest up for a couple of days. I pretty much spent my entire stay there swinging in a hammock, reading a book. I was great.
After a few days I headed back to Chiang Mai where I spent the night before continuing on my journey. The next stop was Lampang, just over 100km away. For the first 35km I took the secondary highway, which I figured would be a less busy and more scenic route. I was proven wrong. Traffic was quite dense and the entire way seemed like one long extension of Chiang Mai. It was a small highway, so the shoulder was almost nonexistent, making it rather difficult to dodge the traffic. Once hitting Lamphun, I made my way to the main highway. While it is pretty busy as well, there is at least a nice big shoulder to ride on. It's almost like having your own lane.
About 50km North of Lampang my journey took me along the border of yet another National Park. It made for a pleasant ride. Despite the traffic, being surrounded by rolling hills and dense forests has a tranquil effect. The terrain was great. There were no overly steep hills to speak of. The last little bit was a series of small rolling hills, which is my favorite type of terrain. I zoomed through it pretty quick and made it to Lampang without a hitch.
Lampang is a nice little city. Mildly touristy, but quiet. There are a few temples to look at (I am at this point getting kind of sick of temples). About 30km south of the city is an Elephant Conservation Center, where I took in an elephant show. It was pretty amusing watching the elephants perform there tricks. While I'm usually pretty opposed to supporting animals in captivity, this was a little bit different. The sanctuary is huge. The elephants have a vast amount of land to roam around on. On top of which, unlike a zoo, this is there natural habitat.
Tomorrow I hit the road again. I'm headed to Sukothai. According to my estimations, it is about 210km away. Although I'm not really sure. Ideally I'd like to make it in a day, but realistically it will take me two. That will pretty much conclude my visit to Northern Thailand. It's been a slice. After that, it's a long haul back down to Malaysia. I've already seen the majority of Southern Thailand, so I don't foresee too much stopping on my way down to the Malay peninsula. You never know though. I might give in to the temptation of the beaches of Southern Thailand along the way.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chiang Mai-Pai

Total Distance:65.59km riding/about 70km hitching
Total Time:4h28m34s
Average Speed:14.6km/h
Maximum Speed:50.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:8207.46km

Well, I attempted to make it to Pai on my bicycle despite all advisement's against it. As it turns out I should have taken the advice of those who, clearly, knew what they were talking about. I made it just over 65km, about half way. It wasn't that difficult. There were a few steep slopes that I had to push Fred up, but they didn't last that long. The hardest part was definitely the heat. At around 40 degrees, it was unbearable. After the heat stroke incident when leaving Laos, I've been a little worried about too much time in the sun. After 65km of riding in the Thai heat I decided to sit under a tree and reassess my plan to bike to Pai.
From what I had gathered from the the people I talked to, the first half of the ride was a gradual incline (which proved to be accurate so far), while the second half was all steep hills with little relief. My options were as follows... I could stop at the next hotel (there are plenty on the way to Pai) and attempt to carry on with Fred the next day, or I could try and hitch a ride on the back of a pickup truck sparing myself from what was sure to be an extremely hard day. I chose the latter.
Don't you judge me! Look, I've biked over 8000km through heat, traffic, mountains, and all sorts of other various hardships. So I took the easy way out for once. I think I was more than justified in doing so. So, until any of you ride a bike 8000km in a foreign land, I don't want to hear any flack about how I wussed out. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.
The way to Pai was absolutely breathtaking. In a way I'm disappointed I wasn't able to ride he whole thing and really experience it. It starts out relatively flat and boring, but as you progress it becomes hillier and much more lush. Everyone who told me of the mystical magical feel of this area was completely right. Looking at the surrounding landscape it feels almost like being in a dream. To describe it in full would take an eternity.
Pai is a town based around outdoors activity and hippie-culture. My type of place on both accounts. It's quite and the people are friendly. I think I might just stick around for a couple of days. It seems like a good place to kick back, relax and forget about all the woes of life. not that my life really has any woes. I've been on vacation for almost seven months, so really my life has been pretty easy going. But, if I had any woes, this would be the place to forget them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chiang Rai-Chiang Mai

Total Distance:191.50km
Total Time:10h32m52s
Average Speed:18.1km/h
Maximum Speed:61.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:8141.87km

While there isn't a whole lot to do in Chiang Rai, it is actually quite a pleasant little city. There is a few temples to check out. One in particular is the big white temple located to the south of the city. It's a little different than the usual Wats. A nice visit for those of you who might be a little "templed out". There is also a great night market, something I missed while being away fro Thailand. Other than that, Chiang Rai is just a peaceful little place where one can kick back and relax. I could have stayed longer, but I could here the sound of the road calling my name.
All the other cyclists I've met have done the trip from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. I'm a little bit competitive, not to mention cocky, so I saw this as a challenge. I decided the night before departing Chiang Rai that I would attempt to do the ride in one day.
For those who told me they thought it impossible, you were wrong. It is more than possible to do in a day, though pretty gruelling work. The first part of the ride is really quite boring. There is nothing to look at aside from highway and traffic. The landscape is rather unspectacular. However once you hit Khun Chae National Park that all changes. Around you the trees start to become denser and more lush. The flat road begins to turn to rolling hills. The traffic remained fairly bad, but that is to be expected on the road ti Chiang Mai. In spite of it, the ride through the park was still a pretty peaceful one. There was only one big hill on the way here. in comparison to those I have been doing over the past couple of months it was nothing. a little steep, but not overly long. The worst thing about it was hitting in the mid afternoon. Around 2:00 is when the sun is at it's hottest, and doing a climb up a mountain during this time can be pretty unpleasant.
I arrived in Chiang Mai just as the sun was going down. it had been a while since I had done a long ride like that. It actually felt pretty good. Chiang Mai seems like a laid back place. So far, so good. I still haven't made my mind up about Pai. Thanks to all who have been sending me advice. Any additional information is always welcome.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chiang Saen-Chiang Rai

Total Distance:61.97km
Total Time:2h50m03s
Average Speed:21.8km/h
Maximum Speed:31.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:7950.37km

Chiang Saen is a quiet sedate little town. It is dotted with temples and ruins to check out, and sitting along the Mekong watching the boats go buy is a great way to spend the evenings. It's the perfect place to rest up. However one day is more than enough to experience what it has to offer. By this morning I was ready to move on.
After a month and a half of enduring the physical hardships that accompanied the mountains of Laos, today's ride was just what the doctor ordered. I left Chiang Saen at 7:00 and arrived in Chiang Rai by 10:00. A big change from the all day trips I've been doing. The traffic was also a big change. In Laos there was hardly any. I haven't had to put up with zooming by cars and motorbikes since I left Vietnam. Highway 1 is a busy one, but the plus side is it's beautifully paved and flat. Still, for anyone heading this way, I might suggest taking the alternate route. The traffic is supposedly a lot lighter and the scenery much nicer. I only opted for the main highway to have a day away from any hills. Lazy, I know, but I've done my fair share so I think I deserve a break.
Like I said the trip was a short one, so there's not really a lot to tell. Maybe my next trip will be one of a little more interest. I still haven't decided on if I'm going to bike up to Pai or not, but I'm leaning towards yes.
Anyway, they are playing Celine Dion in the Internet Cafe were I am currently sitting, which I just can't handle, so I'm going to have to cut this one short.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Huay Xai/Chiang Khong-Chiang Saen

Total Distance:70.26km
Total Time:4h16m35s
Average Speed:16.5km/h
Maximum Speed:64.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:7888.40km

The entire last day spent biking I was so close to Thailand I could taste it. I could taste the papaya salad. I could taste the barbecued meat on a stick. I could taste the Pad Thai. I could taste those ice cold 7/11 slurpees. Imagine my disappointment when I arrived in Thailand with such severe sun stroke I was rendered unable to get out of bed, let alone eat. At least it wasn't a huge shock. I saw it coming a mile away. After nine hours spent wasting away in the sun, sun stroke is inevitable.
After taking the short boat ride across the Mekong from Laos to Thailand I checked into a guesthouse and got some sleep. A lot of sleep. A good 15 hours worth of sleep. Suffering from sun stroke and dehydration is never fun, but it sort of goes hand in hand with this means of travel.
The next day I set off for Chiang Saen. It was a great ride. I was still a little weak from the day before, but the flat road running parallel to the Mekong river proved to be not very challenging. Finally, I got a break. I'd almost forgotten how much I like biking in Thailand. Laos was great, don't get me wrong. It's just that Thailand has a few more comforts of home. For example, cold drinks, roads that don't have large sections missing in them, and gas stations where you can use the toilet. I guess sometimes you have to be deprived of such things for a while before you can really appreciate them.
Chiang Saen is a nice little town. It's sort of the gateway to the golden triangle, but not technically part of the golden triangle. So, it sees it's fair share of tourists, but they're not swarming all over the place. It's quite and quaint. There are some pretty cool temples and ancient ruins to check out. A nice place to rest for a day.
I had planned to make my way to Pai before hitting Chaing Mai. After talking to some people and finding out the route there consists of some of the steepest hills in SE Asia, I'm reconsidering. Reconsidering, but haven't reconsidered. Being that I don't learn from my own mistakes I'll probably still attempt to do it. If anyone out there has any advice on the matter, please email it to me.

Vieng Phouka-Huay Xai

Total Distance:122.12km
Total Time:8h43m01s
Average Speed:14.0km/h
Maximum Speed:60.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:7817.14

I thought it would be a tough ride to Huay Xai, and I was far from mistaken. While the day before provided with some relief from the monstrous hills, the same could not be said here. It was back to big mountains and long inclines. The day was incredibly hot. Perhaps one of the hottest I've experienced so far, making it all the more difficult. As I said previously though, it's not like I had much choice in the matter. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. In this case the girl's gotta bike 120km through the mountains in the blistering heat.
It started off not too bad. However as the day went on the hills became longer and steeper, and the sun became hotter and less forgiving. There wasn't much time for breaks, although I managed to squeeze in a couple. Before leaving Vieng Phouka I tried t gauge how much water I would need. I guess I must have underestimated because at around 2:00, the hottest part of the day, I ran out. The worst part was I was midway a rather long climb and I knew it would be a while before I found a place to buy some more.
I sat at the side of the mountain, dripping with sweat and a little broken-spirited. It was starting to look like I might not make it. Feeling I was left with no other option, I attempted to hitch a ride. My attempts, however, were unsuccessful. The only vehicles passing were semi trucks with full loads. One truck driver took pity on me. His arm stretched out of his window as he drove by and in his hand was a 1L bottle of water. I guess I must have looked pretty bad in order for him to tell that I needed water just from glancing at me.
It was exactly what I needed, and after dehydrating I started to feel a little better. Well enough to push through the rest of the way. I ended up making it to Huay Xai, but barely. As I arrived the sun was just starting to set.

Louang Namtha-Vieng Phouka

Total Distance:62.21km
Total Time:4h05m23s
Average Speed:15.2km/h
Maximum Speed:53.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:7695.02km

After a couple of days spent in Louang Namtha grieving over the loss of my wallet, I decided to cut my losses and move on. After all, there's no use crying over spilt milk. Louang Namtha did provide for some good Rn'R, but after seeing the waterfall, the temple and the golden stupa, there wasn't much left to do. It was time to start making my way back to Thailand. The journey to the Thai border from Louang Namtha is just over 180km. Unfortunately, the positioning of guesthouses does not break up the trip very nicely. The first and, to the best of my knowledge, only guesthouse along the way is in Vieng Phouka, an easy 60km away. However this leaves another 120km jaunt through the mountains until reaching the border. It's a long way, but there's not a lot that can be done about it.
The ride to Vieng Phouka was a nice one. The road there leads you through Nam Ha National Protected area. There's nothing nicer than a morning ride through one of the more pristine parts of Laos. The road was nicely paved and relatively flat to boot. Always an added bonus. I stopped for a light lunch I had brought with me in Nam Ha to enjoy what would be one of my last days in Laos. It was a nice way to end a nice visit.
On a trip trip that has seen it's fair share of one horse towns, Vieng Phouka was no exception. To my surprise, there was actually two other travellers there. They had taken the bus up from Louang Namtha in order to do some trekking in the area. I guess the tourist office was just as surprised as I was. They seemed completely unprepared for visitors. The young couple seemed disappointed to find out they would have to wait for more people to join the group before they could go out on a trek. The likelihood of this happening was pretty slim. They ended up staying the night and heading back to Louang Namtha the next morning.
I knew the next day would be a hard one, so I decided to get a good nights sleep. God knows I was going to need it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oudom Xai-Louang Namtha

Total Distance:130.20km
Total Time:8h05m56s
Average Speed:16.0km/h
Maximum Speed:50.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:7632.81km

I opted to spend a day in Oudom Xai resting up a little from the previous two days biking. You would think, being the capital of Oudom Xai province, the city would have had something to offer in the way of sightseeing. However, much to my disappointment, it did not. Looking back I wish I had continued on instead of hanging around. It was one of the most boring days I've had in a while. I spent the majority of it sleeping.
I was a little worried about the trip to Louang Namtha. Mostly because I was unsure that I would be able to make it in a day. The trip is about 119km, which is a long haul when biking through the mountains. I encountered a fellow cyclist in Oudom Xai who added to my worries. He told me the ride was very difficult, impossible to do in a day. He also said the road was so bad I would have to get off my bike and push for stretches that lasted up to 10km. This was far from what I wanted to hear.
I decided to get an early start, leaving Oudom Xai at about 6:30, and hope for the best. As it turns out it was what I consider to be a rather easy ride. The road was quite bad in parts, but at no point did I have to get off and push. It made me loose a little respect for the cyclist I met the day prior. I'm on a road bike, and he was on a mountain bike. The rough terrain should have been loads easier for him. The hills were really not to bad, at least in comparison to what I have been cycling. There is on e large incline which, of course, is followed by one large decline. Both of which are rather soft slopes and not too difficult to climb. The rest of the way was a series of rolling hills. It's my favorite kind of ride, and I actually blew through it rather quick.
Just before reaching Louang Namtha I stopped at a little road side shack for a drink. I had gotten a little too much sun, as the day was a particularly hot one. Absentmindedly, I left my wallet sitting on the table when I took off. I noticed rather quickly what I had done and pedalled back there as fast as I could. When I returned the wallet was gone. There was only one other guy there, so I knew he must have taken it. He was also on a bike, a rickety old Lao bike I might add, so I figured I might be able to chase him down. The lady who owned the shop pointed me in the direction he went and I was in hot pursuit. I was unsuccessful in my hunt. The man and my wallet were long gone. Luckily I keep my passport and Visa card separate. However my bank card and travellers cheques, along with a great deal of cash were in there.
So, in the month and a half I've been here I've encountered one bad Laos person. Hey, those aren't bad odds. Plus it was due to my own absentmindedness. Getting a new bank card is going to be a real pain though. Live and learn!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pak mong-Oudom Xai

Total Distance:83.54km
Total Time:7h00m00s
Average Speed:11.9km/h
Maximum Speed:43.5km/h
Total distance So Far:7502.61km

Compared to today, yesterdays ride was a breeze. I'm back in the mountains. The gigantic, thigh burning mountains. It wasn't that bad. I like to exaggerate. My only real complaint is the condition of the road. There were quite a few potholes and sandy patches. It's not too bad when you are going up, but can prove rather frustrating on the way down. Constantly having to slow down to ensure you don't hit a bump and fall makes it almost impossible to catch a good amount of speed.
I made it to Oudom Xai, and man am I sore. I'm still a little out of shape after those three weeks I sat around waiting to get Fred repaired. Slowly I feel myself getting stronger. Hopefully I'll be good to go by the time I hit Thailand. From what I hear the mountains there are a lot steeper than these ones.
I'm going to give myself a day to rest in Oudom Xai. After that I'm off again, however I may stop again in Louang Namtha.

Louangprabang-Pak Mong

Total Distance:1113.46km
Total time:6h51m41s
Average Speed:16.5km/h
Maximum Speed:57.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:7419.07km

So, you are probably all wondering why every time I write about Louangprbang I spell it differently. Apart from the fact that my spelling skills leave something to be desired, there is no exact translation between Laos and English. Every time I pass a sign for Louangprabang it is spelt differently. However you spell it, my last visit there was a good one. There were a couple of things that, with the excitement of Pii Mai, I was unable to check out the last time I was there. Louangprabang is a great city. Very relaxed. the perfect place to spend a couple of days before heading back out into the mountains.
Pak Mong is only 27km from where Fred broke down and we ended up on the bus. I was glad to get there. Having retraced the path of the bus ride, I can now say I actually rode the whole route without cheating. I don't want to be one of those cyclists who tells people they are riding across SE Asia when, in fact, they are busing it most of the way. The ride was a good one. A surprisingly easy one. The road between Louangprabang and Pak Mong follows the Nam Ou river, meaning it runs in a valley making it a whole lot less hilly than what I've been used to. There are hills, but they are small and rolling. It was great to actually average 16km/h. It's been a little frustrating after pulling 200km days at 20km/h, coming to Laos and only being able to make it 80km in a day and at a snails pace.
Pak Mong had little to offer, but a girl's gotta stay somewhere. It is sort of a hub town. People generally only stop there to transfer buses to either Louangprabang or Oudom Xai. However there was a place to eat and a place to sleep, so I was happy.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Total Distance:81.28km
Total Time:5h08m31s
Average Speed:15.8km/h
Maximum Speed:56.0km/h
Total Distance So Far:7305.61km

I awoke in the morning smelling sort of like a horses ass, having been so afraid to touch anything in the guesthouse I was staying at that I neglected to take a shower. It had it's upside though. Smelling the ripeness of your own stench all day certainly is motivation to get to a shower as quickly as humanly possible. The greasiness of my skin also provided me with a layer of protection against the sun.
Today was a hot one. A really, really hot one. An "oh my God, I'm going to die from exposure to the sun on some mountain in the middle of Laos" hot one. The only saving grace was the terrain today. Yes, after the cruel and unusual uphill punishment of yesterday, Laos redeemed itself by giving me a couple of really nice downhill slopes today. The was still a fair amount of uphill too, but going down lasted a lot longer than going up. It was great. I don't think I could have handled another day of never ending climbing.
I'm back in Loungprabang. I've spent so much time here it feels almost like a second home. Things are certainly different from the last time I was here. My previous visit was during Pii Mai. One could not step foot outside their guesthouse without being soaked with water. Within seconds you would have a Beer Lao in hand (this is the beer brewed in Laos, which is mighty tasty stuff) and would have relieved about a dozen shots of Lao Lao (this is Lao moonshine, which is not very tasty stuff) Now the streets are quite and relaxed. There is a much more mellow vibe. After the chaos that was Vang Vieng, I must say I'm enjoying this change of atmosphere.

20km North of Kasi-Kiewkacham

Total Distance:76.15km
Total Time:7h42m46s
Average Speed:9.8km/h
Maximum Speed:52.5km/h
Total Distance So Far:7224.33km

UP, UP, UP! That is the story of today. Nearly the entire day was spent climbing. There were a couple of downhills, but they were more teasers than anything else. To be honest I felt a little ripped off. When I climb up a mountain for 20km, I like to be rewarded with a 20km downhill afterwards. This was not the case today. While there were a couple of downslopes, they were only about 5km long. All I can say is, the majority of tomorrow better be downhill. I want what is rightfully mine!
Difficult terrain aside, I still enjoyed the day. Once you hit the top of a mountain and look gown at the valley below, seeing for miles and miles, you can't help but smile. I took come pictures, but photographs don't do it justice. Neither two dimensional figures nor words can describe how truly beautiful this place is. Every ounce of pain; everyday spent riding in either scorching heat or poring rain; all of it is worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I still hadn't decided on what route I should take. On one hand, Phonsavan was pretty far out of the way. Plus I wasn't exactly sure that I would be able to make it to the Thai border before my visa ran out if I went. Plus, I've talked to a few people who were pretty disappointed in it. On the other hand, I wanted to go. My heart was saying yes, but my head was saying no. In the end I let fate decide. I pulled up to where the road forks. Left, Loungprabang, right, Phonsavan. I flipped a coin, heads for Loungprabang, tails for Phonsavan. It landed on heads, so it looked like I was on my way to Loungprabang. After giving it some thought, I think it was probably the right choice anyway.
While Laos is a remarkable picture of beauty, the same can not be said for the guesthouse I stayed at. It was slightly overpriced for what I got. A tiny little room, which looked although it had not been cleaned since... well, ever. I'm pretty used to cockroaches. They kind of come with the territory. This place, however, had them in abundance. Needless to say, I was not impressed and did not get a very good nights sleep.