Wat a beautiful country!


Sorry. Couldn't resist that headline. Actually, there are more mosques down this end than wats...enough crap. Here's the news:



Khao Lak

Absolutely PISSING down with rain, what a treat after so long trundling through the Australian outback. Like water with holes in it.


I'm munching Pad Thai in a little restaurant, having cycled from Phuket Island this morning to here in Khao Lak. Leaving the backpacker ghetto behind yesterday was awesome. The roads I took were rural coastal ones, lined with drippy jungly forest most of the way, climbing up so steeply over headlands that my legs turned to jelly....for a terrific zoom down the other side to a tiny little beach with guest houses amidst the forest and palm trees.


At Thatchatchai at the very top of the island I paid the princely sum of $6 for a nice room by a beach with fishing boats pulled up.


Today a bit busier, a bigger road and bloody hell, so HOT. It didn't rain this morning so I sweated from every single available pore, dribbling like I'd just stepped out of the shower. The roads here are scattered with roadside stalls, so I called into a few of them for the shade and, I admit it, Coke.


What's Thailand like? It feels like a cleaner easier version of Nepal, if that's any help. People everywhere, a marvelous clutter everywhere. A smell of drains when it rains. Colour. Lots of motorbikes zipping around, I even saw a pillion passenger asleep. People? Super friendly. I butcher out my best sa-wah-dee khrap as hello and grin away like an idiot at everyone, who universally beam back and wave. Lots of laughing and joking, these Thais seem a happy bunch. Tomorrow - up to the border with Myanmar/Burma, where the road veers northeast and heads over the mountains to the east coast. Will be a bit busier there....I expect it will take a few weeks to make it to Bangkok, for the delights of chasing a visa amidst smog. For now, I'm enjoying idyllic coastal riding. Mmmmm!


Beautiful roads...27/09/07 A roadside in the hills near Pra Tha

I think I'm drunk on smiles...today has been stunning. Absolutely beautiful, a winding, perfect road with wide hard shoulders, moseying up into the hills a little bit and traversed by a light throng of people in cars, occasional trucks and lots of puttering 125cc motorbikes. From the ancient old man who beamed and waved at me from his equally ancient motorbike (barely faster than me) to the laughing noodle stall vendors, these Thais have charmed the socks off me.


Being a rural area, the road is lined with the odd bit of wild green growth but mostly it's rubber plantations, what I think are sago palms, and other trees I don't know. Here, I'm tucked into my tent for the night just off the road under young palms by the edge of a rubber plantation. Some decaying leaves just outside the tent are glowing in the dark, and fireflies moving amongst the trees have a bright double flash like aircraft.


All the rubber collecting cups are upside down, so I don't think it's the season; I just figured out that the creamy white sheets drying on sticks outside some houses probably aren't destined to be noodles but probably rubber gloves.


On noodles: ban mee are delicious bowls of thin rice noodles cooked briefly in a fish sauce broth, and topped with sliced pork, chopped vegies and chicken. The last two bowls had liver too....I swallowed them whole without chewing, Mum. At 15 or 20 baht a pop I've spent $2 on food today after starting with deep fried banana and sweet potato!


Am enjoying being on the road. There's so much to look at and learn, and it's great being amongst amazingly happy people.



29/09/07 Ride on to Ranong...

I was wrong! As I went to sleep the light of the fireflies flickered against the tent. At 5.30 a brighter light lanced against the walls, with voices: I patted around for my glasses and groggily pulled on my shorts. Outside, through the mozzie net two head torches moved amongst the rubber trees as two workers scored the tree trunks and righted the collecting cups. They'd seen my orange tent; I called out a Thai hello and they hello'ed back and kept working. I went back to sleep. When the sun came up and I walked around I felt the goo of the sap as it dripped off the stick stuck in the tree into the cup. There must be thousands of plantations like that in the world but I thought it was rather neat to see, and in season, too.


Now, if you're a neat person (of course you are! You're reading this!) head to the Khura Bhuri resort...it's the only stunningly beautiful tourist resort I've seen so far, sad as that is (let me get that clear: I've cycled through amazing country, only to arrive at a tourist mecca and find it filled with sanitised, walled resorts). Climbing up a steep tree-filled valley, it's a wooden building built on poles amongst the trees and looked absolutely zen and bee-ootiful. When I'm old and crotchety I'll stay there.


Shortly afterwards in the next valley, it dumped down on me. Like, it pissed down so much it was like water with holes in it. Naïvely I sheltered under a tree but it wasn't a short lived shower. I did a dash for the nearest roof, hesitating in the driveway as I saw it had people under it...the oldest toothless woman I've seen in a while waved me under and before I knew it there was a cup of very sweet coffee in my hands and hubbie was looking for the motor in my bike. Not finding it, and returning the 5 baht I tried to pay them for the coffee, they waved farewell with a stern admonition in body language to stay a night at their house on my way back from Bangkok. I'm sorry I'm not cycling back.


The rest of the day passed happily rain free and mostly absorbed in a relaxed trundle stopping for frequent noodles. I've now collected at least three names for the same dish; I need to work out which one is the one with chicken liver because it almost made me vomit, which wouldn't have been very polite. After some very careful not-chewing I got it down.


Ranong temple

Ranong marketsBeautiful forest, bumbling hills to keep me occupied and mountains to the east all day. Now I'm in Ranong, having a day off, plotting and scheming for the months ahead and catching up on keeping you lot informed. Am enjoying both being here and the riding immensely.


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