Bangkok – Mae Sot/ Myanmar
15/07/18 – 25/07/18
Riding out of BKK was a fun city riding experience and the people continued to be incredibly friendly. I took a few wrong turns, got chased by an awol dog and was pointed in the right direction by some friendly people and by this guy and who guided me across a deep part of water in the middle of a back road.
As I neared Ayutthaya (pronounced A-utia), the ancient former capital of Siam, I am joined by Paul, from Poland, a cyclist on a nice looking road bike. One of those bikes that clicks really loud when not peddling; I don’t know if you know it? Having never ridden a road bike, I still know sweet FA about bikes, but I think this is a sign of a bike with good components. Paul was quite the character and lives in Ayutthaya and enjoys touring and road biking. Paul and I cycled into Ayutthaya, chatting along then way as he guided me through the streets, using his incredibly loud electric bell as we passed cross roads and traffic lights and shouting “wait there motherf***er” with his hand held as cars tried to pull out in front of us.
“The people here, they are f***ing stupid” he said “ and the roads are very dangerous”. This made me laugh. Paul was very outspoken and opinionated, and certainly didn’t hold any hostages or hold back.
I hadn’t been around someone like Paul for a long time, but actually, it was refreshing in a way, and he was very friendly and kind to me.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Siam in the 14th century is only 80km from Bangkok and is an eye catching and undeniably interesting place.
For the next two days I would ride around, exploring the different areas and taking in this i………
Paul my new Polish friend joined me as I left Ayutthaya to head north to my next stop, Sing Buri, and took me to a few great pagodas on the way. It was cool to be able to chat to someone along the way and be taken to places I doubt I would have seen if I’d ridden on my own.
Paul joined me until Ang Thong where we stopped for a delicious, roadside fried rice in the town, which he kindly paid for, and we said farewell. It was great fun to ride with him.
Arriving into Sing Buri, and I was absolutely soaked through and actually felt a little chill over my body. First things first was to get out of the relentless rain, 2 was to get some food into me and whilst doing so, find a hotel that was super close.
Riding north over the next few days was filled with intermittent torrential downpours and small road side restaurants
I stayed at some interesting places over the next week, but SolarCell Homestay, in a very quiet and peaceful town called Uthai Thani, was quite probably the best. The town is seldom visited by tourist which is evident by the stares walking around the street in the evening. SolarCell is a great, traditional homestay owned by )Paddama) and is used mainly by cyclist.
Day to day, when you’re on the road, things can change very quickly. For me, the destination and timeline never really changes too much, but who knows what is going to happen in between.
I left Uthai Thani after a cup of coffee with Paddama and an awesome breakfast of Cau man Gauai, recommended by Paddama also.
It was only a short days riding and the day had been going so well. Quiet, smooth roads, nice scenery and rural, but my seat just didn’t feel right. So much so that I stopped to change it in one of the roadside shelters, something I quickly regretted. I adjusted my seat post and two turns into tightening the bolt and “snap”. The bolt sheered of, leaving half in the nut.
“Ah! Houston…..” I said out loud, laughing to myself as I sat looking at my current situation, “ Right, how can I fix this without making it worse or unrideable” “What would Jonny do”, I thought, laughing. (Jonny being my best mate, and very practical) I tried a number of things but soon realized that I would be ride the remaining 25kms with my knees up to my arm pits until I found a bike shop. No big deal.
I arrived in Nakhonsawan and found a well equipped bike shop at the top of a steep hill. Paradon the very standoffish and seemingly uninterested owner didn’t have the part I needed, but to my surprise, quickly jumped on his motorbike and took off, telling me to “wait 20 minutes and I find you part".
Soon enough he was back with the part. How friendly is that?! This reminded me of a lesson; It was only my reaction and opinion of his attitude that made it so. He was very kind a friendly. It was here I finally took the leap and bought my first cycling jersey. “I’m a real cyclist” in my best Pinnochio impression.
I stayed in a very random, very quiet, 80’s style hotel, with the receptionist speaking no English whatsoever, and so, was surprised, when at dinner, with one other person in this large restaurant, and live music/ karaoke being played, the chef approaches me and introduces himself in near perfect English. “Hi, I’m Daniel”.
“Hi Daniel. Wow, didn’t expect that. I’m Andy”
Daniel was from Hong Kong (Hong Kongese if you like), and the head chef. Nice chap.
The following day was a nice 130km ride to Kampaeng Pet. My day started with a smile, when, as I was getting supplies from a local shop, a little girl of one and a half, maybe two, waved and blew me a kiss as I left which was so sweet.
I was getting super excited as mountains appeared in the distance, and new the next month was set be full of them. Awesome.
I hadn’t seen a westerner for a few days, and wasn’t sure I was going to either as I rode into Kampaeng Pet. Standing on the side of the street in the shade looking for a local guesthouse when a guy on a bike with a small backpack on, cycles past me, stops, turns around a waves, looking super excited. He looked local, or Thai at least, and I, feeling a bit delirious at this point after a long, hot day, wasn’t sure if he was waving at me or behind me. He cycled up next to me “Hey man. Awesome. Sweet bike”. He says as he pulls up next to me, noticeably excited.
“Thanks man!” I reply, a little surprised at this Thai looking guy speaking fluent English with an American twang.
“Where are you coming from?” he asked.
“Nakhonsawan” I replied.
“Sweet dude, me too!” he said excitedly.
We got chatting and Markus explained that he was half German, half Thai, and was now living in Thailand. He just had a tiny backpack on his back and that was it, so I didn’t expect to hear what came next.
“Yeah dude, I’ve just finished a semester at Uni and wanted to do something fun, so I decided to walk to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and walk to the highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon” he said laughing “ Man, after 5 days I couldn’t walk anymore, my feet were so sore, so I walked into a bike shop and asked for the cheapest thing they had. They showed me a few that were still too expensive, so the guy went out back and pulled out this thing and charged me 10$. Bargain right!?.”
BKK to Chiang Mai is almost 700km!, and this guy decided he was going to walk there! “That’s awesome” I thought.
As for his bike; the pedal was hanging off and it looked like 10$, and yet, this very lively and enthusiastic dude had just ridden the same 130km as I, this very day. Hat’s off.
It turns out we were riding to the same town the following day, so we decided to ride it together. Markus had found a local guesthouse with good reviews so we headed for some food and to the same guesthouse. The guesthouse was very cool, stunning dark wood building set on a quiet back street in an already quiet town. Markus and I took a walk around town, had some food then called it a night, agreeing to meet for breakfast at 7.30am
The following day was a nice 85km, so after breakfast where we surprisingly met a nice American guy called Chris who had arrived late the night before, we took some photos with the owner and hit the road. The owner of the guesthouse had mentioned there was a hot spring on our way to Tak, our destination, so we made a B-line straight for the hot spring.
We rode through quaint small villages along some quiet back streets where we were met with stares, smiles and perplexed looks. We arrived into Tak in need of food, and Markus spotted a sticky rice in bamboo stall, of Khao lam, which is the perfect snack and always delicious. Glutinous rice mixed with sugar, sweet red beans and coconut cream, then stuffed into hollow bamboo cylinders, then slow roasted over coals. Super delicious and a must try in Thailand.
Having looked for guesthouses and food, we continued another 5 km to a western style restaurant. Turns out this restaurant was great. Super tasty food and a super nice owner who asked for a photo with us after. We found a brand new and super nice hotel close by which was a little more expensive than what I’d usually go for, but we a twin split between the two of us was a bargain, and a bit of luxury.
The following day was a big day, so after another two plates of dinner it was early to bed.
Markus was a funny guy, full of life and super excitable, and was cool to spend some time with him.
I was super excited about the day ahead as it was the first bit of real climbing I’d have to do for a while. Why is that exciting? Because it is often very tough and this was up there with one of the toughest days I’ve had.
Mae Sot was 90km away from Tak. 90km of naughtiness. 1,600m elevation up on a fairly busy, road work laden, super moist road. It rained nearly all day.
The road continued to rise most of the day, with a steady flow of large and small vehicles all day. The weather was far from ideal to say the least. At one point near the top, the road works, rain and gradient combined made it very dangerous, so I ended up getting off Surly Temple and pushing her a couple of km up hill. At various points on the down hills were signs saying “Emergency Escape Ramp”, with these steep, sand covered off roads there incase breaks failed on the decent, such was the gradient.
Wet and cold, I reached a hill tribe village in the clouds and fog high up. The older hill tribe woman had jet black teeth and mouths, with one woman in particular looking like she’d walked straight off the set of The Exorcist or something.
This had to be one of the toughest days I’ve had on the bike, with not very friendly conditions. At one point, I spoke to my self like I’ve never spoken to myself before, and I learnt more about myself. Pushing myself, encouraging myself, realizing myself. It was one of the most powerful “I” moments in my life.
I was pleased to reach Mae Sot unscathed and smiling, and when I saw the first restaurant on the side of the road, I made a B-line for it.
3 plates of this delicious pork and rice later and it was to the nearest guesthouse.
The ride to Mae Sot had been tough, but a welcomed challenge and a great start to what would be a testing month ahead. As I prepared to enter Myanmar in the next couple of days, uncertainty stood over me. What the next month would bring, I did not know, but I had a sense that what i had planned and the experiences along the way would have a profound impact on my life.
Next stop, Myanmar.
Thanks for reading folks.
Hope you are well and happy.