Saturday, 27 January 2018


Well then, I won't mince words. I have a new horse (bicycle). Old Saartjie has "HIT THE FAN". Too expensive to replace all the parts needed. Thanks to Olga, I have acquired a new (2nd hand bicycle). No name yet, so let's just call it "The Horse" for now. Tomorrow I am on the road again, still at Leana's place in Pattaya. Bye for now.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018


On a rainy Monday morning, 18 December 2017 (exactly a month after entering Malaysia) I left the country via the river bridge from Rantau Panjang to Sungai Kolok in Thailand.
As is often the case, people on both sides of a country border are fairly similar regarding their culture. In this case, this region of Thailand is very Muslem (the rest of Thailand is very Buddhist). The Thai police patrol the roads in order to quell any Muslim uprising (there were bombs in Bangkok and HuaHin about a year ago). Apparently these people want a separate Muslem state from Thailand. It was raining all the time on the road here, as in Malaysia. The police escorted me for some time, to protect me from Islam I guess. (The police even gave me water and juice, and took pics of me, etc). Late PM my escort was lax, chatting to their mates at a check point, and I ducked into a mosque where I stayed comfortably for the night.
On another evening I was looking out for an overnight spot, and I saw something. I turned in there and that "something" turned out to be where all the police were camping. Building work was still in progress, but it seems the place is intended to be some sort of livestock loading facility. Fine, these guys were very friendly. I already had my own dinner, but they gave me breakfast (different sections were competing to see who could cook the best breakfast).
Then I got to Hat Yai on 21 December. I wanted to take the train that day because I had promised Pannee I would be back on the farm in Ubon by Xmas. After riding in the rain and smelling like a rat, I arrived at the Hat Yai train station about one hour before departure. I had to settle for 3rd class bench to Bangkok (20 hr), and another 3rd class onward to Ubon Ratchathani (12 hr). And then cycle to the farm close to Ban Trakan village in Ubon province, where I would re-unite with Pannee. Yes, it was a happy re-union for about one day. I had misgivings about going back, although Pannee did not know about that. But unfortunately I had to end this relationship, and I did. Reasons? Unfair to her that I could not support her and her children while she was on unpaid leave to be with me at the farm every time - I cannot properly support myself, even just on the bike!. I still love her, so this separation was hard for me to do. Pannee also did not accept it easily - anyway, I will spare you all the drama.
Distances cycled since crossing from Malaysia back to Thailand have been:- Sai Buri 113 km; Pattani 83 km; Village Watt 74 km; Hat Yai 35 km; (2 days train via Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani); Ban Trakan (Pannee Farm) 55 km. Total cycled thus far is 150 798 km.
On Xmas day, 25 December 2017, I was back on the road again. I was in very low spirits, and did not cycle very far each day for the next few days. Then I realised that I may actually feel better if I DO put in a bit more effort!
The road was very busy (New Year), and even the fancy truck drivers would rather create an exhibit than to sit in that traffic.
So I was on the road between Xmas and New Year. Thailand is Buddhist, so why all the Xmas rush?!! Also, Thai New Year is only in a couple of months?!! Anyway, Thai people like any kind of festival or celebration I guess.
This is one of the temples where they did not want me to stay. The "boss" monk was away, and above all, there were "female monks" (or Nuns?). I had come up a very steep hill on my "broken" bike after a long day, and I camped outside the Watt gate (I could still get water, and use toilet inside!!?). Later a superior did come apologise and invite me inside, but no point to move then).
So I made it to Leana's condo in Pattaya. Ok, Jomtien suburb if you do not like the name "Pattaya". Very nice place, and I am having a nice rest. Leana is not home - still on her way back from taking a client on a tour to Malaysia. My bike is a mess, and again my sister Olga has offered to sponsor the things I need most desperately (actually everything!).
Therefore, more daily distances since leaving Pannee in Ubon. Not much to start with due to low spirits, etc. Here we go:- Lao Sua Kok (where I had a bad accident in Sept 2016); 40 km; Ubon village 59 km; Ban Nong Kok 39 km; Samrong Thap 65 km; Surin 57 km; Prakhon Chai 84 km; Choc Chai 103 km; Thai Samakki 75 km; Phanom Sarakham 95 km; Nho Samet 71 km; Khao Mai Kaeo 86 km; and Jomtien (Pattaya) 39 km. Total distance cycled to this point is 151 611 km.

Monday, 8 January 2018


As you would have seen from my previous post, I had comfortably made it on 18 Nmovember 2017 from Thailand into Malaysia, the day before my Thai visa expired. I was done with all the immigration formalities by mid-day, so I didn't bother hanging around there. A huge culture difference here is that Malaysia is a Moslem country (Thai is Buddhist), and early AM in my tent at the Watt in Thai, I could hear the Imam from the Mosque across the border calling the faithful to prayer.
From the border town of Padang Besar (2 towns with the same name on either side of the border line), I carried on South into Malaysia. The first 2 nights I camped at roadside restaurants, one closed for the night, and the other closed down. These places are handy for camping as there is water for washing and cooking, as well as a toilet somewhere close by. The people were also very friendly, and even offered me food (although I had my own). Within 3 days I was at Butterworth city, which is across the channel from Penang Island. I wanted to go to the Thai Consulate in Georgetown on Penang to apply for a new Thai visa.
I did not want to cross to Penang that night, because I still had some way to go on the island to the place where I intended to camp. So I found an R&R at the Butterworth higway toll gate, conveniently right at the beach. (These "Rest and Recovery" areas came in handy when I was on highways all around Malaysia - bicycles are allowed on most of the highways, just follow the motorcyle channels around toll gates, etc.). There are shops, food courts, toilets and showers, and security at the R&R.
While I was looking around the R&R I came across another scruffy-looking cyclist sitting at one of the beach-side gazebos, enjoying an early dinner. Constantin (yes, also from Russia) is a previous "Rock Star" - in his own words. He suffered a serious stroke, willed himself to recovery, and has spent the past 4 years cycling from Moscow to SE Asia. A couple of hours later, after I had set up camp and he had packed his bike, he was on his way again. He was going to cycle through the night to Alor Setar city, about 100 km. Some cyclists prefer to cycle at night in order to avoid the heat and the traffic (I avoid cycling at night after the accident I had Sept 2016).
The following morning I took the ferry from mainland Butterworth to Georgetown on Penang island. There are 2 highway bridges to the island, but even the closest bridge is a long way around. The ferry is convenient, takes 20 minutes, is very cheap (and free return). After the ferry it was about 30 km around to Batu Ferringhi, on the North side of the island where I had camped 8 years ago. On arrival I was very pleased to discover that the old fishing platform high above the rocks was still there, and I set up camp.
On my previous stay there I had injured myself by falling through the rotting wooden walkway. Now that wood had been removed, so entry to the platform involved balancing on a concrete beam (tricky at night when you need to go out for a pee!). The municipal office 20 m away was now open, with toilets and showers. The road workers there were done by mid-day and spent the rest of the time fishing around my camp (so I had "security" because I was mostly away during the day).
Even at night I was not alone at my high camp. Prawn fisherman Zac had to wait until the tide was low enough for him to wade amongst the far rocks and cast his net. In the few days I spent camping there, Zac's starting time ranged from about 9PM to 2AM. A few hours chest-deep in the water for a Kg of prawn, and the rest of the day sleeping in his car (with his wife Anna).
My main reason for coming to Penang had been to obtain a new Thailand visa. My sister Olga as usual offered to fund the cost, which turned out to be more than what I had anticipated. Since previously I now had to have an air ticket out of Thailand (pay agent for dummy ticket). This meant a few times from my camp to Georgetown and back. Luckily I had a good free place to stay.
Probably the mainstay of agriculture in Malaysia is Palm Oil (I may be wrong, because there is also rice and fish and PETRONAS). This product is used instead of dairy and other fats in many foods. I took this pic just to show what a palm oil cluster looks like. At times, especially in the interior of the country, the road can become rather tedious because your view is limited to the oil palm groves lining the road for miles and miles and .....
I had not been in Malaysia on the bike for any extent of time for 8 years. At that time I often stayed in rooms or hostels (with Leana). Nowadays I seek free camping and I did not know about that thing in this country (No Watts like in Thailand). But, thankfully, I did find it easy to camp in Malaysia. In this tropical region I always seek to camp under cover, with toilet and water close by (cook, drink, wash). I also prefer to camp close to people, for security and also all the reasons I just mentioned. And so I did find good camping, mostly at highway R&R, petrol stations, and the larger mosques. Other places I sometimes camped was at cemeteries, once at a Sikh crematorium, and again at small restaurants which had closed for the night (close to petrol stations, or bus station - for water and toilet).
In the majority of Thailand it is now the DRY season (at least they have 2 seasons). It seems that in the South of Thailand and Malaysia they have not yet received the news about this being the DRY season. So I have had a lot of rain here in Malaysia, but it is not really cold. An exception was just after I had passed Kuala Lumpur going East up the big hills to Genting Highlands. I was exhausted, soaking wet from sweat, and there was a breeze. Not surprisingly, I have bacome acclimatized to the Thai conditions, so when the "mercury" drops to the low 20's C then I feel cold.
Distances cycled since crossing the border from Thailand into Malaysia have been:- Kangar (Malaysia) 69 km; Guar Chempesak 68 km; Butterworth 74 km; Batu Ferringhi (Penang Island) 28 km; NW Penang 16 km; Tonjung Tolong 35 km; Georgetown 57 km; Visa Org. 51 km; Gurney 35 km; Bagan Ayam 30 km; Simphan Ampat 25 km; Simpang Lima 41 km; Simpang 48 km; Pantai Remis 64 km; Lekir 51 km; Teluk Intam Rd 48 km; Sekinchan (West Coast) 64 km; Kundang (Kuala Lumpur) 72 km; Genting 59 km; Temerloh 102 km; Gambang 72 km; Kuantan (East Coast) 69 km; Sungai Ular 47 km; Paka 79 km; Kampung Kelulut 76 km; Sungai Tong 71 km; Pasir Puteh 89 km; and Rantau Panjang (Malaysia side of border) 84 km. Total cycled thus far is 150 438 km.
Exactly one month (on 18 December2017) after entering Malaysia, I exited. This is a border which I had not crossed previously, from Rantau Panjang (Malaysia) to Sungai Kolok (Thailand). This is in the NE of Malaysia, and I had entered into Malaysia at Pedang Besar in the NW. - - - - - OH! The picture above you ask? Yes, rubber trees. Out of season the cups are turned down, and later there will be a new shaving off the bark and the cups will face up.

Saturday, 6 January 2018


So it was time for me to get on my bike and hit the road again. For new Thai visas I have been mostly going to nearby Laos, where the visa is minimal hassle and actually cheaper than in other neighbouring countries.
You may wonder why I keep coming back to Thailand - well, obviouly there is Pannee, who attracts me back here after every bike stint. There are also other reasons to come back to Thailand, it is relatively cheap, easy to camp for free, good roads for biking, interesting, beautiful, and no remarkably big hills.
So I said goodbye to Pannee and the farm, and I was on the road again. It was 18 October 2017 and I had exactly one month to reach the Malaysian border about 2000 km to the SW. From NE Thailand I first had to head West, skirting to the North of Bangkok. Then I had to turn South down the "Long Leg" of Thailand towards Malaysia.
As usual, in Thailand I camped at the Buddhist temples (Watts). There are many of these temples, so about an hour before sunset I start looking out for a suitable Watt (that gives me time to ask permission, set up camp, wash, and dress - before "mosquito time" at dusk). Often it is still hot and humid at that time, so I would apply repellant cream instead of dressing up too much for the mozzies.
The monks have only one official meal per day, breakfast. People from the community bring the food for the monks. Once the monks are done eating, the rest of the people can eat and they sometimes invite me to join them. Sometimes the monks themselves bring me food as in the 2 pics above (the flies on the first plate were added later - mozzies at night and flies at daytime).
Leftovers (mainly rice) is given to the variety of animals usually present at a Watt (a certain travelling cyclist has also walked off with a bag or 2 of leftovers on occasion).
At a big river close to Bang Lem town (NW of Bangkok) I saw a style of fishing which I had not seen before. Men were patiently sitting on the bridge railing, not with fishing rods, but with a type of "spear gun" (or cross bow?). They would shoot a big fish close to the surface and hold it in position while their mates let down a grapple hook on a rope with which they raise the fish up to the bridge. Apparently the restaurants pay handsomely for these fish. (My shoe is in the pic to give idea of scale).
At the holiday beach town of Cha-Am I took a break for a couple of days. There are many hotels and guest houses here, but I found a good camp site at the Watt right beside their large fish pond.
My time at Cha-Am co-incided with a major festival (Festival of Lights?). Candle lanterns were flown out over the ocean from the beach at night, and thousands of candle-lit flower decorations were floated out on the pond at the Watt (this pic of what it looked like on the pond the following morning).
Sometimes I run low on funds, and then any type of food will make my mouth water. On one of those days there were many roadside stalls selling this Nonu fruit, and it looked so appealing! So I stopped at a stall and took some pics of the fruit. The lady in picture then gave me some fruit for free, as well as a bag of steamed corn-on-the-cobb. Just down the road I found some shady picnic chairs at a police station, and I had a wonderful unexpected lunch. I used the toilet inside, and also filled up on cold water, and the police came out and gave me a bottle of cold orange juice!
Quite a few times (and mostly in Thailand) I have come across accidents where large trucks have left the road - on the side where I ride! Luckily I am still unscathed, but a few years ago 2 British cyclists died when they were hit by a pickup truck which left the road. I did however have plenty of bike troubles, involving all coggs and chains etc. - and a number of evenings were spent "beating out the flames" so that I could move on again in the morning. I also had big problems with wheel bearings, caused by ageing worn wheel hubs. I replaced bearings on both wheels, and on one occasion I had to stay over at a temple for a day to replace the complete front wheel hub (luckily I had a used spare). Fortunately I was camped off to one side and did not interfere with the daily activities. Also, it was pouring with rain, so not a bad day to be under cover and do some bike repairs.
I met these 2 strapping Russian cyclists along the road in the South of Thailand. They are from an East Siberian city close to Mongolia. In their 1-month holiday they were travelling light and cycling from Hanoi to Singapore. I'm surprised that they even spotted me at the little shop where I was taking a break.
On the afternoon of 17 November I arrived at the border town of Pedang Besar, and camped at one of 3 temples in this small town. The following morning at a money changer in the town I exchanged Thai Baht for Malaysian Ringit. Then I checked out of Thailand and crossed into Malaysia 1 month and almost 2000 km after leaving the farm in Isan. (My Thai visa expired the following day).
Daily distances which I have cycled on this (long)leg have been:- Ban TaLad 66 km; Huaitun Tan 72 km; Tha Jum 75 km; Ban Anotai 86 km; Non Takat Kwaat 56 km; Non Phi Junction 77 km; Sikhio 78 km; Muak Lek 72 km; Phachi 71 km; Bang Pa-in 79 km; Bang Len 77 km; Potharam 83 km; Phetchaburi 91 km; Cha-Am 45 km; Pranburi 62 km; Prachuap Khiri Khan 77 km; Ban Sam Khum 78 km; Road Split Watt 64 km; Chumphon Ban 75 km; Lamae 81 km; Surat Thani 94 km; Wiang Sa 85 km; Nakhon Si Tammarat 82 km; Phattalung 80 km; Hat Yai 90 km; and Pedang Besar (Malaysia border) 69 km. Total distance so far is 148 814 km.