Saturday, 16 May 2009
By "run" I don't refer to the constant stomach ailments which continue to plague us. Also, the cycling conditions are not at all hazardous, with wonderful roads which are well-signed and usually have a shoulder designated for bicycles. Since my last update Leana and I have cycled from Phuket up the Andaman Sea coastline via the town of Ranong, and we are now back at Chumphong on the Gulf of Thailand (East Coast). The West coast area through which we have just been is very lush and green, maintained by the daily rain showers. That area was also one of the hardest-hit by the Dec 2004 tsunami, and now the tsunami "hazard" and "evacuation route" signs are a constant reminder. Another possible hazard (especially when camping) is snakes, and there are more trodden snakes on the road than I've seen anywhere else since Zimbabwe (don't be concerned, the snake Leana is holding in the photo is very dead!). As our 30-day Thai visa was about to expire, we exited the country at Ranong and took a long-tailed boat across the Gulf of Martaban to Kawthoung in Myanmar (Burma). We mistakenly thought that we were only being allowed over on a day-pass, but discovered that we could have stayed for 2 weeks!). On the return trip the engine of our boat (which didn't sound too healthy from the start) blew up, spewing bits of engine casing and oil all over the boat. Fortunately we were able to signal one of the many other boats for help, which arrived before we could drift into one of the several rocky islands. Back at the Thai immigration office we received a rather nasty surprise - instead of the expected new 30-day visa, we were only granted 15 days (new law). This means that we have precious little time to reach our next planned destination, Cambodia. Another major problem is that Leana is considering flying back to Cape Town from Bangkok in order to sell her house (funding for a "faulty" tax rebate which the "Reciever" is now claiming back - she heard today!). I'm still trying to attract the interest of sponsors, but if that doesn't happen soon I may well be joining one of the impoverished Cambodian communities. Daily distances cycled since Phuket are:- Thai Muang 106 km; Khao Lak 56 km; Karaburi 83 km; Ban Ben Beach 88 km; Ranong 65 km; Kra Buri 60 km; and Chumphon 68 km. Total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town on this journey is 40 211 km.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Leaving Bangkok wasn't nearly as difficult as I'd anticipated. We just had to pick the correct exit route, and the good roads and well-behaved traffic did the rest. In no time Leana and I were on the highway heading South-West to the "Gulf of Thailand" coastline. The climate is hot and humid every day, with rain showers just about every afternoon. So far we've been fortunate, with the rain often falling around us or arriving once we've already found shelter. Besides the beaches the inland scenery is also very lush with forests, as well as rubber and palm plantations. In certain areas there are impressive "limestone pillar" hills rising out of the surrounding forest. Cruising down the coast we were able to find many beautiful spots, where we stayed in beach-side huts (popular with the local tourists) or in budget hotels (popular with foreign travellers - who are referred to as "Farang's" in Thailand). We became so laid-back that we even stayed over for 3 nights in one place on at least 2 occasions. Then I heard that my friends from Cape Town - Rossouw and Dawn - were holidaying in Phuket for a few days. We got the bikes (and ourselves) into gear, and cycled over 450 k's in 3 days to meet the 2 "Farang's" at their resort in Patong Beach on the Andaman coast in the South-West of the country. The occasion was due to Dawn's 50th birthday, and last night the 4 of us enjoyed a pleasant evening out in the touristy town. From here we intend to move North up the West coast so that we can do the "visa run" across the Myanmar (Burma) border (upon our return we hope to be issued another 30 days' stay in Thailand). In the mean time I'm gaining weight as Leana finds vegetarian food rather scarce (or hard to explain), and as a result I've often had to consume 2 meals at a time! Daily distances cycled since Bangkok were:- Samut Sonkhram 78 km; Puktian Beach 78 km; Hua Hin 49 km; Prachuap Khiri Khan 110 km; Bang Saphan 115 km; Praia Bay 94 km; Chumphon 43 km; Cheya 142 km; Au Luk 170 km; Phuket 140 km; and Patong Beach 21 km. Total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town is 39 685 km.