23rd FEBRUARY 2020
Sunday morning sees me leaving Cha-am and the Aussie-Thai guesthouse. The owner bloke is up and about quite early, seemingly none the worse for last night’s beer consumption. I’m continuing down the coast today, which means that in 25km I’ll reach the heavily developed tourist city of Hua Hin, although I know already that I won’t be stopping. If I wasn’t too keen on Cha-am, then I’m pretty sure I won’t like Hua Hin.
The road between the two tourist spots is surprisingly busy for a Sunday, but a strong, steady tailwind has me flying along whilst barely even touching the pedals. By the time I reach Hua Hin, I find it’s jam-packed with cafes, hotels and tourists. There also seems to be a lot of old Western guys gadding around on motorbikes with Thai women on the back. A few of the old blokes have gone for the shaved head and goatee look, probably not realising that this makes them look about as creepy as Gary Glitter. I don’t see that there’s much public access to the beach, although I do spot a way through via an alleyway beside a hotel. I pop down to check it out. The beach itself looks like it could be quite pleasant, but there’s not a single person sunbathing; the powerful wind would only result in their bodies being blasted by grains of sand. The blowy conditions have brought plenty of windsurfers and kitesurfers out, mind you. I carry on cycling, glad that my decision to miss Hua Hin has been vindicated.
Leaving town the road sweeps back inland, crosses a railway line and deposits me back down alongside what looks like a cycle path. Oh My Goodness, it IS a cycle path ! For the next 15km I speed along happily, separated from traffic and being pushed along effortlessly by the strong breeze. This easy section ends when the cycle path finishes and my road joins back up with the main highway. This bigger road feels ridiculously busy now after three days of quiet coastal roads. Luckily, I don’t have to suffer it for long as it’s only another 5km until my destination of Pran Buri.
My accommodation is at an OYO hotel, which I’ve noticed are fairly common in Thailand and only ever charge about £10 per night. Finances dictate that this probably won’t be my last visit to one of their establishments. The receptionist is happy for me to lift my bike up the stairs, wheel it along a corridor and keep it inside my room, which always scores extra ratings points from me. After a shower I head out for food, which involves crossing the main highway on foot to reach the town centre. I stop at a Plastic Chair Cafe, where I get talking to the cook as she makes me a very garlicky chicken fried rice. She tells me she’s a bit of a cyclist herself, but modestly says she only ever rides about 40km at a time. I nod my approval and tell her that’s actually pretty good. I’ve only cycled 50km myself today.
Back at the hotel I make my way up to the roof for sunset. I’ve found that most buildings here have steps up to a roof level if you look for them. I get a good view over the tin-roofed neighbours, the colourful temple just beyond and an orangey-red sun dipping over hills on the horizon. Back in my room I get to thinking that my daily kilometres will have to start increasing pretty soon. If I keep faffing about with these 40km days it will be touch and go whether I make it to Singapore in time. And I’m not even taking Rest Days into account with that calculation. All these thoughts influence my mind as I try to decide on tomorrow’s destination. I end up choosing a place that’s 80km away, just to force myself into building up those distances. In reality though, it’s not the distances that are the problem, it’s cycling those distances in a blazing tropical heat.
Next morning I’ve got my head into the mindset of simply getting the kilometres done. I realise that I’ll have to put in a few days of eighty-plus kilometres on these flat roads if I want to rack up some distance and make it to Singapore. The downside is that I’ll need to be on the main highway all day if I want to achieve this. So, aided again by a slight tailwind, I just put my head down and get on with it.
There’s not so much in the way of roadside eateries today, with me passing up on a couple of potential food stops not long after town. Of course, after bypassing these cafes, it then takes ages till I see another one. I’ve cycled about 50km by the time I stop for pork with rice and some soup. The girl reaches straight for a bottle of Coke as well, because I’m a Westerner. While I’m eating, an older couple in their sixties pull up to the cafe. It turns out they’re from Holland and on a three day trip from Hua Hin, planning to get the train back there tomorrow after reaching Prachuap Khiri Khan tonight. Although they arrived at the cafe ten minutes later than I did, they still get up and leave before me. I sit and chill for another little while, giving the Dutchies a good head start to make sure I don’t catch them. I can’t really be arsed making small talk today.
I drag myself away from the cafe, then find it a chore to get going again. As is becoming the norm for this trip, I come over all drained for the last 15km of the day. This tiredness coincides with facing the first hill of any consequence since leaving Bangkok. It’s only a gradual climb, but made more difficult in direct sunlight and without a breath of air. I can feel sweat dripping down the side of my face. As I’m struggling, I catch myself wondering how the old Dutchies would have fared on their way up here.
Cycling past the busy town of Prachuap Khiri Khan I’m really starting to feel the heat. As the afternoon has progressed any shade in the left hand lane has disappeared, and now the sun has moved to my right. I can feel my right knee and calf are burning slightly, but I don’t stop as I’m so close to my destination. Eventually I do get off the main road and turn towards the small fishing town of Khlong Wan. My accommodation is at the Srisupawadee Resort, which makes it sound a lot more alluring than the two rows of motel units that it actually is. I’ve noticed that Thailand has a habit of putting the word ‘Resort’ behind any kind of accommodation to give the impression of extra luxury. If Eastenders was set in Thailand, the pub would be called The Queen Vic Resort. There’s no-one at reception when I arrive, although a woman doing the cleaning doubles up as receptionist and checks me in. Despite the motel unit exterior, the room itself is spacious and comfortable. The shower is even separate from the rest of the bathroom, whereas most accommodation in Thailand only has shower and toilet together in a Wet Room.
In the evening I take a walk through some little local streets and down to the seafront. There’s a long jetty with a huge concrete structure at the end, which looks like a set of truck loading bays for picking up fishing catch. I walk out along the jetty, passing over what could be a nice little beach, were it not littered by loads of plastic and trash. By rights, a concrete jetty and dirty beach don’t sound at all picturesque, but looking back to shore I can see an orange ball sun setting and reflecting hypnotically on the rippling water below me. Sometimes there’s beauty where you least expect it. On my way back the only eating option I pass is a street food stall selling fried bits and bobs, mostly on sticks. I fill myself up with three spring rolls and two fried chicken breast on a stick.
When I get back to the ‘Resort’ I notice that my head looks a bit red, which shouldn’t be the case as my forehead and nose are always shaded by the peak of my cycling helmet. Perhaps it’s just a result of being out in the heat for so long today. Nonetheless, I seemed to cope with the longer distance otherwise. As a reward I’ve decided to stay for two days after reaching Ban Krood Beach tomorrow. It’s about time I had my first Rest Day of this trip.