25th FEBRUARY 2020
Breakfast at the Srisupawadee Resort has been arranged by the same girl responsible for cleaning, check-ins and everything else at the motel. This morning she serves up a huge bowl of rice porridge with a poached egg in the middle. It looks a bit like paper mache mix and is quite tasteless until I add a few squirts of soy sauce. I’ve also been given a small fruit loaf which I just dip into the gloop. It’s far from gourmet, yet should be filling enough to keep me going for most of the day. To drink I have the bizarre ‘Super Coffee’, which is coffee, milk and sugar all in the one sachet. It tastes surprisingly good, which makes up for the rice porridge.
I ride back out the village, then inland again, before rejoining the main highway South. At this hour the morning sun is rising to my left and casts welcome, cooling shadows onto my side of the road. I’m benefitting from a pleasant tree-lined cycle today, through National Park and palm tree plantations which makes my task so much easier. With all this tree cover I’m crusing along quite well, and even allow myself to think I might slowly be getting used to this malarkey again. Just as my mind is wandering I’m surprised by a ‘Hello’ from another cyclist behind me, which turns out to be a sixty-something Aussie bloke who’s here for a few weeks on holiday. He says he saw me cycling yesterday, and we ride together for five kilometres until he turns off towards his beach resort.
I’m able to leave the main highway at the exit for Ban Krut Beach, although it also means leaving the shady trees behind. This smaller road is far more exposed and the sun is now directly in front of me, beating down relentlessly on my forearms. I’m within 10km of my destination, but I still stop for some food just to have a break and get out of the sun. The lady at the Plastic Chair Cafe cooks up a standard chicken fried rice, although doesn’t include any chillies, probably in deference to me being a Westerner. The result is actually a little bland without a touch of spiciness.
Recharged, I carry on until I reach the turn off for Wat Thang Sai, a hilltop Buddhist temple with fairytale-looking spires. My plan is to return here tomorrow on my Rest Day, but as I’m already here I think I might as well pop up now. The slope is gradual at first, then steepens so much that I have to jump off and push nearer the top. I’m puffing and sweating like nobody’s business, yet in an odd way I’m almost enjoying it. My reward for this effort is a huge, golden Buddha at the top, sitting cross-legged and staring serenely out to sea. The fairytale temple itself is only accessible by walking up a long pathway, so I have to miss out on that. I don’t fancy leaving my bike and panniers unattended for so long, even if they were chained up. As I descend I can look back up and see the temple’s spires poking above the canopy of surrounding trees.
I take the beachfront road into Ban Krut, past a few hotels, restaurants, houses and even some open ground. Thankfully the town doesn’t look too developed. My accommodation is a hotel about fifty metres back from the beach, where I jump into a swimming pool within ten minutes of checking in. I can feel the sweat and toil of today melting away in the cool water. Once I get out I lie on a shaded poolside lounger and promptly fall asleep. My seven straight days of cycling have caught up with me.
For my day off I had planned to get up early for sunrise over the ocean. However, I wake up during the night, think better of it and roll over to switch my alarm off. By morning, only ten minutes after the sun has risen I look out my window to see a pinky-orange ball hanging just above the horizon. Damn, it looked like it would have been a good one !
This hotel does a complimentary breakfast and, although it’s pretty standard fare, you can eat as much as you want. I have extra helpings of cereal, toast, watermelon slices and mini bananas, all washed down with the strangely addictive Super Coffee. Then I have a pretty chilled Rest Day that includes clothes washing, a seafood curry lunch and a bit more time poolside. I set my alarm again with the thought of catching sunset before I leave tomorrow.
When I wake up the next morning my room is suspiciously light, which is an odd outcome given that I set my alarm for 6.15am. I look out and it’s definitely past sunrise. What the Hell ? It turns out my phone had a large overnight update to process and, consequently, this wiped all the alarms. Luckily, It’s cloudy over the sea anyway, so I didn’t miss out on sunrise.
For breakfast I have at least double helpings of everything that’s on offer, and can sense the staff talking about me as I return for my final round of toast and jam. My usual excuse for gluttony is reasoning that I’ll need the energy for cycling, yet today I’ll only be travelling 40km down the coast. This short distance means I faff around till after 11.00am, even going as far as to borrow a pair of scissors from the breakfast area to cut my big toenails. It’s a bit of a grim thought for the next person snipping the top off a Super Coffee sachet, but it’s something that really had to be done.
With time on my side today I take a quiet road that runs alongside the beach, which is a gorgeous picture of palm trees and aquamarine sea. It’s a lovely ride, and gets me wondering why Ban Krut Beach isn’t far more popular. I’m glad it’s not, mind you. I’ve stopped to take pictures when I’m approached by a couple on bikes. Saeed and Sharareh are from Iran and on a trip from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, through Thailand and then onto Laos and Vietnam. They call themselves ambassadors and urban diplomats for their country, no doubt hoping to change people’s perceptions about Iran because they always get such a bad press in the West. However, I’ve found that among international cycle tourers Iran is a destination where travellers constantly remark on how friendly the people are. I tell them I’d love to cycle there one day, but getting an Iranian visa might prove difficult with a UK passport.
The pair were held up for a week in Malaysia, due to an episode of aching joints which resulted in hospital visits for them both. Their first thought was ‘Coronavirus’ as it’s currently all over the media, but the pain was eventually diagnosed as infection from mosquito bites. I give them what advice I can from cycling in Vietnam last year, and they advise me on what to expect in Malaysia – ‘The roads are so busy. And it’s hot. Really hot !’ We have a round of photos, with Sarareh popping a baseball hat on first because she doesn’t want any evidence of her Muslim head being uncovered while travelling.
Carrying on, I follow the coast as much as I can, before the road veers inland through jungle and past tiny settlements. I run the gauntlet of three ‘Dog Houses’ in a row, where the bloody animals come charging out their garden like barking, snapping missiles and run alongside me. Like a horrible chain reaction, the dog at the first house sets off the dog at the second, who in turn sets off the third. None of them look like they’re actually going to try and bite me; it seems more of a territorial warning to keep away from their owner’s house. Still, I never want to fully test that theory.
The rest of my ride is on a larger road, which speeds things up until a Plastic Chair Cafe lunch of pork with rice and a little bowl of soup. I continue just past the town of Bang Saphan and then turn onto a small concrete road which takes me back to the coast. I’m staying right on the beach in a motel-type complex which takes 500 Baht from me as a deposit. This is the first time on the trip that I’ve been asked for a deposit. They must think I look really dirty. Or dodgy. Or both.
Before it gets dark I walk along a decent, fairly clean beach with only a few locals for company on the sand. I pass handfuls of lobster traps, all piled on top of each other and with palm leaves woven into their roofs, presumably to make the lobsters think they’re heading for some kind of shelter, rather than a trap. For dinner I stop at a Plastic Chair Cafe behind the beach and ask if they have noodles. No, it’s chicken fried rice again ! I’m going to actively avoid rice for my next few meals as it seems like it’s all I’ve been eating lately. When I get back to my room I set my alarm for sunrise again, hopeful that I’ll get to see it climbing over the sea before I leave the East Coast.