Around the world by bike
(572km - 14days)
16 March Colombo, Sri Lanka – Bangkok, Thailand
I booked a flight to Bangkok, Thailand, where I hoped to get a visa for Myanmar. The flight was leaving at 7h20 but for some bizarre reason the taxi could only pick me up at 3h00. At least it gave me enough time at the airport to have everything wrapped.
A few hours later I arrived in Bangkok and it was just as I remembered from a few years back. I headed straight for “backpackerville” and I’m still convinced that it is the only place where one can stroll down the street and buy deep-fried scorpions on a stick. I headed for the same area where I stayed before and found a room at the New Merry V Guest House on Phra Athit Road. The Peachy Guest House next door was even cheaper and had ground floor rooms, perfect for a cyclist.
The following day I visited a few temples; I find the temples of Thailand absolutely exquisite. They are not only old, but they are also very colourful and ornate. I visited Wat Pho (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha), famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters in length and 15 meters in height. It was hot and there were thousands of tourists so I just wanted to get out of there in a hurry.
I walked back to my room past many stalls. These stalls were selling all kinds of things, including second had false teeth. Now, I reckon by the time you sell second-hand false teeth, no one can accuse you of not trying.
I had plenty of time to explore so I took the Skytrain to the shopping centre to look for a new charger for my phone. It seems that my phone was not charging anymore. I hoped that it was only the charger and not the phone itself. I always love using the public transport as it feels like one has learned something when you can get around the city using local transport.
I received my Myanmar visa and was ready to pack up and leave Bangkok. The Mae Sot / Myawaddy border was one of the borders open between Thailand and Myanmar, and it was about a weeks’ cycle away as there were many places of interest I wanted to visit along the way.
I went for a leg wax and a pedicure and that evening took a walk along the river to take some pictures. There was not much to capture, except for the old fort on Phra Athit Road. I took a few pictures and then went for a beer and something to eat in the alleys.
21 March Bangkok – Ayutthaya - 90 km
Although slow it was easy riding out of Bangkok. I somehow found myself on a road with plenty of road works which made the going rather slow. Eventually, I landed up next to a canal which was quite nice as it depicted typical rural life in Thailand - plenty of temples and rice paddies. It was boiling hot and I was happy to reach Ayutthaya where I found a cheap room at U. P. Inn.
It was already late, but I took a walk to the famous ruins of Ayutthaya, now a UNESCO world heritage site. The city of Ayutthaya was a Siamese kingdom founded in 1350 and was the capital of the country until its destruction by the Burmese Army in 1767. In its day, it was one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East. It also marked the pinnacle of the Thai domination in the region.
Today the ruins are spread over a vast area and I decided to stay another day to see some of the outlying ruins. The following day I got on my bike and visited more of these amazing ruins.
23 March - Ayutthaya – Lopburi - 65 km
It was a short and easy ride to Lopburi where there were more amazing ruins. Again, it was easy to find a cheap room (NooM Guesthouse) as these places are geared for backpackers. As the town of Lopburi was small, it was easy to walk around it. I took a walk to the Prang Sam Yot temple/ruins with its resident troop of monkeys.
According to Hindu-Buddhist beliefs, the monkeys have divine connections and should not be harmed, and although a menace they are fed instead of being chased away. Nice for the tourists but I‘m sure the shopkeepers hate them by now as they run in everywhere and grab whatever they see.
24 March - Lopburi – Nakhon Sawan - 131 km
I was lucky that the day was overcast and made for easy riding. At first I thought it was going to rain and a few times I stopped to take shelter but nothing came of the threatening clouds. There was nothing of interest along the road so I pushed on to Nakhon Sawan. I should have camped at one of the many service stations along the road, but I soon found myself in the town and found a room at P. A. Place Hotel. The hotel had convenient ground floor, motel-style rooms and was close to food.
25 - 26 March - Nakhon Sawan – Kamphaeng Phet (Kamphaengphet) - 126 km
Again it was half overcast, so I made use of the “good” weather and pushed on to Kamphaeng Phet where there were another UNESCO site. Soon after leaving I met Mel and Lee along the road. They were travelling by car and stopped for a chat. Mel is Australian and Lee from Thailand. They now live and are warmshower hosts in Chang Mai, where they settled after cycle-touring for 3 years.
I stopped at one of the many roadside stalls to taste the rice cooked in bamboo; I can now vouch that it is the best rice I have ever eaten. Once in Kamphaeng Phet I looked for the Three J Guest House, a fantastic place with the most interesting rooms.
There is nothing quite like running around old ruins like a famous explorer … if only I did not lose my phone in the process. I spent the day wondering around Kamphaeng Phet Historic areas.
27 March - Kamphaeng Phet – Tak - 70 km
This day marks 8 years of cycle-touring for me.
I have seen many wonderful things, met some fantastic people and ate some rather strange things. I crossed mountains and deserts and many a day doubted my sanity! I have done some strange and stupid things in my life, but I think this tops it all.
Never the less, it was a great day on the road as I followed the river to Tak. It was a relatively short day, but I noticed what looked like a large mountain range en route to Mae Sot and the Myanmar border. I thought it best to stay put and tackle the last 90 km the following day.
28 - 29 March - Tak – Mae Sot - 90 km
I packed up and left without having breakfast, thinking that I will have some along the way. I, however, never saw a suitable place. It was a slow and difficult day over the mountains and not very smart to not eat. Once I cleared the first big climb I could see another one looming. Fortunately, the weather came in a bit and it became overcast. I huffed and a puffed, creeping at a snail’s pace up the steep inclines.
Finally, I spotted a temple on top of a hill which I hoped marked the high point. Cars were tooting as they passed - it must be a good luck thing. By that time, I was dead tired and was happy for the downhill. The downhill was equally steep and I sped down and into the border town of Mae Sot reaching speeds of up to 70 km/h.
I was beyond tired and hungry but managed to find a cheap room at the First Hotel, which very much looked like it could have been the first hotel in Mae Sot. The rooms were huge and fitted with very elaborate wooden (Burmese teak, I guess) furniture. Even the passages and staircase were adorned with large wooden carvings. I stayed in Mae Sot the following day as well, did my laundry and ate more than two days worth of food.
As all border towns, Mae Sot was interesting with an interesting mix of people. I had lunch at Khrua Canadian, and for once did not have noodle soup. Dave and his wife have been running the restaurant for 17 years and he didn’t only know his food but also the region very well.