Sunday 27th December
Prachuamp to Bang Saphan
In the morning we cycled through an air base past the armed guard (as advised last night, we cycled straight passed without stopping to check whether we could enter). On the air base there was a cycle lane which was clearly marked straight over the run way. We also passed a number of coaches and vans with music blaring out of them, very festive but nothing like an air base.
We cycled approx 15 miles of the main road but most of the route had been on small roads trying to hug the coastline. We had some lovely stretches right next to the sea with palm and pine tree avenues. We passed picturesque sea fishing villages some with the boats on the beach, some moored up on inland islets.
It was a hot day with temperatures reaching 38c, it felt much hotter, every time we stopped for fluids we sweated buckets.
Our accommodation was in a bay in which we could see right around to the hills each side of us, plus far off islands. I wrote my diary at a beach side cafe over looking the sea whilst Ginette updated the blog.
It was an easy day’s ride but as Gary said very hot, we had to drink lots of fluids, when we got to the hotel Gary was desperate for a beer as this is the only drink that truly quenches your thirst so he quickly showered and went down to reception whilst I was still thinking about getting changed.
The cafe/bar was lovely it overlooked the sea and did fantastic food, in the evening we had steamed snapper in a lemon and chilli sauce and rice (of course).
The only other memorable thing from today was a woman on a moped with two other women, she accidentally pulled out on us and to avoid a collision she simply cut in front of us smiling and waving. In the UK this would have caused a lot of bad feeling but here in Thailand it was OK it was impossible not to laugh with her – no harm was caused and we all had a tale to tell at the end of the day. We love the laid back attitude in Thailand.
Monday 28th December
Bang Saphan to Tambn Chum Kho
As soon as we set off we went off route, I t thought the stretch I had plotted swept back to the B Road, but it didn’t and instead we ended up doing a big loop inland and over hills. Once back on route another small problem as the road I plotted was not good but fortunately this time the alternative B road kept going in the right direction and even had a painted track along it, this road was called the ‘Royal Scenic Highway’.
The ride was pretty hilly, no big lumps but lots of ups and downs to wear us out. Some of the day in forests of palm and pine trees others by the sea. At one point there was a sign for a view point, so I climbed the sand dunes but although you could see the sea, it wasn’t really a view point to boast about.
During the day we passed a huge buddha on a hill, we had some nice views over the bays but most of the day the views were restricted because of tree growth.
We stopped for lunch at what we thought was a cafe but it turned out to be a large family (+ friends) gathering. Everyone was sat either at tables or on mats on the floor as we approached they welcomed us and asked us to join them for ‘free’. They found a space for us and presented 4 bowls full of different dishes they even gave us some bottles of water with ice. They didn’t speak english and we couldn’t speak Thai but we somehow conveyed our thanks and they refused payment, lots of smiles and bowing took place. It was really generous of them to invite us to join them, it was a lovely experience.
In contrast later in the afternoon we stopped for a drink outside a shop and there was rubbish and empty boxes thrown all over the place, with a sales assistant that struggled to look up from her phone to serve us.
We stayed in a beach resort (although more like a motel) it was by the sea but we chose a cheaper room on the other side of the road. The sea was dirty and the beach was full of washed up rubbish. I did paddle but was worried I might grow another leg if I went for a swim.
It was a hot and hilly day, we both felt drained by the time we reached our destination. Fortunately there was a lovely restaurant waiting for us down the road with wifi so we could relax and have a lovely meal and a beer.
Tuesday 29th December
Hat Suai Resort to Surat Thani
After some research re where to spend New Years Eve we booked a place on Koh Phan gon. To get there we needed to jump approx 170 miles our option was either bus or train from Champion although there was no clear route available so a bit of suck it and see.
Ginette – our decision was based on price more than anything else, Koh Sumai and Koh Tao were both offering very limited accommodation starting at £60 per night whereas on Koh Phan gon we managed to book a resort at £24 per night. We didn’t want to go as far south as Krabi or Phuket as we wanted to cycle these in the new year.
We cycled 22 miles to Champon train station, but once there we realised our only option with the bikes was to take a 9.30pm train which would not arrive in Surat Thani until 12.20am. This wasn’t a good option so we tried a local bus company and a ferry company. One tried to send us to the Koh Tao ferry port but to our knowledge (from e mail chat) and from the ferry operator the bikes are not allowed on this ferry. It was all a bit bewildering and although people were trying to be helpful we were getting no where.
We decided the best course of action was to cycle to the main bus station another 6 mies across town (in the back of our minds we knew we could double back to the train station). We struck lucky at this bus station, after talking to an operator on the phone it was agreed that we would be squeezed on a coach and dropped off 20km from Surat Thani, not ideal but at least we would be closer the ferry port. I collapsed the handle bars on the bike so that they would fit in the storage hold, but we had to sit on the steps next to the toilet as there were no seats available. This was OK but after 2 hours our bums had gone numb from sitting on the cold steps on a positive note we were dropped off right in the centre of Surat Thani rather than the agreed 20km outside of town. Once we off loaded our bikes several men tried to provide us with advice on ferries, we had planned on cycling out of town to the ferry port to catch the overnight ferry but apparently the overnight ferry left from the town centre. The ferry port 40 miles down the road had ferries leaving for Koh Phanagon every 2 hours so after some discussion we agreed to check into a hotel in Surat Thani for the night and set off early to catch the 10.00am ferry for Koh Phanagon, we reasoned we couldn’t check into our hotel until mid day so arriving on the over night ferry was not a good option.
When we arrived at the main bus station about 5 dogs started barking and running at the bikes, we shouted at them and once we dismounted they seemed a little happier, Gary actually stroked one of them, he was braver than me. It did make me wonder how many other westerners had turned up and then cycled off without buying a ticket they were quite intimidating.
The research for this route was really unhelpful most of the info was from tour operators in Bangkok so when it came to making own arrangements its was hard to get the right information. To find the ferry ports I resorted to using i maps and finding the ferry routes and hence the departure ports, so the night ferry leaving from the city was news to me.
Once checked into a hotel in town approx 4 miles from the bus station we set off to find some food for a very hungry Nettie. On our way out we bumped into a couple of cyclists from Malaysia, they were an older couple who were cycling with a group of 7 other people. They were really friendly and we were lucky enough to catch up with them again later in the evening for a longer chat.
It was a frustrating day, but we had given ourselves plenty of time to reach Koh Phan gon so there was no rush. As it turned out we had to cycle less miles than we initially thought we would and again we got to see the lovely nature of the Thai people, who genuinely wanted to help.
Wednesday 30th December
Surat Thani to Kho Phanagan
We had to get up at 5.00am which meant cycling in the dark, sunrise was at 6.00ish, even at this time the temperature was 22c.
The route was straight forward along 2 main roads so nothing really to report, but we did push hard with an average speed of 14 mies per hour, not bad with 2 bikes and luggage weighing approx 45kg each.
We arrived at the port at 8.40am, we had plenty of time to buy our tickets and have some proper breakfast, we had stopped on route but had only been able to buy cake and biscuits.
The Kaja ferry is a car ferry so no problem getting the bikes on. Total costs of us and the bikes approx £11. Once docked we rode the short 2 miles to our hotel ‘first villa’. This was 2 miles of bars and lots of young westerners. Our resort was situated off the main road and on the beach with an outdoor pool a bar and restaurant, which was a relief having passed some of the resorts on the main road. We had to wait for our room which wasn’t a problem we bought a beer and explored the resort. The sea was a bit murky and the beach wasn’t brilliant but the resort itself was ideal. The manager/owner Beau Bo was really welcoming and cheerful and informed us when our room was ready.
Once unpacked we headed to the pool for a chill out afternoon, after less than an hour Ginette was restless – God how I have changed this lady!
He truly has – I have found it really hard to relax, my head thinks sitting by the pool will be great but my body wants to go and explore, I don’t want to miss anything.
As I write this diary it is 6.30pm, the resort next door is playing very loud drum and bass loud enough for us to hear it in our room, it could be an interesting few nights here.
It was a good hard ride down to the ferry, once on the ferry Gary fell asleep, this is usually my trick
I listened to my ipod and watched lots of young people strut their stuff up and down, it is times like this I don’t miss being young and single.
The resort was a bit of a relief as it was much cheaper than anything else we’d seen on line, the manager is great and the food is delicious.
In the evening we went to a mexican restaurant the food was awful we should have eaten on site. The bars seemed fairly quiet but we were out early, way before 10.00pm, which is when the bars start to get busy.
New Years Eve
We had a chill out day by the pool, we had contemplated snorkelling but had read some articles on people being killed in this area by box jelly fish so we decided to give it a miss.
In the afternoon the sky clouded over and it rained for about 3 hours, we took advantage and went to the shops for a mooch around. In one of the bars we passed it was hard to believe that some of the men playing beer ping pong would make midnight they were very pi**ed and it was only 3.00pm.
In the evening we met up with other residents for some pre party drinks and some free day glow make up, Before we left our lovely host gave us a New Years Eve pressies we’re not too sure what they are but they look like bath mats, she is really kind and thoughtful, you couldn’t ask for a better host.
We shared a taxi with several guys at the end of the trip we wished each other a happy new year not thinking we would bump into one of the people sitting next to us later in the evening catching the same cab home. I say cab it was an illegal pick up truck making runs back to the resorts but as it was going our way we jumped in and was surprised to see Clinton a big black guy jump in 10 minutes later. There were over 50,000 people at the party the chances of him leaving at the same time as us was minuscule especially as the party was planned to go on until the afternoon.
We arrived at the full moon party at about 9.30pm, we had timed our taxi just right apparently some of the other guys got stuck in traffic and ended up walking 3 miles to the party.
As soon as we got out of the taxi you could hear, feel and smell the party atmosphere, there were stalls and bars selling everything you could possibly need. There were also a lot of police men being briefed on the evening, but we hardly saw them through out the evening.
It cost the equivalent of £2 to get onto the beach, the beach was packed there was at least a kilometre of music stages and people, the sea was coming in so everyone was bunched up into areas around the stages. Much to our surprise once you walked away from one stage you could find a bit of space to brief and people watch. I wanted to walk around and see everything, I didn’t want to miss out on anything whereas Gary wanted to stand and watch. He was a little more mellow than me as he’d had a few more drinks, I was trying to save myself for midnight so that I could wish family members a happy new year without sounding too slurred.
The atmosphere was brilliant and as midnight was counted down there was lots of hugs, kisses and fireworks.
We left the beach at about 12.30 to ring home, it was great to talk to family but difficult to hear everyone because of the noise and the chaos around us.
No sooner had we finished on the phone than a fight started to break out fortunately it didn’t come to anything but it did make us aware of the fact that there were a lot of drunk people around. We agreed to find a bar with a dance floor and some good music. This didn’t last long as I got the wander lust and wanted to go and explore. We eventually called it a night at about 3.00pm and was relived to see we were no mean the first to leave but we definitely wasn’t the last the party was still in full swing when we woke up in search of breakfast.
The hospitals and clinics were kept really busy throughout the evening as there were lots of accidents people standing on glass and on our way home a major motorbike crash where one of the poor thai lads was receiving CPR by the roadside. Not a pretty end to the evening.
I was starving again but we decided to head back to the hotel, seeing the young man had sobered us up. This was a mistake as I spent the next 4 hours dreaming of searching the island for food only to be turned away because someone was performing CPR on a young man. I woke ravenous.
New Years Day
Before going to sleep last night I managed a cheeky pinch punch to welcome in the New Year, went to sleep with a smile on my face.
Woke feeling really hungry, poor Gary, I think he would have liked to sleep a little longer but I needed to get up and find food. Our restaurant didn’t serve breakfast until 8.30 so we went up to the high street in search of somewhere to eat. It was comical watching people returning from the Full Moon Party on the buses, many of them had lost their shoes and looked knackered, but fair play to them they’d lasted 4 hours longer than we had.
We eventually found a coffee shop which served me some scrambled eggs with hash browns and Gary poached eggs and bacon, heaven. I was shaking, a little from the drink the previous night but mainly because my blood sugars must have dropped I was so hungry.
Once fed we returned to the pool area to read our books, but I was a bit irritable as it was hot and there were flies around so decided to go back to the room for a snooze.
We had a light lunch at the restaurant before setting off to explore another beach on the other side of the island. Whilst we were eating lunch one of the other guests was showing off a tattoo she had done at the party, some writing on her elbow, she was much braver (or more stupid) than me.
We caught a bus as we were a little concerned about the number of westerners on motor bikes. Some of them are so reckless and we figured they’d probably be a few out from the night before with alcohol still in their bodies. We made a wise choice, the road was hilly and not paved in some areas. To top this on our way back we saw a westerner who had just come off his bike wiping out a straw hut in the process.
We spent a pleasant afternoon on a whiter, cleaner beach full of tourists. Gary had wanted to see a sand bank which created a strange effect in the water.
As we were both chilling we could hear a commotion coming from the sea as we watched two people were brought to shore, they’d both nearly drowned, one recovered within about half an hour but she didn’t look well whilst the other was taken to hospital. We think they must have stepped off the sand bank, Gary had been in the sea earlier and said there was a big shelf, if they were non swimmers they would have got into difficulty really quickly. It felt pretty surreal, everyone was calm the two bodies were laid out on the beach with people working on them but people were still going in the sea and walking on the sandbank some with small children. Eventually a red flag was put up, but no information was provided and still people played in the sea. The locals must be a little wiser to the dangers because several wore life jackets.
I think we’ve had enough drama now to last us for the whole of 2016
Gary; So a very eventful start to 2016, I hope we have seen the last of the nasty incidents, a lifeless man having frantic CPR and 2 near drownings is enough I think. As the red flag was put up on the beach and the two near drowned people were still bend treated (by waiters and friends, no life guards or first aid here) people were walking by and still heading off into to the same sea to walk across the sand bar, choosing to ignore all that was going on in front of them, it felt odd to be sitting watching all this go on, sitting in a paradise island watching near death experiences.
Back at the hotel we chilled by the pool and wrote our diaries as the sunset behind us, it was beautiful.
In the evening we went out for snacks and a westerner nearly ran us over as he came round the bend of the resort, both the driver and his passenger were in high spirits not sure if this was from the alcohol or New Year festive feeling.
Chill out day
Yoga on the beach watching the sun rise, whilst Gary had a lay in.
Spent the morning reading and researching the next stage of our journey.
We had lunch out and took a walk on the beach before returning to upload the blog and book flights. It’s a hard life…