June is ending and we reach in a morning of cycling, from Kota Bahru, the Thai border. With a bit of apprehension (“crossing here can be dodgy during periods of sectarian violence”, says the Lonely about supposed Muslim-Buddhist tensions), we enter in the Kingdom of Siam without any trouble, any fees neither questions from the customs officer who even wish a “good luck” once the stamp is delivered 🙂
We choose to go to the nearest train station (the first we meet from Java) and take, to “earn” few kilometers, an ultra-economic class train towards Hat Yai. The trip is relaxed, the bikes well wedged along the windows wide open, some hills appear among the path and a Muslim family, from the baby to the veiled grandmother, accompanies us.
Hat Yai gives us a first glimpse of Thai “shapes”: colorful and dashing buildings, often adorned with uninteresting advertisements, overlooking charming echoes where food has a place of choice. About Thai caligraphy, as is the spoken language: it is beautiful but absolutely not comprehensible or imitable for non-expert. Choices on cycling routes won’t be easy!
We begin July by pleasant country roads in Songkhla province. On the menu: temples with carved and gilded roofs often adjoined by a Boudha, fields of rubber as far as the eye can see, recognizable by their small individual dome in order to collect rubbery sap, always those damned palm trees and… Dogs! Damn it, we did not miss them: Malaysia had more or less banished the canid to Sylvain’s delight but here they are so many… We warn each other each time we see more or less terrifying pets, pushes a little on the pedals to get out and, until today, keep calves unscathed.
We camp on the edge of a pretty lake, welcomed by the local guingette where we had previously a good diner. At dusk, local adults and children watch us set up the tent while the last fishing boats decorate the horizon.
July 2, we head to Trang where we have a promising contact via Warmshowers. This first crossing to the West Coast rhymes with verticality and so we make our thighs on hills more and more frequent. The surrounding jungle is beautiful and the mercury rises over 40 degrees easily. Fortunately there are the “iced milk tea” or “Cha” breaks. It takes us 2 days to reach the town, allowing ourselves a stop at pretty waterfalls. Kim, Bruce Willis’ angular lookalike from Pensylvania, warmly welcomes us in his little family: tonight is KFC meal! The evening is great, Kim, an English teacher in a high school, tells anecdotes about the specificities of Thai education and then evokes his bike rides and the countless cyclists welcomed to his home. Great stories!
From Trang we reach Krabi in 2 days of regular pedaling, we find a good rhythm even if Cléa does not lack to yell “Lance Armstrong: not too fast!” On the way we explore an emerald-coloured lake, the water is soft but the atmosphere a little too touristic.
Krabi, wedged between huge mangroves visible at low tides and cliffs with gravity-defying silouhettes, has an undeniable charm. We fall even more under the spell at Railay, the adjacent peninsula, which instantly makes us want to put on slippers and harnesses to rock-climb. However, we don’t want to rent at a expensive price or take a course for beginners, and so we are largely satisfied with the few steep trails and a wonderful remote lagoon.
On July 6, we head north to Surat Thani. After 180km of bike – “Russian mountain” rather nice, a parade and a football match catches on the way, we arrive in Surat Thani.
Time to store the bikes in a safe place and we are sailing for a week on Koh Phangan and Koh Tao island. Hell yeah, we’re going to dive!