Grettings from Hua Hin

Yo guys,

Grettings from Hua Hin!!!

Well this should be a quick one. No introspection in Thailand. You don’t get the time. Everyone is just too damned friendly and everything is just too damned interesting. You couldn’t be an introvert in this place if your life depended on it. Even riding your bike is a social event. People on motorbikes pull up beside you and just chat along to you. Trucks go past with scores of people on the back and they all wave and smile at you. Thais are the smiliest people on the planet.

I left Athens on the 11th. I took a bit of a chance with the bike and didn’t bother packing it. I had to sign a waiver saying that if they accidentally threw my bike out the plane, I couldn’t complain about it and I had no real choice but to sign it. I wish airports would try and be a bit more accommodating towards cyclists but there you go. While I was on the plane I was selected for one of those “what do you think of our service” questionnaires and I sat boring the poor stewardess to death with how airlines should really do more for cyclists. Of course it was pointless as that wasn’t her department so I have to hope the “looking after you baggage” guy asks me the same questions next time but I get the feeling he doesn’t do customer satisfaction surveys. Luckily bike survived in tact and we had an emotional rendezvous at Bangkok airport.

Bangkok madness

The journey was about 24 hours in total. I had a 9 hour stopover in Dubai which was an opportunity to buy more books and then read them straight away. I read a PJ O’Rourke book which was too right wing and now I’m reading a Chomsky book which is too left wing. I need a book in the middle somewhere to suit my vague middle of the ground politics. Vague middle ground people never seem to write books though.

I also broke new ground and bought myself a Lonely Planet guide for Thailand. I did this for a number of reasons. First reason is I get the feeling Thailand is the type of place you can get yourself seriously ripped off if you don’t know what the score is. I’m interacting with the service industry much more over the next month and it really helps to know which guest houses to aim for, which restaurants to eat at and what I should pay. The second reason is that along with NZ, Thailand is one of the places I’ve always wanted to visit and it really helps having a guide. I’ll never be a fully fledged tourist, doing all the usual tourist things, by the very nature of what I’m doing but it helps to know which towns to head for and what to expect.

I arrived in Bangkok on the 12th at about 19:00. The traffic outside the airport was just mental and, with it being dark, I decided on a safety first policy and caught a taxi. The taxi was a fiver for a 15 mile journey which seemed worth it all things considered. It was a wise decision as there’s no way I could have found the main guest house area and that’s assuming I would have survived the journey which is open to debate. I headed for Banglamphu and the main strip known as Th Khoa San. It’s the mad, decadent place you always see in the movies. I got propositioned by three prostitutes just trying to find a guesthouse. I have no idea why they’d think a guy pushing a 50kg bike would be cruising for sex but maybe there’s some really kinky cyclists out there who can only perform with a fully panniered bike in the room. Personally I just wanted to hear one of them say “Me love you long time” but alas I doubt many of them have watched Full Metal Jacket.

I found a guest house just off the main strip. It was 120 baht for the night which is less then 2 quid. Don’t get me wrong we’re not talking the Hilton here but to a man who’s spent over a month in forests, drainage ditches and abandoned houses anything with a bed in it is luxury. After dumping all my stuff in my room I headed out to check out Bangkok by night. Seemingly a guy wandering round on his own in Bangkok must be looking for sex because I was some sort of prostitute magnet. They tap you on your arm as you walk past which I’m guessing is code for “Me love you long time”. I guess without the bike I was more of an attraction. I met a few fellow travelers on my wanderings as everyone is very friendly. Obviously all the conversations are very much in the “where you been, what you done mold” and obviously my story is pretty interesting even to people who have just spent a month milking yaks in Nepal or whatever crazy travelers do for kicks nowadays.

I only stayed in Bangkok the one night as it’s probably just a bit too decadent for me. There’s just too many Western guys going out with Thai girls for my liking and while it’s not for me to cast aspersions on the relationships of others, I’m just a bit suspicious of the validity of such relations. I’m not sure who’s exploiting who but there seems to be an awful lot of it going on and it just isn’t for me. I don’t like meeting people and having to question their motives all the time.

I intended to leave Bangkok super early before the traffic became utter madness but the plane journey really knocked me for six and I didn’t get out of bed till 11. This meant hitting the streets at 12 which, as expected, was chaos. In reality I didn’t find it that bad and found the drivers better than in Athens. I don’t think I had a single moment where I felt in danger but maybe Athens has readjusted my danger levels a bit. It took me ages to get out of the city although I was impressed I managed it without getting lost.

Once out the city, things improved somewhat. All the main roads here have big hard shoulders which are populated by me and a load of friendly motorcyclists. It was 85 miles to my intended target which, with my late start, meant an hour ot two cycling in the dark but with the hard shoulder and all the motorbikes I felt completely safe. I arrived in Phetchaburi last night at about 20:00. I found my guesthouse eventually and as per usual it was stupidly cheap. A room, a meal and about 5 pints ended up costing me around 8 quid. Pretty much every town has budget accommodation and if you lay off the beer you could manage bed, breakfast and a quality supper for about a fiver.

I set off this morning at 9ish. I had a choice between doing 40 miles and finished the day early in Hua Hin or heading to Prachuap Khiri Khan which would have made it 100 mile day. tbh it seems like a crime to rush Thailand so I opted for the 40 miles and I’ll do the 60 miles tomorrow. The toughest part of cycling in Thailand is actually getting my lazy arse onto the bike. It’s just so fantastically interesting and the people are so wonderful that I don’t want to leave. Deep down I’m probably also a bit apprehensive about Oz. I’ll still stick to my 60 mile a day because I really need to get to Oz early October but I’ll take it a bit easier than I did in places like Serbia. Rather than cycle every hour God sends, I’ll try and bang in my miles quick and early so I can enjoy the country a bit.

If any of you are a little undecided on your next holiday destination I’d honestly consider Thailand. It’s a place I have a feeling I’ll come back to and maybe next time, bring some fellow cyclists along and do a big circuit of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia. It’d be a fantastic experience doing it with a couple of mates, just chilling and I reckon the money you save here offsets the additional cost of a plane journey to somewhere like Spain.

Anyways I’m off to the beach.

Later dude and dudettes and as always lots of love,

Craig.

XXX

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