Day 28: Chanthaburi to Ban Phe: The Real Thailand

Chanthaburi to Ban Phe

Distance: 89.8km

Total: 1588.4km

Thai FOD: when you trip or fall, Thai people will laugh, not at you but as a way to make it fun; they do it to “save face”.

Everyday Randomness: being in the middle of a cycling sportif in Thailand!

It would be fitting that on the last full day in the saddle that it would start off raining. The rain was in fact a relief as there had been a massive thunderstorm that night! Breakfast was immense, the first buffet breakfast we’ve had this trip so I got three eggs into me for protein. The staff, as well as being amused about the general sight of us were very accommodating and gave us four free bottles of water!

Today had the most significant amount of navigation, i.e. more than 3 turns! This is due to the fact that Thailand has a very well developed road network so there are actually multiple ways to get to a place!

This meant that we were on well maintained and authentic side roads which gave us the opportunity to see how the ordinary Thai lives and not those who run guesthouses/restaurants. It turns out that it felt hugely like a Sunday at home; families gathered for food, cars lined the streets outside temples/churches and everyone with a fishing rod had it perched off any kind of bridge going!

The atmosphere was relaxed and homely, and there was a sense of pride evident in how well the football pitches and schools were maintained. The route was effortlessly varied, we cycled through every type of Asian countryside today; paddy fields, rubber trees, mangrove forests, and beaches. There was an actual cycle line just for bikes as well which was a novelty and was marked “scenic route” which was quite fitting! It was the best cycle of actual cycle touring we’ve done.

There was plenty of entertainment along the way as well as we stopped for coffee at the most quaint “bike stop” as they aptly named it. We had a chaba coffee which by taste was probably the equivalent of a flat white…it was excellent and served with a teapot of ice tea. From here we had a great vantage point at which we could watch the local sportif take place, well I hope it wasn’t a race as they were all taking it handy!

We stopped at the only village type place we came across for lunch and wow did we land on our feet. The pink noodle soup with seafood was a tasty bargain at a euro each!

From there we weren’t far from Ban Phe at all. We saw a guy pulling off the superman pose on a motorbike that must have been going at least 60km/hr, I don’t know about man of steel as it seemed pretty reckless but he definitely had nerves of steel anyways!

The last 5/6km in Ban Phe was cycling along the road beside the longest beach I’ve ever seen! It was spectacular! It went all the way into the town so we knew we wouldn’t have to track back far to get back for a dip!

The Relax Inn was ideally located at the edge of the beach and opposite the bus station. It’s a really really nice spot with friendly owners, super clean and all for €14!

Once we sorted our bus for tomorrow we went for a quick coffee which didn’t live up to the previous one but was still good and then walked along the beach at the edge of the water until the swim spot. Again the water was warm, but there was a cool breeze so it did feel a bit more natural. We lay out on the deckchairs then sipping a Chang until the onset of sunset. A brilliant afternoon, after a fittingly beautiful day of cycling!

For dinner, nightmarket wasn’t an option so we went up to a terrace on top of a hotel which served up dainty but flavoursome seafood pasta dishes! We wouldn’t usually opt for pasta (in fact I’m pretty sure ya our first time having it in Asia) but there wasn’t much choice! It was thoroughly enjoyed and we went to 7/11 for a delicious chocolate cake after which really topped it all off!

Back to Bangkok tomorrow hopefully so almost gone full circle!!!

Day 22: Ha Tien to Kep: Coastal Cruising

Ha Tien to Kep

Distance: 40.9km

Total: 1168.3km 

Cambodian FOD: there is a legend that cats are thought to be too perfect. As only Budda can be perfect, cats tails are chopped off! I don’t know if it’s true but there are a lot of cats with no tails here!

Everyday Randomness: Literally cycling through sand:

A fry for breakfast. Not a sentence I thought I’d be writing! This place is infamous for its breakfast and after tasty it I know why. The owner of the Oasis bar goes to Cambodia to buy real sausages and rashers from a British butcher who operates there!! The rashers would rival ones that you get at home and the entire meal was thoroughly enjoyed! The tomatoes were both plump and juicy; a step above the soggy version one usually gets at home!

We had our final Vietnamese coffee before crossing the border into Cambodia. We had been convinced to go to Kep along the Cambodian coast instead of spending as long in Kampot. It was an easy decision because the views around here are the best we’ve had so an opportunity to see a few more was one that we willingly took.

We almost got drawn into a common scam on the Cambodian side where they bring you into qaurantine for a “health check”. The form they get you to fill out is surprisingly official looking but once he started telling us to go over to the temperature sensor and with that we said thanks but we don’t need that, took our passports and walked out! Thankfully that was the only hassle we got and we were on our way in search of salt fields and the coast road.

One of the locals in the Oasis bar had told us how to find the coast road because the road wasn’t on open street maps and I can understand why! We turned onto a fairly standard Cambodian dirt track and literally battled through the head wind until we took a turn and saw these kids in the salt fields:

From there the road was sheltered by trees and we returned to a more acceptable pace. 

We found ourselves at the coast, and an expansive view fairly quickly:

From here, the “road” we were  supposed to take became quite ambiguous. Fortunately, the destination name of Kep is pretty easy to say so many locals pointing us in the right way as we traversed, sometimes by walking, to the coast road. It was some adventure!!

It was great to be on an actual road of sorts but we were seriously exposed to the unconstrained winds! We knew we were doing a short day on the bike so we were relaxed about going half the pace we would usually but it was tough enough going! There was randomly a massive horse statue which is beyond odd considering we haven’t seen an actual horse over here! 

The coast road joined with the main road which was empty besides tuk tuks transporting tourists to see the Crab statue (yes the tree does indicate wind strength):

We sailed along the smoothest surface we had all day into Kep’s main attraction: the crab market. We shared an enormous plate of crab while having the most spectacular views of the Gulf of Thailand. The crab was absolutely delicious in and of itself but the satay style green pepper sauce was also superb. Entertainment was provided by this fellow smacking the sea like there was no tomorrow! Apparently, it’s some form of fishing…!

We cycled out to our bungalow accomodation, the Rusty Keyhole! It is a beautiful spot in the middle of the grassy hills, with comfy chairs and a relaxed, friendly French owner.

After a beautiful sunset we decided to order a local dish (pepper and seafood of course) and their own speciality which is ribs! The seafood dish had a nice but subtle flavour and I’m not quite accustomed to eating about 100 whole peppercorns! The ribs, though lacking in actual rib none were scrumptious and there was plenty to go around as well! Served with a particularly good coleslaw! Looking forward to pancakes in the morning!