This is part two of my bike trip recap, if you haven’t read part one, you can go back and read about my short time spent in Bangkok. This is a long post, so just know you’ve been
Our guides Chris and Gae were waiting for us outside of our hotel, they introduced themselves, loaded up our stuff, and we hopped in the truck for our 3-ish hour drive to Laem Mae Pim Beach on the Gulf of Thailand where we would start our bike journey. During the drive we heard lots about Chris’s life as an ex-US Marine and expat who has lived in Thailand for 13 years and is married to the lovely Gae, who is from Thailand.
I cannot say enough positive things about these two. To put it simply, Chris and Gae spoiled us! Chris was our trusty guide on the bike (and occasional wind blocker) while Gae was our witty translator and support vehicle driver (plus occasional photographer.) We biked and ate our way along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand and up through the mountains to the border of Cambodia. They are both owners of their tour company, and thought of so many details, from bringing us the best pineapple and watermelon from their own town that we snacked on at every rest stop, to the really wonderful route they planned that had great accommodations, all of which I’ll get into more.
We stopped for lunch at a shopping mall with a food court where you put money on a card and go around to stations to order different dishes. The fiasco of parking made the outing take a little longer than expected and by the time we got to the beach we were racing an upcoming sunset. The ride was just supposed to be a warm up ride anyway, to shake away some of the cobwebs of traveling. We dropped off our bags at the Lom Talay Chalet where we’d be staying that night and then drove down the beach to a small aquarium. Chris fixed up our bikes while Gae took us into the aquarium where we mingled with Thai children and families and spent too much time examining the dangerous/poisonous fish.
Back outside we tried out our Marin hybrid bikes, which somehow Chris had adjusted the seat heights perfectly, and then we started a nice 30km ride along the beach back to the hotel. (This might be the point in time where I should explain that in Thailand they drive on the left hand side of the road and in Cambodia they drive on the right.) Navigating a couple of small streets, and making rather difficult right turns, see above note about driving on the left, we had a fairly nice shoulder/bike lane where our biggest obstacles were vendors selling gigantic inflatable objects along the beach. Sunset was sneaking up on us and Chris suggested we stop along the beach to watch. We pulled over, and he went and bought us a couple of Thai beers to cheers to and sip on as we watched the scenery become bluish in the dusk.
There was only about 5-8km left in our ride back to the hotel, where we discussed our dinner plans and went to our room to shower and get ready for dinner. Lindsay and I met Chris and Gae about an hour later and we walked down the beach a little further to an open air restaurant. They consulted our dietary preferences – really just mine, Lindsay doesn’t have any! – and ordered some dishes we could all share. It was a delicious meal, and despite the first impression that we over ordered, I assure you there was little left of any of the dishes (and that pretty much goes for the rest of the trip!) We walked further down and found a place that makes pancakes which were more like thin crepes filled with banana and chocolate. After the sweet ending, we walked back to the hotel and slept extremely well.
Lindsay and I are both early risers, and the time difference meant we were both awake before sunrise, so we decided to go down to the beach to watch it. It was one of my favorite things I saw the whole trip. We sat on some rocks and saw monks stroll along the beach followed by stray dogs (who hang around temples because the monks feed them) and watched the sky evolve around the rising orange orb.
After packing up our stuff we went to the breakfast room. I didn’t get pictures, but the place was super decorated for Christmas, complete with Santa hats on statues. There was also about 5 staff members taking care of us at breakfast, this was a slow time for them between Thai holidays. We fueled up for the day’s ride, 80 km to the Chaolao Beach Resort.
About 8km into our ride Lindsay ran over a nail and got a flat, so that added some time. The day was fairly sunny, hot, and we had a headwind. We made water stops fairly often but also were provided some shade as we passed some rubber tree plantations. Chris explained how they farm rubber and stopped to show us the rubber ‘sap’ collecting. Out in the open we cycled past lots of shrimp farm operations and learned about that whole process too. Chris was pretty knowledgeable about the trees, especially fruit trees so we saw lots of jackfruit, dragonfruit, mango and papaya trees. Our fruit snacking was kind of absurd, we also snacked on some chips and saltier fare which helped temper the super sweet and delicious fruit. We made a couple of cool stops, one at a battleship the US had donated to Thailand that was also next to a newly planted mangrove forest where a foot bridge path had been built among them. Our next cool stop was on top of this gorgeous hill overlooking the Gulf. It was pretty fun to descend!
We made it to the next beach resort pretty sunburned and grimy but also hungry for some real food so we ate lunch there, and then I rinsed off before going to lay in a shaded hammock by the beach to read. I dipped into the ocean a couple of times, the current calm in the protected gulf waters. Chris had to go into a town about 40km away to get new bearings for my bike which for some reason stiffened up a lot during one of our water stops. He was super apologetic about the problem with the bike since he takes great pride in how they care for their bikes. My guess is that the bike was recently cleaned then flipped upside down to pack into the truck and with the addition of the heat and dirt, got junked up. No harm was done and Chris got it fixed quickly (and found a good bike shop he didn’t know about in the process.) When Chris got back to the resort, we all decided to walk to a restaurant for dinner. It was a longer walk than we remembered when we biked past it earlier in the day but it was a different kind of exercise than biking so it was welcome. The food was great, the music at the restaurant (which doubles as a pretty happening club during the holidays apparently) was quite loud and included some strange covers of popular American music… from like the past 2-3 decades, quite eclectic.
After stuffing ourselves yet again, we walked back. Chris got his tablet computer and we showed Lindsay scenes from a favorite movie of his and mine that we had been discussing on the ride earlier in the day – Parenthood. After watching some clips Lindsay and I walked by some geckos in the hallway while heading to our room, welcoming the pristine beds awaiting us for sleep.
We woke up before sunrise again but didn’t have the same vantage point as the previous morning and we were trying to leave early. This was our longest day of the whole trip – 100km – and we were heading inland and into the mountains ending up in Pong Nam Ron. Our original route was 110km but Chris said there was some construction and sketchy shoulders on the main highway that we would have to ride on so he rerouted us a bit so we’d stop at the highway and be a short car ride to the next accommodation, the Soi Dao Highland Resort. The day’s route took us by even more fruit trees, over a long bridge, and included a short stop at a temple near the bridge, guarded by a rooster (the symbol of the king that the bridge was named after.)
We also stopped at a 7 eleven – they’re ubiquitous in Thailand!
At about 85km we pulled into a town to stop for lunch and to get Lindsay passport sized photos that she’d need for her Cambodian visa the next day. The place we originally stopped at was closed (even though Chris had confirmed with them the previous week that they would be open for lunch the day we would be there.) Instead we went right next door to a small mom and pop operation and asked if they made lunch. We had a delicious meal of fried rice for each of us with very fresh veggies, a cucumber salad and a spicy green papaya salad to share, and when Chris asked Gae how much he owed them, she told him some number of Baht and he shook his head, wondering how these people can live on that. I did a quick calculation in my head and asked Chris if it came out to around $6 US, and he confirmed my calculation. $6 to feed four people a very decent sized lunch with fresh ingredients!
After our delicious meal we got Lindsay her passport photos, which was a much longer process than it should have been, and got back on the road. 15km later, extra grimy from some dirt roads, we got to the dangerous highway and stopped to load the bikes up and buy some beer. We cheers-ed to our day, and happened upon a few Thai men who had been mountain biking! The highway did have a pretty sheer cut-off next to shoulder so I was happy not to be riding on it, but fairly soon we arrived at the Highlands Resort, which is on a golf course, the accommodations so new that the landscaping wasn’t finished yet.
We cleaned up and then went down to the pool, a chilly pool considering it was a good deal cooler in the mountains (Lindsay wouldn’t get in.)
We had a pretty wonderful dinner that night at the hotel/golf club restaurant, our last night with Chris and Gae. Chris may have gotten a little drunk on some rum, but we don’t hold that against him, he was our wind blocker all day! The mango sticky rice that we bought at a market earlier in the day was absolutely delicious for dessert.
The next morning we all wore matching Tour de Thailand jerseys!
We had to ride on the sketchy highway a little bit that fairly cool morning, but the tail wind made that section go by fairly quickly. The tail wind also meant that we eventually had a headwind… Even though we only had to ride 40km to the border crossing, it was some surprisingly hard riding since it included mountains and wind! We stopped at a cute coffee shop on the way and Gae posed Lindsay and me in the poppy fields outside.
Then I finally remembered to ask Chris to take some pictures of us riding when we were almost to the border!
At the border crossing we filed all our exit paper work, left our bikes with the truck, grabbed our bags and walked into Cambodia where we met our new Cambodian guide Pia, and grabbed a picture! Then our adventure in Cambodia began!