SE Asia vol.2: Thailand

Out of Cambodia, out of the heat… a man-made thing which is a line on the map changed so much in the climate. Either Thailand was much cooler or I have already got used to the heat.

Coastal ride

I started the first day very early, not knowing yet that it will be the longest cycling day in SE Asia. Cycling was really pleasant – very good pavement, not dense traffic, sometimes small hills and a lot of shade. After few hours I saw the ocean for the first time.

And from this moment I stayed on the coast. The area between Chanthaburi and Bangkok is occupied by tourists. There are big resorts every few kilometers. Chilling out all the time, having the ocean 50 meters from the hotel and a massage on the beach – I am jealous!

I stopped few times for a refreshing bath. There were also many locals enjoying their life on the beach πŸ˜‰

It was really a great day. Somewhere close to Rayong I had to leave the coast and have ridden across the chemical factory and next to the military base.

Night ride

Finally, I got to the train station. According to a webite, the train to Bangkok left at 6pm every day. Unfortunately, it turned out that it left at 1pm every day. I could pitch a tent on the station, it was a really clean and nice place and a local head of the station was very friendly, but, instead, I decided to…cycle 120km more to Chahoengsao where the train to Bangkok left at 5am and arrived 2 hours later. I was in a rush because I wanted to apply for my Chinese visa before weekend. This was an absolutely crazy ride.

I was following the side road to the highway. Due to the navigation mistake, I added another 15km. Some dogs chased me all the time. I had to speed up to 50kmh to get rid of them. At once, I had to stop at the petrol station for one hour to reduce my heart rate as I was afraid I will have a heart attack πŸ˜€ Finally, after in total 294km this day, I arrived at the train station and went to sleep for 3 hours. After 1 hour I was waken up but the piece of a lamp which broke away and landed 1 meter from my head…that could me a pretty bad end to this crazy night!

3 people helped me getting to the train with a bicycle. In the middle I met a typical β€žbaba z targu’ as we say in Poland πŸ˜‰

Chinese visa

After almost 300km, the first thing I had to do was…to apply for my Chinese visa. Come’on, sleeping is for weak people πŸ˜€ The guy in the embassy told me that if I want to have an urgent application, I have to apply the next day in the morning. I could not believe it – all my effort for nothing. The next day, Friday, in the evening I received an e-mail that I will not receive my Chinese visa in Bangkok and I can pick up my documents – but on Monday. Perfect! I am wasting now another 3 days in Bangkok because of China. I do not like this country even before going there.

Bangkok, like Phnom Penh, is definitely to hot to enjoy at least for me. Do not go there in February. It also missed my expectations. I remembered Bangkok from β€žHangover 2: Bangkok” as the crowded city with narrow streets and a lot of hanging cables and A/Cs. It was relatively clean and tidy. You cannot be in Bangkok and not visit Red Light District at least as famous as an Amsterdam one πŸ˜‰ However, there was so many elderly, 60-70years old white guys with young, naked Thai girls there that it was rather a disgusting experience.

Finally, on Monday I picked my passport and took a bus to Vientiane in Laos, where I got my Chinese visa within 5 hours for $62 – I recommend the Chinese embassy there for everyone. I have also heard that it is quite simple in Phnom Penh (and you also do not have to prepare a pile of fake documents like travel itinerary, flight and hotel bookings).

Vientiane is probably the most laid-back capital I have seen. Everyone is so chilled-out and no-one is in a rush.

After another night in the bus to Bangkok, I was happy to be back on bike. This time also by train to Ayuthaya, From there, 150km of cycling on the well paved and a very busy highway.

I decided to try my luck and ask for a sleeping place at the Buddist monastery few kilometers from the road. It was absolutely the best night in SE Asia.

The night in a temple

No one spoke English except the PE teacher (the first to the right on the group photo) but it did not prevent the monks to come to me every 15-20 minutes and bring something. I received a full bag of medicines (I took only one painkiller which I have never used, I should pick the one for diarrhea!), frozen drinks, food, cold napkins and a nice bedroom πŸ˜‰

Getting out of Thailand

The next day was very similar – a boring but quick ride on a highway. I slept at Warmshowers host, a nice Korean buddy who teaches Korean at the local university in Kamphaeng Phet. In the morning I left early with the plan to reach the Burmese-Thai border crossing in Mae Sot / Myawaddy.

I knew about a big climb ahead and assumed that 2 additional hours are completely enough for climbing it. I even took a small detour before to see a waterfall…

..and started climbing. That was the most tiring day in SE Asia (yes, more tthan the night ride to Bangkok). Some Chinese tourists stopped to make a photo with me πŸ˜€ That time, I was happy to get the attention – my attitude would change a lot in India! Cycling was not possible and pushing the 45kg bicycle up was a very daunting task. At the top I stopped at the local market to resupply and started descent. Yeah finally going down. Why climbing takes 3h and descending 15min? I have no idea, but it makes me mad.

After the descent I started climbing another, smaller hill but quickly realised that it is impossible to finish before sunset and the threat of Thai dogs in the night made me turning back by 2kms to the police check post and pitching my tent there. The first camping in SE Asia. And so much pain in my back. I pushed my bike too long on one side.

I pitched only the bedroom as it was very hot and humid. I was very surprised to wake up freezing in the night. In Thailand, in the beginning of March (sic!).

The next day I even did not try cycling – ok, for the moment to show policemen that I am a serious cyclist πŸ˜‰ It was a much easier climb that yesterday, and at the top I met two local cyclists, one with panniers. I was already so tired that forgot to ask about their route. The descent was really fast – ca. 65km/h almost all the time.

I was finally at the border – a really funny one – cars had to change the side (from the left-side traffic in Thailand to the ride-side one in Birma) on the bridge between two countries and no-one helped them with that. One big mess!

On the other side, I managed to pay-put cash in the ATM and headed to the closest restaurant. For local people, what means a cheap one.

I had another small hill to climb when I decided that my ambitious plan to cover 150km this day is well…too ambitious.

So after I cycled down, I re-supplied at the shop next to the road and decided to stop at Kawkareik.

It is a small city with one foreigners-allowed hotel. I had a lot of time to see the town, what I described in the next episode πŸ˜‰