Thailand 2020—“Three More Nights in Bangkok”

Flame shoes, Public transit Thai-style, Big. Golden. Reclining. Buddha., the Bobae Pier, Life under the Overpass, and Thai massage.

Three more days, and there’s no end to discoveries made in Bangkok. It’s a city of wildly varying socio-economic circumstances, and the spectrum of choice is mind-boggling—where to walk, what to eat, what to wear, what to see, where to live. People’s lives unfold in an array of simple wooden structures with a few sheets of tin to keep rain out, to ultra modern homes sparing no expense. Almost everyone wears flip flops—likely because footwear is customarily removed when entering homes or even businesses. Flip flops can be found for as little as $2, or you can head to the MBK mall and blow $100 for a flashy pair. Or, you can pickup a real practical pair of funky designer shoes with 4” heels and appear to be shooting flames out the back! There are styles and price tags to remind you that Bangkok is a world class city.

Bangkok is a labyrinth of waterways. Rivers weave around historic ancient structures, and narrow canals transport citizens to and fro. Hop on, hop off, and you’ll make your way across parts of the city faster than any other transportation method. We noticed a long boat pull up at a pier, and a bunch of locals casually hopped on board. Nearby a larger boat sported English words “200 baht! Hop on Hop off, all day pass!” Same canal, same stops. So what’s the difference? Turns out, not much. We watched. We studied. No locals hopping on that boat. So, our observational powers led us to conclude that the bigger one was designed for farangs with the moolah. (Farangs are foreigners). Well! We made like locals and hopped on the “real” public transit, paid 9 (not 200) baht and made our way happily. Cruising down the canal we grinned big silly smiles, enjoying the economical commute.

Randy’s son flew in from Kyoto for our final few days. We decided on a “tourist” day, seeing The Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha. We expected Reclining Buddha to be big, but it’s enormity was astounding and like witnessing the Grand Canyon, it can’t really be captured in a single camera lens. You need to be there in person—standing in front, moving down it’s length and changing viewpoints taking mental snapshots to stitch together in your minds eye to see it in its entirety. There’s a lot of gold happening inside the building housing that reclining Buddha! Pretty sure we’ll never see that much gold on anything that size ever again! Did we mention it was BIG?!

The Bobae Market is for wholesale (and retail) clothing. Like other markets, stalls are cramped and squished into a tightly packed neighbourhood of merchants selling copious quantities of shirts, skirts, shorts, bras, underwear, dresses, etc. Proprietors are buried knee deep in inventory, counting, sorting, and arranging. Despite being a wholesale market, there’s also a tourist component, and you can buy individual items from the mind-boggling selection. Room to manoeuvre inside the maze is limited at best, and it’s hot sticky and steamy but motorcycles still zip down passageways dropping off massive bundles of clothing here and there and places in between.

After Bobae we canal-boated our way two stops back to our home base pier. A few steps away is a concrete overpass of the busy street above. Even there, under that grey dark overpass, even there families are living lives—doing laundry, repairing motorbikes, sleeping, reading, chopping fresh fruit and veggies. Even there where the sun can’t even shine, you can get a plate of homemade food served fresh and delicious by happy smiling Thais! There’s vibrant life everywhere in the city.

The morning of our departure came. We were a little sad to load the bikes into the airport transfer vehicle, our journey officially ending. Ironically it rained all of the way to the airport and all morning while we waited for our flight. On the runway we looked outside the little airplane porthole then at each other. We smiled big Thai smiles at each other, knowing that we have lucked out immensely these past six weeks. We had six glorious weeks of sunshine, raining only as we are leaving. It seems a fitting conclusion!

“One Night in Bangkok”

GPS abandonment, the $4 haircut and the $40 omelet, the alleyway discoveries—There’s no place like Bangkok!

Our day started with a little shortie bike ride to drop off bikes at Velo Thailand, a hidden gem of a bike shop with a couple of fantastic guys who will clean up our bikes all sparkly then squish them into boxes in preparation for the flight home. Our short little three kilometre trip stretched into 6k as we discovered that the surrounding buildings make the GPS go all birdbrain on us. Stay in school, learn to read a map, kids!—It’s a skill that comes in handy when your GPS lets you down.

After gleefully handing off bikes we found ourselves bike-less, accompanied by a strange but liberated feeling of loss. We could go in and out of any store we wished without standing on guard with our bikes outside! We were mobile in the City! And that led to a haircut….

Randy’s haircut! Without bikes, and with our newfound spontaneity we hung a quick right into the nearby barber shop—very much a man’s-domain! Randy got a great hair cut, his face spritzed & dried, and a mini shoulder and neck massage all for the big price of $4.

After the $4 haircut we sipped ice-cold strawberry smoothies and struck up conversation with Dhanube, a young local man who kindly showed us on the map where we could find a particular restaurant. Not just any restaurant, but the one with the famous crab omelette made by none other than Michelin Star street-food chef Jay Fai. We’re not talking about your typical dollar-omelette, but a big, feasty, juicy, sweet crabby one with a big juicy price tag of about $40. If you are unfamiliar with Jay Fai, do google her, she has a fascinating story! Given the tourist shortage we were able to score an omelette every bit as delicious as they all say! Not only did we score the omelette, but we were seated in the best spot in the restaurant to watch her in action the whole time. We should mention that her restaurant does not resembles the hoity toity style one might expect. Menus are still old faded color photocopies held together by plastic sheet protectors, and its open-air street-food dining atmosphere is unspoiled. She herself still cooks every single dish over hot charcoal woks. One could ponder the irony of a $4 haircut and a $40 omelette, the cost of which in Canada would be reversed.

There are alleyways, lanes, and narrow rivers, all crammed with Shophouses, which in turn are crammed with product waiting to be discovered at every turn. We just hang a left here, turn right there and everywhere you look, you can’t stop gawking. So much to discover, and best captured with pictures rather than words.

After we exhausted ourselves with walking in the scorching heat we negotiated a tuk tuk ride to the hotel. Not knowing if the driver even understood where we wanted to go, we agreed on a price and off we went. Nevermind that he stopped halfway, sought directions from another tuk tuk driver, then offered a cold glass of water to yet another. Who even cares where we are going?? We’re going on a tuk tuk ride and it’s gonna be a blast!


Randy prepares for his $4 haircut.

It’s really quite fascinating how much inventory can be stuffed in such a small space.

The sidewalk goes around the tree….as it should!

Motorcycles and other slower moving vehicles always migrate to the front, ready for take-off when the light turns green!

The entrance at Jay Fai’s restaurant.

Jay Fai prepares our wonderful omelette

There it is. That’s what a $40 omelette looks like. (btw, it was worth it!)

Public transit!

The fabulous folks at Velo Thailand, located at 29 Samsen 4 Alley, Bangkok

Siracha to Suvarnabhumi then — Downtown Bangkok

A mix of traditional next to modern, the market rat, riding into Bangkok

We took the day off in Siracha thinking we would luxuriate in the pool that we just had to have, but alas there was too much to see that we didn’t swim after all. Instead we nabbed a tuk tuk ride and asked to be dropped off at “The Market”. There’s always a nearby market somewhere, and the bigger the city the bigger the market. You, and twenty of your closest friends could get hopelessly swallowed up and lost at the Muang Si Racha Food Market. Mountains of fresh chicken feet, crabs, pickled this and that, salted fish, fresh flowers, kitchen wares, plastic baskets, you name it. It’s all there. Not unlike any other market it was hot and steamy inside and buzzing with activity. Tiny narrow roads of vendors all squeezed in tightly, not an inch to spare. Your mind cannot help but imagine how rodents and insects wouldn’t be occupying the same space. As we were exiting the market Randy glanced down a row and saw a rat. Not just any rat, but a really big well-fed ratty rat, as big as a house cat. We muse—surely there are far more living in the nooks and crannies. We try not to think about it too long…

We wandered down to the pier, dodging sunshine whenever possible since it was 37C and you become uncomfortably hot just thinking. We were struck by how many traditional wooden structures on stilts are home to whole communities of Thai people who live their lives in and around the water. These are not developed waterfront luxury homes. They are no-frills, functional homes that inspires one to wonder about the lives being lived within their walls. We stood at one point contemplating the strange juxtaposition of the modern high rising providing a backdrop to the scene.

Riding into Bangkok (Part 1)

Understanding that navigating Bangkok traffic was going to be insane we wisely decided to divvy up the distance and cover it in two days. The first day we went from Siracha to just south of the Suvarnabhumi airport—No problem! In fact, we quite enjoyed the portion between Siracha and Chonburi where quaint little villages and quiet roads made for pleasant riding. None of our mapping/navigation tools would allow using the causeway over the water that we saw. Overriding the navigation we took what became the highlight of our ride, breezing alongside the water looking at the fishing communities at the edge of Chonburi on the right and expanses of muddy shallow low-tide remains on the left with occasional stilted homes out in the middle of it all. Happiness prevailed! Our destination was near the airport where we could decide to conclude our journey and take into the city if we wished. But very near Bangkok isn’t near enough for us. We came to cycle into Bangkok, not almost cycle into Bangkok. So we checked into the Blue Sky resort (much better than the Blue Moon on Ko Samet). Gorgeous saltwater pool with water so warm we couldn’t seem to extricate ourselves from it. Laying in the water staring at the moon and stars we pondered what the following day might bring, with about 40km to bring us into the heart of Bangkok.

Riding into Bangkok (Part 2)

Maps ready, bikes loaded, we gulped. The unimaginable five weeks was now reality. So, you ask…how was cycling in Bangkok?

O.M.G. It’s intense. It’s utterly exhilarating. It’s loud—We are not risk takers or thrill seekers but we gotta admit….it was thrilling! Our minds had conjured up all sorts of intimidating imagery. However, our five weeks and 1600 kilometres served to assure us—we can do it! There were moments where we had to assert ourselves confidently (but not aggressively) on 8 lane roads, negotiate and share road space with heavy clickety-clanking transports and squeeze into some really tight road spaces—and, we must admit, a few times we had to rip a few power moves. There were necessary (and legal) U-turns that required burning across 5 lanes of traffic and—but we made sure we were visible and predictable at all times. Drivers here are very considerate. Not even once did we experience a car honk or raging driver. Every road user inherently knows the roads are shared with others. There’s a traffic groove, and when you find it you just go with the flow.

Checked into our hotel, we stood on the balcony of our 20th floor hotel room that overlooked the city, and agreed “Holy cow, if any of our kids were to say they plan to cycle into Bangkok we’d never allow it and we’d lock them in their rooms”. Then we just grinned—big naughty grins. Sssshh….don’t tell anyone what we just did!

Ko Samet to Banchang to Siracha

The Blue Moon, gigantic bugs, rubber trees and pineapple, and urban riding.

We decided that loafing on the beach was too darn lazy for us but we weren’t quite finished with the island experience. We loaded the bikes and went just 3.6km down the road to Ko Samet Village right at the Port where we checked into the Blue Moon resort. Apparently all the action happens there on that beach and in that village. It was busy, rowdy, a little seedy, and had a Clifton Hill feel to it. Except that you can get a Thai massage for about $8, (no, we didn’t). Somehow pedestrians, motorcycles, dogs, food carts, and Canadian cycle tourists share the busy street that’s barely wide enough for anything but foot traffic. We weren’t sure what to expect at the Blue Moon….nice and clean, tucked away behind all the action. Fortunately it was quiet enough. (Nevermind that one of the two beds seemed collapsible when sat upon….) Randy made friends with the Russian gamblers staying in the room beside ours. In the morning we looked at each other and we knew we were finished with the Island and ready to move on.

We hopped on the old rickety-looking ferry with just 4 other people and made the hour long trip across the water toward the mainland and what would be the continuation of our journey to somewhere. Primarily empty, we wondered how long these tourism driven businesses can sustain the current tourist shortage.

Generally speaking, we actually see very few insects here. At night when the lights are on we expect to see spiders and other creepy crawlers but they remain hidden. Nothing noticeably flying or crawling or slithering….until yesterday morning when we found a beetle in the steps to our room. We’re not talking about a cute little round thingy….it was a big giant menacing looking black thingy that I’m sure was planning to scare the pants off me, till he fell on his backside and couldn’t right himself. Randy happily re-located him, upright in the garden. With the sun & the warmth here making all things tropical grow like crazy I suppose it’s reasonable to assume the bugs are big too.

We checked into the Ban Chang Palace last night, mostly because there was a pool and pool is just as exciting to us as ice water, strawberry smoothies, and shade. From what we could see, there were about 5 floors of rooms. We could only see lights on in about 6 of them. Nobody at the pool, and nobody in the restaurant. Ad usual, we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves (again).

Today we found ourselves on some beautiful agricultural roads that were lined with mango trees, rubber trees (we think….based on the taps that were visible) and a variety of other orchards. It occurred to us that we have seen pineapples at local markets but hadn’t actually seen any crops growing them. Really, neither of us could even describe how a pineapple even grows. Suddenly we pass fields of a new crop we hadn’t noticed previously and it’s pineapple! Intrigued and surprised, we somehow anticipated them growing on trees.

Each day brings us closer to Bangkok. Orchards began to give way to a more urban feel and we cycled by massive industrial developments. Big trucks hauling goods dominated the roads but we still had our little place on the road next to them, despite the highway where we counted 4-6 lanes in each direction. Despite all the traffic, we are not the only users who need road space and all the bigger vehicles know it. Scooters with Mom, Child and Baby need space, as does the Old Man on the slow moving bicycle, and the Family of 5 making their way on a motorcycle/sidecar arrangement. It’s the presence of all these other road users that makes it safer for us. We are entitled to road space. Thai people know it and respect it. Will this congeniality continue as we cycle deep into Bangkok? It remains to be seen….

Ko Samet: Our Island Beach Experience

Floating in the ocean till our skin turns pruney, sand bubblers, turds on the beach, and the wavy dock. The bikes haven’t moved—we are enjoying island life!

The gloriously warm ocean waves, the powdery white sand, the oceanfront dining—it’s pretty hard to resist! We parked our bikes and they haven’t moved in two days. We are in full-on appreciation for the opportunity to plant ourselves in a patch of shade and stay out of the sun. We make full use of the ocean in front of us, to float and frolick till our skin turns pruney. Then we rest on our loungers till we’re dry, then do it all again!

We just runaround barefoot on beautiful soft sand that extends all the way into the water. No rocks, broken shells, or the like to require the wearing of water shoes. The water is so warm there’s absolutely no acclimatization required.

You’d think that a beautiful Island resort area would be crawling with beach vendors, gift shops and cheesy entertainment, but there’s none of that. In fact, it’s refreshingly devoid of all that touristy biz. The whole thing feels natural and laid back. And that works for us. There’s no music blasting and we are free to lay on the beach listening only to sounds of waves and cicadas. Lots of cicadas.

At low tide the only critters to be found on the beach are the sand bubblers that create little balls of beach sand all around their crab homes which are nothing more than simple holes in the white sand. When we walk nearby they sense our approach and with those teeny tiny legs they turbo-run like heck and retreat into their holes.

There’s nobody trying to sell us the typical beach souvenirs we had almost expected. One vendor had delicious packages of fresh cut pineapple, mangos and papaya, and another was offering beautifully coloured sarongs for reasonable prices which actually have utilitarian uses for physically covering up to prevent sunburn. At one point we were laying there, eyes closed, and the familiar scent of BBQ drifts into our proximity. There’s a lady who is quite literally a walking BBQ, with a rod balanced across her shoulders carrying drinks and condiments on one side and an actively burning BBQ with delicious smelling things on the other.

At night we sit down near the shoreline under a tree. Not just any tree, but one that drops these things from high above that look like turds. Of course we noticed those turd-like objects and initially our minds didn’t welcome them (there are dogs everywhere…if you recall). But then we became curious and investigated. Turns out those oblong roundish structures are tamarind, and an important ingredient in Pad Thai. We feel much better knowing that it’s a Pad Thai tree dropping those things.

The method by which most guests arrive at this little cove is by boat. It’s also the same way goods and supplies are delivered. Several times daily a small ferry boat pulls up to this floating dock that is a confusing blend of an ingenious design and a carnival experience where skills of balance and agility are tested. Passengers disembark with suitcases and children in tow, then they must walk the length of this floating dock as it rises and falls and sways with the crashing waves. Welcome to Ao Vongduean (Vongduean Beach). We watch, amused by the newly arrived as they try to make their way to shore. Once they step foot on the sand they tend to appear happy to be here! And we are supremely happy to be here! We love the island of Ko Samet.

The walking BBQ beach lady.

The sand bubblers.

There are no automated forklifts here—just humans, loading and unloading supplies!

The tree turds (which turned out to be tamarind)

Tamarind tree.

This ownerless beach dog camped out under our table all day.

Laem Sing Beach to Laem Mae Phim Beach to Ko Samet!

It’s feeling coastal and tropical now! Swimming & seafood!

The heat was very intense yesterday and today. So hot that the moment we stop pedalling we drip sweat. It’s quite embarrassing really, standing in Amazon Cafe waiting for Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothies along with the others who look all cool and smartly dressed while we make puddles on the floor. Nevermind that…

The coast is different from other parts. That’s the thing when you ride your bike across a whole country…you become very aware of subtle regional differences as they slowly transform. Along the coastal roads we now see mangroves and little villages tucked among them. Fishing boats are colourfully dotting rivers and other waterways, wooden homes are built up high on stilts in the water. Fish markets are everywhere, and it’s a seafood lovers dream. Jumbo Prawns (like 8”!), crabs of various colours, squiggly squid, big round glittery fish, long skinny silvery ones, and they are fresh! In the beachside town of Laem Mae Phim Beach where we stayed last night the seafood restaurants are literally side by side, lining the whole street along the beach. There are big tanks of live seafood in front of them. You just wander up and down the street perusing the restaurants, point to any live seafood that catches your eye and it will be cooked fresh for you on the spot.

The greenery at the side of the road looks jungle-like as we hug the coastline. The trees are tall, the twisty vines wrap around and overtake everything, and there are tropical sounds emanating from deep within. We hear new bird sounds down here, audible but not visible.

Most of yesterday’s route was along the “Scenic Route” which is a marked cycling trail that provided a cycling lane for maybe 50km. Financial prosperity seems apparent along the coastline—there were plenty of gorgeous homes to be seen. Refreshingly, they were not overtaking the authentic Thai feel of the villages and towns that we’ve come to love.


Last night we engaged in conversation with a Swedish man who has been living and working in Thailand for 30 years. We asked him one of the burning questions that’s been on our minds. How do locals deal with dogs? Well, he had a solution. A taser! A small portable pocket taser! We want one of those! Apparently they work. (I wish we had one weeks ago) Just the sound alone sends the dogs away. Not sure if it’s a universally accepted solution, but we’re open minded here!

We saw what must have been the biggest banyan tree ever! They are already big and majestic with uniquely ornate twisting roots. But the one at Kung Wiman in Ban Nong Nam Khao Beach was something else. Banyan trees are visually spectacular and are common here. As they grow they shape themselves into inseparable, interwoven trunks and branches, twisting and coiling around each other and things around them.

Today we took a ferry the the island of Ko Samet. It’s an open-air wooden vessel that certainly would not meet any version of Canadian safety standards but it was a great ride. To board we just stepped across the 3ft gap between the dock and the boat hoping we wouldn’t fall in, and the workers managed to slide our bikes onboard and wedged them up against the seats. As we approached the vessel to board, a whole bunch of passengers had these incredulous looks of “holy cow, you guys are coming on the boat with those? Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Omg!” Needless to say there was some lively conversation on the hour long trip over to the island.

What can we say about Ko Samet? There are resorts, plenty of them, but they don’t have that “resorty” feel. They are harmoniously and naturally sharing the environment with Thai citizens living their traditional lives. And there’s the ocean!! Glorious, blue-green warm salt water. A sandy beach that you can walk into barefoot and the water is so warm you can just float around all day long and never want to get out.

We will float on the ocean and relax like lazy bums for three whole days. Life is good.

Us with Lotte and Seppe

Fresh seafood tanks outside one of the many restaurants at Laem Mae Phim Beach

Apparently there are two, not just one, grade-percentage here in Thailand. Every other sign we have seen has said 8%

On the ferry to Ko Samet

A new type of lizard/gecko we haven’t seen

Dinner on the beach!

The super big banyan tree at King Wiman Beach

Randy….smiling even though he’s melting in the heat.

A really big umm…. lady—awaits visitors at Ko Samet

Our beach at the resort—pretty much devoid of tourists. Likely due to the COVID pandemic that has recently been declared.

Chanthaburi to Laem Sing Beach

Passing time while rain passes. Lotte and Seppe. A wedding, and cannonballs at the pool. We have arrived at the Beach!

Yesterday we left Chanthaburi and only travelled 3km before we noticed the gloomy grey sky. There was rain on the horizon, the first we have seen in four weeks here. We decided to pass time under the shelter of an outdoor restaurant where the menu was a mystery to us, but we were hungry. There was a woman cooking something so we indicated we’d like some of what she might be making and we waited to see what would materialize. Randy got a bowl of noodles and broth with a chicken leg inside of it (this is normal here) and there was a deep fried wiener on a stick as well as some sort of chicken balls. All yummy! A few gentlemen dining nearby prepared to leave after about 20 minutes. They went and spoke with the owner, and after a few moments they approached our table and gifted us some little covered dishes containing something that looked white and creamy. We had no idea what it was but surely it would be delicious and we were very grateful for their thoughtfulness and kindness. The Thai people are so wonderful, everywhere we go.

In four weeks we have only seen one other cycle tourist. Imagine our surprise when we were standing outside of our hotel checking in and suddenly we notice another couple on touring bikes! Of course we stopped and exchanged stories from the road, then later in the evening we met up over a beer to talk more. Lotte and Seppe have been touring in the same way as us, cycling each day to new places, never knowing what the next day may bring. Lotte and Seppe started in Belgium and have been touring for a year. Their stories from the past year are inspiring and we talked until late at night. Perhaps we’ll see them again in Canada some day!

Every hotel we have been to has been almost empty. When we checked in last night it was quite unexpected to hear that the hotel was full for Saturday night. But there was a pool, we were hot and we wanted the single room that remained. In the morning when we woke up we noticed hundreds of beautifully dressed people, happy children everywhere and a bride and groom. There was a Thai wedding taking place and we were fortunate enough to be able to witness some new cultural traditions. Such as being married early in the morning (6:30 am early!) By the time we emerged from our hotel room for breakfast the celebrations were well underway.

It was a rest day for us, no cycling. We decided to spend it at the pool. It was filled with laughing smiling happy Thai children, and we were the only foreigners. At one point Randy hopped into the pool and all the children took notice. Initially they were a little shy, but then he began to instruct one child how to squirt water with just his hands. Suddenly all the children gathered around for the tutorial. Then came the cannonball. It wasn’t long before children were saying “cannonball time” and leaping into the pool making big splashes. They appeared to very much enjoy splashing Randy and Randy in turn laughed along with them. Laughter is a universal language!

We have traversed Thailand from Chiang Mai to the shore of the Gulf of Thailand. We rode 1287km to get here through hot sun, dry forests, unpaved roads, four-lane super-highways, mountains, cities, small villages in the middle of nowhere, and past beautiful orchards of durian, mangoes and bananas. We have reached the Beach!

Thank you to Suehanna (sorry if I spelled your name incorrectly), and all your wonderful nieces and nephews at the pool today. You have made our day happy and memorable!

Our yummy creamy unidentified dessert.

Coke in glass bottles. This is the way it should be. No need for plastic.

Dogs need to be resourceful in Thailand

A windy rainy day with clouds over the nearby mountain—but the rain somehow escaped us!

A bike path along the canal (the first bike path we have seen) in Chanthaburi

A beautiful orchard lined road near Laem Sing

Someone has a lot of bonsai trees!

We are getting closer to the sea!

We have arrived at the sea!

Poor little fishy on the beach.

The wedding

The children at the pool in Laem Sing

Some unusual flavours we never see at home!

Our resort in Laem Sing

Beautiful flowers at our resort (and everywhere in Thailand!)

Day off in Chanthaburi

Tourists in a city of so few tourists

Honestly, we thought there would be loads of tourists given Thailand’s proximity to highly populated countries so closely situated. But alas, it’s not the case. Given that we’ve not been here before we have no frame of reference. Perhaps it’s no longer peak season for tourism? Is it the Coronavirus? In any case, it’s hot & sunny and we had plenty to see in this beautiful city of Chanthaburi. No cycling today. Funny how walking a kilometre or two in the intense heat feels more exhausting than riding a bike for 100km. The heat and the humidity is fierce.

Today we let the pictures do the talking.

Drinks often have these strange gelatinous balls in them. Randy likes them. Ugh!

Shade under a bougainvillea.

The riverfront community

Traditional Thai home (we think)

Laundry hangs anywhere and everywhere.

People’s homes open right onto the street. We walk within inches of people just doing their daily living.

There are no sidewalks to speak of in some places. Randy walks in the traffic lane.

I can’t imagine how it works when someone calls the electric company to say “My power is out”

There’s an endless supply of food products we cannot identify.

Coffee is available in cans. Haven’t tried it yet…

An amazing tree!

From the squiggly lines resort to Chanthaburi

Deafening Cicadas, Crabs, and binge-eating at the Night Market in Chanthaburi

The most challenging part of today’s 65km ride was the narrow shoulder we had, primarily due to construction. If there’s one thing that’s been reinforced, it’s to ride in a straight line, don’t weave or veer, keep both hands firmly gripped to the handlebars and don’t flinch when trucks pass. They pass close. They pass fast. There’s a lot of them. Enough said….

Once the construction ended (more than 25k) we were blessed with a wider shoulder and we could relax a little. We passed through quaint little villages where fruit stands abound, mountains could be seen to the left and the right, and there were the Cicadas. First you hear the mild buzzing, then it grows, and grows, the sound explodes exponentially until it’s so deafening we can’t converse. There were a few time when we imagined the villagers would need to use ear protection from the constant strum. Then it would fade into silence. A few kilometres down the road it repeats itself. At the loudest point, with the tallest trees above us we both imagined sprinkles of moisture fell on us…we won’t begin to speculate on that. Best not to think on it too long.

We rolled into Chanthaburi with enough time to go to a restaurant that Trip Advisor guided us to named Chanthorn Prochana. We ordered up the recommended dish that included some “crispy crab” and Chanthaburi noodles. It was as tasty as the reviews claimed, but we were faced with a small dilemma. The crabs were itty bitty guys, and they had all their crispy bodies intact. Do we eat them whole? We can’t possibly crack them open. There’s too many and they are too small. We can’t really ask anyone. We deduced that the intention was to eat ‘em whole. Crunch crunch. When in Rome….(as they say).

The Night Market! it seems as though most cities have one (as well as day markets, and markets of every sort). We sampled BBQ’d crab legs, BBQ wieners, deep fried wonton wrapped sausage, some sort of an egg-crepe with sweetened condensed milk drizzled on it, and fresh pineapple. There were food carts and street vendors lining both sides of the street. Motorcycles, scooters, cars and pedestrians all share the road space along with pop-up tables and chairs for people to dine.

Interestingly enough there were almost zero dogs roaming the streets. (Happy people we are!) Instead, we noticed that cats seem to rule these parts. The Siamese cats and their cousins blend in harmoniously with the environment and people around them. Nice & docile!

Pictographs and the number 5 help us anticipate cold water and ice ahead in just 5km.

Dinner. Some sort of noodles and maybe tofu?

Frozen coconut on a stick

A local cycling club out for a ride.

Randy, buying some sort of meat on a stick.

Rest day at the squiggly lines resort (65km north of Chanthaburi)

The pool! The pineapple! The green curry! A great rest day at the “squiggly lines” resort for us…but where are all the tourists?

We had enough of the relentless heat! Our hotel with no name (just squiggly lines) has a beautiful, pristine full size saltwater pool so we decided to stay an extra day and just loaf around. Excellent choice!

Did we mention THE POOL? Omg, what an amazing experience. This morning we meandered out to the pool area to claim our lounger chairs. There wasn’t a single other person that even entered the pool area all day long. We just lay there all day, listening to the sounds of tropical birds in the surrounding trees, swimming and floating in the pool (salt water means we can literally float on the surface!). Randy sipped Chang beer, and we ate pineapple. Lots of pineapple!

Before the pool we had ventured about 400m to the nearby small grocery store and on our way back we picked up some fresh fruit from the roadside fruit stand. We really wanted a pineapple but were concerned about how to carve it with our lame travel utensils. No worries! We pointed to the lady’s knife, then the pineapple to see if she understood our request. And she proceeded to carve that yummy delicious fresh pineapple right in front of us. I’ll never cut my own pineapples the same way again! One pineapple, one mango and 5 oranges later we returned to the pool. Where we speculated…

We pondered… Where are all the tourists? We estimate about 35 or 40 rooms here and yet we could only identify three that appeared occupied. Shouldn’t these resorts be full of travellers from Europe and China? Vacationers? Cycle tourists like us? We wondered if it’s the Coronavirus. The few rooms that have guests appear as though they may be a Chinese family with children all staying together. With nothing but time on our hands we entertained a realistic possibility that perhaps they are stranded here in Thailand, unable to return to China? We’ll never know…

Dinner was excellent and tasty as usual. Green curry, rice, prawns, Chang beer and Pepsi. All served in a restaurant that could accommodate fifty. We were there all alone.

Our gratitude for the most fortunate position in life that we find ourselves, for being Canadians, for having the health and freedom to experience this whole journey is not lost on us.

Shopping for groceries isn’t a spacious experience.

The lovely fruit stand lady!

Lunch! Fresh from the fruit stand.

We opted not to get a coconut (not sure what to do with one) but they did look inviting.

The big saltwater pool at our squiggly lines resort.

Baked prawns.

The sunset from our back window

Gary’s cousin. He wants in.

Srimahapho, Prachinburi to Sakaeo to Phang Ngaun

Elephants and Monkey biz, healthcare the Thai way, pizza due the dog factor, and the squiggly lines Resort. Also….time to talk traffic.

We came all the way here to see things we don’t see in Canada. So far, we’ve not been able to report any elephant sighting until yesterday. They weren’t exactly in their natural habitat. Strangely enough, as we were pedalling down the road we looked up and in the back of an open air truck were two elephants being transported to somewhere. Not something we see at home!

The other wildlife sighting was today as we rode along and spotted a side road that looked intriguing so we hung a left. About 50ft down the road our eagle-eyes that are always scanning for dogs noticed something else. Monkeys! On the road, in the trees beside us, and one just 20 ft away sifting through some roadside debris. Monkeys everywhere! And the locals seemed to pay them no mind. We of course were snapping pictures, hoping they’d keep their distance because we’ve heard they can be very curious and proficient at re-allocating anything they spy that catches their eye. So, we felt it necessary to protect all our bags and their contents by keeping a distance.

Last evening we wandered over to the Big C (again) and decided to look for some antibiotic ointment for Randy’s irritated eye. We located a pharmacist we hoped might recommend something. He looked at the eyeball, wrote a prescription, packaged up some antibiotics, and five minutes and $3.50 later we were done! It really made us ponder the reality of time and inconvenience it would have been at home.

We had a reasonably situated Resort in town last night, near a whole lot of commercial activity so we thought venturing out to a restaurant we located on Trip Advisor would be easy. Not so. After hanging a right to follow a narrow street, about 50ft in a few dogs came at us. They barked up a storm and out came 20 or so of their friends. They had the upper hand…many more of them than us. And they owned that alley. We were not going down there, risking a dog pack attack. So we backtracked and went for pizza at the Big C. We’d been curious anyways about the pizza here. Now we know The Pizza Company has great food but anything that’s not Thai food is on the pricey side. All relative of course….still cheaper than what we are typically accustomed to at home.

Let’s talk traffic. We are becoming pro at this whole left-side-of-the-road thing. We even prefer the divided four-lane highways now due to the fact that that there’s always a slow lane in which all the scooters, motorcycles, and other slower moving transportation modes can use. And that’s where we ride. We fit in nicely. But when we get just a two-lane road the shoulder also seems to shrink and we are sharing the road with very fast moving cars, trucks, tankers, motorcycles etc. without the benefit of any passing lanes. We frequently experience heavy transport trucks passing in the oncoming lanes with no regard whatsoever for giving us a little space. We find ourselves just a few feet away from oncoming vehicles travelling well in excess of 100km per hour all the time! It’s like we become invisible. So, we feel safer in the congested city areas with multiple lanes.

Each day when we have reached our destination we have a procedure we need to complete. Hand-washing the days laundry, charging our lights and other devices, washing water bottles, seeking water to rehydrate with and then start planning the next day. Sometimes we have absolutely no idea where we’ll stay because every Thai sign is just a series of squiggly lines to us. Unless they use pictographs or numbers, all written indicators are meaningless. So today we blew up the google map really big to look for icons that looked like hotels. We spotted a possibility that may or may not be a hotel so we do a Street View, snap a picture of the sign and run it through google translate (which doesn’t work very well). The sign apparently translates to SO219 Arabia Mountain View and said Room Service. Well, that’s the teeny tiny sliver of information we had to go on, hoping that when we get there it’s a place to stay. We lucked out! Not only is it a little resort, but it has a most excellent gigantic salt water swimming pool! We’ve died and gone to heaven. And there’s a mountain view to go with it! We love the Squiggly Line Resort think we’ll stick around a few days. Our legs are feeling the wear and tear of 1200 km on the bike so far.

Breakfast. It was surprisingly good!

The sign for our resort.

Stairs up to a hole in the mountain. Probably a great view but we chose not to subject our legs to the stairs.

The police, who stopped us to check passports, took our mug shots, then got selfies with us.

Ayutthaya to Nakhon Nayok to Srimahapho (Prachinburi)

We are decidedly non-tourists, but we do like our 7-Elevens, takeout food at the Khaohom Resort, Lollygagging poolside, and the little “Big C” experience.

Its hard to compete with the sights and experiences at Ayutthaya, but as we left the area we both agreed we aren’t really the “touristy” type for very long. You’ve seen one ancient ruin you’ve seen em all! Now that we are halfway through our trip we can stop and notice smaller things.

Like 7-Elevens and our dependence on them. In a land where we know not a single Thai word, 7-Eleven feels like comfort food. We choose routes now that will ensure rest stops there. They have all the right things! Air conditioning, an ice machine, pineapple turnovers, cold lemonade, and beer for Randy. Unless of course it’s between the hours of 2 and 5pm, in which case they aren’t selling to him or anyone else. There’s regulations around that, and apparently it’s because they don’t want school aged children getting their paws on beer. Randy feels quite confident that no child, rabid dog or otherwise is getting hold of any beer he be in possession of after a 100k ride (not during a ride, mind you), but he’s not about the change the laws, so he wanders a few doors down and gets his beer from an independent seller who is a little flexible on the issue.

Night before last we checked into the Khaohom Resort and it turned out to be a cute little, super clean, roadside motel-style accommodation near Srimahapho. The operators there spoke no English but we managed to communicate anyways. Too exhausted after our 106k day to seek food so we looked at a takeout menu they had and with the help of google translate selected a dish and hoped for the best. A half hour later the friendly Thai guy on the motorcycle brought our food right to our door with steaming hot pots full of shrimps with glass noodles, along with real plates & cutlery. Such a nice experience. That wonderful young Thai man assured us (with the very little English he knew) that he was there ALL night and would watch our bicycles ALL night while we slept. He then did his rounds on his bicycle, diligently riding up and down the length of the row of rooms (there were only about 10), ensuring ours, and the other two guests’ security.

Yesterday we saw the most crazy busy 7-Eleven. It was at a busy intersection, almost no parking, a steep driveway to get into it, and street vendors were setup all around it, almost right up to the doorway. Pork balls, noodle dishes, BBQ bananas, chicken on sticks, fresh fruit of every origin, bags of strawberries (bought some of those!), clothing enough to dress an entire country, flip flops, brooms, veggies, dollar-store housewares, dried mangos, you name it. There were vendors lined right out to the street and almost a half kilometre down the road.

We had two fairly hard days of cycling. The heat compounds our efforts exponentially. The first day was 106km in 36c heat and the second day was about 63km in the same but the added dimension of strong headwinds. It’s like an open-air convection oven and we are roasting inside of it!

So, when our hotel in Prachinburi showed a pool, we just knew we needed to have a rest day, sitting in the shade staring at the pool, occasionally cooling off in it, and wondering how everyday citizens deal with the heat. Since we could not in good conscience just sit motionless ALL day, we ventured across many lanes of traffic on foot and checked out a Thai shopping mall & grocery store called The Big C. Randy read somewhere that it was a “little” one, but hey….we needed to see how Thai people experience grocery shopping.

The Big C is like an open-concept shopping mall/food court/Walmart-style department store/movie theatre/shoe store all combined. There was a KFC, a DQ, and a Mr. Donut among a whole bunch of Japanese & Thai foods. Parking outside was predominantly for scooters & motorcycles and cars were relegated to the outer perimeter of the parking facilities.

Walking through the aisles of the Big C was an experience. Mostly hunting down snack foods, we saw things that simply don’t appeal to us. Like Basil Seed Drink with Peach Flavor, or the Shredded Seasoned Cuttlefish, or the sheets of Roasted Seaweed. We left the Grilled Seaweed Giant Sheet Paprika Flavor behind in favour of Gummi Bears.

We noticed that ground meats and pork chops etc were sold in a scoop-it-yourself style, much like we do with our fruit and veggies, and then they are weighed. Not quite sure about how refrigerated these meats were, but they did appear fresh.

Prices of things are such that if it’s an internationally recognized brand, expect the prices to be similar to home. Domestic brands that we are unfamiliar with are super-bargains. Shoes were going for about 180 bhat which equates to about $7.50 and there was great selection. Clothes were equally bargain priced.

We typically spend evenings planning the next day. Looking at maps, doing Google Street views, checking out hotels on and looking at weather. Temperature and sunshine don’t vary much. Pure sunshine every day, 35 or 36c. Still not a drop of rain has fallen since we arrived.

The guy we met at a roadside bicycle shop.

The Khaohom Resort

Takeout food! Baked shrimp and glass noodles.

Our Thai menu that we couldn’t read.

The forecast seems pretty consistent

Strawberries! (Not really a bargain…$6 for a kg) but worth every bit!

Weird grey dessert thing at our hotel breakfast buffet.

Our pool at our fancypants Hotel! ($46)

Parking at the Big C

Good thing we have any space in our bags for shopping!

Ugh. Floaties in drinks seem to be popular here

The fresh meat section of the Big C

Giant Milkweed. Growing everywhere here!