Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore

5.2.2015

Hua Hin is a tourist destination by the sea 200 kilometers south from capital Bangkok. For first time on our trip we were totally surrounded by tourists. During our first day in Hua Hin we met more Finns than together we had seen on our journey. It was quite strange, but not as shocking as it was to see first tourists in Lao Cai, Vietnam month earlier. When it was freezing cold in April we hoped to be on beaches in Thailand and in Vietnam, Laos and Northern-Thailand we planned our rides so that we would have totally one month for resting on beaches. That’s why we pedaled a bit too fast and had too few days for resting. Now we were dead tired. After 7-week-rest in Kyrgyzstan our longest break from cycling was five days in Hanoi. We followed signs to Guesthouse 21, which was just 50 meters from beach in the middle of tourist hotspot, bars, massage shops and cheap food. We both paid 35 euros for ten days in a room with air conditioner.

Windy beach was full of kite surfers, but it wasn’t best for swimming, because of sharp rocks. I tried wind surfing, but there were too many waves for it. Anyway time ran so quickly we paid three extra nights. We changed chains for our bikes and I bought new pump. So far we had used Lauri’s pump which I had to use so often after Kunming that we had to glue it together. My tire problems began in Kunming where I replaced Schwalbe Marathon tires with tires that had Kenda logo, but I guess they were fake. Those tires didn’t have any puncture protection, but they were only ones I found from Kunming that fit my wheel size. So from Kunming, China to Hua Hin, Thailand I had about 30 flat tires. Sometimes I had three during one day. I couldn’t find any better from Hanoi or Bangkok, so I decided to order Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires online to our next destination Ao Nang, with a help of Couchsurfing contact Lars.

I was still very tired, I could have just sleep other 13 days in Hua Hin easily, but there was less than two weeks until Christmas Eve and only six weeks for our flights from Singapore to Australia. We wanted to have another two-week holiday in Ao Nang. Despite being still tired, it was nice to be back on the road. I already had almost forgot how it is to ride with panniers. Actually it feels better with panniers than with out them. Cycling in Thailand is anyway very easy. Thailand is super flat, roads are in good condition and they usually have a wide shoulder, it’s easy to find cheap food from everywhere, locals don’t mind if we camp next to their homes and overall people are happy and hospitable.

We ate a lot Khao Pad Gai, egg fried rice with vegetables and chicken. Thai people are masters of mixing sweet and sour. There’s always chili, sugar, chopped nuts and fish sauce on tables. Fish sauce is great with Khao Pad Gai. Other easily available foods are all kind of fried noodles. Phad Thai was my favorite. It’s also easy to find grilled chicken with sticky rice and fresh fruits like watermelons, pineapples and coconuts. Most popular salad is juicy and spicy papaya salad. All the meals costs about one euro, when you buy it from scooter. The cheapest food we found from marketplace when we paid 15 bath, less than 0,40 euros for fried noodles.

Fried noodles

The weather was mostly sunny +30C, but some nights it rained and that’s why we tried to put our tents in shelters, so we didn’t have to use our rain covers and it wasn’t too hot to sleep in tents. One night went into big storage we though was empty, but just before I was going to bed old man arrived with a large bowl of rice. The man lived in a house at the another end of the building and he came to fed nine cats who were living in the building as well. I crawled out from my tent to introduce us, but I didn’t have time to say anything when relaxed man started to show us toilets, light switches and where we could charge our devices, then he just disappeared without any questions. That’s a good example how friendly and kind Thai people are. We often camped very close to houses, but it was never problem for anyone.

Ban Kruut beach.

Although Thailand had been one of the best countries for biking we didn’t met any foreign cyclist before Hafidz, who we met near Surat Thani. 22 years old Malaysian had pedaled from London to Iran where he took ferry to Dubai and flew to Vietnam. Now he was riding back to his home in Southern-Malaysia. He was too fast for us to follow him. He couldn’t wait to eat Malaysian food and meet his friends again. We saw only couple of other tourists at gas stations. It seems only few travelers go outside tourist hotspots during their holidays. After Hua Hin scenery was coconut and pineapple farms, further south we went it turned into rubber tree forests.

Ao Nang is tourist village in southern Thailand. Turquoise water and beautiful islands makes it one of the most popular holiday destinations in Thailand. We got a room from the cheapest guesthouse, two kilometers from the main beach. I was as tired as in Hua Hin, but once again we had just two weeks time. It was raining almost everyday. At the same time Malaysia had worst floods for decades. It wasn’t flooding in Ao Nang, but I managed to got some water into my panniers on the beach and my camera and phone got broken. At the Christmas Eve only thing reminded us about Christmas were songs we listened from radio. That day we decided to climb 1272 stairs on the top of 600 meters high Tiger Cave temple. Cycling had made good for us and we reached the top easily in 20 minutes.

Last miles before Ao Nang.

One day a waiter stopped me when I was coming from the beach. He introduced himself half Japanese, half Thai kendo teacher, Taka. He had cycled eight months in South East Asia with a minimal budget. He ate and stayed nights in buddha temples and with people he found on his way. He said sometimes he had been days without eating, meditating his hunger away. At the moment he was working for five dollars a day. When he finished his work at 11pm we went to see his camp at the camping site. He noticed something was wrong, there was a mini BBQ grill next to his tent, under the shelter he had rented. It make him so angry, he took a wooden baton he had made and started to shout for grill’s owner, muslim man who had arrived earlier that day to the camping site with his family. When Taka calmed down little bit he told me he hate all muslims and wondered why someone who had money for car was camping instead of going to hotel. He believed the new visitors were hiding something. He said he was going to stay awake whole night watching them. That night I learnt to see my budget with new eyes. It felt bad to think how little people got paid in Ao Nang for making dream holidays for rich people. Most shocking that night was to see the hate in Taka’s eyes.

Ray Lay beach, Ao Nang

January 2nd we left Ao Nang and started last three weeks ride in Asia, through Malaysia to Singapore. I was still tired. We were joking we had had too long holiday and that’s why we were tired. Maybe it was true, I think when we are riding, body tries to hide real tiredness and when we have a break it pops up. Luckily there was hot spring ten kilometers from our route. We rode there to camp and relax. Next day we reached Trang town and once again, we were only tourists on the road. After we put our tents on the field I asked from the man who was selling fish with his two daughters next to the road, if he knew the place to use Wi-Fi. He wasn’t sure what I wanted, but he pointed to the direction of the city center. I started to walk there. Soon the man caught me on his scooter and offered a ride to the center. When we returned to our tents he gave us a bag full of fried carrots.

In every village there was a police/army checkpoint. They tried to stop drug drivers, but they also tried to stop us to have a cup of coffee. In one village they let us sleep in abandoned house behind them and they made a smoky campfire into the house for mosquitos and offered some whisky for us. One poor man we met near Malaysia border was so amazed we had cycled 200 kilometers from his home village Ao Nang he bought us some water. I think he didn’t understand we started from Finland, but he was still thrilled.

Last night in Thailand we ordered Khao Pad Gai takeaway as we usually did, but this time it took longer than ever before. I think it wasn’t on the menu, but quiet old lady started to cook it anyway. When we finally got the meals we had swim in fresh river and set up our tents into rubber tree forest. Then we realized why it took so long to prepare Khao Pad Gai. The meals were bigger and better than ever, the lady had cut cucumbers beautifully for us and added extra fried eggs on the top of the rice, because we were hungry cyclists. But that’s not all! She included real metal rice spoons into the boxes, which I guess were more expensive than one euro meals themselves. What a perfect timing, because I was going to replace my broken Spork spoon soon. That nigh Lauri had to move his tent twice, because tens of ants found a way into his tent. At the night there was someone else moving in the forest with a head lamp too. In the morning we met rubber tree farmer who had buckets full of rubber.

We crossed the border to Malaysia from Satun Province without problems. Malaysia and its food are mixture of India, China and Indonesia. Majority of its population are muslims. Chinese advertisements by the road made us feel like we were back in China, but the food was much better. They like to eat different kind of rice with curry sauces, but because every area has its own traditional dishes we always had something new to eat. Surprisingly food was even cheaper than in already cheap Thailand. Once we paid together 1,20 euros for two meals and two drinks in restaurant. It’s always hot in Malaysia so they drink everything with ice. One of the most interesting drinks was cold green creamy thing with noodles in it, but my favorite was definitely coconut ice blend with ice cream on the top.

One muslim woman asked us if we were afraid of them. The question was weird, because people were so nice for us. She was tired of a distorted image of the islamic world that western media provides. I can’t understand how educated people in West believe everything media says. First day in Malaysia a guy stopped us because he wanted to give us a bag of donuts. After that we were invited for cups of tea many times. Hafidz, the cyclist we met in Thailand, told us in Kuala Lumpur, there’s a bike shop called The Basikal where we should go for a night and have a shower. Before that we had a shower only once in Malaysia during first two weeks and we were camping every night, so it was a high time to have a shower. The shop was a home, cafe and quality touring bike shop. There was already Hafidz and a cyclist from Turkey when we arrived. The owner Akmal, treated us two dinners in the center of Kuala Lumpur. Next day we cycled 80 kilometers to Hafidz’ hometown Port Dickson without our panniers, because Hafidz brought them in his car. Hafidz had an appartment with a pool for us. It was perfect place to have a day off. In Ao Nang we thought we could ride 70 kilometers a day and have many day offs, but we underestimated the length of Malaysia and had time to rest one day during three weeks of cycling.

Port Dickson.

Flooded house.

Tea break.

Last winter I told about my travel plans in Partioaitta outdoor shop in Helsinki. The seller said if I ever go to Singapore I should visit Tree-in-Lodge hostel. He told the owner had cycled from Finland to Singapore with his friend Sean in 2004 and 2005. At that time it felt very distant, but from Port Dickson we were just three days away from Singapore. Lauri asked in Facebook’s WarmShowers group if someone in Singapore could help us to get bike boxes for our flights. Sk Lah promised to help us. Quite soon we realized he actually was the hostel owner! Then we got a message from Polish cyclists who we met in Siberia. At the moment they were in Singapore with Sk and Sean. Unfortunately we couldn’t meet them again because they left Singapore before we arrived. What a small world anyway!

We stayed with Sean couple of days in Singapore before our flights departed, and Sk gave us bike boxes and helped us to wash our bikes before Australia. So Asia was finished. I can’t understand how ten months went so quickly. It feels like we just left our homes. Especially after Kyrgyzstan countries, religions, languages, weathers, currencies, people and food changed very often. I still don’t understand very well what just happened. We planned our budget to Australia and here we are! Now it’s time to get a job and save some money for next continents. We separated with Lauri, he flew to Brisbane and I flew to Darwin. Before I start working I’d like to cycle across the country from Darwin to Adelaide. After Australia we don’t have much plans yet. Probably we will stay one year here and then continue to North America.

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