Our last month in Thailand (part 3: whirlwind SE Asia tour)

When our time in Phuket came to an end, 4 of our friends, Mark, Dave, Ed, and Tracey wanted to stay a little longer and see more of Southeast Asia. We recommended a loop to Singapore, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok taking advantage of cheap off-season rates on the budget airlines Scoot and Nok. Ed and Tracey would head home after Singapore.

Singapore was like a little piece of New York in the middle of Asia. We loved the multi-culturalism, the excellent food, and the perfectly organized metro sysytem. We didn’t like how commercial it was with shopping malls and big brand stores everywhere, and many parts of the city are designed for cars not pedestrians, making walking around frustrating. We had gotten used to jaywalking the chaotic streets of India and Thailand, so this was just too much order all of a sudden! Though it was nice that cars actually stop for pedestrians.

The iconic over-the-top Marina Bay Sands hotel and convention center. That top section has a huge swimming pool and it’s like a small city! Room start around $500USD per night. Someone said it’s the number one photographed hotel in the world, so here’s my addition to that record.

The gardens park has these beautiful tree-like structures that are lit up at night and they have classical music playing and the lights match the music. Thousands of people were laying on the ground watching the show. Despite the heat and humidity, there were almost no bugs! I didn’t see a single mosquito the whole time in Singapore, and we were only bothered by a few no-see-ums in the park.

There’s a walkway through these trees that we walked on with stunning views of the city. As beautiful as it was, I couldn’t help but think how artificial it all actually was. Much of this area was all landfill and used to be ocean, so this part of the city was all pre-planned, every detail thought out. After being in other parts of Asia where cities grow up totally organically and merge with nature around it, it felt to me a bit pompous of humankind to try to compete with nature’s beauty.

People preparing for the evening light show.

Our tiny hotel room had a stunning view of the city directly from the toilet. A bit risque for a country where it’s illegal to be naked, even in the privacy of your own home!

We visited a fantastic toy museum where I found toys from my youth.

And from my parents’ generation.

Lots of amazing collectibles.

Asia is obsessed with durians! We tried it twice, and it’s not a taste I enjoy.

One of the great things about Singapore are the so-called hawker stalls. Very similar to the food markets of Thailand, but so much more organized and permanent, even with health and safety inspections! One favorite was this aisle in Little India, which brought us back to our time there. We enjoyed a Chettinadu biryani and even ate with our hand as we did in India and as the local Indians around us were doing.

Classic Singaporean food! Being an English-speaking country, it’s much easier to be adventurous with food because you can read the menu. The carrot cake is not at all what you’d think of; it has no carrots and is not a sweet cake! Tasty though.

We enjoyed views from the Singapore Flyer, the famous ferris wheel.

We stumbled on some kind of odd photo shoot at the botanical gardens.

Beautiful entrance to an underground mall.

A local friend of Tracey’s took us to a favorite Singapore restaurant, and everything was delicious including this creatively presented egg-wrapped fried rice.

Everyone said you have to try the crab! So we indulged on our last night with one chili crab and one black pepper crab. Mark got one also! They weren’t cheap, and it’s messy, but it was absolutely the best crab I’ve ever eaten.

Famous seafood restaurant.

Next up on our tour: back to Chiang Mai!! We were very excited to show Mark and Dave our favorite city in Thailand, but also very tired from all the activities, so we enjoyed a few down days as well as a few more adventures.

We were able to get a short term rental in our same apartment building where we stayed for two months, with the beautiful view of Doi Suthep.

We hiked up the Monk’s Trail from Chiang Mai University to Doi Suthep, a 3km hike up 600m. Sweaty and tricky but absolutely gorgeous.

Tricky footing in places but I can confirm it’s doable in sandals!

Halfway up is this hidden temple Wat Pha Lat, which honestly I enjoyed more than the very busy temple at the peak of Doi Suthep.

It wasn’t exactly Dave’s birthday (one week early), but we gave him some birthday love at an excellent burger restaurant, Rock Me Burger in the Nimman neighborhood.

After the Saturday night market (our favorite in Chiang Mai that was crazy busy this night), we stumbled into the spectacular silver temple, with free entry for the evening! It was really very unique and we were happy to see it.

Steve struck up a conversation with this German traveller at a pad Thai and burrito stand, and it turns out he’d never seen a drag show, so we invited him to join us to the solid performance at Ram Bar that happens every night. He enjoyed it, and we met up for swimming and dinner afterwards on our trip. These fun chance encounters and new friendships are the highlight of traveling for us!

My Thai language teacher also does khao soi cooking classes, so we helped her prepare a big pot of the delicious noodle soup.

Making curry paste is a lot of work on the mortar and pestle.

Drumsticks are the classic meat added into the creamy coconut and chicken stock broth.

Lots of garlic picked from the garden. It was fascinating to see life at her small family farm in a Thai village.

The end result! So good!

Next up, Bangkok! At this point, we were all a bit tired of sightseeing, so we spent our time relaxing, exploring, and checking out the local bars and nightclubs, famous throughout Thailand.

We learned about different types of massage…

One night we spent at a canal-side hotel in Amphowe, home of one of the Bangkok area’s floating markets. Amphowe is still very local and sees far fewer westerners and none of the scams and poor quality seen at some of the other floating markets that many people hear more about. However, we messed up and showed up on a day it was closed. Oops! It was still quite a nice time relaxing away from the craziness of Bangkok. We took a longtail boat tour of the local canals to see the fireflies, which was a lovely and very chill experience.

Highly recommend this hotel on the canal! The dinner they prepared was spectacular, some of the best curry we’ve ever had. They made it properly spicy for us, sorry to Dave; it was a bit too much for him, but they can make it mild if you want.

The culinary highlight of our time in Bangkok was dinner at Ran Jay Fai. She is the only Michelin star street food vendor, and we had made a reservation over a month in advance!

Her famous crab omelet is as big as your two fists. We split it between three of us.

Really nice sauteed vegetables.

Pad kee mow noodles with huge prawns and squid. I’ve been dreaming of this since I saw a TV show about it, and it did not disappoint.

The surprise dish was this yellow curry with prawns and egg. We hadn’t heard anyone talk about this in the reviews, but it was my favorite dish.

The famous chef, Jay Fai, with her signature goggles protecting her eyes from the wood fire flames she cooks over for 8+ hours every day.

After dinner, we said good bye to Mark and Dave, as they prepared for an early flight home the next morning. It was such a delight to spend so much quality time with our friends. We miss you already!

Back in Phuket, we had a lot of bike-related chores, what with our cracked frames. The bike shop helped us strip all the components off the frame, and we spent half a day carefully packing the components into a box, to be sent back to our bike shop in San Diego to be rebuilt. The wheels were too expensive to ship by air, so they are on the slow boat from Thailand, which takes 1-3 months! So we will buy new bicycles in Budapest to keep cycling while these bikes get shipped and rebuilt in San Diego.

It was a sad day and a weird feeling holding our naked bike frames after spending so much time with them, 19 countries, 15 months, and nearly 20,000km.

What’s next for us? Stay tuned for the next blog post, where I’ll include our final thoughts after nearly 6 months in Thailand and where we are headed next!

Thank you for following us and all the love and support you’ve given us along the way. Leave us a comment on the blog so we know you’re reading!

Our last month in Thailand (part 2: Steve’s big 5-0!)

So we had arrived in Phuket with plenty of time to spare before all of our friends arrived. One of our many chores was to take our bicycles in for servicing. We found a bike shop to take a look, and they returned them back to us all shiny like new.

Except for one thing. By taking all our bags off and wiping them clean, the bike shop had found a serious crack in the top tube of the frames of both bikes! The crack in my bike was a lot worse than Steve’s, but both were no longer safe to be ridden.

We immediately started working on how to get riding again, and we were happy to find that our original bike shop can help us process a warranty replacement, but it’s going to take quite a while, given that it must be processed from the USA. In the meantime, we decided that we would do without our bicycles until we arrive in Budapest late July, where we will pick up new bicycles to keep riding. It was the more expensive option but the one that gets us back to cycling again sooner.

In the meantime, Steve’s sister and 8 of our friends arrived to join us at a villa we had rented for the week to celebrate Steve’s big birthday.

Credit to Mark and Dave for some of the photos coming up.

Our incredible villa!

Everyone relaxing in our elephant pants!

Steve’s birthday gift was a catamaran tour of Phang Nga Bay with the amazing Toon at Phuket Fun Day.

Chilling on the boat.

Swimming in the bay.

We did a lot of other stuff too, including seeing the monkeys in Phuket Town, partying at a beach club, seeing the Big Buddha and famous temple, visiting elephants, enjoying a food walking tour, and eating lots of food!

It was so nice after 15 months to be joined by friends and family. Traveling every day makes it difficult to create lasting friendships, even though we meet new people every day (we are very thankful for those of you we’ve met on the road and are following our blog! We hope your travels are amazing and we enjoy keeping in touch online!). So it was such a pleasure to spend time with those we are close with from home. Huge thanks to everyone for coming to join us, and to everyone who couldn’t make it, we miss you!

Steve’s glorious birthday cake! We barely made a dent after 4 days of eating.

Finally we got our camping gear back thanks to our friend Darin who held on to it while we were in Asia. We are excited to get back to camping once we return to Europe.

What an experience! We hope to see you all again soon.

Our last month in Thailand! (part 1: getting to Phuket)

Our last month in Thailand has been one extraordinary whirlwind, celebrating Steve’s 50th birthday in Phuket and making a tour of Southeast Asia.

So much has happened and I’ve neglected posting for so long, that I’ll need to split up the blog into a few parts. Here’s part 1, getting to Phuket from our last post on the Gulf of Thailand.

From my last post, you might remember we had some rain in the forecast, but we were well ahead of schedule to get to Phuket by Steve’s birthday, so we slowed down and took some rest days at some beach front villas between Hua Hin and Chumphon. We weathered a few rainy days this way and slowly made our way south in between rain showers.

After Chumphon and spending weeks seeing mostly Thai tourists and locals, we decided we were getting a little tired of being the only farang around, so we hopped on a ferry to Koh Phangan. Yes, it’s the home of the infamous Full Moon Party. No, we had no interest in going, and it wasn’t even full moon.

We met very few cycle tourists on this leg of our trip, but we did run into this couple just outside of Prachuap Khiri Khan.

The impending rain made for some stunning clouds.

Rain on the horizon from our beach bar on Koh Phangan.

Our day was cut short for rain but we found this empty beach front resort in Little Sweden, an area of the Gulf Coast popular with Nordic expats. The Norwegian owner let us stay one night but unfortunately the next day was booked solid for the weekend, so we had to push on in some light showers.

Happy Norwegian kitty!

Our beach bar on Koh Phangan. We had a cute bungalow nestled in the trees behind the bar, and the owner was super friendly.

Our beach bar on Koh Phangan after a furious storm swept through! The owner seemed totally unshaken by this, and the bar continued service anyway, so it’s all good!

After the storm came in, we had 4 more days of rain forecast. We stayed an extra 2 nights on the island before getting island fever and risking the rough waters on the ferry to Surat Thani, and maybe we should have waited!

We were the last to board the high speed ferry, and as soon as we got on, before we’d secured our bikes, the captain fired up the engines and zipped off at 40mph through rough choppy seas. It was all we could do to keep ourselves from getting tossed overboard, nevermind hold onto the bikes, with huge waves rolling over the deck of the boat, drenching us and our bikes in salt water, corrosive to our bike components. I held the rail with one white knuckled hand and my bike with the other while we tried to tie them on the railing with a piece of rope. After getting drenched twice, I ignored the staff telling us we had to keep the bikes outside, yelled “nahm mai dai” (can not water – lol close enough) and pulled my bike into the passenger compartment.

The staff made us stand in the aisle blocking everyone and would not let us put the bicycles in an empty row of seats that were being repaired. We could barely keep our balance, and when we made a short stop to pick up new passengers, the crew disappeared to help them board, and we said screw it! We leaned the bikes in the aisle of seats and sat down ourself in the row in front of them. It mustn’t have been a problem because the crew didn’t say a word to us when they returned. Finally the water got calmer as we neared Surat Thani, and we hopped out, rinsed off our bikes with the rest of our bottled water, and cycled a few km in light drizzle to the same hotel we stayed at last time.

We still had lots of time before we needed to be in Phuket, so we decided not to head straight there, but to continue along the drier Gulf Coast towards Nakhon Si Thammarat and then cut across to Krabi, and finally island hop from Krabi to Koh Yao Noi and finally to Phuket. This turned out to be a really local area with no tourists. The locals were very friendly but surprised to see us and we were the topic of lots of conversations.

He’s almost 50!

Not the same full moon party that you know about!

Ngu Ngu! This little guy scared us at our bungalows. We had an interesting time at this hotel. It rarely sees foreigners, and so they didn’t speak great English, which we expected, so I talked in Thai as much as I could. They seemed to be a mixture of surprised, dubious, and a little cautious about my ability to speak basic Thai. I heard them talking about the farang speaking Thai while we were at the restaurant.

I decided to order a local dish that’s popular in the south, orange curry. I didn’t know it came in this color! It’s not one of the dishes you can find at Thai restaurants outside Thailand. It is meant to be firey hot and a bit fishy. When I ordered it, I said confidently in Thai that I can eat spicy food. When it came out and I started eating, I felt like all eyes were on the farang to see how we would handle this super spicy dish.

It was at the very top of my spice tolerance, and it was quite good. I would order it again, though I prefer the creamier curries. I started to sweat from the spice, and the staff were watching but keeping their voices down. Someone came in with a delivery or something and asked the staff loudly, “farang sahng a-rai?” Farang ordered what? They responded, “ghaeng som”, orange curry. He said, “ahh…”, looked at me closely and laughed, “phet ngu-ah”, spicy sweats! I laughed along, looked right at him, smiled, and wiped my brow with my napkin. He froze and said nothing for a few seconds, finally said, “mai bpen rai”, no problem, and headed out.

After dinner, the hostess confronted me on the way out and seemed totally surprised, saying I speak Thai very well. Nit noi, I responded, little bit. She laughed and looked at me suspiciously as we headed to bed.

It’s really weird the Thais’ response to foreigners speaking their language. Many times they act as if they are offended, like the Thai language is their own secret and no outsiders should be using it. Even if they hear you speak some Thai, they don’t believe you can really understand it and continue talking about you right in front of your face. I can’t count how often I hear the word for stinky, sunburnt, sweaty, etc from people just next to us while we are out cycling. But many other times, shopkeepers and locals breathe a sigh of relief that they can communicate with me, and one shop owner even said he was very thankful that I had learned some Thai because almost no foreigners do. It’s such a drastic change after being in other countries like France and the US where all foreigners are expected to speak the local language. I don’t like this attitude from some Thais but I’m happy to have learned enough Thai to make our time in this country more enjoyable.

We get the steamed pork buns (chalah pow moo) for breakfast whenever we see them, and this place in Krabi had some of the best dim sum I’ve ever eaten.

The Krabi night market was incredible! I’m glad we stayed an extra day to see this. I like Krabi Town a lot and would definitely return. Many tourists head to the overcrowded and tourist trap beaches nearby, but the main town had a great balance of excellent local culture and Western comforts. The crispy pork shown here was delicious.

We cycled to a pier that we found on Google that was supposed to have a ferry to Koh Yao Noi. Instead we found this small long tail passenger boat, and they tossed our bikes on the roof and we squeezed in below with a dozen other locals and Thai tourists. Fun trip!

Koh Yao Noi was beautiful and quiet, but we were ready to get to Phuket so we stayed only one night.

Our speed boat to Phuket hit a rain storm just as we landed, so we hung out with this kitty for an hour waiting out the rain before finally braving the wet weather on our last ride on our bicycles in Thailand. We were taking them to the bike shop the next day to be cleaned up and prepared for taking with us to Europe on the next leg of our adventure.

It turned out to actually be the second to last time that we will ever ride these bicycles again! ☹️ I’ll tell the story in the next blog!

Well that’s no good!

Our route today took us around the busy royal city of Hua Hin, the residence of the respected king and family in Thailand. After a busy market street, we were treated to a beautiful dedicated bike path with light sprinkles of rain keeping us cool.

Shortly after, we found ourselves on the stunning Gulf of Thailand coast, one of my absolute favorite areas in the whole country. We cycled for miles on beautiful palm tree-lined roads by endless shops and restaurants, stopping at a British themed cafe for an iced coffee. The woman working there told us about a fellow she met a while ago who was walking (yes, just walking!) all the way from Australia back home to Europe. He stayed a few nights on this beach, and she invited him in. Bicycle touring seems so mainstream compared to walking across 3 continents… Respect!

A few kilometers later, cycling peacefully, watching the calm water, thinking about our beloved friends battling headwinds and miles and saving lives at AIDS/LifeCycle right now, and feeling a level of inner peace encompass me that I haven’t felt in a while, we prepared to turn …

CRACK!!!!

Oh shit, that can’t be good. I’d gone over a small speed bump. I sat on my seat and felt it sink under my weight and twist around. Oh shit, definitely not good. We pulled over under a palm tree on the beach and sure enough, the seat post clamp had cracked in half.

No problem, I’d packed extra clamps just for this occasion… Right? Well shit, we dug through the bottom of every bag, and nothing. In an effort to lighten our load a bit, we’d mailed a bunch of things we didn’t think we’d need for a while to Phuket. The clamps must have been in that package.

We packed up and I prepared to cycle the next 11 kilometers to our lunch stop without sitting. I had to use bungi cords to strap my back bag to my handlebars because my seat could no longer hold it up, and that made it so I couldn’t shift. So I was riding single speed with no seat and 5 pounds of stuff hanging unevenly from my handlebars, making steering really tricky. Fun!

We made slow progress but after 2 kilometers of not sitting while cycling, my feet were on fire. Luckily we happened on a small mom and pop auto repair shop and I showed the clamp to one of the guys. “Oh… Hmm… Aluminum” he said, shaking his head, along we some other Thai words. Aluminum is impossible to weld, so he couldn’t fix it.

But he then came up with one of those cheap screw clamps and successfully fastened it around my seatpost. I knew it wouldn’t last long but we only had 9 kilometers to go before we could find a hotel for the night and figure things out. I asked how much, and he just laughed at me and waved me off and went back to work.

We made it without further incident to our favorite restaurant along the Gulf coast, my seat only sinking a little, and ate again at this award-winning seafood restaurant with great prices, and then found the cheapest hotel we could nearby, getting a nice deal on a resort with a pool, thanks to off-season mid-week rates. I think we might be the only guests.

Unfortunately their taxi rates weren’t as good, and we used up a whole day’s budget to get back to Hua Hin to get to a nice bike shop, where I bought two clamps just in case! Plus picked up some new gloves, since the padding in my current ones is worn completely thin.

So we’re back in action now, but the next three days have a ton of rain in the forecast, so we may be staying still anyway. Our plan is to see how the rain looks in the morning and decide if we’re rolling out or beach bumming. I’m secretly hoping for sitting on the patio watching the rain fall for 3 days in a row, even though I would love to be out cycling as well.

We’ve got just over three weeks to cover 600km more to Phuket, which we could cover in 5 days if we had to, but more like 8 days comfortably. So even with the rain, we’re still on schedule. Time to relax.

A Cyclist Theory Proven

With 10km remaining in today’s ride, a rule and theory every cyclist knows was proven when I had a flat for the first time on the road in our 15 months of touring. That “theory” is that you’re not supposed to talk about flats, and that’s exactly what I did on our rest day yesterday while we were having lunch. My exact words to Tim were “I haven’t technically had a flat yet on the road, because you can’t count the two I’ve had when the bike was being stored in our friends garage in France, or when it was left at another friends work in Thailand while we took time off the bikes to visit with them”. My theory is that those two sets of friends wanted us to stay longer so those were my other 2 flats on this journey.πŸ€”πŸ€”

Luckily we were at a place we could pull over with some shade at a restaurant on the side of the road after we’d just turned off a busy highway that we’d crossed. It was my back wheel and I found the culprit right away (which doesn’t always happen). It appeared to be the tip of a nail so we knew right away that the tube could be patched or replaced. I voted for replaced without hesitation since it was at the end of our ride and it was nearly πŸ’― degrees. Tim said, “turn it over and get started”, whereas I said “great, this will take an hour”. So then began Tim taking over with me assisting, because I’m not the most patient or mechanical person when it come to these circumstances. I like to think of Tim as the Doctor of the bike, and me assisting as the Nurse handing him the tools needed when he asks for them. I would like to state that I did flip the bike over, and pump up the new tube 3/4 of the way with 150 pumps of our manual hand pump. So Tim 80%, Steve 20%, right? We were on our way again in half the time I stated it would take if I’d done it all by myself, so I consider that a Win Win and hope Tim feels the Same Same. πŸ˜‡

It was a easy and flat (no pun intended) ride alongside relatively quiet canal roads and in familiar areas that we’d pedaled back at the beginning of March on our way to Bangkok. Tim found a great homestay for us to stay at that has a small classic Thai kitchen and three rooms. An older couple and we assume their daughter run it, and we think they are just tickeled that we are here. The seafood (squid & shrimp) rice, noodle, and soup we had for lunch and dinner were perfect from the patio overlooking the Bang Tabun River that leads out to the Gulf of Thailand that we will pedal along most of tomorrow on another 100km ride we have planned in the saddle.

Start Time & Temp. 6:55am, 23C (73F)
Saddle Time 5:12:16
Distance 122km (75.8 miles)
Elevation 59m (194ft)
End Time & Temp. 1:23pm, 37C (99F)

Back to “The Bridge on the River Kwai”

Wednesday’s Ride 30/5/18

Start Time & Temp. 7:20am, 24C (75F)
Saddle Time 5:09:52
Distance 117km (72.5 miles)
Elevation 415m (1362ft)
End Time & Temp. 1:15pm, 35C (95F)

-stopping at half way point at classic Thailand gas station for snacks. Thai woman on speaker phone saying one of us was handsome.

-nice and quiet through country roads along the river and 5km of off road dirt.

-meeting other cycle tourist pedaling from Singapore to Hong Kong

-lunch and dinner steamed rice with pork, chicken, and shrimp

-quarter of the way to Phuket after just 5 days in the saddle and one rest day. 1200km to go.

Thursday Ride 31/5/18

Start Time & Temp. 7:35am, 23C (73F)
Saddle Time 5:26:19
Distance 120km (74.8 miles)
Elevation 549m (1801ft)
End Time & Temp. 2:30pm, 35C (95F)

-two iced coffee/latte stops 20-35 Bhat and a 2-3 year old little Thai girl…. played peek-a-boo with her while her Mom made our coffees and received BIG beautiful smiles back. Her Mom then layed her down in crib an played a Thai video of “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round”. So fun to see both of these techniques that seem to be International.

-lunch of noodle soup with a chicken leg and feet and other parts not sure of. Tim ordered the crispy pork with steamed rice that looked much tastier.

-truck with an older Thai couple going by us buying things from people and passing us a couple of times and then giving us cold water in a cup and asking where we were going.

-it’s stupid to double the amount of your climb in the last 25km of a 120km day….from 300m to 550m.

Friday Ride 1/6/18

Start Time & Temp. 7:30am, 21C (70F)
Saddle Time 4:27:25
Distance 100km (62 miles)
Elevation 345m (1131ft)
End Time & Temp. 12:55pm, 36C (97F)

-Same Same as they say in Thailand….with beautiful back country roads through farming areas and stunning views of the mountains.

-90% humidity is STUPID and so is a hill and headwinds in the last 25km of the ride.

-when we stopped for coffee before the last climb, we overheard some women say “Farangs handsome but sunburnt”, so we each applied more sunscreen.

Saturday Ride 2/6/18

Start Time & Temp. 7:55am, 23C (73F)
Saddle Time 2:57:07
Distance 72km (44.7 miles)
Elevation 117m (383ft)
End Time & Temp. 11:24am, 39C (102F)

-hot and humid again with a later start than we wanted on our 4th day in the saddle to reach Kanchanaburi….a backpacker town that we’d stayed in back in March. It’s nestled on the River Kwai which is an Academy Award winning movie from 1957 named “The Bridge over the River Kwai”.

-the traffic was busier than we like and the headwinds were no joke either.

Sunday will be a rest day for us as we do some minor bike maintenance, get haircuts/massages, and do some Netflix & Chill. We are almost halfway to Phuket with 479 miles after eight days in the saddle and one rest day in between those. We are looking forward to getting back along the coast this week and thinking of all the amazing humans we know and love back home beginning their ALC “love bubble” journey to fight and END AIDS. β™₯οΈπŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ

A classic roadside gas station pump without the underground tanks.

Tim exiting off our 5km of off roading.

Beautiful farming and mountain views we never get tired of.

One of our bungalows along the way.

Iced coffee never tasted so good in the intense heat and humidity.

Spirit Houses and Shrines we see all throughout Thailand usually on a climb. Google….Spirit Houses Thailand to learn more about the meaning behind them.

A welcome roadblock of goats and their kids. I want a baby goat now after seeing them randomly all throughout our adventures these past 15 months.

Our view of the River Kwai from our second story balcony room.

A classic Thai bike parked at our dinner spot in back packing area of Kanchanaburi.

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Singin’ in the Rain 🎀🚴🌧️

Is what I did today for our entire ride, but that’s nothing new as I love to sing even though I don’t always know all the words. We woke up to a pretty good downpour, so took our time getting ready to ride out. When it became a drizzle we both said “let’s do this”. We know that this is the forecast for Thailand as it’s the beginning of their rainy season through September now. I can’t believe I actually said or am now typing that it was enjoyable to pedal in the rain today. After the three days of intense heat and hills it was a nice break with the mid 20 degree Celcius temps all day. We are thankful that we learned from our training rides on ALC to just take it slow and stay away from the painted lines and big puddles. There is something different about cycling in the tropical rains, as refreshing and still so beautiful.

One our our teammates Morris, was always singing when we trained and did the ALC with him in 2016. It always brought a smile to our face during a long day in the saddle and helped when climbing some of the local hills in SD. So today I channeled my best Gene Kelly voice and of course sang Singin’in the Rain. Some other favorites of mine are: (but not Tim’s 🀭)

“What the World need now, is love sweet love, It’s the only thing”

GO CUBS GO, GO CUBS GO, Hey Chicago whatya say the Cubs are gonna WIN today!

and anything by ABBA, Beyonce, or Pink

After four days in the saddle, we’ve decided to take a rest day tomorrow and will do our laundry in a proper washing machine and air dry in our room. We hope all our family and friends had a great holiday weekend back home in the states. No pictures today as there wasn’t time to stop and risk getting even more wet.

Start Time & Temp. 8:30am, 24C (75F)
Saddle Time 2:34:11
Distance 54km (33.5 miles)
Elevation 50m (164ft)
End Time & Temp. 11:20am, 22.7C (72.9F)

What Dreams are made of…

…is the day like we had today for most cyclists we know. We had more decent than ascent and the vehicle traffic was minimal. We started later than we had planned due to my alarm not going off (stop laughing Ann Texas), but it was nice to get the extra hour of sleep. The highway out of the town we’d stayed in last night had a nice wide paved shoulder that was almost like having our own lane. The temperature was perfect and cooled down into the 70’s when we began the climbing into the mountains. The ride reminded us both of our first tour two years ago when we left the Redwoods in Northern California and reached the Coast of CA again except it was more tropical and not as cold as Nor Cal is in July. We were both looking forward to the 10-15km of downhill after the 200m of climbing and it was “what dreams are made of” for sure.

As we’ve toured through Thailand these past 5 months, we will pass dozens of Temples on any given day in the saddle, and became quite familiar with several in Chiang Mai we passed on a regular basis while taking our break. Google says: “There are a total of 40,717 Buddhist temples (Thai: Wat) in Thailand as of 31 December 2004, of which 33,902 are in current use.”. They each are distinct and beautiful beyond measure so today I took a couple of pictures I hope you enjoy. Right after these temples we stopped for an early lunch at a quaint little roadside restaurant and ordered a Pad See Ew (similar to Drunken Noodles in the states for those that like Thai food). It was 30 Bhat each (93Β’), and one of the best ones we’ve had. Tim was able to practice more of his Thai language skills, and the sweet woman that owned the place was impressed. She also showed us a Mama cat in a tote with two new born kittens.

The skies were as blue as my Irish/German eyes, with white fluffy clouds, and stunning farming and mountain views the rest of the way after lunch. It didn’t take long for the heat to reach near πŸ’― farenheit again and we missed the tree coverings we had earlier in the morning. We were craving an iced Thai coffee before the last 20km and another hill and finally found a stall on the side of the road for 30 Bhat.

During the last 15km the headwinds started and we were both getting Heat Angry and ready to finish the ride. We were getting ready to stop and check the directions for the room Tim had stared for the night when a pickup truck pulled over and a guy jumped out handing us two cold waters. We said thank you in Thai (it’s 1 of the 3 phrases I do know). After nearly 5 hours in the saddle there is nothing quite like a cold water to quench your thirst. The kindness of strangers is the BEST thing ever in this world. We looked at the map and had just 3km to go to get to our next night of rest.

Our lunch stop

Our Iced Coffee stop

Our bed, bar, and cafe for the night that closed at 6pm, so we went to dinner at 4:30 and felt like snowbirds in Florida. They had Bud’s Ice Cream Cake from San Francisco in a big cooler that brought back memories from home. We split a piece of Chocolate Chip Cookie and it didn’t last long enough to get a picture.

The rooms are named after coffee drinks so they showed us the “Flat White” one and said sure that will do for 500 Bhat a night.

LπŸ˜†L

Start Time & Temp. 8:25am, 29C (84.2F)
Saddle Time 4:53:54
Distance 105km (65.4 miles)
Elevation 450m (1476ft)
End Time & Temp. 2:30pm, 38.5C (101.3F)

Roller Coaster Country Roads

We started an hour earlier today to avoid as much of the heat as possible and another threat of rain that luckily held off. The first 35km were amazing on a tree lined not too busy highway that provided great shade. The shoulder was pretty bumpy, but we were able to ride away from it with cars and trucks giving us plenty of room. With our mirrors on our glasses we had enough time to respond from our rear view and only had to ride on the rough pavement a couple of times. We stopped on this highway for a coffee but unsuccessful in finding a breakfast option beside cakes and slices of pie that we didn’t want.

We had an option to stay on the highway or exit through backstreets that may or may not have been paved and we both said YES to the exit to enjoy the countryside. After 15 months of touring now, we know that our Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires and Specialized Diverge Bicycles are made for decisions just like this. It was the perfect exit as we pedaled through quaint little farming villages and dirt roads. At one point we had to turn around just to take a picture of the stunning mountains, clouds, pond, and beautiful lotus flowers.

At 43km we turned again and Tim said to me “this is where the rollers and climbing begins” and I said “WHAT?, I thought it was flat to Phuket”. We found a mom & pop store to load up our water bottles and finish the last 40km of this ride. It was beautiful scenery but those rollers were no joke with 6-8% grades, one after the other, after the other finally before reaching the last one that I said, “that’s not a roller, I’m walking”…and Tim agreed. At this point it was reaching 40 degrees Celcius with 70% humidity and we were both fried physically and emotionally with just 10km to go that felt like πŸ’―.

As any cyclist knows, there can be numerous emotions that go into a long and even short ride depending on the weather, road conditions, rest stops, climbing (that I still hate after 2.5 years and Tim loves), and time spent in the saddle. We both need new padded shorts that I just ordered on Voler and had shipped to one of the carrots meeting us in Phuket. When you only have one pair of shorts that you wear 4-5 days a week, they tend to wear out quite quickly lasting us 6-8 months. We started with Voler and love the brand so much that it’s worth it to wait and get a good quality pair. πŸ™πŸ» for our taints though 🀭thank you. We had plenty of snacks and drank sufficient amounts of water we thought but both said we could definitely use more water and we will going forward. We grabbed a late lunch in the small highway town we settled into for the night and then relaxing in the room now until the sun goes down in an hour before we grab dinner and go to bed early. It’s the life a a cycle tourist that we love and hate at times on this amazing roller coaster ride around the world.

We love the use of these old sewing machines made into dining tables at restaurants and coffee shops all throughout Thailand.

This little guy let me pet him at our first rest stop for iced coffee, but then back away and wasn’t too sure about me. Maybe it was my sweaty scent?

A picturesque photo opportunity that we had to turn around for on the dirt road.

Tim in perfect form for the next rolling hill on the quiet country roads.

Our bungalow with a king bed and plenty of room inside for bike parking…500 Bhat ($15.67 USD).

Our Khao Soi chicken leg for lunch. It was just okay. We became a little too spoiled by our favorite one in Chiang Mai called Khao Soi Nimman that we ate at 3-5 times a week. 40 Bhat (94Β’ USD)…so you can’t beat that.

A new electrolyte drink in our room that we needed after the long hot ride and it’s better than Gatorade. It will be easy to find now after we picked up more at the 7-11 nearby and it’s only 10 Bhat (31Β’ USD)

Start Time & Temp. 7:20am, 23C (73.4F)
Saddle Time 4:15:35
Distance 83.8km (52 miles)
Elevation 771m (2529ft)
End Time & Temp. 1:05pm, 40.6C (105.1F)

Farang bpai bye bye

It’s interesting now that I know a little Thai to be out in the countryside where we are novelties and people of course talk about us. In some ways it’s good, and some ways it’s annoying, and sometimes in between. Sometimes during our days I wish I hadn’t learned.

For the annoying, when we go to a local restaurant or walk around, you constantly hear people saying “farang” this or “farang” that. It doesn’t happen very often in Chiang Mai, and a few times that it did happen, I then heard another Thai person say in Thai, “some farang from Chiang Mai speak Thai,” and then I wouldn’t hear another “farang” from them. But here, even if I order food or ask directions in Thai (which still is admittedly really basic), farang are still a frequent topic of conversation. I don’t understand enough Thai to get the meaning most of the time, and I assume it’s mostly harmless, but it makes me uncomfortable knowing we’re being talked about right in front of us. Other cycle tourists we’ve met have said the same thing to me about Thailand, so it seems to be a common thing I’ll just have to get used to again.

For the rude, a motorcycle with two women passed us on a quiet country road. They were smiling so I waved back, and one said to the other something that I’m pretty certain was, “ah-ni mai law”, which means, “this one is not handsome.” Well damn, I hope they were just comparing me to Steve because they are right on that one, but it was a bit of a shock to hear.

For the cute, as we rolled out of town this morning, a guy in a park with his kid waved and said, “farang bpai Bye Bye”, a cute Thai-English mashup.

For the funny, I rounded a corner and an old woman gasped and exclaimed, “Ohhhh! Farang man!” I waved, and she said, “Bye bye!” with a curious smile.

For the useful, it is super easy to order food at any restaurant now, though it’s often tricky to convince them to talk in Thai. When they don’t speak English, they see a white face and refuse to say anything in Thai or English. So I need to coax a little so they know I can mostly understand them. Checking in at hotels is the same, and I don’t feel awkward going up to a hotel where the signs are all in Thai. Saving some money too, because these are always cheaper.

Actually finding restaurants is easier too because I can read the signs and menus and decide what we’d like to find before we sit down. There are some places you would never guess are restaurants except for the sign outside that says “noodles” in Thai.

But the best is talking with locals. We ran into a guy at a gas station who also cycles, but only spoke a little English. Between the two of us, we switched back and forth between Thai and English and had a great chat about our tour and his cycling. He then came out and gave us two fresh mangoes, which were perfectly ripe and amazingly tasty.

Overall, it’s taking some getting used to, being in countryside again after a few months in the city. We are looking forward to getting to the coast again, but it’ll be nice to spend time in these super local non-touristy places to get a real feeling for the country.