🚴🏻♀️🚴🏻♂️ Satun – Mae Sot (1300km)
“Mr. And Ms. Bicycle, over here!”, welcomed the Thai border officer at the small Wang Prachan border crossing leading us straight into the Thale Ban national park. The sun was buzzing as we descended the main road towards Satun. Other than trying to avoid main roads in the upcoming weeks, we had made few plans and so we cycled on bicycle/motorbike lanes until the sunset.
Spoiled by the high English proficiency in Malaysia, this wasn’t the case in rural Thailand, where we would master communicating with hands and feet. For the first night, we found a police station where the officers gladly accommodated us in a house around back, insisting on group pictures. Especially Officer Panroy was glad to find us on Facebook as he was keen to keep the conversation going to improve his English.
2 days later we arrived in Trang, one of South Thailand’s biggest towns. English teacher and cycle enthusiast Kim Jones invited us to stay in his new house where we shared stories, played with the neighborhood dogs and cooked dinner together.
It was here, in the comfort of a lazy rest day, that we decided to take our trip underwater, embarking on a 5-day scuba diving live-aboard exploring the Similan Islands. Setting ourselves a deadline to make the next boat, we made good progress, cycling between 70–100km daily for a week through Krabi Provence over obscure backroads.
We had no urge to visit party capital Phuket, so instead turned northwest to reach Khao Lak in the Phang-Nga region.
Again we stuck to tiny backroads, receiving lovely greetings from people and making some elderly people cackle at the hilariousity of foreigners living on bicycles.
One evening, as the sun was setting and we hadn’t found a place to camp, we were pointed towards a waterfall a few kilometers off route. Arriving, we were greeted by all of the people working and living there who took us to the classroom on site so we could sleep under a roof, opening up the toilets and even giving us the waterfall’s wifi! We set out for an evening walk but soon turned back after encountering a 2m long black snake on the path. We tried again the next day, believing nothing would be as bad as encountering a huge snake in the dark until we were set upon by land leeches and had to run back to safety!
On February 16th, 50km away from our guest house on a quiet country road, we heard voices calling us to stop. We did and 4 seconds later were sat at a table with a heaping plate of food and cold beer to celebrate Chinese New Year with family and friends.
Lucy and I were introduced to the traditions and rituals, watched firecrackers go off and one of us even got a new hairstyle.
After a day off in Khao Lak, it was time: Lucy picked up her diving theory basics and a day later we were off on the Ms. Similian Explorer, with 5 days and 18 dives ahead of us in one of Thailand’s best diving spots.
Together with 20 other divers, amazing guides and crew we visited the Similan Islands, Surin Islands as well as Richelieu Rock, an underwater plateau popular with turtles, manta rays, and whale sharks. Words don’t do the experience justice and even pictures seem fake in retrospect but here are a few anyway:
In short: This was one of the best weeks of our life.
Back on the saddle, still spotting fishes in our minds, we left the west coast and crossed Thailand towards Surat Thani, cycling through the national park Khao Sok. Countless times we experienced random acts of kindness from local Thai people, letting us enjoy our trip with ease.
The number of days left on our visa was shrinking rapidly and it was time for another radical change of plans. We decided to cheat and take a train, skipping part of the middle of Thailand, stopping over in Bangkok and then heading for the Myanmar border. Instead of simply extending our Thai visa, we would explore the land of the golden pagodas, which only came out of a military dictatorship in 2011 and since then also more accessible to foreigners, and then return to Thailand a few weeks later.
While heading west over the increasingly hilly lands of the Tak region, we passed many small villages without many sleeping options. One night, after trying at the local school and police station we were pointed towards a nearby monastery. A Buddhist monk with a big grin welcomed us as rolled onto the courtyard while the sun was setting. It only took a few minutes before a sleeping place was sorted, food provided and a number of monks eagerly waited to take photos with us. It was one of the warmest and friendliest welcomes we had received.
The only catch, the next morning we had to be up at 6 am to collect food from the nearby villagers, that would last the monks the whole day. While the sun was rising, we joined a group of three monks on a walk, receiving rice, cooked meats, stir-fries, and fruits while praying for the homes and their inhabitants in return. It was a fantastic communal experience, culminating in a big breakfast at the monastery.
The last leg towards the border took us over the steep hills to the border town Mae Sot, where we would prepare ourselves for the next adventure in Myanmar together with our experienced host Ton. It was time for the next chapter…