The time for cycling arrived again. Goodbye Koh Pu, it has been swell. After almost a month of boat rides and amazing island living, the ladies were happy to be on the mainland. The small port of Ban Laem Kruat saw the megapod disband. Farewell megapod friends, we hope to meet you again somewhere in this wonderful world! After hugs all around, we packed the panniers on the bikes ready for the 40km ride into Krabi, where the antipodeans would spend their last night together.
It was a lovely ride along the rural roads and we enjoyed having the wind in our hair, the sun on our backs and our legs doing the work again. The last 14ks were on a major highway and I was again reminded how developed Thailand is – cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes everywhere. Despite some luxurious island living we covered the kilometres quickly.
Krabi is a cute city on a river, limestone karsts dominate the landscape and the vibe is relaxed. We found a hostel where Jude and I scored with our room, and Marita and Simon ended up in cubicles that could have doubled as crack dens. Refreshed from an afternoon nana nap, we jumped in a tuk tuk to Wat Tham Suea. Here we braved the 1237 steps up 600m, passing hundreds of dodgy looking monkeys – one even punched Marita as she walked by. They do make me uneasy sometimes. We arrived at the top as the sunset coloured the sky a dirty salmon, and we gazed at the giant gold Buddha that looks out over the sprawling landscape of karsts and farms. It felt spiritual up there and we all enjoyed the peace at the hilltop stupa.
Back at ground level we joined the throngs of people at the night market on the riverbank. Food was abundant and Simon went crazy ordering five dishes for himself as we knocked back cold beers. The night ended with us on the dock, watching the moon rise, eating banana and nutella pancakes and fresh mango with sticky rice.
Before a sad farewell, we indulged in a final breakfast of coffee and baguettes. It has been wonderful to have Simon with us and we are truly blessed to have such a great friend – safe travels Simon! The rest of the day was spent exploring town and doing the all the everyday things that had accumulated while we had been island living. Tasty treats weren’t lacking that night as we foraged through the two night markets and stocked up on snacks for Christmas Eve.
The next day saw us cycle a whopping 18km. The roads wound passed more jungle-clad karsts, Buddha statues and farmland, which all led to another spectacular coastline. A side detour to check out some gastropod fossils was bittersweet. We didn’t get up close as there was an exorbitant $9 per person entry fee, it was high tide and they were submerged. But we did get to giggle at a ‘farang’ (foreigner), dressed only in a bikini (so inappropriate), who was confused by the fact that there were only fossils at the site and no animals. Our laughter was stifled with an ice-cream and the roads continued on to Ao Nang – a beachside town of Western commercialism gone mad. Disturbed by the bling we kept cycling and found the local campsite at the far end of the strip next to a quiet beach. The rest of the afternoon was spent with Thai families relaxing on the beach. Just after the sun set over the islands, we headed to a small restaurant for a curry dinner, before climbing into bed for an early night in.
Khao Sok National Park was our next destination and it took us two days to cycle there. With the help of Google Maps we navigated the back streets and enjoyed a day of quiet riding in the warm sunshine. Everything was lush and green, and the locals were friendly, often calling out greetings and words of encouragement. Along the side of the road we saw a sign to Klang cave, a local tourism initiative. We hired some torches and guided ourselves passed stalagmites and stalactites galore. It was great fun and when we turned off the torches it was so black. Towards sunset we bought food for dinner at a night market, sampling all the wares on offer, and not far out of town we found a sweet spot to put up our tent. That evening we were graced with the company of visitors – farmers and the police offering us alternate accommodation as they were scared that we would be attacked by snakes. When they figured out we were settled and not moving, we were gifted biscuits so we would not go hungry and were offered more blankets to keep warm. Thai hospitality at its best!
After surviving the night – no snakes I’m afraid – we cycled on north through a valley. It was on this road that we experienced our first significant headwind in Asia. A side-trip to the Wat in Bang Thong provided a site I have never seen before – a temple in a giant boat statue. We also experienced the first of our favourite roadside coffee shops, it looked as if it had been lifted from hipsterville and placed on the side of the road in outback Thailand. Cycling friends had warned us that the road to Khao Sok involved a big hill climb and we were confused when rolled into town sooner than we thought. No we aren’t hardcore, we just entered town from the opposite direction!
Arriving at the resort we were met by Marita and our cycle touring friends Frans and Eveline, who had stayed with us in Melbourne last year after they cycle toured from Cairns to Melbourne. They are currently cycling from Chiang Mai to Singapore, and we were lucky enough to cross paths in Khao Sok at Christmas time. A hot shower in our swishy room assisted us to freshen up, and then we spent the rest of the day and night sprawled over maps, beers in hand, sharing stories of times on the road. I love talking bikes, cycling, routes and countries explored and to be explored.
Skype dates with family occupied much of our time on Christmas Eve, as both of our families celebrate on that evening. It’s odd being in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas and we both felt the distance from our loved ones that night. Luckily we had the wonderful company of Frans, Eveline and Marita. Christmas treats of roasted cashews, honey roasted peanuts, crackers and shortbread biscuits were laid out in plastic bowls. A large bottle of vodka was cracked open and The Pogues ‘Fairytale of New York’ circa 1988 was watched on You Tube. It is still my favourite Christmas song ever. Thai curry replaced the tofurkey and roast vegetables, and we celebrated late into the night.
An early alarm found us sharing Christmas morning with the Calero family on Skype. Later as the sun burnt off the morning mist, all the fit ladies set out for a long run through the back roads around the park. We ran with light steps, joyful that we could spend such a glorious morning together. As the heat of the day mounted we entered the national park and explored a few of the ‘waterfalls’ marked on the map. I think that the term ‘waterfall’ is used very loosely here, as what we found was mostly rocky rapids. Jude and Frans were not deterred and had a marvelous time splashing about, doing bombs from the rocks. Back in the village we treated ourselves to baguettes for Christmas day lunch and then relaxed with some ice-creams and cold beers in the late afternoon. We hope that every one of you had a lovely Christmas day, wherever you were.
The time had come for Frans and Eveline to continue on their journey. We wished them a fond farewell and are excited about meeting them again somewhere on our journey – either on the road or at their lovely home in Holland. Jude, Marita and I spent the rest of that day and the next just pottering around. Khao Sok has changed a lot since I was here many, many years ago. Not for the first time in Thailand I found myself being viewed as a walking wallet, with costs and tour prices being equal to or greater than those in Australia. If this was a short holiday in one country we would have happily splurged, but with years and other spectacular areas still ahead of us, we had to consider value for money. Instead we made our own fun, taking photost, swims in the river, yoga in the garden and making plans for our time in Central Asia. We also enjoyed the last of the creature comforts that we would have for a while, as we are about to embark upon a 10-day meditation retreat where we will live like silent monks. Ah this crazy life!
Love and peace to you all,