Tag Archives: nakhon sawan

Week two: Nakhon Sawan – Mae Sot

Day 7: Nakhon Sawan – Khanu Woralaksaburi (62km)
The best cycle so far. Every km was lush and the roads straightforward. We covered 62km in four hours of cycling with plenty of photo stop offs.

First glimpse of the hills to the west.
Get out of Nakhon Sawan as fast as you can and head north towards the smaller roads shouldering Ping River again. We stuck to the left side of the river for the entire 62km, with only very minor twists and turns until reaching our destination. The whole ride was quiet on the roads and with most charming countryside, from the probs more middle-class river side suburbs of the city, the almost continuous roadside settlements and the sugar cane/tea/corn/coconut farming of the more remote final leg. One highlight included cycling past about hundred school kids doing an organised ‘Bike For Dad‘ ride as part of the King’s birthday celebrations. Not so many 7-11s or fancy stop off points but plenty of decent smaller shops and restaurants, including the sweetest mother and daughter restaurant about 5km north of Kae Lieo who indulged our terrible Thai with encouragement and good grace.

Beautiful suburbs snug to the Ping River all the way along the banks.
Cycling fever sweeps the nation to celebrate the Kings’ birthday as part of ‘Bike for Dad’ events
 

The ‘town’ of Khanu Woralaksaburi was not on our map much to our surprise, especially to find an entire fun fair and Chinese New Year celebration including Thai covers of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Bit odd. Convinced this was actually a zombie town and we were going to be eaten by nightfall. Local people the most perplexed and astounded to see westerners so far. Interestingly this is where we saw the first other white person for a week.

Definitely going to get eaten by zombies or werewolve s in this town that doesn’t exist on the map.

Day 8: Khanu Woralaksaburi – Kampheang Phet (67km)

Crikey this day was hard, but for no particular reason. The road was flat, good and straight the whole was but especially uneventful scenery made for a hard slog and a bit of a boring day. And it was really hot.

 

Cycling in midday heat is tough.

Turn right and over the bridge through Khanu Woralaskaburi (actually great views over thw wide river) and then just keep heading up the highway just to the right of the river until you reach your destination of Kampheang Phet. Pretty simple. Not too many towns along the way to break up the monotomy but there are loads of smaller settlements along the road with ample pit stops for food and shady rest. We stopped at a very good BBQ place about 45km before Kampheang Phet and were glad to be able to diversify our meals by learning the words ‘salad’ and ‘grilled’.

Highlight of the day was being honked at and pulled over by this very naturally hospitable woman who listened with great glee to my wonky Thai explanation of what we were doing, where we’d been and where we were going. She then have me some of her home grown bananas and then drove off to do the same for Olga who was a little behind me. Thai warmth at it’s best.

 

Delicious afternoon bananas from this kind soul.
Kampheang Phet itself is a nice spot and I would recommend it. It seems to be quite a large town that has at least some passing tourist trade. Pretty sleepy and quiet with a no stress vibe. Ate at a very good Vietnamese restaurant opposite Three J Guesthouse where we stayed and topped up on vegetables.

Backstreet Kampheang Phet architecture

Day 3: REST DAY: Kampheang Phet

Kampheang Phet has quite a few attractions within a short-ish distance so makes for a good pit stop. Defo recommend. You can hire motorbikes and head west to the hills for a variety of waterfalls, or head towards Sukothai for hot springs and more Thai massage as we did to soothe very aching muscles. The hot spring was so soothing but also quite a challenge not having heart palpitations in 50 degree water when it’s already 34 degrees.

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Was too zoned out to remember to take a photo of the massage experience but it was memorable. The foreigners were pretty much pounced on by about ten trainee masseuses who could not have been older than twelve/thirteen but claimed fifteen. They didn’t quite seem to know what to do or what was going on, creating quite an odd hour of being prodded by a team of laughing children who kept trying to ask you how old you were. Some grown ups took over after a while for the real pain, giving us a two and a half hour massage for £3.50.

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I am yet to uncover the roots of Thai obsession with roosters

There is also a historical park with ruins of the Sukothai empire era that sadly we didn’t make it to as we were held in traffic for hours because of road closures due to more en masse Bike For Dad celebrations. What is all these cyclists problems ffs, can’t they just stay inside and develop diabetes like everyone else?

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Traffic jam waiting for all the bloody cyclists to stop being so god damn healthy and give all the normal people the road back.
We also found a pizza restaurant called Oasis on tripadvisor just outside of town and could not have been happier to turn up on a motorbike and fill our faces with the familiar and delicious wheaty based foods of home. Rice is nice but it’s very repetitive.

Day 9: Kampheang Phet  – Tak (81km inc detours)

This was a real belter of a beautiful cycle that my eyes and legs embraced whole heartedly. Today Olga and me cycled separately as she wasn’t feeling on top form and I had itchy legs so we agreed to meet in Tak. I whizzed almost 50k before stopping for more than a few minutes and was feeling in fine fettle, I think from a new strategy of eating something every 45mins to keep energy up.

 

Kind women who thought I was mad and taught me some new words.

A 40min stop and what was almost a conversation at a roadside spot with these lovely women and then I finished the final stretch in good time before 1:30pm! You can leave Kampheang Phet many ways to get onto the not mega highway of Tesa 2 that is smooth and whips you along. There are various options to get onto even smaller roads closer to the river (right side) and that will take you through more lush villages and very friendly folk (and a high proportion of dogs…).

Pictures won’t do this gentle journey justice, but it was about 60km of a combination of almost zero traffic, enthusiasm from locals, banana planatations and the final stretch of winding around the first low lying hills before hitting the smelly Tak highway.

Bit of a polava with hotels as both of the ones we had pre agreed were fully booked and neither of us had phones to communicate while we were a far distance apart. Safe to say that my holiday Thai app was insufficient in this situation, but short story is we settled at Domethong Residence in the highway infested town of Tak, right opposite a giant Tesco. We didn’t go into Tak as the presence of massive scary highways with shit loads of traffic put us right off.

The hills! Look lush from afar but probs won’t feel it when cycling up them…

Day 10: Tak – Mae Sot (70km or so BY BUS!)

Having thankfully listened to (Olga’s) reason we decided not to cycle to Mae Sot as it is not only a mega long shlep up a very steep mountain but it is a bit of a vile road also. So glad. Please, cyclists just get a bus. I don’t think you’re missing that much unless you’re someone who is absolutely adamant that they won’t travel more than a metre that isn’t pedal powered. You can’t even really see the mountaneous glory of the mountains as there’s too many bloody trucks and minibuses trying to cut each other up for at least the first narrow laned 20-30km. The road does get better and thankfully wider but despite winding through mountains it isn’t so scenic.

 

Sign says THIS IS A BUS STATION
 
Instead we loaded out bikes onto the roof of a minibus for an extra 100B (£2) and saved about seven hours of pain and fear and arrived in lovely Mae Sot in about an hour and a half. Buses from Tak bus station go very often. Dead easy.

Maybe we should just sit on the roof with our bikes on every hill?

Days 11-12: Mae Sot REST DAYS

 
Inspired by the previous day’s avoidance of cycling we took our feet of the pedals in style and checked into a suprisingly cheap hotel, Raimaneethip Homestay, about 3-4km out of town in the surrounding rural areas. It had a SWIMMING POOL and a farm where all the food you eat is picked and grown. It was proper lush and would have been perfect if either we spoke Thai, the Burmese staff spoke Thai, or English, or we all spoke any other common language as it was quite an effort to order any food. All in well humoured good grace however.

Maximum excitement at the swimming pool.


Mae Sot is a bit special and we were very glad to stay and be lazy somewhere very friendly and easy for a few days. Got overexcited about finding a curry restuarant with chapattis and also got my bike gears tweaked and a kind mechanic erased a click I’d been fiddling with all week in about eleven seconds. So quick he didn’t even charge. I tried to watch and learn but he was too quick :/

Great bike shop on Intharakeeree road heading west before you meet the highway

  

Ermagad CURRY

As a border town between Thailand and Myanmar the town is a bit of a mish mash of things. The Burmese (Myanmar-ese?) influence is strong, to the point that it’s harder to recognise Thai spoken on the street, the food available is quite different immediately and there is a very notable increase in ethnic diversity. 
Over the years the western hills of Thailand have become home to large numbers of Burmese refugees, many of whom lack proof of identity of citizenship and the human rights this affords. Maybe this will change with the political shifts occuring in Myanmar and perhaps many of the Burmese refugees and working migrants will choose to move back over the border. Early to say perhaps. The town is also home to a booming NGO scene, resulting in a higher proportion of westeners and non local Thai/SE Asian workers and the luxury businesses that follow (loads of coffee shops).

Leaving Thailand feeling I’ve only just gotten started and that the dominance of the cycling and adapting to the new ryhthm has meant I’ve not learnt anywhere near as much as I’d like about the country. Hoping that I’ll be less physically exhausted once I get in my stride and will have enough juice left to learn about Myanmar more meaninfully.  

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Week one: Rangsit to Nakhon Sawan

Day 1: Rangsit – Ayutthaya (51 km)

Stepped off the train around 8:30am and found a side street to finish the last final tweaks to our bikes before putting pedals in motion. It was already hot, like 32 degrees before 9am. A few whoops and ear to ear grins and we were off heading north along a poker straight local road that runs parallel to the train line all the way until Bang Pa-in. After about 10km we stopped off for our first roadside breakfast and effort to communicate with good humour but without common language. A pretty and straightforward stretch with a very decent road and a 7-11 closer to the Bang Pa-in junction. We took respite from the midday heat at a Wat somewhere along the way. Change roads and head right through Bang Pa-in and just keep going until you hit Ayutthaya. There are no photos to capture the sweaty, dirty and hysterically laughing mess we were in at the end of Day 1.  I better get fit fast.

My bicycle Gloria. Note – novice error one. Panniers on the wrong way around. That’s why I kept kicking them off all day.

Day 2: Ayutthaya – nr Pho Tong (52km)

Headed north out of the city on a semi busy highway and kept going over the junction for the 347 Thanon Asia main highway. An open, straight and wide stretch of paddy fields along tarmac and running parallel to the river. Within a few km we came across Chai, a fellow tourer heading the other direction. Chai is Malaysian and is heading home after touring China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Language barriers and eagerness to get going stopped mor conversation but his advice was ominous, “Enjoy tired legs.”

Chai from Malaysis was the first cycle tourer we met along the way.

Kept going straight before stopping for lunch in the small Thai town that epitomises small Thai towns of Ang Thong where we successfully learnt the essential words for rice and toilet and stocked up in the glorious air conditioned delights of a 7-11. Tried not to fall asleep and pushed on for another 15km or so before spotting a sign for Bang Chao Tourist Village and pulling in for advice on accommodation.

Here we had the good fortune to meet Nang who would escort us to a homestay and spend much of the following evening desperately try and form a conversation using only her sincere enthusiasm and our ‘Learn Thai’ iphone app. Something to do with a peanut, two eggs and a pregnant woman. She actually brought popcorn, sat down and just watched us.

This is Nang. She told a story of a peanut, two eggs and apregnant lady using sign language and our ‘Learn Holiday Thai’ app. She was cool.

The homestay was very cheap and decent in a beautiful village definitely worth staying in. Note Nang’s ‘Bike For Dad t-shirt’ to commemorate the King of Thailand’s birthday the following day (see other pic).

Preparations for massive ‘Bike for Dad’ celebrations across Thailand. It’s a big deal.

Lovely village that few tourists will ever see. Lush if you can find it.
 

Day 3: Pho Tong – Sankhaburi (60km)
More straight road ahead (just keep following the river) and several ice coffee cans later and we were in our stride. Thankful for cloudy skies today that really took the oomph out of the sun and made for a much more relaxing journey through sugar cane plantations and more waving at strangers. There are food stops and 7-11s very often on this easy stretch.

Best lunch so far by miles at the biggest restaurant we could see in Ban Channasut where things were done with peanuts I never imagined. Just kept going, kept going through a challenging headwind until hitting Sankhaburi expecting a tiny nowhere place and struggling to find a guesthouse. We stopped at a petrol station to ask for ‘homestay’ and seeing our clear lack of understanding of directions two women hopped on their motorbike and escorted us at least 5km to a resort of sorts just on the edge of the very charming Sankhaburi town. Tried to find “I love you” in my phrase book but was too slow before they drove off. Thai hospitality is the BEST. We nearly cried with joy when we turned up here.

Day 4: Sankhaburi – Uthai Thani (58km inc wrong way)

A refreshing breakfast of three slices of bread and marmite, milk, half a pineapple each, a yoghurt, half a bag of peanuts and two cups of tea and we were off.


Some of the cutest road so far if you head out of the town on the local roads that hug the river on your right. All colours of the rainbow used on painted houses, fishing and very friendly and surprised faces for about up to an hour before the quiet roads end as you have to enter the highway and head left towards Chai Nat.

Then it’s more of the same following the road north parallel to the river and avoiding the main highway but unfortunately we missed the small junction on the right that allows you to hug the river (just before Chai Nat and just after the bridge for 340 highway) and got stuck on a fairly busy and uneventful main road all the way until Uthai Thani. It would have been less eventful if I had not gone left instead of right one one of the junctions before Wat Sing and added 10km to my travels. Made up for boring road by pushing my legs and hitting 30km an hour at one point. Finally caught up with Olga with a very red face in Wat Sing for lunch, coffee and wifi at an Amazon Cafe by the last petrol station in town.

Accidental 10km detour and extreme redness after speed required to catch Olga up.

Kicked off again and just keep going until you hit the cute river side town of Uthai Thani. Tried a couple of out of town hotels (a new and not attractive from outside one beginning with K but good rooms) and an overpriced resort with a skanky overprices room before settling for a hotel modelling itself on 1984 or Clockwork Orange for an 8:30pm sleep. Last foreigner (farang) to check in was in October. Very pretty town by the river that is worth visiting.

Uthai Thani riverside at night.


Day 5: Uthai Thani – Nakhon Sawan (42km)
By this point 42km didn’t feel a stretch at all and so the day passed heading north and slightly east on more tarmaced and straight roads to Nakhon Sawan. Uneventful views compensated by me being a melon and getting my foot stuck in my pedal strap and therefore my pedal stuck in my leg and falling off twice. A nastyish gash, reducing some of the weight of my first aid kit and about ten people trying to stop and help and we were off again.

Lunch and a few snacks at a couple of roadside stops and some more paddy fields before arriving in the industrial feeling barrenness of Nakhon Sawan. On first glance, not impressed, but fortunately the hotel had the good sense to create a haven of beautiful yellow flowers, shade and hospitality that made you forget you were actually in the Slough/Milton Keynes equivalent of Thailand.

Wangpla Villa Resort is the BEST.

Day 6: REST DAY
Basically sat on high speed wifi and went for thai massage all day. Oh my god did it hurt good after the first week of touring. Nakhon Sawan itself is not a pleasant town with loads of highways everywhere. Highlight was being amused at how the park in the centre of town is so conformist that cyclists have to go one way and runners have to go another.

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