|The LTF team goofing around at La A Natu Bed & Bakery|
|Leaving Hua Hin on beautiful bicycle lanes|
|Yah, our new friend|
|Skirting around Pranburi Forest Reserve|
|Heading for Pranburi Beach|
|Beautiful Bicycle Lanes at Pranburi Beach|
|Beautiful Boulevard at Pranburi Beach. The stage is set for the Queen's Birthday.|
|Relaxing at The Blue Butterfly|
|The Blue Butterfly|
|Seeking shelter at Sam Roi Yod Beach while Alvin checked out the hotels|
|Circulating the bay, Khao Kalok, after the terrapin sanctuary|
|On the way to La A Natu Bed & Bakery|
|Riding along limestone hills, enroute to Kuiburi|
|Little Home Beach|
|Little Home Beach|
|Little Home Beach|
The morning after at White Wood House was like a scene from a reality TV show! One by one, the unknown LTF casts were seen descending the stairs in half "drunken" modes. While some were in PJs and one was in boxers, there were also a few in cycling jerseys, worn to bed the night before!!! Everyone though, wore the definitive crown of disheveled hair.
As the riders went about their morning routines, some taking longer than usual in the toilets, the unmistakable close circuit camera in the porch continues to record the ongoing drama.....
KC was seen prancing about in a towel with a cigarette in hand. He seemed pretty confident with the wrap, bending over to feed the cat, cat food stored in the fridge. Thank goodness it was NOT his very own micro towel, for all eyes will follow when he bends over!!!
Sue was seen removing her final pieces of laundry from the clothes line. There were socks, a sports bra and some peculiar pieces of clothings.
After his morning coffee, compliments of the House and leftovers niblets, Alvin brushed his teeth for the second time. Looking on, Claudine just ran her tougue over her teeth and was pretty satisfied with her oral hygiene!
On our way out for breakfast, we made a stopover at Nong Kae train station for some momentos. It was pretty quiet in the morning and some team members boldly took photos in the middle of the tracks! Trying to imitate others, Sue's Bunny took a crash on the tracks.
Scouring the street, we soon found a place to eat opposite Amari Hotel, Thailand's own local brand of mid to upscale chain of hotels. At 8.30 am in the morning, we were surprised the little restaurant located in an intermediate shop lot was already serving a full spread of rice and lunch dishes. While the couples shared a plate each, KC and Sue piled their plates leaving Alvin's looking rather dismal.
YC, not used to such heavy meals in the morning, turned to 7 Eleven's ham and cheese toasties. Termed Classical Conditioning, the neutral stimulus of a 7 Eleven signboard elicits a potent respond amongst many LTF team members to make a beeline for the hot melted cheese, sandwiched in a bread!
After our heavy breakfast, we left Hua Hin. We rode past some railway tracks and soon came to a busy highway with proper bicycle lanes.
We met our shirtless cyclist, spotted during breakfast. He was on his return run and by now, dripping with sweat.
We rode past Kasetsart University, a vetenarian branch campus of the main agricultural science university in Bangkok...
We rode past the Thai Army Golf Training Center. The sentinels keeping vigil at the gateway caught our eye, catching us off guard to a curious sight on the opposite side of the road. We will only realize upon our return that we had missed the Monuments of the 7 Great Kings at Rajabhakti Park.
Further down the less than 10 km bike lane, we passed Rajamangala University of Technology. Then, we left the busy highway to travel on quieter roads...
We passed a drying lake. On the far end, there was a golden statue of Buddha...
We skirted on the fringes of Pranburi Forest Reserves. Turning right to go through some village homes, Yah was speeding down the hill towards us. She overshot, then made a U-turn to meet us at the junction.
We immediately connected. The kindred spirit amongst cyclists was undeniable!!! Yah told us she is a retired teacher living in Hua Hin. An avid rider, she frequently rides on this route alone!
Bidding her farewell, we rode on the narrow concrete road, riddled with potholes. It was a short climb passing by homes with no frontage and doors that opens directly to the road. On our right were thick shrubs.
A pick up truck filled with pineapples, revved its engine but failed to pick up speed. We overtook it, turned a corner and left the settlement.
Leaving our pick up truck, we returned to the trunk road. The climbing continues though this time we have left the primary forest behind. Instead, the lay of the surrounding countryside is filled with slopes after slopes of pineapples.
At one corner, a lady sits by a blue barrel with a large blade as wide as a saw. With both hands holding the pineapple, she runs the pineapple through the blade, allowing the rind to fall into the barrel.
At a scenic valley filled with pineapples, we made a stop for regrouping. When George arrives, he said to Sue, "Sue, you are SQ staff, also Selfie Queen!" We all had a good laugh and rode on in high spirits as Alvin had promised a coffee break 3 km ahead.
3 km later, we stopped on a wide bridge that traverse a river.....There was no cafe in sight....
We had a long downhill thereafter, leading all the way to Pranburi Beach. We saw an air conditioned coffee place located at a corner lot of a row of shop houses. We ignored it to check out a hotel which looked totally deserted except for a lone staff standing by the lobby. Not an ideal coffee place for Alvin....
We met the sea and rows of 5 star luxury resorts, all with unobstructed view of the beach. Too posh for coffee....
Our actual coffee break did not come till 15 km later!! After riding on the endless promenade, which serves both as a bike path and pedestrian walkway, we finally saw The Blue Butterfly, a cafe housed in a quaint cottage styled design. They served very good Cha Ron, which comes thick, creamy and not too sweet!
Reluctant to return to the hot baking weather but a must, we geared up again. This time, the coastal road continues on to Pak Nam Pran beach. We passed Casablanca, Ios, Havana....hotels that had to resort to mimicry in order to attract guests!!!
At the end of the road is Khao Kalok, a bay with beautiful rock formations. There is a mini rock trail to climb up for an aerial view at the Thaao Ka So Forest Park. Today though, we followed the road which turns right. It led us......away!!!
A few hundred meters ahead is a Buddhist temple with a small basin of water against the backdrop of a rocky hill. Children were seen playing with the giant terrapins in the water. As the terrain was downhill, Alvin leading at that time, rolled down fast towards the beach.
Meanwhile, Claudine made a quick after thought to stop with only verbal warning. YC did not hear her and came very close to her as she veered to her left.
Everyone following behind made the stop. Wendy shared her M&M's candy with the children....George connected with the stray dogs in the vicinity....
Everyone were having a good time except Alvin, who eventually had to climb back up the slope to seek his lost lambs. He wasn't very happy but there was little he could do upon seeing 7 smiling faces!!!
Next, we rode on to Sam Roi Yod Beach. YC led us to La A Natu Bed & Bakery, a resort tucked away from the main trunk road. A hidden gem, getting to it without one's own transport will be a struggle as after leaving the road, the only access into the resort is via a narrow loose gravelled lane.
The place is commendably Thai-Laos influenced, judging by the bamboo bridge that leads to the restaurant. The beach front chalets sports thatched roof and zen designs making it a very comfortable place to unwind and relax.
We could not resist stopping for lunch which all came in small platters, expensive but very delicious. The bakery though, was no where in sight and with a lot of area restricted to "guests only", we never really get to find out where were the bread stashes!
After lunch, we left in search of a nocturnal nesting ground. The 2 places earmarked by Alvin on Sam Roi Yod beach did not meet his approval. The third place was a tad too expensive and the area too quiet to spend the night.
After a short discussion, we decided to wait out the scorching weather before hitting the road for Kuiburi beach. Meanwhile, Alvin and VT found us a nice cafe to hang out....."Cosy Cafe and Vegetarian Restaurant."
The place though, did not go beyond "Cosy". The wife chef was not in, thus we neither had coffee nor any food, not even vegetarian!!! The remaining father and son team were persuaded to serve us lemonade to which they apologized profusely for taking half an hour to squeeze 20
lemons into a 2 liter jug!!!! Putting aside the first class Vitamin C, we had to dilute the toxicity levels by adding a lot of iced water!!!
Killing time was easier said than done. While VT and George found some snooze time, one lying horizontal on a bench while the other sitting up right on a chair, the others were attacked by sand flies. Claudine received the worst harassment as she was wearing black leggings. Alvin though was tortured by a single one that did a kamikaze directly into his eye! Thankfully, Wendy had some eye solution which brought relief but the inflamed red eye was unmistakably there for some time after!
Heading out for Kuiburi, we tried a new riding formation. Alvin and YC rode abreast. Riding behind them, Claudine was protected by trees on her left and George on her right. Wendy and Sue were in the third row, followed by KC and VT. We whizzed along the countryside with the strong protecting the weak, thus sustaining a higher possible speed. This perfect formation was not for long. We soon turned into a 2 lane trunk road and with cars on both sides, we went back to single file.
Soon our real tests began. Riding along limestone hills, wind was forced through the gaps between hills, accelerating as it came through. We experienced the jet effects!!!
Thankfully, it was not a perpetual struggle as the road winded along. Somehow though, the attack of headwinds and crosswinds appear to be more constant than the benefiting tailwinds.
We passed fish farms....
We saw many monkeys by the roadside. Some sat on road barriers, observing the passing traffic....
After a long fight, we made a stop at a dingy shop which is part of a row of 5 shop lots in the middle of nowhere. There were very little things sold inside the shop. A wooden food stall stood outside but appeared to be closed for the day. We made use of the table and benches there, sharing just a large bottle of Strawberry Fanta amongst 8 of us!!! As we called for a bag of ice to fill our water bottles, we were pleasantly surprised the proprietor brought out plastic cups from a bag, meant for sale, for our use!!!
Thanking our shopkeeper and picking up our crashed bikes.......Sue's Bunny crashed twice while Claudine's Cupcake came down once from the strong winds......we left our dingy shop and limestone hills.
The last leg sees many revelations. While YC is the nurturer, always slowing down the pace for Sue, we see Alvin as the motivator, pushing her to exceed her limits. We see the liberation of womenfolk when Wendy and Claudine were asked to take over the lead. Our final bond were sealed by the ringing of bells as we rode the final kilometers to Little Home Beach, our stay for the night.
That night, we rode the 200 meters to a local restaurant by the beach. They served the finest Thai food we have eaten since we embarked on this FSTR. While we slept soundly with hot Thai green curry and succulent fish patties warming up our bellies, Hua Hin, the town that we had just left in the morning was struggling with a heinous act of terrorism. Two bombs exploded within 50 meters of each other, just before midnight, killing a local vendor and injuring at least 23 people including 10 foreigners!
Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong
Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong