Friday, 28 October 2016

FSTR (8 - 16 August 2016), Day 5 : The Dawn of Fear

The most exciting part of the day was meeting Thailand's Friendship Cycling Group
Right after the busy highway, we had the road all to ourselves
Khan Kradai, cowboy town
Khan Kradai railway station
The way to the railway station

Khan Kradai

Khan Kradai's shopkeeper, drink seller and hairdresser
Khan Kradai's broom seller
It's downhill after Khan Kradai
Trains are everywhere!
Limestone hills
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan's noodle shop. At the end of the road is the railway station.
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Maintenance work
Here comes the locomotive
With Ugrid
Members of Friendship Cycling Group
With Tanasakda
Bang Saphan Yai
Bang Saphan Yai
Bang Saphan Yai forest park
Ladawan Boutique Hotel
Ladawan Boutique Hotel
Ladawan Boutique Hotel
Do not be deceived by the look as you can feel all the bedsprings!!!
Let's just say everything works but the hot water!
Rewarding time
16 Baht !!!

The morning at Little Home Beach was surprisingly quiet. A solemn air of silence had descended on the small resort town of Kuiburi after news of last night's sacrilege started spreading across the nation and worldwide. Alvin, who has been keeping up with news even on holiday, was our trending news portal, whatsapping us as early as 5.40am.

The beach was almost deserted except for the little stubby toddler and his parents, whom we met over last night's dinner. The 2 traditional tree mounted rope swings looked forlornly sad. It does not justify its existence as a recreational toy as it should have on every long holidays like today.

After a morning briefing and a short prayer for the dead, the injured and our safety, we left. We rode along the coastal road flanked by the beach on our left. Our eyes though, were on the road looking out for food stalls. The whole place looked dead, a wide dissemblance from the Queen's birthday, a public holiday and a long weekend for that!

We stopped by a roadside stall manned by a teenage boy with a book in hand but the stall did not look ready to serve. On our next stop, a man came out rattling in Thai, not seating us and with that we understood it as they are not serving too!

We came to the end of the road, passing a shop selling vegetables. A wooden makeshift table with stove and wok outside was frying banana fritters. We followed the road which turned right and immediately regretted our decision not to stop for the fried bananas!

The road ahead looked dauntingly deserted. Besides the bridge that ran above the railway tracks, the landscape ahead is nothing more than grasslands as far as the eyes could see.

Sue began to whimper. Claudine though was thankful she ate a few biscuits and downed the 3 in 1 coffee, the only complimentary breakfast spread offered at Little Home Beach.

As we ploughed through the countryside, already clocking more than 10 km on low fuel, banners with pictures of burgers started appearing in intervals of every 3 electricity poles. It was almost a mirage as the area still looked deserted, except for a few scattered, squalid looking houses that dotted the landscape. Drafting behind, Claudine looked up in surprise when the cruising speed reduced. Right before us was not one but two modern cafes on both sides of the road!

Choosing Coffee at Ban Lek, which looked as deserted as the one to our left, Alvin came out with a grin as wide as the Cheshire Cat! They were ready to serve and topping it all off, they have bacon and eggs!!!

It was a time to rejoice! YC who had gone ahead to the junction and returned empty was relieved we found food. The others, who had been riding on low for the last half hour, were grateful fulfillment is near. As for Sue, she was mighty glad she could finally release last night's dinner.

The bacon, eggs and toast were a nice change from rice. The only problem was the small portions were meant for Lilliputians. Not satisfied, we ordered extra toasts which comes with good butter and homemade strawberry jams.

After breakfast, we rode out again joining the busy and noisy highway. The road was newly paved but every 10 meters or so, a raphia string was nailed to the ground, perhaps to mark the location of the electricity line.

After climbing a long steep hill, we took a short break by the side of the busy highway. We were relieved when YC told us we will be leaving the noisy road soon.

It was such a pleasure to get back on rural roads but the agonizing ringing in the ears continued on for a few more seconds before disappearing. This time, we rode along a road that ran parallel to the railway line, which also ran along the coast. As both were on a plateau, the high vantage point allowed us a view of the sea and the horizon.

After some time, we reached a small village with a railway station. VT recced the place for a Cha Ron stop but returned to report that the place was completely dead except for a corner kedai runcit styled mini market that also sells vegetables and our drink stall lady that moonlights as a hairdresser! She was busy colouring her customer's hair, hence we helped ourselves to the drinks in the fridge. However, when George made an order for ice blended green tea, she stopped her work halfway to get him his beverage! This got us worried as a hurried job usually means a bad hair day for her customer but in this case, it will be months!!!

Leaving the little village of Khan Kradai, we started our descent. We rolled on a road sandwiched by 2 basins of water. Right ahead were magnificent limestone hills.

Before long, we arrived at the pristine beach of Prachuap Kiri Khan. There were proper bike lanes along this coast. Unlike most bike lanes in Thailand which are actually part of emergency lanes, this one is part of an elevated pavement. 

We followed the coastal road which runs all the way into town. A canal and clusters of shops to our right, called for attention.

Stopping by the town's grand bridge, we saw how the river opens up and dumped its gallons into the sea. 2 men awaits patiently to cast their nets into the river from a top the bridge. Further inland, we saw a slew of fishing boats parked on the sandbank, almost like beached whales.

After waiting patiently and seeing only a small fish out of water; gasping, flipping and overturning, we left for town. Stepping into town, a long red jetty and a Buddhist temple greeted us.

Today, Alvin was bent on saving us our nickels as coming from our past VSTR experience, cargo space can be 18 times more expensive than passenger tickets!!! He sent YC and George to secure our train tickets, avoiding a circus that may catch the train master's attention.

While waiting for their return, we could not resist the fruits sold by a street vendor, praying hard we will be spared cholera. Claudine though tried to be more careful by purchasing only freshly cut fruits. Unfortunately, her clever plans turned awry when the vendor placed her money pouch on the chopping board before cutting up the fruits!!!

Tickets secured, YC led us to a nice seafood noodle shop for lunch. The business was so good, waiting time was more than 40 minutes!!! However, they were worth every drop of sweat oozed from our pores, sitting in wait at the shop. They were really delicious. But .... we could not fully enjoy them as more and more news of bomb attacks began to surface.

When we were done, we hurried to the train station which was just a stone's throw away. Outside, we quickly packed our bikes into bike bags only to be informed our train was delayed!

Smiling in the face of adversity

When the train finally rolled into the station, we immediately understood the delay. On the Queen's Birthday and a long weekend as such, the train was packed. It was difficult to get ourselves on board let alone our huge bike bags. Securing 3rd class tickets only allowed us passage and not seats, as these come in first come first serve basis. Alvin's ingenious idea of separating us into 2 groups was not good enough as at the blow of the whistle, YC and VT had to clamber to the next coach without the ladies!


A dreaded feeling engulfed the ladies. The train ride was an hour and a half and with their bike bags blocking more than half the aisle, they had to apologize every time a passenger walked by. The train conductor was nice enough to offer his help to place them on the overhead compartment, not realizing how heavy the load was! No, they declined his offer, the best they could!

As the train rumbled further, VT came along to rescue the girls but they thought twice on carrying their loads through 2 coaches of packed meat. Later, YC came and insisted there were seats in the back coaches. This motivated the ladies to migrate!

After hauling and almost falling on seated passengers many times, Sue and Claudine arrived at the last 2 coaches to see the cabins filled with bikes and riders!!! It was a homecoming of sorts. They immediately fitted in with the Thai team!

A world without borders!!!

Bang Saphan Yai came too quickly when one is having fun! The girls said goodbye to their Thai friends with the promise to keep in touch. It was hard to imagine them boarding the train from Bangkok and only getting off in Chumpon, an extremely long journey with limited seats to share! What's more, they were to set up tents and sleep in a school!!!

United again, we made a pitstop at a cafe by a forest park. It was a beautiful place with picnic tables and clean grounds. We learnt that they do not have "chips" but French Fries was available!!! Well, language is fiddly, particularly around food....

We were promised a day of leisure and true to his words, we arrived at Ladawan Boutique Hotel quickly! Directly opposite the hotel was a nice restaurant and cafe which served delicious Thai food at reasonable prices. Sadly, they were short of hand and could not serve us coffee. But no one were complaining. We were just thankful we got to Bang Saphan Yai in one piece, literally....for by dinner time our trending news portal, Ped Al informed us that 11 bombs hand exploded all over Thailand!!!

With Kitiphong
Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong 
Ped Al