Saturday, 5 November 2016

FSTR (8 - 16 August 2016), Day 6 : Day of Thanksgiving

LTF Team at Ladawan Boutique Hotel
Flags to commemorate the Queen's Birthday
Concrete Road
The hills are alive!
Manual roadworks!
Laundry on the move!
Through Palm Oil Estates....
.... To Rubber Estates!!
The so called bus stop
Ecstatic with noodles
Right after Pinery Resort, the roadworks continued
In the vicinity of Chum Koh, Pathio
Lost a tourer, found a Cha Ron stop
Roadworks continued on to Thung Wua Laen

We all woke up feeling positive. We all felt loved and appreciated. The day before, friends and family had poured their concerns, calling and texting us. While Claudine had hurriedly texted her brother, he joked their parents were totally unaware of the bomb attacks! June had cautioned Claudine while Papa Mike WhatsApp called to check on the team!

Cheery as we were, a sense of foreboding engulfed us as we rolled out. Dark clouds loomed above us, threatening rain. Every now and then, we felt sprinkles of blessings from above.

Breakfast is always a tough challenge! The beach restaurant we dined in last night was closed and so were the others around the area. Leaving the coast, we rolled past Pa Klang Ao forest park again. The "French Fries" cafe from last evening was has yet to start operations.

Coming close to a short radius of the railway station, one food stall was enjoying brisk business but Alvin was not keen on rice and roast pork in the morning. Instead, he veered left at the junction to the train station and led us into town.

It was a wise move! Alvin found us one of the best pork porridges in Thailand!!! Opposite the shop is a market to which VT and Claudine scoured for tit bits. They came back with fried popiah. A roadside stall offered barbecued pork chops to which we chomped down thinking of Papa Mike. Meanwhile, YC went to the nearby 7 Eleven for his staples and Sue chose to eat cold noodle salad instead!!!

The drizzle had stopped by the time we were ready to roll out again. This time though, YC was plagued with a bigger water issue. The 5 liters bottled water from 7 Eleven filled all our bottles with a lot leftover. He had no choice but to secure it to his rack with a cargo net!

Rolling out of town, we had to scale quite a few slopes. On one of the climbs, YC raced to the top easily. But most of us lagging behind were cornered by a lorry with a trailer that was puffing out thick black smoke. Even though it overtook us, it began to heave and huff midway up the slope. Not wanting to break our momentum, many of us overtook the lorry and even got a teasing honk from the driver!

Once on flatter grounds, we played a game of cat and mouse with a pick up truck blaring a recording in Thai through its loud speakers. They could very well be screaming out, "Jualan Murah!! Jualan Murah!! Marilah beramai-ramai ke Pasaraya The Store!!!", reminiscent of yesteryear's sales pitch. The accompanying music got us going and we soon broke away with our own rendition of songs, compliments of Alvin, KC and Sue!

It was a ride from a 7 Eleven to another 7 Eleven! We made a stop at one, after riding for more than an hour in scorching morning heat. Strange that these "Store and more" can be found in the most remote parts of Thailand! But judging from the sale of steamed dumplings to rice grains, they really live up to its name !

Hitting the road again, we soon transcended a wide river. The tell tale signs of seine nets built across the river proofed its economic viability. A man maneuvering the shallow waters with 2 pails in hand probably depended on the catch as a source of income.

Today, our route takes us into the backlands. We climbed hours on ends through countless hills and rubber estates. Resting, after conquering one slope, YC congratulated everyone for scaling the highest elevation for the day, 108 m!

Winded after the umpteenth hill, we made a stop at the first shop we see for miles. We shared a few 1.5 liters of carbonated drinks, piled our stainless steel cups high with ice and were strangely charged the cost of drinks only. Ice, water and sometimes Chinese tea are always free in most parts of Thailand, compliments of the house!

Taking leave, some team members dawdled a bit longer. Alvin was ahead, when it started to pour hard! Just 50 meters behind him was Claudine. Both looked behind to see no one following. Both looked at each other in a dilemma!

As shelter in the form of some mechanic's garage was a few feet behind, Claudine scurried for it. She did a backward glance to see Alvin riding towards what looked like a bus stop shelter! Approaching from behind, George and Wendy joined her. This helped to calm her nerves as dogs were sharing the same cover!

It was pelting hard! George and Wendy put on their rain gears. Claudine though, realized a little too late that her rain vest was with her hubby who was still stuck in the first shop!!!

We were quite lucky as the rain came and went with the winds quickly. For whatever droplets that was left, we braved them to check on Alvin! He wasn't in a bad shape but was led by divine intervention NOT to a bus stop but to a woodside stall offering fantastic meatball noodles. Our resourceful chief had made himself comfortable and even placed orders for fried rice and Pad Thai while waiting for the rest of us!

We enjoyed a long lunch before riding out again. This time, we were rolling downhill...

Coming closer to the coast, we noticed the left turn for the sand dunes mentioned by Kitiphong Suchart, our new friend from yesterday's train ride. We had to give it a miss as our accommodations for the night was still unconfirmed. Little did we realize we have missed out on a natural phenomenon caused by rising and receding sea levels during the late Pleistocene era!

After the coast, we had another round of roller coaster ride. Coming down on one V slope that stretched for more than 800 meters, we had to slow down at a junction before climbing back up again! This totally broke our momentum and we had to start climbing from scratch!

As we climbed and climbed, leaving the coast, it started pelting again. KC turned into the verandah of some estate worker's basic housing. Everyone followed with herd mentality but all preferred to carry on in the rain. Thus, when YC and George arrived, we set out again!

Just a hundred meters later, YC called out for us to ride ahead. George's tyre was looking rather flat and needed attention. KC offered his expertise and it was now up to Alvin to lead the remaining group alone.

We followed our Alpha through the Hundred Acres Wood! The rain came, the rain went and so did our disposable shower caps until they tore!

Passing by a rubber estate with processed rubber sheets hanging out to dry, Claudine could not resist a stop. She braved the guard dogs to take a photo while Sue braved the leeches to answer the call of nature! It was a brief stop but one that allowed the rest on the tube change department to catch up!

We were still riding through rubber estates when the rain caught up with us again. This time, respite was at a Kedai Runcit styled shop. Asking permission to use their toilet, the lady boss behind the counter pointed at the doorway towards the rubber estate outside! Claudine was shocked that the lady had told her to answer the call of nature .... out in nature itself! 

Meanwhile, Alvin was having the queerest desire to eat canned rambutans in syrup. He seeked Claudine's help to get bowl, ice and spoons from the lady but she ran away from the task fearing the dragon lady. 

It turned out, it was all a misunderstanding! Alvin got his canned rambutans and the toilet was really an outhouse unit, located outside the shop!!!

Moving on as a group again, we descended the hills. Arriving at the coast, we were appalled with the conditions of a so called beach resort! Restaurants and accommodations were few and spaced out. There were hardly any souls around at 3 pm, perhaps siesta time? With no street lights and a road due for expansion, we rattled for kilometers on end through loose gravels all the way to Pinery Resort.

Pinery Resort at Chum Kho looked like a decent place but we already knew from the start they could not take us in. Instead, the proprietor had offered their other property, located just a few kilometers away. As agreed, we met at Pinery Resort from which he allowed us to tail after his Mercedes Benz!

The new place was NEW! After the 3 letter word, we sat down and discussed :

1. The location .... no sights of the beach
2. The geographical surrounding .... bad roads, no street lights
3. The population of the area .... almost deserted (No, we don't want to be part of the census as in Population 436, the movie!)
4. The lack of food source .... unless we are willing to fish???

We left with apologies, more profusely by some who had taken the "Pop" drinks offered by them.

Riding on, we were split. YC wanted us to head for Thung Wua Laen beach which was 22 km away. However Chumpon being our final destination in Thailand was a short 35 km, cutting off an additional day of riding and dirty laundry.

Campaigning hard for Chumpon was Claudine. George, Wendy and KC were ready to roll the distance in the dark. Some though couldn't care less where they will sleep for the night!

While on a friendly debate, we suddenly spotted our lone tourer from the earlier 7 Eleven stop. We tried to catch up with him but he was too fast. Turning the corner, he disappeared but in his place, we found a nice Cha Ron stop!

It was finally decided that we will first head for Thung Wua Laen beach and thereafter Chumpon if accommodations are unsatisfactory.

Again, we climbed....

Again, we descended....

The shortcut junction to Chumpon

Just 2 km to the "shortcut junction for Chumpon", Claudine and VT were stung by "shrapnels" from a speeding lorry! The tyres were churning up sand from the ground!!!

Thung Wua Laen town came quickly. A night market was bustling on its Main Street. We made a brief stop for Alvin to check out a reflexology center, hoping for rooms to let upstairs. It would have been splendid as the shop lot had a beachfront and we could dine on night market fare but Lady Luck was not with us!

It turned out, the beach was still a good distance away and requires scaling up and down another hill! We rode through wet slippery terrains and yet another drizzle. But we were well rewarded! The beach was nothing like the one at Chum Kho!!! This was a touristy place with many shops and restaurants. They even have a diving and sailing school!!!

Dodging the puddles of water left by the rain, we saw that the Thai Army were deployed here for patrols! This was comforting, considering that the previous 11 bomb attacks were targeted on tourist areas.

Alvin found us a nice place to put up for the night ... Clean Wave Resort, has nice chalets that comes with newly renovated bathrooms! Dinner was at the same concern's restaurant with a beachview. However, we could hardly see the food we ate in the dimly lit huts! This was just as well because the food wasn't anything to shout about!

We tried to make it up by having coffee at Pirates Terrace, a popular hangout with Farangs but they were so understaffed a man and his boy had to wait forever to pay for their ice creams. Securing a table and settling ourselves down, we were still ignored! As we left, George giggled to Claudine that there were too many potted plants in the restaurant, something to steer away, as this was the instrument to which the first bomb was hidden at Hua Hin!!!

We found a restaurant further down the road with an open bar and band that was willing to take us in. While Sue treated everyone to a supper of pizzas, it was interesting to note everyone's different ideas of night caps. Some had hot chocolate, some had coffee while some had alcohol!!!

It was a day to give thanks! We found a nice hole to call home for the night, thanks to YC's insistence. We should never have doubted him! We went to bed with warm bellies, thanks to Sue's generosity. While some said Amen and some said Amin, we were really thankful we had come so faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar together !!!

Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong 
Ped Al

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