|On board the Thai Railway|
We woke up to a wet morning! The rain came, the rain teetered down and the rain came again! Since it was a short ride to Chumpon to board our night train for Butterworth, Chief allowed us to sleep in with no breakfast plans.
Sue had got up to run on the beach this morning but the showers made her seek cover at Pirates Terrace. YC on his Pokémon hunt joined her later.
Unable to connect to the wifi in the room, VT and Claudine were oblivious to the breakfast venue. Eventually, they wandered out from their room to see George and Wendy gearing to go. Both couples parted ways at the exit as the latter preferred an Asian palate.
It was queer as all of us eventually congregated at the same venue! VT was bent on sausages; George and Wendy could not find the Asian they wanted; Alvin came running from his room in rain gears....
KC.......he got all of us worried!!! It was not his usual self to sleep in. Concerned, YC went to check on him and found him safe! The rain drops falling on the roof must have been a sweet lullaby for him!
After breakfast, we packed up to leave but were stalled by the rain which came pouring for the umpteenth time. When it toned down to a drizzle, we made our way in our rain gears to the reception area to hand over our keys. Alvin was in no hurry to leave and thus suggested we sit out the rain under the pergolas for coffee and tea.
When the sky finally dried up, we were all summoned to the beach to make our marks on the current fad....we posed as Pokémon Go players to commemorate the year the craze began! This global phenomenon has received mixed reviews since its launch in July, with many complimenting the game concept that encourages players to lead a more active lifestyle. Despite that, it attracts controversy for contributing to public nuisance, accidents and robberies!
Done with our pose, we hopped onto our bikes to begin our ride to Chumpon. Zeus was obviously having a field day with us, for a hundred meters later, it started to pour again. We scurried to the nearby shops for cover, separated into 3 groups and grinning sheepishly at each other through the curtains of rain!
When the rain teetered to a drizzle, we rode out....finally and successfully! We were in no hurry to reach Chumpon as our train only leaves the station at 10.45pm. YC who had previously visited this region took us on a short detour to a tiny little cape.
|The view from the bridge|
Getting to it, we have to roll past a bridge, take steep climbs up a narrow, mostly concrete path before a sheer descent to a narrow strip of land that juts out to the sea. It was so narrow, one can never decide which side of the sea to jump into!!!
At the end of the strip is a low mound filled with thick vegetation. YC suggested we tracked through the abyss to get to the furthest point of the cape. Not many went and one even turned back!
Sometime during their short romp, the rain came down hard on those waiting outside. But the 3 adventure seekers found shelter in the form of a wooden shed inside the secondary forest. They discovered an altar by a tree, vines, trees, shrubs....rocks!!!
.....and lots of mosquitoes!!!!
The ride out of the Cape has a steeper gradient. Many of us failed to climb all the way up with our bikes but KC, YC and George conquered it! Wendy was doing great until the moment she tried to change her gears. The derailleur jammed and refused to shift!!! Thus ended her career as LTF's finest lady climber.
Out of the cape, we mostly rode along the coasts. Then, we went inland through farms and swabs of cow dung. It was a wet ride, sometimes in a drizzle but mostly on a wet tarmac. By the time we got to Chumpon, we can no longer tell if we had mud or animal faeces on us!
It was past 3 pm when the hungry lot of us stopped at the first food stall in Chumpon. Claudine and VT had their first taste of Thailand's "fried roast pork". Fantastically crunchy, it was served with chicken rice!
Sue though had her eyes on economy mixed rice but she went beyond economy. She piled her plate high with a whole fried fish, lala, vegetables and countless dishes. When she was done, she walked over to the chicken rice stall to pile her plate even higher with a steamed drumstick!
Halfway eating, we were treated to a procession on the road. Leading the line up was a band, followed by cyclists and a float with uniformed men. We were so excited to see fellow cyclists, we went out cheering and waving but received very grave, somber response. This led to a debate if it was a procession to commemorate the queen's birthday or was it simply a funeral procession???
After lunch, we took a slow ride through town, heading for A-Te Hotel. This was the place the 2014 LTF team "camped out" and the place Alvin had planned for us to shower today, before boarding our train. He had painted a lovely picture of a gym and pool but conveniently left out the availability of shower stalls!!!
Claudine was horrified when told she had to shower at the open stall by the poolside! And even more mortified when someone suggested showering at the toilet with a cup over the sink...if privacy is important!!! Aggravating her condition, the coffee taken from the cafe earlier had reversed calming effects.
Creativity at its Best....YC and Sue happily paid the 150 baht required for gym and pool use. This fee came with a free drink and batted eyes to the shower scenes. Alvin and KC left for massages which came with a free use of their shower stalls. Wendy dived into the cup and sink method while George was all ready to go without a bath!
Meanwhile, Claudine felt she really needed a proper bath. One which allows her to strip all the way to her birthday suit for a good scrub. Not the lovesick couple, they sheepishly asked for hourly rate at A-Te but were turned away! They had no choice but to ride out, seeking cheaper hotel rooms.
Sanctuary came in the form of Morakot Hotel. Their old wing were let out at 450 Baht which was immediately grabbed by the couple. Once in their room, the cleaning process began!
Taking turns to shower, they also took turns to contact the team. Unable to connect to the room's wifi and finally turning on VT's data plan, they found out everyone had more or less found a way to clean themselves.
Meeting for dinner, Alvin took us on another tour of Chumpon but brought us back to base for a Thai dinner at A-Te Hotel's east meets west restaurant. He was disappointed he could not locate their 2014 trip's Chinese restaurant. Either that, or it could have closed down!
Inside the restaurant, Sue met her French family from the poolside. It must have been embarrassing to meet them again after her spectacular shower performance but she held her head high and even chatted with them!
We got into the restaurant in the rain and again, we left in the rain. This time, George has decided to take his bath and with VT, they left for Morakot Hotel.
Picking up our bags from the cafe, we were shocked it was in complete darkness at 9pm when the barista had told us she will close at 10pm!!! YC's quick mindedness to seek the hotel reception's help solved all problems. They opened the place up via the back door to allow access.
Enroute to the train station, we stopped at a nearby 7-Eleven to pick up supplies needed for our 13 hours train journey. Then we rode in heavy showers to the train station to meet up with George.
Once there, we started packing our bikes into bike bags. The train station was packed and our team attracted quite a lot of attention. 2 lady commuters sleeping on a bench even woke up to make space for us!
An earlier train for another destination arrived and hence, reduced the human traffic. With more breathing space, we asked a few railway personnels for the exact location of our coach. Somehow, we knew we had to move our heavy luggage further down, deriving from the fingers pointing gestures. Despite that, we still fell into a debate amongst ourselves as to the exact spot!
Waiting for the arrival of our train, we walked through land mines of vomit, left by a Caucasian man who did not make it to the toilet on time! The poor man tried to cup his expulsion but, it ran through the gaps between his fingers! The toilet was a mess and the "lady troll" collecting "tolls", slept through the stench!
When the train finally rumbled into the station, we scrambled for our coaches. It turned out the pillars we were told to wait at were the correct ones but we had mixed in our own assumptions to get it all wrong. It was a jumble and to make matters worst, the kind staffs suggested we place our bike bags at the cargo area which turned out to be full!!! So, when the train started to move again, the men had to carry the heavy loads through the narrow passageways to the rightful compartments. Embarrassingly, we made quite a lot of noise on an otherwise, quiet train with sleeping passengers!
We were separated into 2 coaches with sleeping berths at different ends of each coach. VT, Claudine, George and Wendy were in the same coach but were on opposite ends. YC gallantly swapped with Sue to allow her to be in close proximity to Alvin and KC. He slept alone watching over an extra sleep berth purchased for our bikes.
Once settled, VT and Claudine climbed up to their berth, stared at each other and giggled despairingly. Not able to sit up right because of the height of the berth and still not sleepy, they were doomed for a loooooong night.
Unable to settle down, VT suggested they explore the train. They tried the canteen which was packed, then moved on to the next coach to check on the rest.
Passing by George and Wendy, they saw them snuggling down for bed. The considerate couple had thoughtfully brought their 16 inched wheels on this trip so that they can haul them up on to their bed without obstructing the passage way!!!
Uncle KC was brushing his teeth while Alvin and Sue were still taking selfies....
YC was propped up with a pillow to his back, legs all stretched out with Ipad in hand....
Further up to the front was the box coach for cargo and sleeping quarters for the staffs on board. A Caucasian lady sat next to the train master, both on plastic chairs, perhaps on an interview about the railway....
With nothing else to see, VT and Claudine resigned themselves to their berth. This time, they learnt to prop themselves up like YC and thanks to George's hotspot sharing, they chatted with the team, then browsed the internet till they were really tired. Surprisingly, the night went well!
Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong
Photo credits :
KC Au Yeong