Tag Archives: cycling southeast asia

Singapore- Gettin In and Bikin’ Around

124.2 kilometers in 3 days

(1 day of futzing around buses and trucks, 1 day of futzing around Singapore)

2,552 kilometers SO FAR

This was what we were working towards- a park full of metaltrees!
This was what we were working towards- a park full of metaltrees!

Getting In:

Day 42- July 16,2015- Gelang Patah to Johor Bahru

85 kilometers (some by bus, some by durian delivery truck…)

Because we were coming from the west (Melakka) we figured it would be easiest to cross into Malaysia via their western border crossing at Tuas. The following is why that was a bad idea, but why we couldn’t have known until we tried.

The meal we thought would be our last in Malaysia. Roti Canai with eggs and iced coffees.
The meal we thought would be our last in Malaysia. Roti Canai with eggs and iced coffees.

We based ourselves outside of Gelang Patah which is collection of empty but hopeful suburbs and strip malls 15 kilometers from the Tuas border into Singapore. Since we were so close we took our time leaving in the morning, spent the last of our Malaysian ringgits on a really good breakfast, and started cycling. Gelang Patah is connected to the rest of Malaysia and Singapore by a massively confusing network of highways which is lined with even emptier, quiet suburbs and strip malls.

The highway that was marked "no bicycles". Surely they couldn't have meant us...
The highway that was marked “no bicycles”. Surely they couldn’t have meant us…

After winding around those highways we finally turned onto an on-ramp that had a pretty clear “no bicycles” sigh, but it was the only highway to the border. There was a good shoulder for us to ride on, and we were only 10 kilometers from the border, we had to push on.

We had read on multiple blogs that it was easy to take bicycles across the border- just follow the motorbikes. So we pulled up to the Malaysia exit window meant for motorbikes and were turned around.

“Bicycles aren’t allowed to cross this border. It’s not safe.”

This seemed ridiculous, we’d already biked 10 kilometers down a really stupid highway to get here, we weren’t about to get turned around. So he suggested we try to go with a bus. Fine. We biked down to the bus section. The bus crossing at that moment wouldn’t take us- this seemed like it was up to the driver’s discretion as the border officials fully approved this idea. At this point the immigration officers said we had two options. Either turn around and bike back into Malaysia or try to fit our bicycles into the back of a lorry. They had no problem letting us bike through, but the Singapore side is supposedly really strict and you can’t cross this border unless you’re in a vehicle.

Just our bikes waiting for  a truck to take us over to Singapore.
Just our bikes waiting for a truck to take us over to Singapore.

So we tried, as a last resort, the lorries. We met an immigration officer named Poo who helped us find a rickety truck full of durians that has agreed to take us and our bicycles in the back of his truck. Poo made it pretty clear that once we were in Singapore we were on our own. But his biggest concern was whether the strong stench of the durian would bother us.

Loading our bikes into the back of that kind durian truck that offered to take us.
Loading our bikes into the back of that kind durian truck that offered to take us.

We loaded everything into the truck and set off across the causeway to Singapore! This actually felt like it was working. And how perfect would it have been to arrive in Singapore in a truck full of its national fruit? Too perfect apparently…

Our bikes inside the durian truck.
Our bikes inside the durian truck.

Just before we finished crossing the bridge into Singapore the truck driver pulled over to the side of the road and opened the back. Apparently this is where we were supposed to get off. And while we appreciated his efforts we couldn’t help but think they’re a little half-assed. Still, at this point there was no way Singapore immigration would turn us around. It’d be less safe for us to cycle back into Malaysia than to just continue on into Singapore. Right?

Maybe not quite as welcoming as it looked...this was taken about 1 minute before we were turned back.
Maybe not quite as welcoming as it looked…this was taken about 1 minute before we were turned back.

Wrong.  A cross looking immigration officer has positioned himself to great us at the bottom of this bridge. And by great I mean promptly turn us away because there was no way they could accept bicycles through this border. He offered to “escort” us to the other side of the highway where he watched us bike back over that bridge to get an entrance stamp to Malaysia only twenty minutes after we got the departure stamp.

We had no more Malaysian money, two new Malaysia stamps in our passport, and no idea how to get into this tiny island of a country. We found a bus that was willing to take us back to Johor Bahru- where the other entrance to Singapore is located. From there we figured we could find a bus that would take us and our bikes into Singapore since apparently we’re not cycling across. Johor Bahru is just as confusing as the town we started in. We cycle to the border crossing from Johor Bahru which seems identical to the other one we already failed at that day. It’s 5pm, there’s a ton of traffic, it was very hilly, and we don’t know if the border is even still open and have no reason to believe this is going to go any better than our last attempt to get into Singapore.

So instead of trying to cross that night and having to arrive in Singapore after dark we find a cheap dirty hotel, which was made even more miserable by the fact that we weren’t supposed to be sleeping in Malaysia that night. We were only 30 kilometers away from where we had started that day.

We fell asleep to the sounds of fireworks going off all over the city to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Day 43- July 17, 2015- Johor Bahru to Singapore (finally)

39.2 kilometers

We spent our night doing research on how to cycle into Singapore. We had obviously done this research before but clearly we had missed something. There were blogs of cyclists who had done it, even a video of what the crossing on a bicycle. All of this was from Johor Bahru. But the official Singapore immigration site made no distinction between the Tuas and Johor Bahru border. The point is- yesterday was not entirely our fault and we will continue to blame Singapore just a little bit.

Kiri sitting on a bus on the way to another Singapore border.
Kiri sitting on a bus on the way to another Singapore border.

We found a bus that would take us to the border. And it dropped us off almost exactly where we had turned around the day before. Only this time an immigration officer met us, and pointed us towards the motorbike section, assuring us that we could cycle into Singapore. Just to make sure we asked him a couple of times.

The lovely causeway connecting Malaysia to Singapore that we were allowed to use!
The lovely causeway connecting Malaysia to Singapore that we were allowed to use!

And sure enough after getting a stamp, and cycling across a bridge in a lane that had welcoming signs for motorbikes and bicycles, we were getting our passports stamped into Singapore. So it really was just that easy. But again, how were we supposed to know?

There are a few ironic things about this map:

  1. The route we originally attempted, you know, the one where we were turned back at the border, is actually longer than the alternative route that would have put us at the border we needed to be at to cross via bicycle.
  2. Just to recap- it should have taken no more than 48 kilometers to get into Singapore from Gelang Patah- it took us 124…..

DO NOT TRY TO BIKE THROUGH THE TUAS BORDER TO SINGAPORE!!!

 

DSC06144Cycling into Singapore is easy as long as you stay off the freeway and you really don’t want to be on the freeway. It is actually illegal to cycle on the freeway in Singapore, we found out later.  There are parkways and sidewalks and paths and the traffic is really respectful of cyclists. This is probably because for the first time in over a month we weren’t the only cyclists on the road.

Singapore skyline at dusk.
Singapore skyline at dusk.

We got to our hostel, got moved into our “pods” (read: cozy individual caves with reading lamps), and set out to explore Singapore.

The Merlion spitting into the bay!
The Merlion spitting into the bay!

That night we wandered through a garden full of real beautiful plants and artificial towering metal trees. We visited the Merlion- the symbol of Singapore that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish rendering it the most useless mystical creature I’ve ever heard of.

A free (and romantic) evening of jazz.
A free (and romantic) evening of jazz.

We stumbled upon a free jazz concert over the harbor as the sun was setting, and then ended up finding a good and cheap meal in Chinatown.

The Singapore skyline at night!
The Singapore skyline at night!

Day 43 and 44- July 18 and 19, 2015

Good incentive not to ride where they tell you not to.
Good incentive not to ride where they tell you not to.

Singapore is known for having a great network of cycling and running trails across the country/city. Since we had come here on bicycles we figured it would be a waste to not use them in this city.

Biking around a park on a Saturday- more like amateur hour with everyone out on the paths.
Biking around a park on a Saturday- more like amateur hour with everyone out on the paths.

So we spent an afternoon figuring out some of these trails and park connectors until we found ourselves at the south eastern shore sharing the really well-made trail with roller-bladers, other more serious cyclists, 4-person cycle-buggys, and kids on tricycles. It felt like we were just out for a ride in the park back in the States.

Finishing our day of cycling around Singapore in front of the prettier parts of the skyline.
Finishing our day of cycling around Singapore in front of the prettier parts of the skyline.
Singapore was getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The day we were there  they were putting on a  military show.
Singapore was getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The day we were there they were putting on a military show.

Another thing Singapore is known for is their Zoo. So the next day we had to get out there before we packed up to fly to Cambodia. And it lived up to it’s hype. Probably the highlight was the elephant show where the elephants shot water at the crowd through their trunks, stole their keepers hats, all lay down for a nap together, and then got up and bowed at the end. But all of it was pretty cool.

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Just an orangutan lazin' away the day at the zoo.
Just an orangutan lazin’ away the day at the zoo.
The happiest elephant I've ever seen- just look at that smile!
The happiest elephant I’ve ever seen- just look at that smile!

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And then it was time to leave. Singapore is more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia and we didn’t have the money to spend more than two full days there. We had eaten as cheaply as possible in Chinese food courts and had found the cheapest hostel we could. We spent a day riding our bikes around which is free. So we spent as little as we could. Still it was time to go.

Getting out:

Singapore was something of the end of the line for us. We had made it all the way down the peninsula and we still had two weeks of our trip left. Indonesia wasn’t a possibility since Bali’s airport was shut down because a volcano wouldn’t stop spewing ash that was interfering with the airplanes. So we bought plane tickets to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, figuring we could throw together a good 2-week cycling route there before heading back to Bangkok.

Carrying the bike boxes we got back to our hostel.
Carrying the bike boxes we got back to our hostel.

Flying with bicycles was a new thing to both of us. We hadn’t found a bike store in Singapore that could box our bikes in less than a week, and had only found one store that would give us bike boxes to do it ourselves. So for our last night we took over our hostels ground floor to almost entirely take apart our bikes so they could fit into the small bike boxes we had gotten from this store.

Kiri's bike- almost totally disassembled.
Kiri’s bike- almost totally disassembled.

We took handlebars off, kickstand off, rear rack and seat off. We removed the front stem, wheels, tires, and tubes from Kiri’s bike to force it into the smaller of the bike boxes, and even then it was a tight squeeze.

After three hours, covered in grease and sweat, the bikes were boxed, our bags were packed, and we were ready to fly!

Finishing boxing the bikes at 9pm- yes the headlamp was necessary.
Finishing boxing the bikes at 9pm- yes the headlamp was necessary.

Next stop: Cambodia!

Waiting at the Singapore airport with all our boxes!
Waiting at the Singapore airport with all our boxes!

Side Trip- Taman Negara

July 6, 7, 8, 2015

DSC05819We left our bicycles at the NKS travel agency in Jerantut and took their one hour shuttle to Kuala Tehan. We had briefly considered cycling the 50 kilometers to the park entrance, but after seeing the steep hills, sharp turns, and massive trucks, we were pretty thankful we had paid the 15 RMs to take a bus.

The road on the way from Jerantut to Teman Negara- even though you're biking to the most amazing jungle you have to go through a scene from the Lorax to get there.
The road on the way from Jerantut to Taman Negara- even though you’re biking to the most amazing jungle you have to go through a scene from the Lorax to get there.

We showed up without any hotel reservation and found the Teresek View Hotel that had air conditioned rooms for 75 RM per night. And after showing up in the late afternoon and carrying our bags up and down the hills in Kuala Tehan we were pretty positive we needed air conditioning. However, the nighttime air in the forest does cool down quite a bit and a room with a good fan probably would have been sufficient too.

Kuala Tehan- after a large storm and flooding in December 2013 a lot of the town ended up getting wiped out and was still being rebuilt when we got there.
Kuala Tehan- after a large storm and flooding in December 2013 a lot of the town ended up getting wiped out and was still being rebuilt when we got there.
The boats that take you across the river for 1 Malaysian Ringgit ($0.3)
The boats that take you across the river for 1 Malaysian Ringgit ($0.3)

The next day we took the 1RM transfer boat from Kuala Tehan across the river to the park headquarters. We bought our park pass which was apparently good for entry to the park any time in the next month. We then hiked in along the manicured boardwalk until we got to the canopy walkway, which was truly amazing (worth the extra 5RM per person). You walk between a series of approximately ten trees in the elevated jungle canopy, it’s really an incredible experience. A few hundred meters of the old canopy walk had been closed because of massive flooding that had come through the park in December 2014, but the section that is still open is wonderful.

A piece of the jungle canopy walk.
A piece of the jungle canopy walk.
Jungle Canopy Walkway
Jungle Canopy Walkway
More of the jungle canopy walkway- easily the coolest part of the trip!!
More of the jungle canopy walkway- easily the coolest part of the trip!!

We then hiked up Bukit Teresek which rewarded us with a great and slightly hazy view of the park from the top. There are two trails that can get you up the hill. One trail- if you are coming from the canopy walk, has boardwalk steps that lead you most of the way up the hill. The other trail which we took down is much more rustic with nothing more than roots and trees and a rope lining the path to get you up and down the mountain.

The somewhat hazy view from the top of Bukit Teresek.
The somewhat hazy view from the top of Bukit Teresek.

That night we did a night jungle trek, which you do have to do with a guide. Our guide made it very clear that we probably wouldn’t be seeing any large wildlife but if we paid attention we would see some very cool insects. There were a lot of other groups doing their night hikes at the same time so the goal of being “silent” to be immersed in the sounds of the jungle was never really achieved. Still it was a pretty cool experience being in that jungle at night.

A walking stick we found on our night trek.
A walking stick we found on our night trek.
The parks resident tapir who comes over to reception every night for fruit.
The parks resident tapir who comes over to reception every night for fruit.

The next day we hiked around in the park in the morning. We mostly retraced our steps from the previous day since there aren’t that many trails you can take with only a couple of hours. I mentioned the flooding from December 2014 that hurt the canopy walk, it also wiped out a couple of the trails that are closer to the park entrance. These still haven’t been restored yet.

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In the afternoon we caught the public bus back to Jerantut. It was only 7RM per person and got us there in an hour. This has to be the cheapest way to get into and out of the park.
After spending a week cycling through industry and palm forest hell it was really refreshing to get a glimpse of what the old Malaysia used to look like- the dense rainforest filled with the lively sounds of the wildlife it’s protecting. I would recommend any traveler in Malaysia take the time to go and I would recommend doing it on your own since it’s an easy place to visit without a tour company.

The "largest grassland in Teman Negara". A little different from the grasslands in Tanzania.
The “largest grassland in Taman Negara”. A little different from the grasslands in Tanzania.

Logistics-
There are tons of places that offer to organize tours and treks through Taman Negara. While these seemed reasonably priced we also knew that we could visit this national park on our own, save some money, and have a totally free itinerary once we got into the park. The only downside to organizing your trip on your own is that you can only go so far into the park without a guide and you really won’t be able to do any multi-day trekking.

You can enter the park via bus (public or private) or you can arrange with a company to take a boat which is more expensive but is supposed to be beautiful.

Accommodation- Kuala Tehan is filled with a range of accommodation from cheap hostels to larger hotels. We didn’t need to make a reservation and there were plenty of rooms available.

Food- along the river there are at least 7 floating restaurants that all serve similar food- rice, noodles, meat, burgers, smoothies. The prices are reasonable and the food is tasty.

Other things to consider- the jungle is full of leeches! We didn’t see any on our first day but after it rained that evening the leeches came out the next day. They don’t hurt they just suck, literally! Other than that the major paths closer to the park entrance are marked with elevated walkways and are easy to navigate.

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Into Central Malaysia: Kuantan to Jerantut

169.1 total kilometers in 2 days of cycling

1,951.3 kilometers so far

Day 29- July 3, 2015- rest day in Kuantan

 

The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.
The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.

Still not convinced we wanted to continue cycling in Malaysia we decided to take a day in Kuantan to figure out what our next move would be. And to visit the mini-zoo and beach.

 

Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.
Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.

The Kuantan mini-zoo is an awesome place! They’ve got a couple of great exhibits featuring porcupines and geese and ostriches and an island for gibbons. It’s cute, quiet, and free! Right next to the zoo is some sort of bicycle playground. ‘ series of tiny roads with tiny fake traffic lights and traffic circles that you can zoom around in on your bike. Then we made it over to the beach where they’ve got a couple of restaurants set up and a walkway that takes you around some cliffs over to another beach. It was beautiful and the perfect rest day.

The beach outside of Kuantan.
The beach outside of Kuantan.

To our surprise there were a couple of restaurants that were open in Kuantan. We were able to get breakfast and pick up some sandwiches to take with us to the beach. This was also where we started seeing more Chinese people who seem to be responsible for keeping the non-Muslim population fed during Ramadan.

The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!
The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!

We decided that we didn’t want to give up on Malaysia yet, especially after this unexpected gem of a day. We figured that we had hit a bad patch of days through industry and destruction, so Instead of sticking to the east coast all the way through Malaysia we would turn inland in hopes of better fortune. We had been wanting to see the famous rainforest national park Teman Negara, so we decided to cycle there and then head south to the south-western coast of Malaysia. It sounded more promising than the potential the find more of the same painful industry and trucks along the coast.

Day 30- July 4, 2015- Kuantan to Maran

88.5 kilometers

The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.
The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.

This was our first day cycling inland, which was a much-needed break from the same coastline. Today was back to highway cycling, but the scenery was a bit different – mostly rolling hills either covered with lovely forests or endless miles of palm oil plantations. At first glance these plantations are beautiful they’re this luscious shade of green that carpets the hills. But once you spend days cycling past them and realize its just monoculture that is taking over the landscape it loses all of that appeal.

Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.
Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.

Mike got two flat tires today – both on the rear wheel. Combined with a stomach ache, this didn’t seem like the most promising of days. We still didn’t have any good tire patches, just weak useless ones that leaked. Plus we were heading towards a town that we had heard had NO hotels. So it should have made sense for us to stop when we passed a town that had a hotel right next to a tire shop that was 15 kilometers away from our destination, but we pushed on to Maran.

The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.
The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.

After biking in circles around the town that is actually pretty big, we had confirmed that there was no hotel. As the day turned into evening and the Ramadan bazaars began to bustle, we were not only homeless, but also concerned that anyone running a hotel would soon be joining the crowds to find food. Some shopkeepers had told us that there were chalets to rent, but we just couldn’t seem to figure out where they were talking about. We eventually found a string of chalets next to the Maran Hill Golf Resort, but there was no one around to help us- not too surprising.

The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.
The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.

Our last hope was to hike up a pretty steep hill towards the unkept and deserted golf course to try to see if anyone was in the one building at the top – obviously not our first choice at the end of the day. But it was our only choice, and although inconveniently located we had to check since this was our last resort before we hung up Mike’s hammock and squeezed into it for the night.

 

The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.
The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.

Turns out the reception for those chalets everyone was talking about was conveniently located at the top of that hill, and we found ourselves sleeping in the only accommodation available in Maran.

Day 31- July 5, 2015- Maran to Jerantut

80.6 kilometers

Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.
Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.

The day started out beautifully. After climbing through some rolling hills the previous day, we got rewarded with a morning of coasting downhill through luscious shady jungle forests and ended up at a beautiful Hindu temple we got off at to explore.

The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.
The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.

The afternoon wasn’t quite as pleasant as the highway continues through, you guessed it, more palm plantations. It was an uncovered hot afternoon of highway cycling, but we ended up yet again in a beautiful town.

The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.
The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.

 

After collecting some food from the evening bazaar, we found a great park where we enjoyed our Ramadan fast-breaking dinner with the rest of the town. It seemed like we were finally doing something right and figured out how to cycle during Ramadan without being miserable. However, Jerantut was our jumping off point to a big tourist draw in Malaysia, Teman Negara, where Ramadan would no longer be an issue.

The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too "seksi".
The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too “seksi”.

Week 2- Surat Thani to Songkhla, Thailand

(note- this map is not our actual route, we’re working on getting our GPS tracks online but for now this is just to give you all some idea of what we did)

TOTAL distance of week 2- 418 kilometers
Total distance of the trip so far- 1,085 km
TOTAL hours cycling- 27 hours (and 2 hours of hiking)
Average speed- 14.4 kph
# of days on the bikes- 6
# of flat tires- 0


Day 8- June 12, 2015- Surat Thani- REST DAY

Today we took the day off because well, we’d been riding for a week straight, our butts were sore and we decided we deserved it. We spent 2 nights and 1 day in Surrat Thani where we did some bike cleaning and maintenance, took a few naps, and attempted to go on a date to a highly recommended restaurant that was celebrated for being “romantic and cheap”. This date never happened because the restaurant didnt exist and after over an hour of wandering we ended up by the docks with a pizza, pad thai, and a few beers. Which honestly might have been better than whatever this restaurant had to offer!


Day 9- June 12, 2015- Surat Thani to Khanom

78.2 kilometers in 5 hours and 45 minutes of riding time
Average speed- 13.6 kph

One of the monoculture fields of palm oil producing trees (we're guessing) that have been planted all along our route. While monoculture from deforestation is obviously a terrible thing, they've at least offered us some shade.
One of the monoculture fields of palm oil producing trees (we’re guessing) that have been planted all along our route. While monoculture from deforestation is obviously a terrible thing, they’ve at least offered us some shade.

We decided that it was about time to take a beach holiday! We’d been riding along the Thai coast for a week and the water did look beautiful, even though it was a little warm. We opted not to go to Koh Samui- the island off the Thai mainland that is a popular tourist destination. Instead we looked at a map and figured that if we could get ourselves out of this city and onto the Thai coast again we could find a beach bungalow and not be surrounded by tourists. Some quick research showed that there were nice beaches in Khanom and plenty of bungalow options. It seemed like an easy laid-back beach getaway.

We arrived to find many bungalows available (and many closed for the low season). After checking at a few and stubbornly sticking to a low price that we were sure we could get we settled on a hotel we still don’t know the name of. The wall was decorated with a picture of a half-naked Asian woman on one wall and a framed picture of a motorcycle on the other. Mike spent our first five minutes killing all the cockroaches in our bathroom. Turns out that right next door was a French man who had just opened up a complex of bungalows for a nice low price with great food and beanbag chairs to relax in, so we spent most of our time there. We decided this spot was probably not the spot we wanted to stay at for our beach vacation, and started to make a plan to continue south the next day for a shorter day on the bikes and more beach time.


Day 10- June 13, 2015- Khanom to Sichon

37.8 kilometers in 2 and a half hours of hiking and 1 and a half hours of biking
Average speed- no need to talk about it

Mike on a bike
Mike on a bike

Mike’s GPS showed a three kilometer gap between where one coastal road ended and the next began. There was a national park in this gap. Still, we could not understand why Thailand would be so forgetful as to just forget a necessary section of road. So we asked a French man who was living in the area about this seeming oversight:
“Is it possible to bike through this area?”
His first question was, “What kind of bikes do you have?”I think we made it pretty clear that we were on bicycles not motorbikes which is what most people here assume we are riding when we tell them we’re going all the way to Singapore.
He said there was a road. He said it was a “clay” road. He made a wavy motion with his arm to indicate that it was hills. But he did say it was possible.

Choose your own adventure
Choose your own adventure

The next day we were forced to walk our bikes up the steep inclines of the paved road that wound up around the cliffs that looked over the sea (mind you this is the road that still exists even on the GPS; we weren’t even on our imaginary road yet). We started to think this French man might not have been exactly an expert on this area.

We followed the paved road down literally to the “End of the Road” beach resort. In front of us was a beautiful beach. In the direction we wanted to go there were cliffs. Behind us was a steeply graded hill. We asked the friendly Thai owners how to get to the other side of this nonexistent road and they agreed that yes there was a road but said it wasn’t safe.

This homestay was our last sign that the road we were about to attempt through a national park was a BAD idea!
This homestay was our last sign that the road we were about to attempt through a national park was a BAD idea!

This was not the first time we had been told that a trail we wanted to go down wasn’t safe. And we really didn’t want to backtrack five kilometers just to get to a highway that we didn’t want to ride on. So we decided to turn onto this dirt road. We understood that for a change we would be carrying our bikes up and down steep mountains, not the other way around. These cliffs were made un-ridable by the loose dirt and large rocks littered across the path. We knew we were getting into at least a three kilometer hike with our bikes and all of our belongings. And then we started talking about the potential to find elephants in this park.

One of the bigger hills we walked up here, so we had to leave one of the bikes behind, at least for a bit.
One of the bigger hills we walked up here, so we had to leave one of the bikes behind, at least for a bit.

Downhills were slow, we wore out our breaks and our knees. Uphills were an ordeal. We pushed and pulled our individual bikes up steep gradients just struggling to keep some kind of forward momentum. At times we would team up to push one bike up at a time, leaving the other sitting there patiently at the bottom of the hill waiting for us to go again. Or we would portage the things- one of us would take the panniers and the other would push a slightly lighter bike. Through some combination of these struggles we emerged on a paved road 3.3 kilometers and 2.5 hours later. The first sign we found warned trucks to take the coming declines in a “low” gear.

The views from the tops of these hills were amazing
The views from the tops of these hills were amazing
Because taking pictures seemed more pressing than helping get the bikes up the hill...
Because taking pictures seemed more pressing than helping get the bikes up the hill…
The entrance to this dirt-road, cliff-filled, seaside national park that we were about to walk all the way through.
The entrance to this dirt-road, cliff-filled, seaside national park that we were about to walk all the way through

Day 11- June 14, 2015- Sichon to Nakon Si Thammarat

72.7 kilometers in 4 hours and 38 minutes of biking time
Average speed- 15.7 kph

Side of the road stalls that sell all kinds of  yard decorations that you can find all over the country!
Side of the road stalls that sell all kinds of yard decorations that you can find all over the country!

Wanting to prove that we had learned a lesson from yesterday, we spent most of today on clearly marked, existent roads. This kept us on Highway 401 near the coast almost the entire day. Up closer to Sichon there were a few quiet back roads, some paved and some not, that took us in the direction we wanted to go in. After finishing with those we got back on the highway for 30 kilometers until we reached the town of Tha Sala. From there we had to stay on the highway to cross the river and after that we just stuck to the highway for the rest of the day. It is exhausting having semis blowing past you all day, and we tried to get off and find more back roads at a few points but those just ended up just bringing us back to the highway.

Nakon Si Thammarat is pretty much just a big industrial city, although there are some beautiful wats and gates over the highways, and lots of good street food. Once again we probably had a harder time finding a hotel than a Thai person would have because all the signs were in Thai and not many people spoke English. The only indicator that a hotel is a hotel here is the number “24” buried in the Thai writing. This is there to indicate that the “hotel” also has rooms that can be rented by the hour. There were definitely enough of those on the outskirts of town, as well as a few English guesthouse signs once we got further into the city.


Day 12- June 15, 2015- Nakon Si Thammarat to Hua Sai

90.96 kilometers in 6 hours of riding time
Average speed- 14.5 kph

The large chedi made for the buddha at the oldest buddhist temple in Southern Thailand
The large chedi made for the buddha at the oldest buddhist temple in Southern Thailand

We got a later start today again because we HAD to! Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is the biggest sight to see in Nakon Si Thammarat. It is also the oldest wat in Southern Thailand AND it didn’t open until 8:30am. And we weren’t about to miss that!

Just casually enjoying a beautiful ride and ignoring the massive storm rolling in
Just casually enjoying a beautiful ride and ignoring the massive storm rolling in

In the later parts of the morning clouds gathered over us and a light drizzle started to fall on the road. Kiri noted that in Cambodia (where she had spent the last five months working) sometimes a drizzle is just a drizzle and sometimes it is a warning that you should take cover. We rounded a corner and saw the downpour we had been “warned” about waiting for us . We quickly pulled off and took shelter on the porch of a friendly Thai family home. When Mike was greeting the woman who lived there he pointed towards the sky and said “nam” (literally “water” in Thai- one of our few Thai words). He thought he was making conversation about the falling water that had trapped us there. A few minutes later she brought us a pitcher of water – the language barriers just keep on coming! Luckily the warm hospitality of the Thai people made nothing about this situation seem rude or intrusive.

View of the massive chedi from outside the Wat.
View of the massive chedi from outside the Wat.
Some of the decorations inside of the temple
Some of the decorations inside of the temple
The 170 odd chedis of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan
The 170 odd chedis of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan

Day 3, June 16, 2015- Hua Sai to Ban Kokud

82 kilometers in 5 hours 30 minutes of riding time (8:00am-4:30pm including a 3 hour stop in Ranot)

Average speed- 15.2 kph

Leaving the roads shown on the GPS to create our own route was a great decision today!
Leaving the roads shown on the GPS to create our own route was a great decision today!

This morning started with even more language barriers as we found ourselves at a Muslim restaurant for breakfast. As we entered the roadside venue, we received many curious and friendly looks and the locals warmly greeted us by clearing a table and getting us some chairs. Although we couldn’t communicate much with words, we have gotten quite used to non-verbal communication, and ordered our breakfast by pointing at other people’s good-looking food, smiling, and nodding. With the help of the other customers we were able to get a great breakfast of cold noodles in great sauce with a platter of greens to go with it all – a great way to start the day!

The morning weekly market in Ranot that we happened to be in town for!
The morning weekly market in Ranot that we happened to be in town for!

Today was a great reminder of why traveling with a flexible schedule in Thailand is a great way to enjoy not only the destinations, but also the journey. The goal of today was to go 110 kilometers to our next stop. However, our route happened to bring us though an unexpected gem of a town in the late morning that changed these plans for the better. Cobblestone roads and ornate lamp posts paved the way into the laid-back town of Ranot where we found a weekly morning market packed with clothes and food and fish from the nearby lake. We decided to scratch the plans of biking the entire 100 kilometers and spent a few hours soaking in the vibe of the town by wandering through the lively and colorful market, eating local delicacies, and napping and relaxing in the shade of some trees. After a relaxing late-morning visit in Ranot, we decided to continue cycling for a couple of more hours in the afternoon.

One thing other bikers had warned us about was dogs. So far we had a couple of minor incidents with dogs chasing after us and barking, but nothing too noteworthy. Today they were practically lining the streets waiting for us to roll through so they could chase us. Some were just short-legged yippy rat-like dogs but others more closely resembled wolves. We have found yelling and kicking at them to be effective ways to deter them. Ringing the bell seems to have the opposite effect.

Happy little sting rays!
Happy little sting rays!
Sharks or fish?
Sharks or fish?
Some of the clothing and food stalls of the weekly market
Some of the clothing and food stalls of the weekly market

Day 14, June 17, 2015- Ban Kokud to Songkhla

50 kilometers in three and a half hours

Average speed- 14.3 kph
Songkhla LakeThe three big tourist areas in Thailand seem to be the southwest coast near Phuket, the northern region around Chiang Mai, and obviously Bangkok. Since starting this trip 2 weeks ago, we have been traveling off this trail and were starting to get to the point where locals were starting to take a ton of interest in us. We’re guessing tourists almost never make it this far on the south-east coast. Mike tried to order breakfast in Thai this morning, and accidentally got us plain rice and a bucket of hard-boiled eggs, but his attempt caused all the Thai women to burst into giggles and request pictures with him.

Enjoying the free ferry ride into Songkhla! Wish we had brought our umbrella like everyone else!!
Enjoying the free ferry ride into Songkhla! Wish we had brought our umbrella like everyone else!!

Our interactions with locals in this region has been one of curiosity and hospitality, and this will continue to become a common occurrence. When we are able to explain to people that we are biking from Bangkok to Singapore we get shocked, impressed, and confused looks from the locals who cannot understand why anyone would ever attempt that without a motor. In the last week though these looks also seem to come with free snacks or bottles of water either out of sympathy or a desire to help us in this seemingly ridiculous quest.

Highlight of the day- avoiding an extra 20 kilometers of biking by taking a free 5-minute ferry across clear turquoise water to the peninsular town of Songkhla.


Day 15, June 18, 2015- rest day in Songklha

The cat and mouse statue in Songkhla
The cat and mouse statue in Songkhla

Today we were planning to take a day off the bikes and walk around and see some of the sights in the city. After wandering around in the morning for a little over an hour we were so overheated and tired of moving at a walking pace. So we got back on the bikes in the afternoon and started our own scavenger hunt of Songkhla. We took a glorified overpriced elevator to the top of a hill that overlooked the town. We fed monkeys coconut shells until one tried to steal our water bottle and Mike tried to fight it off with a spoon. We found the mermaid statue, the cat and rat statue, and the mid section and rear end of the serpent. To top it all off, no day in Thailand would be complete without a night market – and the weekend market in Songkhla is one of the best we’ve seen so far!

Songkhla skyline
Love locks on top of Songkhla
Part 1- monkey eats coconut husk
Part 1- monkey eats coconut husk
Part 2- monkey steals our precious water
Part 2- monkey steals our precious water
Part 3- Mike fights back
Pad thai at the weekend night market in Songkhla
Pad thai at the weekend night market in Songkhla
Weekend night market in Songkhla
Weekend night market in Songkhla