Just like many things in life, my cycling wasn’t terribly exiting every single day. There were days, when it was breathtakingly beautiful, other days it was merely pleasant, and a time or two it was just a way of getting from point A to point B with no much anything interesting in between. So far I consider the trip from Ratchaburi to Amphawa to be the jewel in my cycling crown.
It lay exclusively across the countryside with loads of palmtree and banana tree plantations, ponds, rivers and canals. And loads of farms with kids playing nearby. Nature was just so amazing, that I was grateful for living on our incredible planet. I still can’t comprehend how all this could be created to work in such perfect harmony.
Meanwhile I was looking around in hope of finding someone selling coconuts. Ironically I’ve seen a few lorryfulls of them passing by, but no one seemed to sell any. I suppose in such a coconut kingdom there was simply no need for that. There were quite a few banana bunches lying around by the road as well as so many coconuts, many of them already turned brown. I couldn’t let them go to waste and put a couple of them in my basket since, very conveniently, I ran out of water as well.
Shortly I passed a little convenience store with people sitting outside, and stopped by to ask if they could open my coconuts for me. As it turned out, one of them was empty, even thought it was so heavy, and the other one wasn’t very fresh. Oh, well!
I thanked them and was ready to go, when one of the ladies gestured to follow her. She took me to her house, surrounded by a big garden. Everyone spilled outside to see, what was going on. The house was quite big, but the family was big as well. They often have a few generations living under one roof. The kids were looking at me shyly from behind their mother’s skirt. The lady, who invited me, took a long stick with a hook at the en d and pooled one coconut down from the tree. She chopped the top off with a machete and even put a straw inside. As soon as I finished it, she offered me another, but I was good already. That was exactly, what the doctor ordered after cycling in the heat! When I took my money out and tried to pay, they all started waving their hands violently and usay something in Thai. Their English was very limited, so after exchanging a few words and smiles we were forced to say good bye. Lovely, lovely people.
Amphawa was a small town, known mostly for its floating market. A big part of it is situated along narrow canals.
It is relatively close to Bangkok and might be reached either by a train or a bus. Tourist busses start to pull up at around 3pm since it’s a night market. It was supposed to be a more authentic option, compared to Damnoen Saduak, and a smaller one as well. Really? Do locals buy t-shirts that say “I heart Amphawa”? It might be less touristy than the other one, but it’s still very very very touristy! It was a great place go buy souvenirs, the choice was simply unlimited. Although you could buy any kind of meat there, seafood was their specialty. Eaters would sit along the river on narrow benches facing the water, while boats float by.
Seafood was abundant there and very very cheap. Crabs, prawns, lobsters, squid, all sorts of fish – I felt like I died and ended up in heaven. Even scallops, that tend to be so expensive, cost only 50 baht for a dish.
When it comes to cheap accommodation I found Amphawa to be slightly more expensive for solo travellers There are millions of hotels and guest houses there, but all of them resemble resorts, rather than cheap places to crash for a night. If you are two, then you are in for a treat. I’ve seen so many gorgeous Eden-like places both by the river and in the middle of green plantations for £20-30 a night. I think it’s a perfect way to finish off the market experience, without having to rush back to Bangkok in the middle of the night.
I managed to find a room with a mattress on the floor for 400 baht. The lady wanted 600 baht originally, but I negotiated it down, since the room really wasn’t worth it.
On the other hand it was right in the middle of all the action . It was a part of a river house, where the family lived. Where other houses normally had a lobby, that one had a boat pier. Also it was right in the middle of all stalls. It was a convenience, but also a curse, since my room didn’t have any glazing and I could hear everything, that was going on at the market, as I was trying to sleep. That’s when I thanked my ear plugs again. It also got extremely noisy around 5am when someone started crushing used glass bottles, as if it was the middle of the day. Honestly?!!!!!? Suddenly the thought of that green resort seemed so sweet.
In Amphawa they do two kinds of boat trips – a day river and canal trip and an evening one, that involves light flies watching. I’ve done both, only because I thought they were different. They follow exactly the same rout and take one hour. They both cost 60 baht, if you go by a public boat, but it feels like wasting time, if you do the two of them. I would settle on the evening one only. I took the first 6pm boat and still could see everything around me quite well, also buildings had beautiful illumination on. The trip wasn’t particularly interesting, with very few local houses, only hotels, hotels and more hotels. I hardly took any pictures, there was simply nothing, that attracted me. The day boat I took was actually a private one for 500 baht. I was stopped on the street by a group of Vietnamee girls, who were looking for companions to share the cost. I thought why not. I hoped, that it would be a more informative, in-depth experience, since we were taken by a private boat. It wasn’t, it was just another tourist trap, the boat followed exactly the same rout for an hour only at a bigger cost. If you want to save, simply ignore people trying to usher you to their boats and get a public one at the market. If I were to do it all over again, I would hire a private boat, but ask the boatman to never mind the usual rout and take me to small canals instead to see how town’s everyday life looked like.nThats what I hoped to get, but didn’t. Ive never seen light flies before, so for me it was quite an experience. There were not too many of them, however, and they mostly stayed on trees, making them look all shimmery. The shimmer was so delicate, that there was no way to record it or take pictures.
The next day I was woken up after 5am by already mentioned bottles being crashed. It was just before my alarm had gone off anyway, so I got ready for my cycling as usual. As I was going to the bathroom I bumped into an old lady, who was applying talcum powder to her face. That explained the mystery! I saw hundreds of Thais walking around with white faces, looking like ghosts, and I had no idea what that was. Apparently they apply baby powder to their faces because they believe that it helps them to stay cool and fresh. I even bought a small bottle for myself to test it out. It does help, but only for a short time. If you stay In the direct sun, then it will run down soon enough.
My aim was to go to Hua Hin 110 km away. I don’t know, what happened, but cycling was hard for me that day and I had to switch for Cha-am, that was 20 km closer. On they way I passed loads of salt farms, a curious thing to see. In general I quite enjoyed the whole cycling stretch that day, it was very varied and had a few good spots.
Cha-am is very popular with Thai tourists, it’s one of the closest seaside towns to BKK so can get pretty full on week ends. I decided to stay outside in the countryside, in a resort, that also offered camping for 250 baht. I booked it on Agoda as I never slept in a tent before. The resort was really great, with fabulous grounds and a swimming pool. It was not was I expected. I was expecting to have other tents all around me, but it turned out, they let out a few luxury bungalows and only one tent at a time on the front lawn.
The resort was owned by a German guy and his thai wife. They also had two of the friendliest dogs ever and very shortly I was all covered in dog saliva. Getting to the resort was an adventure in itself as it was in a very rural area. I found myself in the middle of a little forest on a cattle path with only 1% battery left on my iPhone for navigation. There were other routs, as I found out later, but my navigator led me to this off the beaten track path, which was amazing, even though I fell into the puddle full of cows dang and had my legs dirty up to my thighs.
If truth be told the resort was only 7km from cha-am and had a great access of paved roads all the way to it, I still don’t know how my navigator had found that alternative way. Sleeping in a tent wasn’t that bad, I woke up refreshed and ready to explore Cha-am town. The only thing was, that they didn’t provide any bed linen and I had to use my spare clothes as a pillow and covers.
I was also due to have my 3rd and last rabies vaccine. Again I simply walked into the hospital, but it want as easy as the last time. They didn’t speak much English and couldn’t understand, why I needed a vaccine, if I wasn’t bitten by a dog. In addition the hospital was just so crowded – I had an eye-full of seriously sick people and left with a heavy heart after waiting for over two hours. Vaccine cost something like 700 baht.
Cha-am was a disappointment for me. Well, I didn’t expect anything, it just turned out to be a very average town, without any character. The beach was long and sandy, but the sea was very stormy and the water had a brownish hue. To be fair, the holiday season on that side of the country had just finished, so probably high waves and dirty-looking water were the result of that, but still the town was just so faceless.
I met a few foreigners there, among them was a heart-broken Dutch couple, who relied on a travel agent to book a holiday for them and ended up in Cha-am. They told me:”We didn’t check anything on the Internet and now we have to spend two weeks here! There is nothing here!” I felt so sorry for them, but then, they could have left their hotel behind and move to some nice island for a week, even if they lost some money. I met them at the train station, while waiting for my train to Prachup Khiri Khan. It was my rest day and I had no intention to stay in that town another day, therefore I decided to move further down to that weirdly sounding town. I was attracted by the idea of staying at the narrowest part of Thailand. Apparently trains are the cheapest way to travel around the country. I payed 30 baht for my almost two hour trip, another 90 baht were spent for the transportation of my bicycle in a luggage car. I arrive at my destination much later, than anticipated – the train was 3 hours late!!!!!
PKK was another resort town for locals, during my stay there I hardly saw any foreigners, but Thai tourists were plenty. That town was much more to my liking. When I checked hotels online the cheapest one was 700 baht, but as soon as I got off the train and cycled for a couple of minutes I saw a hotel, that cost only 160 baht for a single room. That was the cheapest hotel I’ve ever seen. Even hostels charge for a bed more. Despite the price the hotel was great – room pretty small and spartan, but clean, bathrooms were outside, but tidy. Location couldn’t be any better-5 min to the train station, 5 min to the beach and right in front of a night market. Cheap doesn’t always mean bad.
I went to explore the town after 4 o’clock, when the sun wasn’t so bad any more. I went to the beach and the pier first. It might sound weird, but I had that feeling, that I was by some northern sea, somewhere in Scandinavia. It became a bit windy and glum, and the sea was so stormy and grey. I sat down by the pier, mesmerised, and spent good half an hour looking at the waves in front of me. There was a lonely dog, who had the same idea, and it was lying down there, doing the same thing as I did.
If you walk in the direction of the temple on the rock, you are bound to bump into doesns of monkeys. Interestingly enough, they were mixed with stray dogs, who made unlikely companions. There was an old lady selling bananas for the monkeys and I bought a bunch, as I love these little buggers. As I was walking to the night market I just realised, how much mess these creatures made!
Another thing I noticed was plates of food for the dogs on the streets. I alway pay attention to feral dogs and cats, I make sure to have bags of food on me at all times, in case I see a hungry animal. It wasn’t necessary in this town, even though dogs were numerous, they all looked well fed. I wish there were more people kind to animals, just like the ones in Prucuap Khiri Khan.
The next day I had a train in the evening. I checked out and decided to cycle to a small beach outside the town. It was situated at the military airbase, therefore visitors were required to enter their passport details and their address as they passed, and then sign out later. I was hoping that the beach was more sheltered, and therefore less stormy, but the waves were still very high and I struggled to get in. No one was swimming, and shortly enough I gave up as well, and sat down in a chair with a book, in the shade of pine trees. After I was done, I cycled around the town one more time, before taking a train to leave it for another.