Tuesday, August 23, 2016

FSTR Day 7 - A short finale to a very long adventure. Chumphon. 30km

                  




                             


Team Lovethefold on a Pokemon Hunt. TWL Beach. Pic KC

                      

                       
Who's afraid of the big bad slopes? "S" pose perfected!



A steep climb out of the Cape.

Chumphon - Pic KC


                 




The final day was to be the most relaxing day of our entire South Thailand Ride. Our overnight train to Butterworth, Malaysia was scheduled at a very late 1030pm and we had literally the whole day to cycle a mere 30km to the Chumphon train station.

We enjoyed a free and easy morning where we would check out of the hotel only at noon. I ended up having  a leisurely breakfast at the nearby Pirates Terrace Cafe. As I headed out to meet the rest there, it rained cats and dogs. It was the first time for me to deploy my raincoat. Seems the August monsoons are more apparent as we go south of the Gulf.

                             

The English breakfast I ordered was a very generous one stuffed with sausage, bacon, eggs, baked beans, toast, fried tomato but when one had cycled 400km, the concern about eating such a "breakfast for champions" is not an issue. Lovely to eat slowly and enjoy good conversations with the gang.

                            

Just as we were to set off, the rains came down heavily and we took shelter at Clean Wave Resort's huts and had second rounds of hot drinks. Nobody had any motivation to move and it was fun just watching the rain come down and giving everything a fresh wash.

                             

The opportunity finally came for us to move off and we did. However just 200m at the end of the beach strip, it rained heavily again and we took shelter once more. You can say we were off to a very slow start. I noticed the presence of the Thai military and kudos to them for keeping the security of the area and giving us that sense of peace. The bombs that went off in 5 different places throughout Southern Thailand must have scared off many tourists from coming to this beautiful country. But we were undeterred. If anything, they need our help and support. I asked if I could take a selfie with one strapping soldier and he kindly obliged without any hesitation.



To make things interesting, YC suggested we take the scenic route to a particular cape which juts out prominently. We were all game as I knew Chumphon was not the most exciting of towns in Thailand, having been there on our first STR 2 years ago.

                                                      

The ride there was a wet but enjoyable one along the most deserted roads. Not a soul in sight and definitely not a place which would be a prime target for the next bombing. It was good to be back on the saddle and cycling on the wet roads added to the fun.


Pic KC

We passed by a bridge and we stopped to observe a fishing boat firing it's diesel engines and heading off to sea for their day's expedition. While they made their way out, I could not help but reflect about how our own adventure was soon coming to an end.



                   

The 2km turnoff to the cape proved very challenging with steep climbs and descents. The reward for our effort was quite a sight with the sea on the both sides of us. KC, VT & Claudine hiked another 2 mins to reach the very end while I stayed back for good reason. Sand flies and mozzies are naturally attracted to me. As I waited, the rains came down again and we had to use our raincoats again. Here, my Da Brim really came to its element in keeping the peltering rain off my face.

                            
Pic KC

We took a group pic here in the rain and made our way back. Returning seemed much harder and at one stage, all of us had to push up save for YC and KC, the powerhouses. Our ride to Chumphon saw our stomachs rumbling. All the big breakkie we had was burnt off and riding on empty with the low fuel warning light blinking was not a pleasant experience especially in the cold.

                              
Pic KC

At this stage, we were not far from Chumphon and I recognised the 7/11 located on the outskirts of town. We stopped there on our last trip to Ko Tao island 2 years ago. When we finally spotted an eatery, we parked out bikes quickly and attacked the food stalls. Hanging temptingly in the window was crispy roast pork and my choice was obvious.

                    

I was surprised when one of the team members really piled up the plate and actually finished all the food like my good buddy Papa Mike. No names mentioned! But we were all really really famished.

                               
Photo credit withheld intentionally  :)

The Thai Government "celebrated" the finish of our South Thailand Ride in a grand way by holding a wonderful parade for us. There were a marching band all in smart red uniforms, followed by a contingent of cyclists in honour of our 1300km from Langkawi, Malaysia to Bangkok and finally, important Govt officials dressed in white riding on a decorated Hilux ute. 



Seriously, the celebration of the Queen's birthday in Thailand has always coincided with our 3 rides and it is always a joy to see the parades whether in Krabi, Trang, Chiang Mai, Bangkok or here in Chumphon.

We still had 6 hrs before our train came and we decided to hang out in the cafe of A-Te Hotel. No one was there and we had the whole place to ourselves. The staff did not mind us lounging there and the idea was to go to A-Te for a swim and a shower before boarding the sleeper train.


We showed a photo of the receptionist who last served us 3 years ago in the hope that the hotel would let us use its facilities complimentary like the last time. Alas, the Nong was no longer working there and we were required to pay 150B each. This was not bad as it included a drink, a towel, unlimited swim in the pool and shower.

KC and I though decided to have a Thai Traditional Massage priced at 200B nearby which included a cup of hot tea and shower facilities. It was unfortunate that the famous Chinese restaurant we wanted to have dinner was closed and we ended up at a Western style restaurant near the hotel. 

Pic KC

A small drama happened! After dinner, we went back to A-Te Cafe to get our panniers but we were shocked to see the cafe all locked up and in total darkness. A sense of panic set in...  Why did they close it so early at 9pm when it was supposed to be 10pm? YC fortunately went to A-Te reception and through a back door, the staff managed to open the cafe for us to retrieve our stuff. What a blessing indeed.


The ride to the train station was in the rain and the familiar sight of the train station made me very excited. We packed our foldies once again into the bags and waited for the train to arrive. 


When we boarded the train, that officially marked the end of our STR Adventure. We did this 2 years ago on our first STR in taking the sleeper from Chumphon to Butterworth on 14 Aug 2014 and here we are again on 13 Aug 2016 at exactly the same time on exactly the same train at exactly the same price!


As we rolled out southwards and settled into our sleeping bunk, I felt a deep sense of gratitude to VT, Claudine and Sue for joining me on this trip. Special thanks go out to KC, George, Wendy and YC especially for making time to go for ALL 3 STRs. They have truly been an amazing team to spend the week with touring down the Gulf of Thailand. We still have 2 more days in Penang and we look forward to enjoying Lonely Planet's 2014 top choice for foodies in the world.

I was very touched to receive these kind words and feel very humbled.

Claudine - "My special thanks to Alvin! What to say? It's always been a fantastic adventure time and time again. Thank you for bringing VT and I closer, thank you for bring the team together & thank you for introducing God's creations to me."

Sue - "Through my years of travelling across half the planet earth, this is the best trip I ever had in my life! Most of the time on own transport (bicycle), eating street food & staying in absolutely reasonable accommodation is to fun and joyful.

Alvin, thank you for allowing me to join you and this amazing FSTR Team! You awakened me to the importance of prayers, staying friendly all the time and of course, living a practical and thrifty life."

                             
Pic KC

Reflecting back, it all started with a dream to ride from the border of Malaysia to Bangkok, a whole 1300km and to think that this dream has become such a special reality tonight really lifts me up! All glory to our Heavenly Father who was with us every step of the way, including through terrorists bombings.

May I also thank you my readers for following our STR Adventures and sharing our fun and experiences wherever you may be. Dream your dreams and go make them come true! May I wish you 
โชคดี   "Chok Di" or God's blessings in everything you do in the future.




FSTR Day 6 - Striking 2 Golds to Thungwualaen! 95km


Pic pekyj.blogspot.com




Pic KC


Pic KC


Pic KC





                    

                     

Pic KC


We slept in a bit this morning and left Ladawan Hotel in Baan Saphan at about 9am. Everyone appreciated the later start. However, it was to be an exciting morning especially for Spore as the whole country was anxious to see if its swimming star, Joseph Schooling could beat reigning champion Mark Phelps of the USA in the 100m Butterfly that morning in Rio. As we were eating our delicious Kau Tom rice porridge, news broke that Joseph did it! Spore's first Olympic Gold ever and we were elated.

                           
             
   

With high spirits, we rode out of town more than ready to conquer the distance that laid before us. Our target was Pinery Resort in Pathiu Province, a 70+ km ride where we hoped we could get rooms. It look on pictures very nice and a quick call however dashed our hopes. It was fully booked, being Queen's birthday weekend. The lady told us they had another brand new resort 500m away and so, we were happy to consider that and made an appointment to meet her there at 3pm.

                                   

The ride out of Baan Saphan was on Highway 3374 and it involved a bit of climbs. One steeper one saw us faster than a huge road train as it struggled up the hill. I was hoping to catch a free ride up by hanging on one of those but our cycling speed was surprisingly faster than the truck. Upon reaching the top, I had time to snap a pic and Claudine as ever, was in a bouncy mood.



We seem to be somehow faster than some vehicles on this road and our next beep beep "road runner" encounter was catching up with a pick-up with loud speakers doing a sales pitch. It was fun to be able to cycle past that too and we really felt on top of the world. Here is a video of that moment...


Speedy Gonzales us could ride at a good clip because we were blessed with cool weather. The clouds were just on the verge of bursting so we had all the reason to speed up. George however spotted a very interesting dog and stopped to bring some cheer to it. He claimed that this dog is special as it warned cyclists of a nasty pot-hole. Thus, it deserved a thank you pat!


We were a little taken back at the number of climbs this section of the highway threw at us especially after experiencing an airport runway flat ride the last few days. But with climbs, there are always down hills and I enjoy that very much. What goes up, must come down ultimately.

Wendy on her Dahon Mantis seems to be the best climber here as her 16" foldy is super light and when I was following her, she was still in the usual flat road rear cog. She said her Mantis was very easy to ride uphill and numerous times, she overtook me without breaking a sweat. The Brompton on the other hand, because of it's limited gearing, was having a challenging time and Sue, with her Tom and Jerry very loaded panniers, had a tougher time than us but she did well and wasn't far behind.


The sun was playing hide and seek and at times, it was scorching hot. It was timely that we spotted a 7/11 and we made a bee line for cold drinks there. These 7/11s truly make Thailand a joy to tour and they are nearly as good as those found in Taiwan. There, we spotted an older European tourer who was just setting off in his touring road bike with full panniers and wearing lycra. Perhaps we can catch up with him later in the day?

                                

Pressing on, we could not see the the Euro tourer and we carried on for another hour or so before we took another drink break. Lunch was the next stop and as soon as we left, the rains came a pouring. I stopped exactly 50m to take shelter as this little cafe had a wok and a boiling pot of soup. This was the shortest ride between breaks in my whole life! I asked if he did noodles and fried rice and the kind man said yes. Sue and Claudine were elated they got their wish for a noodle lunch and I was happy.


As cyclists, we somehow are always hungry so we added an order of Pad Thai  to the fried rice and they disappeared as soon as they arrived.

                                       

When we were done devouring our lunch, the rains divinely stopped and we could move off though we rode carefully as the road was wet and slippery. Riding in such conditions was why I chose August but this was the first time we had rains and I was very glad. It wasn't a shower and it was just nice to make riding not too wet but very cool. As perfect as it can get!


Highway 4004 is a pretty quiet part of Thailand and it was quite sparse on cafes. The best we could do for our next break was to stop at a provision shop. There, I ordered 2 cans of syruped rambutans and emptied it in 2 bowls of ice. That was so refreshing and provided the much need refreshment.

                                             
Pic Sue

The road leading to Pinery Resort was unpaved and we had to cycle for several kms along packed dirt roads. With the sea on our left and many shady trees, it was quite pleasant indeed and I was surprised once again at how well our 16" wheels could handle the terrain at Ao Bo Mao Beach.

Pic KC

It was a pity that Pinery Resort was full as it is such a beautiful place situated just at the corner of the bay. We had a walkabout of the place and it is certainly worth a visit the next time. The owner expected us and told us to follow his Mercedes to the new resort he owned nearby.

               
Pic Pininterest.com

Unfortunately, the new resort was in a rather poor location. In the middle of nowhere with no view of the sea. The grounds were not even landscaped properly. Though it was just built and the villas look quite impressive, the asking price of 1500B from an initial 2500B was still poor value and we decided to move on. There I spotted in the far distance, the illusive European tourer but in a flash, he was gone.

By this time, we were so close to Chumphon Airport and the city, our final destination was just 30km or so away. A quick coffee break was taken at a lovely cafe where we had to make some important decisions. Some of us wanted to go straight into the city but I persuaded the team to explore one more beach. If we cannot find something suitable, then it's off to Chumphon even if we had to ride 100+km in the dark. That was agreed upon.


It was getting dark when we arrived at Thungwualaen Beach and a quick call earlier to the hotel that YC previously stayed brought disappointing news. All rooms were full! Other hotels I called also, full! So it was a hit and miss affair that we stumbled upon Clean Wave Resort. They had 4 villas waiting for us and at 875B, it was excellent value. I thanked the kind manager who doubled as the chef and confirmed our lovely accommodation for the night. We all sighed a great sense of relief! The total distance clocked was closed to 100km and that was not bad at all.


                     

What impresses in our villas were newly renovated bathrooms and that really lifted the game for this locally run hotel. After a quick shower and the inevitable laundry, we enjoyed a Thai seafood dinner at the hotel's restaurant. It was about average and we sauntered to the other end of the beach for coffee and desserts to redeem the meal.

                       


Reflecting back on today, it was amazing that Joseph Schooling scored an Olympic Gold, the first for Singapore. We didn't do too badly ourselves by scoring a "gold" at Clean Wave Resort. Being the Queen's Birthday and all the locals flocking to the beaches for the weekend, we were certainly blessed to be able to find such suitable accommodation under a very crowded and high demand weekend. 

When golden co-incidences just pile up on top of one another and keep piling like on this FSTR Adventure, one can say it is Lady Luck smiling over us OR our loving Heavenly Father watching and hearing our every prayer. I choose the latter as co-incidences then become God-incidences.

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And don’t worry about food—what to eat and drink; don’t worry at all that God will provide it for you. All mankind scratches for its daily bread, but your heavenly Father knows your needs. He will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.  Luke 12:29-21

Pic Sue