Monday, November 23, 2015

VSTR Day 6 - Pak Meng to Koh Lanta, Century for last!

Saving the best for last, our final day of riding involved a long ride to the beautiful island of Koh Lanta, crossing 2 ferries. All of us were thankfully well rested and we were grateful for Sai Thong Resort's comfortable beds. We were all excited and had an early start when the sun was barely awakening. Claudine got up early surprisingly and very kindly bought some You Tiou or Chinese Donuts for a pre-breakfast snack. Our target was to hit Sikao some 20+km away before having a real breakfast, taking advantage of the cool morning air.

We launched excited and slice through the quiet morning at a surprisingly good pace. Perhaps all the mucking around the last few days got us really psyched up for this. I went so fast that my Da Brim shade flew off my helmet! Something that has never happened before and good thing I was in front, so trusty young Lance on sweeping duties kindly picked it up for me.

We arrived at Sikao in no time and spotted a Dim Sum shop on the left hand side of the small town. As it looked pretty crowded, that seemed a safe bet. All that fast pace cycling got us hungry and we wolved down the very ordinary dishes in no time. Even the usually fail-proof Kao Tom or rice porridge was below par. Celia in fact had to reject her coffee as it was quite bad, and she is seldom fussy with food! Note to self - in hamlets such as these, we must not be too fussy and at least we got fuelled up albeit not V-Power but RON 91. Sikao also means Dead Dog in Hokkien so with a name like that, we should have known better.

It was great to be back on the saddle and we cruised through some beautiful countryside with small quaint villages and many rubber plantations. We could feel the sun starting to warm everything up and we were glad we got off to an early start. The group was starting to really stretch longer and longer as was the case when the pace increase. But the rule is when the last person is out of sight, we stop to re-group. No doubt we had a time goal to meet, doing this together is what touring is all about. 

Our 2nd stop was at a provision shop with ice cold drinks. Lots of drinks, snacks and even fruit are something we all appreciated. VT got some juicy red Rambutans which he shared with us. Fresh fruit always taste so heavenly! It seemed a long wait for the rest but we didn't mind one bit as we were all enjoying each other's company and teasing one another. 

YC brought us through a short cut via a minor road to the main road and this was through an oil palm plantation. It turned out to be one of the nicest roads we have ridden as it was shady, quiet, well paved and felt surreal and truly cool. It was like entering a slice of heaven and it was sad that it ended abruptly to an open highway #4, heading towards Krabi.

When it comes to riding on such highways, there is only one way to go - fast! So those of us who could fly, turned on our after-burners and screamed into the horizon. But the trouble with riding with that option is we get pretty drained out as can be seen from a certain Bike Friday Pocket Sport rider!

Our smarter friends who rode at a steady pace came out in much better shape but then again, we are all made uniquely different by our Creator and that is something to celebrate. Whatever your speed is, our tour is such that we always re-group and give everyone ample time to rest. I was very pleased that we were making great stride and by late morning, we had more than half of the trip under our belt.

We made our last rest stop on Highway 4 at a bamboo hut built by the owner of a smallish highway restaurant and had a "board meeting" due to the way the table and chairs were configured. Everyone was all smiles but George. He wasn't impressed at how the company was splurging too much on food and drinks and paid scant attention to the plight of the street doggies of Thailand!

Just a mere 3 km later, we made a feft turn on #4206 towards Koh Lanta. As we rode passed the cluster of shops, Claudine and VT spotted fried bananas, jack fruit, sweet potatoes and came to a grinding halt. Lance, Celia and I succumbed and joined them for the mini feast while the rest, much to our surprise, passed on this delightful temptation. Even Papa Mike our foodie on foldie! 

Satisfied, we had to play catch up with the rest who had a 10 minute head start. We all formed a tight train and drafted one another, taking advantage of the laws of aerodynamics. Lance our strongest rider took the lead to cut the wind for us and it was great fun playing the Shinkansen.  It seemed like the pack had really vanished into thin air as we cranked hard concentrating on closing in the gap with Lance who was squirrelling away merrily. 

What seemed like eternity, we finally managed to spot YC and Papa in the distance. That got us really inspired to catch up with them. We overtook them with bright grins and aimed to catch the rest of the team and we did. We had a short drink stop at a pretty grim place with grimier toilet and held off having lunch here. Some places, you have the feeling it wouldn't work out somehow.

We managed to hit the first ferry just before noon and that felt very satisfying. Here we had a simple lunch of fried rice but it took so long to come that some of us went into hibernation stage. Quite a fascinating sight as it showed how hard we all cycled. But young Lance was bright eyed and still full of beans! The joys of youth. Where we sat, someone had unfortunately left behind a mobile phone and we passed it to the cafe owner. 

The ferry had no strict timing but came and went as it got filled up. We enjoyed some ice cream in the ferry and crossed the river feeling very happy. Clearing the first ferry, we had to ride some 20km before hitting the 2nd ferry. Now, it was like a war zone as a bridge was in the midst of construction. It's a China project as can be seen by the flags. By now, the sun was really searing and we were like animals desperate to hide under what little shade was available.

We were elated when we finally arrived at Ko Lanta! It was an easy ride from the ferry to the town centre. Immediately, we looked for food and went to a touristy spot for a very late lunch - The Sala Lanta. The town was almost like a ghost town this being low season and the good news is that we had the whole island to ourselves. However, the bad news was that being low season, the ferries don't run. Plan B was to charter 2 mini-vans to take us to Krabi so I was not too worried.  

Our hotel was a mere 7 km to the town centre and we rode past lots of guesthouses, bars, spas, shops, restaurants, tour operators all somewhat tepid at this time of the year. Our hotel Mook Lanta was recommended by YC who has been here recently and it was very impressive. Our villas were elavated and joined by a narrow 1m footpath. We were all very glad to be in such luxurious quarters after a long day's ride. The beds looked absolutely inviting and the shower area is a Bali style open air design. Melissa the owner is British and that meant our breakfasts were going to be the best Lanta could offer!

After a much needed shower, we headed off to the beach to check it out. This area is not so much a swimming beach as the sand is very course, almost pebbly. But the view was nice enough and we soaked it in like sponges. Soon, we started exploring the beach and made friends with a dog and some hermit crabs.

It was very special to see the golden sunset and I can think of no better way to end a day like this. When it came to dinner, we were spoilt for choice. A stroll to an Italian restaurant was unfruitful as the prices were more suited for fat-wallet Westerners. Fortunately, we found a Thai eatery that welcome us warmly and I am always a sucker for good service. The food was excellent but the prices were getting noticeably higher as we got nearer to Phuket/Krabi. Gone are the days of 5B train rides!

Back at the hotel, I noticed we had done a whisker under 100km. That was our longest day and though it was a challenging ride, we were surprisingly all not that tired. However, I was saddened as this was effectively the last day of cycling.  We slept well that night, reflecting back on the past few days where we had flown in from Langkawi, ferried across to Satun and made our way up here mostly in the rain. It has been one amazing adventure with the funnest bunch of people ever!

Next year, we shall finish our Final South Thailand Ride (FSTR) with a trip from Chumphon to Bangkok but for now, I feel so grateful to be able to enjoy this very southern part of Thailand on small wheels with my team. God is good and I give thanks for the success of yet another Lovethefold Adventure.

1 comment:

Amoi on pedals said...

The comparison of Ron 91 and VPower was genius