It is always so exciting to meet the rest of the gang at the airport before any trip and today, it was no different. All our months of planning finally came to fruition. This was to be the last leg of our ride from Malaysia to Bangkok! It was great to actually see and talk to each other face to face, and not on social media! Team JB set off really early to catch the 1030am flight to Bangkok, leaving their home at 530am and reaching Changi Airport before 7am. This is understandable as the Causeway can be so unpredictable. When they Whats App me to say they have arrived, I was still in bed at home!
It was so easy to check in with Jetstar, a most bike friendly airline and with 25kg booked @ S$70 one way to Bangkok, this was truly the start of many great deals of our FSTR Adventure. We had a lovely breakfast and chat at the T1 Staff canteen before boarding the plane, all excited like school kids on an excursion. The 2.5 hr flight whizzed by in no time and we arrived at the very stylish Suvarnabhumi Airport fresh but hungry. There, we got our data plans for our mobile phone and was met by Prim, my amazing Thai Nong who I have known for nearly 20 years during uni days.
She very kindly arranged for 2 Hiace Mini Vans to whisk us off immediately to Baan Siriphon Resort, some 90km south west of Bangkok for 4800B. Anyone who knows the horrific traffic of Bangkok will never attempt to cycle directly out of that huge and congested city. This truly is the smart way out literally!
Our VIP van truly lived up to its name where inside was luxurious and spacious, having lots of room for all 8 of us while our foldies all rode in a more utilitarian van. We got takeaway lunches to save time and before we knew it, we were at the beautiful grounds of our resort. Baan Siriphon was chosen as it is the #1 hotel by Trip Advisor in the Maeklong area and is strategically located just by the peaceful river. It is a traditional home-style family run business with Fern, the Manager who welcomed us ever so warmly, together with her parents. She is a graduate of Chulalongkorn University in Marine Biology and speaks English fluently.
First business of the day was assembling our foldies. One can never know what condition the bikes will be in and fortunately, all were intact except for Claudine's Tern. It had a missing spacer for the handlebar post, something that our Chief Mechanic KC could fit without batting an eyelid.
People come to Samut Songkram mainly for 2 reasons, the amazing floating markets as well as the railway markets. Fern recommended us chartering the whole boat at a very reasonable 1500B (US$38) and we all hopped in to explore the river side attractions. It was quite a challenge to communicate with the boatman who spoke absolutely zero English but he was such a nice and obliging guy.
Cruising up the river with the setting sun was very special as we absorbed the living museum before us as people went along their daily chores, fishing, washing, bathing, mending nets, drying fish etc.
The Amphawa Floating Markets unfortunately was closed, this being a Monday and was like a ghost town save for a few shops opened. On the weekends, this place is packed to the rafters and in a sense, we were glad we missed the crowds.
We managed to find a local seafood restaurant and a quick call to Nong Prim sorted out the dishes which impressed us no end. The joke was to keep the receipt and just show it to the next restaurant we eat at. What stunned us was how reasonable the prices were for delicious dishes of fish, prawns, squid, vegs etc plus beer, it worked out to be an unbelievable US$6 per person. Indeed staying away, far far away from Bangkok has its advantages.
After dinner, we went on a cruise to spot fireflies. This is another reason why people come here to the Maeklong. At first we were skeptical as someone told us that they were all just stealthy Christmas lights placed in some bush by the river to fool the tourists but when the boatman caught one with his bare hands and showed us, we became believers. It was amazing to see these marvelous insects produce bright sparks of lights and discussing fire flies were the topic of the day...
Mr Boatman really went out of his way to show us about every single firefly bush till we were all fire flied out! It was time to head back to Baan Siriphon and at the private jetty, it was so nice to see Fern and her mom waiting for us. Complimentary hot tea was then prepared for us and such is the warm and undeserved hospitality showered upon us. I enjoyed getting to know Fern and her family better and learned lots. Secretly, I truly admired their simple country lifestyle and wished I could spend more time here.
It had been a long day getting here - by plane, vans and then on to boats. That really got us quite tired and we all hit the sack without any difficulty. If anything, today has been a truly special and smart start to our FSTR Adventure and we look forward to the days ahead as we peddle down the Gulf of Thailand on our foldies.