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.




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