Thursday, August 18, 2016

FSTR Day 2 - A folding market, then off to Chao Samran, 65km




Pic KC

 You can always count on 7/11 for well stocked cold drinks in Thailand.

Actual salt from the salt plains and Ollie.

Pic KC


People flock from all over the country and indeed the world to witness this amazing folding market at Samut Songkram. For some reason that I cannot figure out, a market has evolved over the years just by the railway line near the Maeklong Station.


It is like a regular market selling fruit, veggies, spices, fish, meat etc but when the train comes by several times a day, this sets the stall holders packing their wares and folding up the shades to allow the train to pass by. As soon as the train is gone, things get back to normal. It is fascinating to see some displays left so near to the tracks and the train just goes over them, with inches to spare.

We gathered early at the resort's lobby at 0730 and walked 1 km to the Maeklong Railway Markets to catch the 0830 arrival. Although this being a Tuesday, there were hordes of tourists like us who were curious. We each picked a stall to wait for the train and sure enough, a whistle was blown and that got everyone scurrying to make way for it's coming. I offered to help a stall holder but she said no need as she does this several times a day and was an expert. Take a look at this amazing sight!

We were all excited and fascinated at the Railway Markets and truly, this is worth a visit. It was time to fuel up for our ride today and we were spoilt for choice. I was delighted to find that my fav Thai breakfast, Khao Tom,  a rice porridge was available and enjoyed that very much.


Saying goodbye to Fern and her the wonderful family at Baan Siriphon was difficult and they came around to bid us farewell. It ended up a rather longish affair as some of our foldies needed adjustments here and there and after 30 mins, we were finally ready to take off.

We were very pleased that YC had mapped out a route that involved crossing the river in town and then taking the back roads down south towards Chao Samran. For many, it was the first time in a Thai river ferry and this always never fails to put a smile on my face.

Riding along the quiet country roads. the 8 of us were literally singing as we glided together carrying everything we needed with us in our panniers. There is just nothing in the world that can beat this feeling of freedom, of moving with our own power, of not knowing what laid ahead as we began our 500km adventure. The weather was sunny but not scorching, at least in the morning. I had my trusty Da Brim helmet visor which not only gave me good shade, liken to riding with an umbrella, but also protected me when the rains came.

Pic KC

Some of the roads we took were not sealed and that got us a bit worried especially those of us on 16" wheels but our bikes rolled along surprisingly with great aplomb.


As YC our navigator led, VT very kindly swept behind making sure that everyone kept up and no one is left behind. It takes a very special person to do this as it involves being patient, encouraging and caring. It must be said that VT did an excellent job throughout the whole trip and we owe him our gratitude.

Pic KC

I was at this stage concern about Sue who was touring with us for the first time on her brand new Brompton. Like all newbies, she had also somewhat over-packed which is quite understandable and was carrying at least double the usual weight. She nearly brought her hair dryer! However, Sue did really well as she is a passionate roadie!


As the heat started to turn up, we were looking for a place desperately to cool down. Divine providence came as we crossed the highway. There before us laid a beautiful aircon cafe decorated with much colour and cute farm animals and caricatures. This Disneyland looking place looked rather out of place in the barren countryside filled with trees and bush but we were elated!

Pic KC

We had our fill of iced tea/coffees and lots of cold water. Many had a ball taking pics of this absolutely gorgeous cafe and nobody wanted to leave. Here is KC really getting into the "Love the Fold" mode...

Pic KC

But move on, we must and we did so reluctantly. As the noon sun did it's job, we were struggling to keep cool in the heat. So long as we were moving, the breeze in our face made it bearable. We took many short breaks to re-group and have water and that is important. Today was such that there was no plans and we were flexible. That really made a whole lot of difference as we could choose to stop over night anywhere we wished. 


The unexpected always make things exciting and we had our first puncture of the trip. George's classic Da Bike's rear tire was losing air suddenly. YC helped him sort that out while the rest of us went on a bit further to find a shady place to wait. These sometimes can be moments of blessings as it enables the team to rest and with the sun blazing, we were actually thankful.

The repair took a bit longer than usual but we were not complaining. When we got on the move again, clouds appeared and that made things a bit cooler which meant we could increase the pace. 

Pic KC

It was great to be cycling by the coastline and when we crested a bridge, the magnificent view demanded a stop. The river that ran underneath us was huge and wide and provided the lifeline for many communities here.


We continued on towards a town and this was when we noticed George falling way behind. Poor him was feeling unwell due to consuming too heavy a breakfast and we were really worried when we had to wait a really long time for him at 7/11. When he finally appeared, we were glad but George looked really pale and sick. A bit of rest, some medication and a prayer to Jesus for healing, George miraculously recovered and felt much better. 

As were going to set off, Wendy's Dahon Mantis was next to be struck by the devious puncture elf. It is said that a person's true character can be seen under times of stress and this was when George really shined. I asked if he was ok with what was happening, and dear old George just broke into a smile and said, "Small issue lah!"...


With all the drama, we were all getting a bit famished as it approached 3pm. Dark clouds started to pour as well and YC marked out a restaurant for us. Due to language challenges, we all ordered the same dish - chicken basil with egg and rice. It was rather ordinary especially after last night's feast but nobody complained as it filled us up and was packed with energy. The heavens poured as we gobbled our late lunch and stopped when we were ready to leave. Such was the assurance for me of His hand over us.


The rest of the journey took us through vast areas of salt farms and this reminded me of similar salt farms in Cambodia near the Vietnamese border of Ha Tien. We were glad to be able to ride through such a beautiful area and it made for excellent photos.

As we rode through these magnificent plains, out of the blue in sight was The Banleam Country Shop that was actually a cafe run by a fellow cyclist.  This was the most beautiful sight for any cyclist who have not had their coffee/tea fix and we were elated. With a most agreeable slogan like this, who can disagree?

The Banleam Cafe was exquisitely decorated with nice touches of antiques, traditional wooden furniture and even the owner's classic bicycle. Set among the salt plains with breezy cool winds, we were all too delighted drinking our freshly made Cha Ron and munching on nuts and nibbles.

Pic KC

While waiting for our drinks, KC went off opposite to explore a salt farm and we heard the dogs barking and protesting his presence. But true to his excellent social skills, he won them over with his charm and returned with a huge chunk of salt for us to see.

Pic KC

It was getting late and we pushed on towards our destination Chao Samran Beach. As the sun slowly went down, the headwinds went up significantly and we struggled to cycle. It helped that we drafted each other and try as we did, it was a slog maintaining even 15km/h. Some parts of this route it started to rain as well and that was very welcome. Claudine however seem to have had too much caffeine and was like the Energizer Bunny, all sprightly and bouncy. Life is not fair indeed. For the rest of us mere mortals, we took every opportunity to get some rest when able.

 Pics KC

To break the monotony, YC led us into a small village road which was brilliant as we came across a very nice Chinese Temple. Taking the road less travel is usually the way we like it as we get to see so much more.

Pic KC

Continuing on our route towards Chao Samran, we spotted a food fair of sorts and that was a timely break for a bit of exploration and replenishment. Our eye caught a huge figure of 2 faces in love and some of us curious cats went to check it out.

Turned out to be not so lovely after all as the ground there soon turned to mud. Tires and footwear got stuck with the most stubborn mud, almost like sticky clay and it was a pain cleaning it out. Curiosity in this instance, nearly "killed" the cat.

Meanwhile not so curious me was enjoying a freshly cooked Pad Thai with YC and it was really "Aroy!". Many stalls there sold all types of simple food and souvenirs and the somewhat upmarket name of the place, "The Art of Salt" didn't quite match what was offered.


As we finally arrived at Chao Samran, it was unusual for me not to have a booking. While that offered flexibility, it also meant a risk that hotels were all booked out and we may have to sleep in a barn like Joseph and Mary, especially with 8 people in tow.

Once again, the guidance of the Lord led us to a most suitable abode - Bryde's Resort. I have checked this out on the net and it had good reviews. Passing through this stretch with many nice hotels and resorts, we wanted something that was under 1000B per night which was going to be a challenge. When I finally found it, we rode into the resort only to find it deserted. My heart sank! No one was in sight and I rang my bell and shouted "Sawadee Kup!"  Fortunately, the caretaker finally showed up. A fierce looking man in his 40s with crew cut hair and the first thing he said was he spoke no English. That did not deter me and as it turned out, he was a really nice bloke. 

We communicated enough to get 4 beautiful villas at 800B each. I was so happy as this was newish and so clean. Travelling in low season certainly has its advantages.

Dinner was even cheaper as a nearby eatery which was about to close. Seems everywhere was closed so we felt very grateful that they opened the kitchen for us. It was amazing to enjoy a very nice dinner all for 905B or US$4 each and we ordered quite a bit of seafood!



We turned in happy at how the day had panned out. Everyone slept very well except for poor KC who did not want to attend a soloist recital in his room and decided to plonk himself comfortably at the reception.  I was glad he got a good night's sleep too. 

Thank God for a truly special day indeed!

Pic KC

1 comment:

Amoi on pedals said...

Unc KC as head of security.....which little elf took that photo???