7th to 13th November

Thursday 7th November

Today, we go to Phi Phi island. We rush down the Ao Nang village, have a quick breakfast, to go to take the ferry to Ko Phi Phi. We have to pay an extra for the bicycles, but there is no problem to take them on board. The boat is packed with tourists. There are French, Bristish, American, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Brazilian, Chinese! well, from everywhere. And the little space left between the tourists is used for storing the luggage of these tourists. Our bikes travel stay in the engines room.

After leaving Ao Nang port, the ferry stops a few times! a technical problem? No. Just a stop to wait for more tourists, coming by long tail boats from other beaches! I’m starting to think we are like immigrants trying to escape for Europe.

We arrive in Phi Phi around 11h30. Everything seems organized for tourism. We are still walking on the pier, going through the port, that we have to pay a special fee, of 20 bath per person, to help maintain the island against the hords of tourists. Just after this tax, we are assaulted by hundreds of locals who want to sell us accommodation. The good thing of Thailand is that the price are fixed, not negotiable, so we find quite quickly a place to stay at good price. We go to the R.S. Guesthouse. The room we have is quite old, not very comfortable, but it’ll be enough for one night.

In the afternoon, we finally have time to update the website. We also go to visit what we can of the island. It is a total maze in the village, with many restaurants, guesthouses, hotels, supermarkets (selling chips, instant noodles, sodas, sun cream, ! for tourists), tattoos shops, or massage. And on the hills, some houses, much poorer, belonging to the locals working here.

There are no cars on the island. Nor are there real roads! the locals move in the village with old bicycle. However, we did not manage to find the road that leaves the village for other parts of the island. The tourists outside the village are mainly conveyed by boat, directly to the hotel beach.

Ko Phi Phi is a group of 4 islands. The main island, where we are is Phi Phi Don. The second island is Phi Phi Ley, famous for being the scenario of the movie “The Beach”. The other two islands, Mosquito island and Bamboo island, are much smaller. From Phi Phi Don, it is very common to pay for a tour including the rest of the islands, and even some snorkelling.

In the evening, we look for a small restaurant, with cheap food for locals. We take a simple fried rice (with nothing inside but rice and a little of garlic).

Friday 8th November

We get up late, while it’s raining outside. So no regrets. In the morning, we continue to recuperate some work on the computer that we had left behind. We leave the guesthouse around noon, to go for lunch and take the boat to Phuket. That’s when we are in the boat that we realise we did not take any pictures on Ko Phi Phi! we were expecting much more than a village full of tourists.

The boat arrives at Phuket around 16h.We go to Kevin’s house, on the other side of the island, in Kamala beach. We found our host on the Warmshower website. So we have only 25km to ride today, a piece of cake. What we had not expected was that there would be some nice climbs on the way. We have to climb two difficult passes, around 100m high, but very steep, more than what we have in the Alps, and with quite bad pavement and traffic conditions.

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We’re more than happy to arrive to Kevin’s house, just when the Sun is setting. Kevin has been living in Phuket for 7 years now. He is a fan of recumbent bikes (the ones where you seem to be lying down). After a short try of these bikes, it looks quite comfortable!

We go for dinner to a French-Thai restaurant. In fact the owner is Swiss, and he proposes typical Thai food, but also some typical French dishes. We are very tempted to take a tartiflette like dish! but we learn that the cheese is not reblochon, but chedaar cheese. How dare you compare this with a tartiflette? Despite this, we have a great dinner.

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Saturday 9th November

We have a lazy morning. In fact, it’s raining strong outside most of the morning. So we cannot do much more than work on the computer. We go out shortly after noon. We go to the sea. Kevin and his girlfriend Mint in a kayak, while we will try paddle board. The goal is to go to the next beach from the sea, in order to eat over there. If you don’t reach, no lunch!

The board for paddle board is voluminous but not very heavy. It’s stable enough for beginners to stand on it and paddle with a kind of canoe paddle. Well, of course, you need to fall a few times to the water to get the trick. It’s quite fun, but what’s the advantage of this against a kayak?

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After lunch, we head back to our departure beach. We snorkel on the way, near the rocks. We see some nice colourful fishes, some crabs, and also a few corals on the floor. But nothing compared to what we saw in Bali. We see a nice sunset on the Kamala beach. After a quick shower at home, we go for dinner in a small Thai restaurant.

Sunday 10th November

Today, we get up at 7. We have a long way to go to Surat Thani: 210km, and we already have the train ticket for tomorrow evening, so we have to make it. After a wonderful fruit and vegetable juice prepared by Mint, we are ready to leave. Kevin and Mint accompany us for an hour, in their recumbent trikes. A lot of people by the road are astonished to see our convoy passing. As we continue north, to the Sarasin Bridge, Kevin and Mint go to the beach! life is not so bad in Phuket.

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We have a big breakfast with rice and eggs. Today, we will be unstoppable! The road we take is a big road, with important traffic. However, there is always one lane on the left reserved for bicycles and motos, so we feel more protected from the trucks and cars.

We pass near the “James Bond island”. This island, officially called Khao Phing Kan, appears in the movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”. It is now a major touristic attraction of the region: on the road, we saw hundreds of signs indicating us the direction of the island! some of them more than 50km away from the actual location.

We also pass by several marvellous Buddhist temples. They are richly decorated, and with statues of dragons, and monks or buddhas different from the Buddha that we generally know.

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We finally arrive to a guesthouse for the night around 16h30. Thanks to Julien, we biked 20km more today, passing by the guesthouse, just to realise 10km later that it was the last one for at least 50km. Next to the guesthouse we stay in tonight, our GPS indicated a Bed and Breakfast. In fact, it’s a luxuous complex with a lake, swimming pool, steam room, ! bad luck, we don’t have the budget to stay here tonight. So we’ll go to the guesthouse nearby, that is not bad either. The weather is pouring down tonight, with strong rain during most of the night. It’s good we are not in a tent!

Monday 11th November

As we have a train to take tonight, we get up and leave the guesthouse early. We take a small breakfast on the way. The first part of the route is near a National Park. We enjoy this ride, although today it’s quite difficult to pedal. The kilometres seem to come much slower. We do many breaks, every 5 or 10km, to rest, drink, eat or stretch.

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We have lunch around 13h, at a small restaurant by the road, where workers use to come and eat one plate in 10 minutes. Now, we are back on a bigger road, with quite a lot of trucks. In the South of Thailand, there are many plantations of palm oil trees, and the exploitation of these trees stinks a lot. Many cars or trucks pass by us with the rest of the plam trees seeds after pressing, and the smell is very much like a dead animal in decomposition. Every five minutes, such a car passes by us. I don’t know why we did not notice this in Malaysia.

Around 15h, we are forced to stop. A strong shower is starting, so we take shelter under a porch, next to the road. The rain lasts one hour, that we appreciate for resting. Afterwards, we continue our route to the station of Surat Thani. This station is situated 20km in the West of Surat Thani. It is weird that the main train station of a big city is so far from the centre.

This time, we arrive way in advance at the train station. We have to pay a small extra fee for the bikes, but everything is going as expected. We even have time to go for dinner next to the station. In fact we have much more time than expected. Apparently, there has been an accident on a train, so our train is delayed. 2 hours late, then 4! in the end, 5 hours late. Instead of leaving Surat Thani at 21h30, it’s 2 am when our train arrives. The train stops a couple of minutes at the platform and then starts again. It has been stressful to put the bikes and all the bags in the train before tdeparture! we still have one bike in the corridor, preventing the wagon door to close. After organizing all our luggage, we go for our sleeping seats. It’s not the most comfortable, but it’s ok. We’ll have no problem to sleep, especially after 120km of cycling.

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Tuesday 12th November

The train was supposed to arrive in the morning, but with the delay it took, it arrives in Bangkok at 14h30. The house of Alex, our couchsurfer, is some 10km away from the station. On the way, we stop in a small restaurant to grab a soup. The circulation is quite chaotic here. I was expecting a city like Kuala Lumpur, but it’s more like Jakarta. Mostly cars, but also many motos and tuk-tuks, snaking between the cars. And you have to keep concentrated all the time.

When we arrive at the building, Alex is working. So the cleaning lady shows us the way in. She is very funny, talking to us in Thailandese. Even though we absolutely cannot understand anything, she continues to speak, and expects us to answer. Alex lives in a huge apartment with 6 flatmates: three more Americans, two French, and one Thailandese.

We go to have dinner with Alex in a small restaurant nearby the house. The fried rice is absolutely delicious! Later in the evening, we go to the private viewing of a photographic exhibition, on the rooftop of a building nearby. There are some nice photos about the life of the people in Chechnya. Then, we go to have a beer in a bar with a giant map of Denmark.

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Wednesday 13th November

We take for breakfast the fried rice we tried yesterday. Then we go to the centre of the city, by boat. There is a canal directly to the centre, and boats every 5 or 10 minutes. The boat takes like half an hour to cover the 10km! it’s at least as fast as any metro or train. This means of transports seem popular here. In fact, the boat is full with local people. The stops at the piers are very short! we have to enter and exit the boat fast, while paying attention not to fall into the water. This boat-bus infrastructure is very convenient and comfortable! I wonder why it is not more widely used, in Paris, Lyon or Toulouse for example.

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We start by visiting Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount. It’s a Buddhist temple, situated on a hill. The ways up and down are spiralling around it, like a snail. On the top of the temple, there is a great view on the city. Although we do not see any unique buildings in the skyline (like the Petronas towers in KL, or the Marina Bay in Singapore), we can notice many Buddhist temples or palaces around us. There are also many kinds of bells, that the visitors ring in order to pray (or just to hear the noise).

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Next, we go to Wat Suthat, one of the ten first-grade temples in Bangkok. There are many statues of meditating Buddha.

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In the street, we are constantly asked where we are going. The strategy to scam the tourists goes like this: when you answer where you are going, the person will reply that is place is closed, but that there is something much more interesting a little further! in two minutes, he draws on your map a route with wonderful points of interest, that did not appear in the touristic map. And he calls a tuktuk for you, for a very low price (like 20 bath, that is 50 eurocents). On the route he drew, not only do you have some monuments, but also shops, like tailor or jewel shop. Of course, you are supposed to find interesting things in those shops, and buy them at much higher price than it should be. Like this, the tout and the tuktuk driver will get their money back.

Despite warnings from Alex, we got abused at the beginning by these touts. We believed that the places we wanted to visit were closed, so we changed our plans many times, until we saw many tourists in one of these places. So we entered to visit Wat Phro, the temple with a reclining Buddha, 46m long. This Buddha is very impressive, all golden. Under his feet, the 108 emblems of Buddha are represented. This temple is also where the Thai massage was invented.

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After this visit, we want to visit the Grand Palace, but it is already closed! if only we had not believed the stories they told us! We go to Khaosan road, the famous backpackers’ street in the old city. There are a lot of youth hostels, guesthouses, but also small restaurants, and stalls for tourists. We find the flags for many of the countries we will visit! let’s see if you can recognize all of them.

On the way to the boat-bus, we pass near the Democracy Monument. It’s a set of 4 concrete panels, built to celebrate the 1932 revolution. Today, there is a political meeting at this place: thousands of people have gathered to protest against the government project of amnesty law. As you may remember, two years ago, there were riots in Bangkok, between the red shirts and the yellow shirts, provoking dozens of casualties. The current government wants to forgive all the misbehaviours related to those events, thus allowing the former prime minister Thaksin to come back to Thailand, despite his responsibility in the riots.

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Here in Asia, when there is a demonstration, there is street food. We take our first roti planta since Malaysia, and also try some fried insects. The taste is better than expected: the grasshopper tastes like dry leaves (like tea), and one species of caterpillar has a subtile parmiggiano taste .

Once back home, we go to have dinner with two of Alex’s flatmates, Patrick and Bew.

Here is a small video of these days:

Under the suggestion of Bew, here are some Thailandese music: