Day 1 – Hua Hin to near Thap Sakae = 170km and 9hrs

The next morning I woke up at 6am and prepped for my first day of riding. I got on the road around 7:30am, my first stop was to get some bananas for fuel. I wasn’t feeling comfortable yet, I had only been in Thailand for about 14hrs and I as already on the road on my bike. I had no breakfast, just a coffee and now I was riding in a direction that I was unsure of.

It took me few hours to feel comfortable, the GPS took me on a completely random route, but despite that that it felt right. I knew that I had a long day ahead, so I tried to find my rhythm and not ride to fast. I kept the speed down intentionally. My goal for the day was 200km, but I didn’t really know what would happen…

After about 7 hours I started feeling it and I wanted to find the place I had intended to stay… FAIL! Thap Sakae was actually just a rural village without any accommodation for foreigners. I was kinda freaking out as I didn’t know where the fuck I was. So I decided to trust my better judgement and hit road to find a place further down.

I got onto the highway and hit about 30km/hr for a while, that was my way of dealing with the stress. Eventually I decided I couldn’t anymore and should find a place to stay, soE I saw the word resort and went down a random road towards the sea to find a resort. I found a spot called Malai Asia, went inside and sorted a room then and there.

The resort seemed completely deserted, but later I saw some random German dude who said he went to this place yearly.. Strange how people latch onto places and return time and time again. I have gotto say that it was pretty awesome beach, sea looked amazing and the gardens were immaculate

I ordered some dinner and a Chang, I got 2 Changs and 2 dinners, you gotto love the language barrier. Anyways, went back to my room and had ordered a large bottle water. he qgu who dropped it off was gay as could be and into me big time. I kinda humoured him not trying to be rude and stuff, but he came on to me strong and shit. I managed to get ride of him and promptly went to sleep,

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Getting a tattoo

My goal for the day was to meet my mom’s friend Patricia, get my tattoo and have another suit fitting, then after that in the evening I wanted to try find the psytrance bar again.

I awoke at 8am despite the fact I went to bed at 4:30am after a crazy Khaosan night. I knew I had to meet an old friend of my mom’s Pat for coffee, so my brain told my body when to wake up. I shower, took a shit and shaved in an attempt to look semi-presentable, it didn’t help the suitcases under my eyes from lack of sleep for days on end 😉

I met up with Pat, we took a walk around Khaosan, went to sit down for a coffee and chatted non-stop for 2 hours. She told me that she was excited about the chinese new year because it was year of the dragon and thats the same as the year she was born. I told her that I had bought a little ceramic dragon in the north of thailand that I wanted her to have. Went went back to my hotel for the gift, she was delighted! I love making people smile, we walked around a bit more and then I said good bye.

I took a nap, because I knew I had to be ready for my tattoo by 3pm. I made sure my leg was cleanly shaven and not sweaty before leaving the hotel. Grabbed some Subway “healthfood” and headed over to the Himmapan Tattoo shop. I was a bit early, so I while I waited for the tattoo artist to prepare I caught up on emails.

First the tattoo artist finished the detailed thai letters, that wasn’t too painful, but once he got started with the solid black border the pain seriously started! It took about 2 hours to finish the tattoo, during this time I tried to some pictures of the progress! It was looking great all the way through, at the end I was delighted with my new tattoo! I posted a picture to facebook back home for friends and family, everyone loved the design!

After getting the tattoo I decided to go chill a bit before heading out for the night. I slept some more and kept cleaning the tattoo every couple of hours. I went out to Khaosan road at about 10pm and while wandering around I randomly bumped into a friend from back home called Sac. He was touring the South of Thailand and said I actually forgot he was in Thailand, so it was a nice surprise. We grabbed a beer and then bumped into a dutch guy I had met the night before called Elmer.

The three of us walked around drinking beer after beer until I suggested that we try the trance bar called Ooze Bar. I finally found it earlier that evening, but it was fairly quiet. When we arrived it was also quiet, but we decided to hang around seeing it was midnight. Sac had an early start and still had to catch a taxi back to Sukhumvit, so he left. Elmer and I continued dancing until the place started closing down. We drank my first bucket of the Thailand trip! Great music and more people with serious vibe started arriving! I was in my element with psytrance playing, yippeee!

I headed back to my hotel pretty late, maybe 3am and hit the hay.

Moving on to Khaosan road from Sukhumvit

Now that the cycle trip has finished I am set to start the final leg of my trip in Khaosan road in the Bangkok district called Banglamphu. I have specific check boxes to check, like getting a tattoo and a suit made by a tailor with some new shirts. I also want get to Chatuchak weekend market before flying out on the Saturday 21st to Malaysia.

I woke up feeling tender again after drinking a number of overpriced beers at the ping pong show, I was barely recovered from the Autthaya evening out and felt somewhat sleep deprived. I didn’t have a clue what there was to do in the Sukhumvit area, but what I did know is that things only started around 11am and much later, so not much to do.

I started off the day chilling in my luxury room blogging, facebooking and catching up on some emails. Then headed down for some breakfast, which was a delicious omelet made Thai style! I am definitely going to make Thai style omelets at home going forward, so easy and tasty. They had instant coffee so I avoided the coffee. I have not had a coffee since the Cappuccino baker on Koh Tao on the 4th January.

I packed up and decided to head out at 11am after doing a quick walk around the neighborhood and found nothing was open. I arranged a metered taxi with the help of the bell boy, I only use metered taxis because the non-metered guys screw you every time.

The taxi dropped me at Khaosan road and that signified the start of my next holiday journey! Very exciting even though I knew I would be heading home soon, which is not a bad thing after 5 weeks of seriously great holiday. I walked around Khaosan and saw the business of the area. After checking a few different places for single bed rooms I decided to try find spot a little way away from the madness.

I eventually found a place called Rambuttri Village Inn that had a single room with toilet, warm shower and air on for 630 baht per night, SOLD! I was relieved because some of the places were pretty shit and I didn’t want to downgrade from serious luxury to slums.

After dumping my bags, I set off to look for the tattoo place and a tailor. I was trying to find Mr Yui, a guy referred to me by a guy I met on Koh Tao who was tattoo’ed to hell and back. I couldn’t find the place I was looking for, but did find Himmapan Tattoo. I got a really good feeling from them and decided this was the place. I chatted to a guy called Ahn about the design I wanted, he helped me by designing the tattoo in photoshop first, then printing it and sticking it to my leg to get an idea of what it would look like. I was pleased and booked the tattoo session for 3pm Thursday.

Next up I had to find a tailor to make my pinstripe suit. I spoke to the tailor next to the lobby for my hotel and the tailor said 9500 baht, seemed ok. I thought I would get a comparative price, I found another place and spoke to the guy about what I wanted, he quoted 5750 baht. The workmanship looked same as other tailor so I went with Mr Lucky Tailor. I already had my first fitting that same day, which I thought was kind of impressive.

I hung around the tattoo place because I was alone and somewhat bored. I like to meet people, chat and engage otherwise I feel lost. The people at the tattoo place were really friendly, they allowed me to use the Internet, which was great because everywhere else was going to charge me or I had to eat there to use the Internet. I spoke to Ahn about the Ooze bar, he had never heard of the place and didn’t seem to know what psytrance was either. He did take a walk with me to try and find the place, we had no luck.

As night came on the area became more and more busy, I figured I was bound to meet some random peeps at some stage. As I walked around Thai guys constantly offered me ping pong, it became very old very quickly. I saw 3 chicks being offered a good price as the guy said but it was same price I paid, I laughed and told them that. They were friendly, so we started chatting. Two of them came from New Zealand and one from Australia, which was great cause I generally get along well with people from there.

We missioned around for a while until we found some break dancers, these guys were amazing. The 4 of us watched for a while until they decided to head off to bed. I wasn’t keen to go to bed again so I hung around absorbing the madness. I bumped into 3 funny guys from Australia, England and Holland.

The Dutch guy had a skateboard which seemed to attract attention. There was a young Thai girl and a midget Thai woman selling roses, they took a liking to the skateboard and gave us the roses to sell. So there we were selling roses to westerners, what a laugh. I hung around with these guys for a while getting progressively more drunk until 4:30am when most things had stopped selling alcohol and I headed off to bed.

Day 4: Uttaradit to Sukhothai 90km

The fourth day was a little easier than day 2 and 3. We would only be riding 90km for the day.

Our first stop was still inside Uttaradit city realm at a Buddhist temple. I made an offering to Buddha and said my prayers. Woody the one guide explained interesting facts about giving offerings and helped me understand what the customs were. I felt really moved by this experience and actually quite emotional. The Buddhist people have lovely beliefs, warms my heart.

We started riding again, but stopped shortly afterwards for animals pictures, group photos and more interesting facts from Woody about the Thai farming techniques in the rice paddies. 1hour into the ride we had done about 10km of that, but it was fascinating.

We finally got onto some open road and Woody was with me this time. I asked him if I could open up and start pushing the speed a bit. He said yeah sure and he would ride with me. Note that Woody had been a pro cyclist in his day, now 46 years old. We were cruising on flat stretch for about 15km at about 40km per hour for majority of the time. RAD!

We had a pit stop for refueling. My body was feeling the previous two days and it felt like food wasn’t touching sides. We got going again, we were in pretty rural area and I stuck with Woody because he kept explaining what everything was, just so interesting to learn about Thai culture in the way we were.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. Everyone was pretty tired, self included. We were headed towards Sukhothai new city for 2 days / nights. Everyone was looking forwarding to this. Svenning and I we’re a bit bored with the pace, so we worked together to push up the pace. The last stretch of road we kept at least 35km per hour for about 20+ km.

We arrived at the hotel and it was gorgeous. Everyone was hungry, so before checking in to the hotel we headed out to a little restaurant for Sukhothai style noodle soup and pad thai. Yummy food, but we all wanted to get back to the hotel and swim.

I booked a Thai massage before dinner, the woman was pretty good, but Thai massage is not an easy massage, pretty rough and my muscles were tender. We headed off to dinner in the town at about 7:30pm. The dinner was not the best, we all agreed the food was odd. We had chicken with skin, pork with bone, catfish and other strange things.

After dinner was finished I asked about a market in the town I thought it might be nice to get out and see the local market at night. I went on my own. I walked and walked and walked, but saw no market. I went into a 7eleven to buy a beer for the walk. Mmmmmm, starting to get drunk.

While trying to find the market I bumped into the only westerners I had seen in a few days other than the group. The 3 guys I met randomly were from Melbourne, Australia. I asked them what they’re were up to and they said heading to a bar. I joined them and we chatted on the walk. They arrived at the bar and decided to order a bottle of whiskey, not a glass. We proceeding to smashed the bottle of whiskey in 30min flat.

We sat around chatting about where we were from, what we did, the usual getting to know each other stuff. I realized I had to get up early, it was getting late and I was feeling pretty darn drunk. I made a hasty exit and walked home. On the way home I found a street ice cream stall at the market I couldn’t find before, bought myself three scoops of ice cream on a cone, yummy.

I got back around midnight I think, don’t really remember the last part of the walk. Good times!

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Day 3: Lampang to Uttaradit 145km

This day was dubbed the hardest day of the tour. We had to complete 145km and 4 big climbs. Most of the cyclists were feeling anxious about the long day ahead, but I was ready for it.

We left Lampang at approximately 7:45am. Shortly after leaving the town of Lampang stopped off at a ceramics factory to look at some of their wares. The area is specifically known for its ceramics. We went into the factory, we got to look at how they make products and see everything from the raw ceramic product to the finished fired painted product. Next we went to their show room to purchase some little ceramic figures. I bought some gifts for myself, friends, family and my wife, the total was 400 baht about R100 for 8 pieces.

The route we were on was breathtaking, we were riding through farming areas with all sorts of different crops. I stopped regularly to snap random shots of whatever caught my attention. Despite having ridden hard on day 2 I was feeling super strong, looking forward to the hills.

Hill number one was called Ban Mai, before we got stuck in we had a food and drink break. Mr Tee and I went head to head and pushed it up the climb. Nobody rode with us, the nearest rider was Svenning. We stuck together up the climb and finished together, I knew we had another 3 climbs after this one. The downhill was mad fun, not sure what happened to Mr Tee, think he waited for the group to make sure everyone ok. I was pushing up to about 70+ km per hour I think, hard to say without a monitor. I recorded most of the downhill with my GoPro HD camera.

Once I got to the bottom I eased off as I didn’t want to get too far ahead. I started snapping pics of all the different crops, every half km was another amazing photo opportunity. I eventually saw a cyclist in the distance and it was Svenning. We joined forces and worked our way up the the second climb.

I taught Svenning a trick I had learnt ages back. I never ride a hill in a big gear because I am not strong, instead I drop to a low gear where I spin. Every so often I drop a few gears and get out of the saddle standing for about 50-100m to break the spinning. This method worked wonders for me and he started getting the hang of it.

We were alone peddling away, so we continued having a phat rap about all sorts. It’s sounded like this guy Svenning was pretty damn hard core, he was mainly a paddler and loved his kayaking. Fascinating listening to passionate people.

After 2nd climb we had another food and drink break before the 3rd climb started. The 3rd climb was set to be a mutha-fucka. I decided to go it alone and push as hard as possible. The temperature was really heating up, my head was boiling, but I gunned it hard up that climb. Feeling like a champion! The downhill was good fun too, again I recorded it on my GoPro.

On the other side of the 3rd climb we reached an area that was well known for furniture making. I was way ahead of the rest so made some stops at some local furniture places, amazing products, but way too big to ship home.

Our lunch stop was next to one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Thailand. Lunch comprised of a spicy noodle salad and noodle soup. After eating we all headed across the road to see the buddha. I have honestly never seen such a big Buddha. Easily could have been longer than 100m maybe even 200m, hard to get perspective of something that big. Beautiful temple, snapped pics and headed back on the road.

Next we had a ride through the country side heading towards our last climb of the day. We pushed hard, but is time it was Mr Tee, Svenning and myself working together. The climb was not massive, but it was still enough uphill to make it a challenge. I paced most of the way, but made sure we didn’t loose Svenning. He hang on like a trooper, 62 year old rock star if you ask me. We stopped for snacks and drinks at top of hill 4. The downhill was awesomeness, recorded it and made sure I was careful because there was a lot of road works, sand and fairly dangerous obstacles.

Waited for Mr Tee and Svenning once things flattened out a bit. We had about 40-45km to go, I sat on the front and pushed speeds of between 40-50km per hour as we had a slight downhill. I broke Mr Tee, he told me to ease off. We finished 25km in no time flat and waited for the rest at a petrol station.

The last stretch we eased off and rode as a group. We arrived at our next hotel in a Uttaradit around 6:30pm in partial dark. Long day in the saddle, the group was broken, amazingly Svenning and I still felt great, but tired as we had ridden hard.

Dinner was at 7:30pm at the hotel.

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After the hotel I went out to see the town. Nothing to see though, no tourists in site. I figured let’s get a massage, but couldn’t find a massage place. Eventually after walking for ages I found a place that had massage on the sign. Strange place, crap massage, little disappointed and headed home to go to sleep before midnight.

Day 2: Chiang Mai to Lampang 135km

Started my day at 6:30 because I wanted to head off to the Immigration office before starting the cycle trip. I went for some breakfast, check the obligatory Facebook, then packed my bags into the Spice Roads bus and headed off to the immigration office.

Immigration opened at 8am, so I figured if I arrived at 7:45am I would be early enough to get into the queue. The immigration office was exactly like South Africa, dunno why I thought it would be different. I decided to skip the visa extension and pay the fine. Fuck that, too much effort, I don’t care anymore.

I asked the the tour driver to take me back to the group so we could start the tour. I arrived around 8:15am and we set off shortly there after for our first serious day of riding. We had 130km ahead of us, one climb and would end in a city called Lampang.

We rode through Chiang Mai in much the same route as the first day when we did our warm up ride. We headed out towards the farm lands. People were getting to know each other and chatting. I seemed to get along with the Danish guy Svening really well, he was a kayaker who had been kayaking the world circuit in his younger years, pretty fit guy.

I stopped along the road a few times to take shots of the local farm lands. I saw a dam with a guy floating on it picking something, Woody (guide) said that he was picking morning glory. We had been eating the veggie in a number of dishes during the course of the holiday. We also saw long beans, bananas, Thai eggplant, rice paddies and some fish farms which were interesting to see.

Our first pit stop was at a Buddhist temple along the way. The pace was fairly easy going until this point because we were not on straight roads and had to stick together. After refueling and snapping a bunch of pics we headed off.

Our next stop was another temple, this temple was much older and Woody explained a number of interesting facts about the Buddhist temples. We spent quite a bit of time at this temple, prayed to Buddha and donated some money to the temple.

The next stretch was set to be straight road and the guides allowed me to head off on my own. I decided to put foot and seriously push some high speeds. The one old dude Allan decided it to try give it a go with me, we were pushing 40km per hour when he dropped, I kept going until I hit a cross roads. Wow it felt good to be pushing the speed on a road bike. I had forgotten what was like to ride like this, surprisingly I was feeling super strong even though I had not trained on a bike in 4 weeks.

I hit an intersection and waited for the others. Mr Tee joined me and I decided to test his it riding skills. I pumped it even harder than before to check his break point or how strong he was. We were riding through such beautiful landscape, I saw so many things I had questions about and asked him a few questions. He got annoyed with me because I was speaking while we were riding so hard, his words were “no talk when fast ride”. I chuckled and pushed on. He sucked my wheel and didn’t do much work on the front. Either way I was loving the riding.

We had a pit stop, much fruit, food and drank plenty fluids. The temperature was slowly rising, we were feeling the heat, but the great thing was it wasn’t humid, thank goodness! I kept pushing hard, but not top speed this time, some other people joined us and we stayed together. I basically sat on the front doing most of the work, which was fun actually.

The old dude Allan decided to attack us, the game was on, next Mr Tee attacked, we kept attacking and going for it until we hit a highway. Next was the climb we were told about in briefing. Mr Tee and I dropped the other pretty quickly, then next thing I looked back and he was 50m behind me. I was hurting a bit, considering we still had the rest of the climb and another 45km before we got home I decided to ease off.

After we got to the top of hill it was pit stop time again. The first person behind me was Svenning, I was amazed at this guys stamina and strength. Then came Lesley the Alaskan woman and after that the rest of the peeps hit the top in drips and drabs. Allan who was 72 and had been attacking hit the wall, he was dehydrated and feeling the heat badly.

After refueling a bit we headed down the mountain to the elephant sanctuary and rehabilitation clinic. We had lunch there and afterwards went to feed the elephants. Snapped a million pics of the baby elephant and mummy elephant. Aaaaaah sweet, happiness.

We were quite far behind schedule and the guides were concerned we wouldn’t make the hotel by dark in Lampang. We pushed on to Lampang, the sun started setting but we decided we were close enough to just just make the hotel before complete darkness fell on us.

We arrived at the hotel at 6:40pm in pretty much darkness. The guides said we would have dinner at 8pm and we would travel to the on horse drawn carts. Lampang is known as the cowboy town. he horse drawn carts were a real novelty.

Dinner was next to a river again and we had a live band playing cover songs. It was hilarious listening to the cover songs. We had a fabulous dinner, the food was yummy. We stayed at the restaurant for a couple till 10pm.

On the way home I asked the guides to drop me at the market. I bought myself an AngryBirds tshirt cause I been playing tons of Angry Birds this holiday, I was very happy with my purchase. I headed back to the hotel we were staying in, on the way back I made a stop at 7eleven to pick up red bull for my vodka drinks. I bought a Chang for the walk back…. Mmmmmm… Chang o’clock at 10:30pm.

On the last stretch I stopped off at Kem Tattoo and had a phat chat session with some local Thai peeps. Really funny guys, they were listening to Slipknot and pouring me large SangSom drinks. I proceeded to get really drunk with the guys. I taught the guys how to say “Aweh”! I love Thai people, so friendly and easy going.

After getting fairly motherless with the Thais I really did head home and got to sleep sometime after midnight.

Day 1: Spice Roads cycle trip starts with a warm up ride

I woke up at my friend Jonathon Beedham’s condo this morning know that Barbara was safely on her flight back to South Africa. I felt like I could face this day with full power. After the day before’s chaos travelling I knew today would be better.

I woke up fairly early and didn’t want to disturb Jonathon and his girlfriend, so I took the oppertunity to plan some work for my LightSpeed team back home. Felt good to plan some work.

Once Jonathon woke up, he came down stairs and we sat catching up for a while. He is in the US Airforce and had been working in Chiang Mai for about 28 months. In this time he had learnt fluent Thai which is extremely impressive to me.

His Thai girlfriend came downstairs and joined us. I had asked them the night before if they could help me construct a Thai phrase for my tattoo I want on my calf muscle. The phrase I gave them was “Leave only footprints and take only memories”. There is evidently a similar Thai phrase or saying that the Thai people use, so we researched it and found the letters. Jonathon printed it and his girlfriend said the phrase while I recorded her voice on my phone.

Jonathon said he could drop me off at the Imperial Mai Ping Hotel where I would be staying for the first night of the cycle tour. He also helped me find a place to have my legs waxed, he left me at the waxing place and we said our goodbyes. What a big help Jonathon had been, without his help I would have struggled!

After a painful full leg waxing I headed back to the Imperial Mai Ping hotel for a cycle tour briefing. Mr Tee and Woody were our tour guides., they explained roughly what would be happening each day for the next 11 days along with a host of warnings and our they gave us tshirts.

We started our warm up ride at 2:30 and headed out to a nearby area called Baan Wai that was known for its wood furniture. The day was set to be about 45 km, I was not quite sure what to expect. Most of the people who were on the tour were 50 plus except for one couple who had not really done a lot of cycling.

I was a bit worried I would be bored with the pace, but Mr Tee said to me that he raced road biking and would make sure I was able to go fast when I wanted. We slowly meandered out of Chiang Mai at a leisurely pace, which was fine seeing it was just a warm up ride.

We stopped for pictures along the way whenever needed. We quickly moved out of the city and into the more rural areas with rice paddies. I am very interested in farming Thailand, the floods, general life so I asked lots of questions. the guides were very informative and I got a good feeling about the coming days.

The idea was that we would stop every 30km for snacks, drinks and a breather. Seeing it was a short day we only had one pit stop. We stopped at a wholesale furniture place with spectacular furniture. I specifically noticed a swing chair that we first saw at Klong Proa on Koh Chang, the price was amazingly cheap for such incredible workmanship and quality. To ship this home would be near impossible and costly.

After some tasty snacks and much needed drinks we continued with the ride and back to our hotel. We arrived back at the hotel around 6:10pm and were told that dinner would at a restaurant in Chiang Mai. We left at 7:30pm for the restaurant in a mini-bus. The dinner was fabulous, we were next to a river and the setting was just magic.

It was good to engage my fellow tour members, there were some interesting people on the tour. I was very happy and looking forward to the rest of the tour. We headed back to the hotel around 10pm.

Once back at the hotel I immediately headed out to the Chiang Mai night bazaar. I got a little shopping done, the market was fairly large so I knew it would take a while get through it all. I was done by 11pm and headed back to the hotel. On the way back I got a foot and leg massage in for 200 baht / 1 hour, so cheap it’s hard to believe.

Hit the hay at just past midnight.