Georgetown to Langkawi

We felt sad that we were only staying one day in Georgetown. I almost tried to extend stay, but didn’t. Seemed like there was lots to do and see. I felt bad, felt like I was rushing us. Anxiety spiral again. Trying to manage it and calm down and just roll with where we are.

We taxied back to the hotel and  hopped onto our bikes to ride to the ferry terminal. Weirdly the hottest I’ve felt all trip, was just wildly, shockingly hot. Felt like my skull was straining against my helmet and I was sweating in every possible place. But we made it to the terminal and got coconut waters and sat in the shade and I made a full recovery.

Got on the the ferry, which was much more of a ramshackle deal than expected. Lots of people getting off: sunburnt icky white tourists with elephant pants and backpacks, older guys in weird old guy capris, and some Muslim couples with the women in full burkas, which I haven’t seen much of yet. I wonder if they are tourists from the Middle East, coming to a Muslim vacation spot. Bonkers Bollywood movie played on loop for the entire journey.

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We arrived on Langkawi around 6pm and had some fried rice at the port and headed toward our hotel. Icky ride thorough Kuah, a little like Denpasar in Bali. But once we got out of town it got so beautiful, rolling hills and palms and rocky treed hills in the distance. Golden light and friendly people—I felt giddy. Made it Temple Tree (I went with the expensive option) which was situated down a pretty white gravel driveway. Greeted with a pineapple drink, and told we got upgraded! (I’d told them it was our honeymoon.) The resort is eight old houses from Malaysia, moved there and restored. We stayed in the Penang house, originally from Southern Malaysia, near Singapore. You enter into a little hallway, all wood slat floors and white walls with blue shutters. To the left, a big bathroom with shower that drains right through the floor and a giant wooden bathtub, and to the right, a bedroom with a low bed and AC. First place we’d stayed that wasn’t all AC throughout. Actually super pleasant. Some bugs and heat coming in, but it almost seems weirder to totally block it out in such an intense climate.

Took quick showers and went and jumped in the pool, which was really lovely. Soft light and tons of stars—I floated on my back and looked at the sky. Got dressed (wore my one “fancy” outfit) and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. Had a gin and tonic and it went right to my head.

Woke up the next morning and had breakfast in the room—they leave you a little continental breakfast to put together in the morning. Toast, fruit, yogurt, cake—and real coffee!! Then we called a cab to hire for the day. First stop was the gondola that the bike tourers had heartily recommended. It was in a super tacky “Oriental Village” with go-carts and the fish foot thing and knick knack shops. We bought tickets and headed up. Total cluster of complication and VIP lines. I got really irritated. Finally we got in a dumb pod and started heading up. Amazing view, super steep jungle-y mountain. Neat vantage. Rode with two gay Asian dudes in matching polo shirts and and Aussie dad-daughter duo, who debated whether Mum would have ridden the gondola for the whole trip. (She would have, with her eyes closed.) They make you get off at midway and walk through more crap to buy. Wound up bailing on the sky bridge at the top—and got lucky with our very own car down. Big decal of a guy on a jet ski on the side of the gondola, and it’s the worst white guy in the world, all hulky with stupid hair. Needless to say, I did not love the gondola experience.

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Back to our cheery cab driver and on to Tanjung Rhu, a beach in the northeast corner of the island. Long and interesting drive. Pretty beach, little islands near the shore and big ones in the distance. Mangroves tucked back in an inlet. Found a shady spot and read and swam. I sure do love knowing how to swim and feeling more comfortable in the water after a winter of swimming classes.

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Cabbed back to the hotel and a took a big nap. Feeling really lucky and delighted and in love with Stuart. I think we’re both really enjoying having a break both from biking (short term), and regular life (long-er term). Swam in the pool in the afternoon and read in the shade. I’m reading “Boys of My Youth” by Jo Ann Beard and laughing a lot. Great stories about the weird feelings you have as a little kid. And sad adult stories. Funny story about restoring a house with a perfectionist husband and sucking at the little tasks he gives you and his insane sweetness about it. (Something I know a little about.)

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Biked into the nearby beach-y area for dinner. Drinks at a fancy hotel—turned out to be free beer and bubbles night for guests so it was totally nuts. Sat behind some rich Aussies/Brits—one lady with Dior sunglasses was taking a hit off a pink sparkly vape every three minutes and blowing the tropical-flavored cloud way, way out. Made me laugh.

Wound up chatting with Dev, a super nice gay tour guide for a nature company (he really did not seem like an outdoorsy dude at all, in his super tight tropical print shirt) and he recommended some dinner spots. Headed to Sugar, down at the next beach. Kind of tacky and slammed busy but got a great spot to watch the end of the sunset—lots of para-gliders taking off. We had a white girl with mouth piercing giving her a crazy lisp as our waitress—turns out she’s from Tyler, TX and has lived on Langkawi 8 yrs, married to a Malay guy and has a kid! Got a little drunk, ate lobster, biked back. Fun biking a little buzzed in the warm night. Had coconut sorbet and lemongrass ice cream at our hotel and went to bed.

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Woke up, headed back to the nearby beach. Read and swam, had lunch (good cheap chicken soup with celery leaves and peanuts), and headed back to our hotel. Had a little rest and packed up, sad to leave—we are headed to Satun, Thailand. Had one last watermelon juice on the porch and headed out into the heat. Sizzlingly hot ride to the ferry in the middle of the day. Had some good Indian food at the terminal and waited in a puzzling maze for our boat. Fast ferry, easy ride. I got so excited when we got nearby—so excited to see a new place! This is turning out to be the magical part of touring, for me at least: going somewhere new, being somewhere new so frequently.

Offloaded in Satun, had an easy entry into Thailand. Biked past a big road riding group resting by the water. Very different landscape—no palms, lots of trees. Very nice road. Quick ride into town to “The Gleam,” a place we booked on Agoda. Turns out to be incredibly pretty, little Garden of Eden with pools and ponds and blooming fragrant plants. We have our own little cement house for $27. TV, AC, big bed. Asked for a restaurant recommendation and got pointed down the street—immediately saw the sweet place. Little individual roofed palapa things, with a speakers inside playing bouncy Thai pop. Stuart noticed that we barely heard music in Malaysia. English issues at the restaurant—we gotta learn a little Thai. Wound up with some sautéed beef with herbs and rice and an egg, super good. Plus beer and ice—little pucks of ice frozen in the bottoms of the glasses! So many amazing smells coming from the kitchen—thought we’d ordered more but it never came. Had a hard time flagging anyone down, eventually just paid and left, then everyone came to say goodnight to us, which was very sweet.

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Satun to Thung Wa

Woke up and had instant noodles in the room. Set off around 7, with the sun already up because Thailand is (or isn’t? It’s confusing to me) on daylight savings time. Neat ride through town, tons of school kids heading off to class after street snacks and people toodling around on scooters. We stopped for a more real breakfast at a very shack-y place with Muslim ladies making huge huge huge vats of soup and curries. The pharmacist from next door came over to help with the English-Thai barrier, and after lots of pointing we both wound up with plates of rice and curry and fermented mustard greens and scrambled eggs. I also got soup somehow—a bowl full of big hunks of potato-y melon and bony meat that was surprisingly great. I thought the curry I had was pork, but realized later it couldn’t have been (headscarves) so I’ve got no clue what I really had for breakfast. Very different flavors than Malaysia: more herbs, more oomph—and less fish funk, surprisingly.

Stopped at our first magical Thai 711 on the way out of town for water and snacks and off we went. We biked along the highway for a while, but went with Google walking maps again for a longer but less busy route. Definitely paid off with a nice road through little towns and dry paddies. I can’t imagine how different it must look here in the wet season—huge swaths of rice growing land are totally barren, even burnt—must be a very different scene when they are watery and lush and green. Everyone waves at us and we get lots of Hello!s and Sawadee!s.

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Started off feeling strong but by noon or so I was getting really tired. My butt is truly so insanely sore. So I was insanely glad to come across a good lunch spot at a turn in the road. Sat down—must have looked totally toasted. Sweaty, red and pale at the same time, floppy, exhausted noodle girl. Gal having lunch there sweetly hopped right up and brought us glasses of ice for water. Stuart did some good pointing and got us a great lunch of fried rice with chicken, shrimp, and delicious greens. Lime to squeeze over the the top. We both barely made it through our lunches, both feeling pretty weird. “Gerbils doing Muay Thai in my guts,” as Stuart put it. Managed to just chill out and sat there for a long time. I got so tired, I nodded off and woke up maybe 10 times. Haven’t had that feeling since being dead bored in high school. So tired that there’s no thinking about it, just head dropping back and totally OUT. Then coming to,  not sure if it’s been a ten second or twenty minute nap. The guy owner of the restaurant (who was wearing safety glasses to drive his scooter around and hack at meat) sweetly offered for me to lay down in their house, which was incredibly nice. I felt a bit better after the break and carried on to Thung Wa, a place we’d picked as a good halfway point.

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I’d searched for hotels on Google Maps and seen Thung Wa, which seemed like a good stopping point. There was only one hotel in town, so I Googled the name, The Green Hotel, and it brought up these totally charming Scots’ bike blog. Funny, endearing couple who do big trips around the world. They’d stayed there and seemed to like it, so we shot for the same place. Showed up to a strange situation, but got a room for under $10, the cheapest so far. Big room, with a TV at one end and a bed at the other. Fluorescent light over the TV and a weird colonial, garage-style sconce over the bed. Pink bathroom with a squat toilet and no shower. Old shower head that emitted at sad trickle, showers to be taken with a bowl and a trash can full of water. Worked pretty well and felt pretty great after being so sweaty. We wrapped ourselves up in our bug bags and watched Thai TV.

We walked toward town to get dinner, through some pretty little streets. Folowed signs for some kind of vista and wound up at the top of a rise looking out over the water and islands—super, super pretty. We got some dinner from stands in town (after waking around waiting to get to the heart of town, it turned out we were already there.) Picked up fried chicken with sticky rice and a generous scoop of fried shallots and a bag of papaya salad. A weird big guy had rode by us on his scooter a couple times, saying hi in a strange way, and while I was waiting for chicken (with a bunch of ladies, all of whom I stood about 1.5 feet above) he kind of accosted Stuart at a table and kept asking him where we were staying. Creepy. Icky. So we hustled back to the hotel, a long, dark walk along the highway. Got back and realized that the front of our hotel was a nightclub—rope lights and a projector shooting giant photos of naked Asian babes on the wall. Turns out we may have been staying in a brothel.

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Ate dinner in the room with the crazy loud and totally uncontrollable AC on. Stuart tried to secure the door a little better and put a bike against it. I unwisely ate the papaya salad—atomic-level spicy. Whole head felt hollowed out by spice. Near-religious experience. Then back in bug bags to try and sleep. AC kept turning on and off, and was incredibly loud and ineffective when on. Tried to turn the fan on but it sounded like a rattly old truck trying to start right above the bed. Long long night of sweat and dogs barking and loud pop music from the bar. And fear.

Thung Wa to Trang

I woke up hoping it was near morning: it was midnight. Finally (finally!) dawn came and we packed up quick and headed out. Stopped for a breakfast snack on the edge of town and the second I got off my bike my stomach started turning. Truly thought I was going to hurl over my handlebars. Stuart bought some little rice batter pancakes and chicken and I ate a little. Felt totally awful. Wound up going across the street to the hospital to use their bathroom. A Thai emergency room is very, very chill compared to an American one. (Nobody even batted an eye when I came in. It’d cost you $100 to even wash your hands in an ER at home.) We rode all day on the highway, but there some very pretty stretches: limestone cliffs and deep jungle.

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Long day to Trang, 80+ kilometers. Incredibly windy, and it felt like it was a headwind or sideways gusts about 90% of the time. We stopped for a watermelon and we ate the whole thing! Watermelon guy was kind of chatting with us, 99% in Thai. We just nodded a lot. Kept asking where we were from (I think) but USA, U.S., United States were all really just not getting across. Finally he said “Oh, France!” so we just rolled with that. Last 20km to Trang were SO hard for me. Tired. Surprisingly, so far I’ve just been body tired, hot and tuckered by the end of each day. It was the first day my legs really hurt. But we made it to the hotel: nice and friendly, hallelujah. Showers and TV. Got some beers and chips and had a nice rest on the little rooftop deck included in our $25 penthouse room. We sorted out a plan for the next day: we’ll take the train to Ban Krut, a beach town, and have some rest days. Booked a place.

We went down to the weekend market for dinner—totally nuts when we arrived at 6:30 and just got progressively more packed, loud, and bonkers. Stalls selling hair extensions and baby clothes and seashells with your name on them, plus tons of food. Had little half-orb batter things with spicy bits and mussels in them, and then crazily fishy pomelo salad. Pomelo plus big fried anchovies and dried shrimp and fish sauce. And peanuts. A little much. Walked around and got some more snacks: highlight was these crazy fried nests of herbs and whole tiny shrimp. Stuart loved them—perfect Stu snacks.

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Got a papaya salad (one chili, please! We’ve learned our lesson) and some beers and headed back. Sat on the deck again and listened to the market from above. Watched a little TV: state broadcast on every channel talking about the plans to improve rural Thailand. Been thinking lots about where we live—often when traveling I feel like other places have it better: cheaper, more flexibility, better food, easier. But this trip, seeing lots of very rural, developing world living up close, I’m feeling thankful and glad for my nice warm (or cool) house, clean water, and good smells. Life is so easy in the U.S.

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Woke up the next day and headed to the train station to get tickets. Turns out the train doesn’t stop in Ban Krut. Oy. I’m tired of hassling with things. After lots of back and forth, we decided to stop in the nearest town. We’ll arrive late, around 10pm, so we’ll stay there and go to Ban Krut in the morning. Found some cute bungalows to stay in but no one answers the phone and you can’t book online, so I wound up booking some dumb hotel on Agoda. Called to let them know we’d be in late, but we couldn’t really hear each other. Eventually turned to static so I hung up and sent an email and hoped for the best. We went down to get situated at the train station. Hot and hungry, agitated after looking at an iPhone and trying to make decisions and figure things out based on wacky Thai websites for a couple hours. I was just exhausted and tired of things not going as planned. Turns out I am indeed a planner, and I’m really able to have much more of a good time within a structure. I like to think that I’m easy breezy but sometimes not so much.

Stuart watched the luggage and I went back to the restaurant we’d been to for breakfast and a snack the night before. I had the same weird herbal mushroom soup I’d inadvertently ordered the last time—cinnamon and goji berries and bony beef bits and lots of greens. Really delicious somehow. Watched Thai soaps and read my book and calmed down. It was surprisingly super nice to be alone for a little bit. Got Stuart some takeout and headed back, much revived.

Trang to Bang Saphan

Arrived at the Bang Saphan station around 10:30pm after a ten hour train ride (which was surprisingly easy, pretty views and nice breeze in the car—lots of ladies offering up snacks through the window at stations.) Rushed off to see what we needed to do to get our bikes, but easy-peasy, there they were.

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Rode to our place in the dark, got barked at by lots of dogs. We arrived and realized the hotel lady had sent the car for us, which was very sweet. She’s kind of a nut, super smiley and sweet. We went up to room showered and promptly fell asleep.

We had breakfast downstairs: eggs, toast, and octopus hot dogs. Thought breakfast was over but then a crazy fruit parade arrived: papaya, mango, pineapple, dragon fruit…so delicious but so much fruit! It was nuts. Sat at the beach for a while after breakfast (Stu body surfed, much to the awe of the little German kid sitting on the beach with his mom) and then rested in the room. Packed up and went to leave, but our sweet hotel lady offered to make us lunch. Wound up with big plates of rice and spicy stuff: super, super good. She wouldn’t let us pay— “I made it for you!” —and walked us to the end of the road. Really really sweet.

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Biked 25km, some on the highway and some on pretty rural roads, to Ban Krut. Took a pretty road alongside a canal that was alongside the sea—neat colorful fishing boats moored in the canal and very small-time, sweet farms along the other side of the road.  Arrived at our spot, The Seascape.

Settled in to our little place, which is run by an old swede and his Thai wife. Swede’s son Martin is there daily, super big, blocky Swedish dude with a ridiculously square head and a wacky assortment of tattoos: jaggy biker cross that looks like an eight grader did it, Chang elephants (of course), and a big #1. He splits his time between Thailand and Sweden where he works in a DHL warehouse. (Later spotted him zooming around on a scooter with some babe who was staying at the hotel.)

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We had one full rest day in Ban Krut, and we rented a scooter and went up to a pretty temple and zoomed around. Had a good lunch at a beautifully landscaped resort full of old people, I got a massage in an oddball little spot across from a 711, and Stuart napped. The massage was great: tiny little toad-y Thai lady bent me around and stretched me out. Later Stuart and I went to the beach and swam a bit, before taking the scooter down the beach for dinner at a neat little seaside shack. Had some great pork belly sauteed with greens, and some weird noodles in gravy. (Gravy, turns out to not be a good bet in Asia.) Drank a couple big beers and zipped home to bed.

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Ban Krut to Prachuap Khiri Khan

Set off in the morning and biked to Prachuap Khiri Khan. It was supposed to be a shortish day (65km) but we took back roads to avoid the unpleasant highway which made it longer. We wound up biking through a national park—Google showed a road, which it was for a while, but then turned to a path, to singletrack, to a vague trail, to a tunnel of thorns. Stuart was super patient and helpful—he could tell I was crumbling. I was so hungry and tired and frustrated—and I felt like a dumb whiny kid, which just made me more and more angry and frustrated. Stuart holds it together and kind of goes into dad mode which is necessary and I appreciate—but it also makes me (irrationally) angry. I want to do things on my own but also want to flop down and cry (not unlike a two year-old.) Really, I’m not mad at Stuart, but just mad in a general way and he’s the only thing around to be mad at. I tried to pull it together and be cheerful-ish. Felt much better after some noodle soup in a tiny town and I enjoyed the rest of the ride into town.

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Checked into our very nice, $21 hotel (the “De Boutique”) and napped. Walked downstairs and had a great dinner next door: fried fish bits with crispy garlic and spicy green curry with seafood. Yum. Walked around and then down to the water, where we were surprised to find a little bit of a scene, then got a dessert: fried roti with banana and egg inside, topped with condensed milk and sugar. Super yummy. The condensed milk thing here is nuts—it’s in coffee, tea, on top of everything. Whoever thought to market that stuff to Asia was a genius.

Some photos from walking around at night:

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Prachuap Khiri Khan to Sam Roi Yot

Woke up biked toward another beach town. We had a pretty day on quiet roads. A little scary highway time in the morning, but not too bad. Stopped and had crazy spicy dry fried chili chicken at a shack full of puppies, seriously, puppies squirming around all over the place. Shortly after the puppy breakfast we got off the highway and had fun on little roads. Google again directed us right off the road, and we wound up carrying the bikes along the beach and walking through a shrimp farm, which was exciting for everyone involved. Passed through the Sam Roi Yot park—big limestone formations and zillions of monkeys. I got a flat tire, the first of the trip—I had biked through something super thorny and had dozens of thorns all over my front tire. Stuart quickly patched it and we had some nice concerned onlookers who checked in on us.

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Made it to a hotel on the north side of the park. Very nice, but once we showered and laid down, a beach party immediately started. We’d seen them setting up—big stage and all. So loud! So we bailed. No hotel staff to be found and we hadn’t paid yet, so after a confusing conversation with a Thai housekeeper, a Dutch guy, and a Thai lady, we left some cash and biked away from the noise. Wound up at some weird place called Sweet Honey, way back off the beach. Was totally fine but super odd, with stuffed animals all over the place. Swam in their pool (which had a strange optical illusion, looked about 6 inches deep) and walked down to the beach for dinner. Had sautéed greens with fish bits and great squid with curry, then headed back to the good ol’ Sweet Honey.

Sam Roi Yot to Hua Hin

Started off the day biking on the highway for a bit, but it was early and not too busy. Stopped for breakfast in a little town: fried dough bits and barely boiled eggs broken into juice glasses. Kind of intense and weird but served by very nice ladies. We’ve gone sugar-native: we both mixed about two tablespoons into our tiny glasses of instant coffee.

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Short day of riding, and we arrived in Hua Hin around 10am. Went and bought our train tickets for the trip to Bangkok the next day and went to hotel, the Evergreen. Very odd. Off in a residential part of the town and totally catered toward golfers. Scottish golf crap everywhere. But we got a nice big room.

We went and had tom yum soup nearby—whoa, so much offal! Seriously, like ten different unidentifiable bits floating around in there. But great broth. Dessert of shaved ice with pink syrup and condensed milk over lychee (I think) and bits of white toast. Weirdly good. We are totally addicted to sugar after having sweet drinks all day every day for a few weeks—that dessert would have made us both gag at the beginning of this trip, so sickly sweet, now we’re lapping it up.

We walked along the beach then stopped to have drinks at a very fancy resort—really, we just wanted to have a reason to sit there. Strange beach here: long and shallow and the water looked nice, but inexplicably, one was swimming. Odd. We went back to the hotel and watched bad cop shows and read.

The east coast of Thailand did not turn out to be that cool in the end. Very chill, but full of odd tourists (fat old Europeans, mostly) and not super nice beaches, kind of shallow and grimy. But the biking was nice, small roads and pretty scenery. I think we’re both a little bummed to have missed out on great beach time, maybe in Krabi or the Adaman islands, but oh well. So it goes.

We went to get massages before dinner—boy, they really whap on you. I could hear Stuart making whimpery OW sounds from a few feet away. But feels pretty good on a tired body. Afterward we walked to a nearby famous seafood place for diner, which was situated out on a pier way high over the water. Got beers and ice, and a total feast: red curry mousse (tofu?) and shrimp steamed in a coconut, fried squid (so good), a whole fish with red sauce and pork, and some Chinese broccoli with salted fish. Pretty delicious and fun.