Robert Munro
/ Rob Munro

Thailand Blog

6th Dec 2004
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Just spent 2 days on the road, so i think i'm about due for a break.
I decided not to ride out of Bangkok - the 10kms to the bus station was more than enough, but weaving around Bangkok city was alot of fun.

I bussed it to Kanchanaburi (west of bangkok), home of the bridge over river kwai. The place seemd more of a tribute to kitch than the bridge, but the fireworks extravagansa was great. My first day's ride was from here to Suphanburi, where no-one understood my attempts in Thai to ask for a guest house, except the people at the guest house itself, (although they kept pointing at the ground when I asked, so it took me a while to figure it all out). Good thing i made sure before i left i knew the Thai for "it'd really like a strong black coffee please" or i could really be in trouble.

Today i rode from there to Ayuthaya, where I'll take the day off tommorrow for my birthday and attempt to get stumbling drunk. I think i'll try to see some of the sites here first- this used to be the capital (circa 'The King and I'?), but then again the place i stopped for lunch yesterday used to be the capital, and so did another town i'll be at in a few days... Anyway, i'm armed with limes from the market and the search for vodka continues.

8th Dec 2004
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Woke up this morning to a headache, feverish sweats and nausa - all the symptoms of malaria... and also a thai hangover it turns out. the search for vodka was successful: i spend the afternoon drinking it sitting on a balcony out over the river, followed by a night at a bar.

Anyway, i was still on my bike by seven - it's too hot to ride in the middle of the day, plus its fun get the afternoon to explore wherever i get to. At the moment i'm in Sing Buri. it's storming down (other good reason to get somewhere early), but the night market's still open: bright plastic and fresh fruit and veg, and dozens of noodle stores under umbrellas or tarps. No farangs here - seems you don't have to go far to get off the tourist trail, but according to the lady running the geusthouse i'm staying at a cyclist was staying there last night- going today to where i came from. I didn't pass him, so i guess he either took the main road, or found an even better back way than i did. nice to know. riding here is perfect (except for a few dogs with issues). the roads are smooth, and there's not much traffic off the highways. The roads are all raised a few meters, so there's a great veiw all the time. plusevery few k's there's wooden stilts hanging out from the road over the field / paddy / pond, which are great to escape the sun from for a short siesta or two.

no impressive milestones yet for me, but according to the odometer my not-so-new-anymore bike did its 3000th touring kilometer today. i'm cleaning the chain as a celebratory gift.

13th Dec 2004
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I've cycled my longest day ever, but it was an accident. From Sing Buri, my three maps all disagreed about a network of minor roads and tracks to take me north. sounded good to me. 90 ks later i emerged at uthai thani, having succesfully navigated through. So, when the last 30ks for the day was along a single road, i'd thought i'd be alright. i wasn't. i must have started on the wrong road, because every road and every turn-off wanted to go back to uthai thani. I'd cycle for an hour and see a sign telling me i was only 10 mins from where i started - i was trapped in an Escher-esque road hell (one with lots of pretty lotus flower ponds).

Eventually I found my way and, 146 kms from breakfast, collapsed into Nakhon Sawan. The skies burst and drenched me as i cycled the last few hundred metres of course.

The next day, 10kms north of Nakhon Sawan i was faced with a choice: take a main road north to Phitsanolouk, or a backroad to Kampheung Phet. Two of my maps said there was a 50km stretch where no backroad existed, the third hinted that it might. I let a 5 baht coin decide for me - it wanted to find the missing road. The only thing that worried me was that if i couldn't find a road that was there yesterday, could i find one that wasn't today...?

13th Dec 2004
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Yes. I must have a fifth sense about these things. The road was newly tarred, had almost no traffic and wound through some very green fields and paddies. I'd been almost three days without seeing a farang at this point, so the last thing i expected to see on the road that wasn't was two cyclists that were. As i cycled through a particularly dusty village, out of the gloom appeared two Dutch cyclists who'd cycled from Singapore. We were all pretty amazed.

We all stayed at Kampheung Phet and they showed me the most incredible invention- i remote control for angry dogs. It only had one button, making a high pitched noise that makes dogs stop and reverse. Wish I had one - i've been pretending to throw rocks at the dogs that have been chasing me.

I left the next day for Sukothai, while they hung around for another day - they were heading east straight into Laos, while i was heading west to the mountains along the Burmese border before heading up and around into north Laos, so maybe I'll bump into them again there.

On the way to Sukothai, i found that what my map called Wat Chang Rob (temple of the elephant Rob - a shrine to my big build and excellent memory??) was actually Wat Chang Rop (temple of the encircled elephant) which makes alot more sense really.

From Sukothai, where i stayed in a teak hut on stilts above a pond with fish looking up at me through the gaps in the floorboards, i took a left turn, and spent last night at Tak. Having ridden 800 kms, I was out of plains, and at the base of some very tall looking mountains.

I sweated buckets climbing over them today- the two passes my map insisted were 500ms high were more like 1000 and 700ms, but for most of the way the road was hugged by thick lush forest, with no sounds other than birds and waterfalls. I could get used to it (which is good because i'll be riding along these mountains for the next two weeks.)

Right now i'm in Mae Sot, on the Burmese border. Day trips across are legal here, so i think i'll check it out and have a non-riding day tomorrow (my thighs and other parts have been lobbying for one for while now). Plus there seem to be lots of restaurants here so a day of eating is definately on the cards too.

20th Dec 2004
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They know how to build a mountain here! From Mae Sot, i had 240kms to cover north to Mae Sariang, and according to the residents of Mae Sot there was only one place to stay halfway along the way (turned out there were two more, but not at convenient locations).

The first day was easy. The road undulated along side the river separating Thailand from Burma. I stop for lunch down a small valley, which ended where the stream passing through it ran straight through the bottom of a mountain, and had carved out some caves that were fun to explore and an escape from the heat.

On the second day, a 10km uphill in the morning took me two and a half hours to get up. by 3pm (i left at 6am) i'd only got halfway, so i decided to camp out. At the top of a pass - pretty much the highest point i've been so far - i followed an overgrown walking trail out to a point on the ridge and found a natural arbour of vines, ferns and trees to sleep under. I was a bit worried about some of the noises coming from the forest, but i convinced myself that they were all just birds moving in the trees.

I ended up having one of the best night's sleep I've had so far. Apart from being woken once by the sound of some noisy heavy bird crashing through the undergrowth, i snoozed for almost 11 hours straight. There weren't even any of the mozzies intent on giving me malaria this high up. I woke the next morning to an amazing view (you'll just have to wait for the photos) and raced down through the mist for an hour without passing a single other vehicle- the only noise was of water dripping down between leaves and an occasional waterfall.

For the last two days i've been on the Mae Hong Song circuit, a 700?km loop of road named after the town i'm in now, through a mountain range in the far north west. It's put me back on the tourist trail - today i cycled with three guys from central thailand up here for a holiday. They didn't speak much english and me even less thai, but we could communicate in the international language of cyclists: distance, average speed, bike components. They had a support vehicle carrying all their gear, and were excited that i could keep up with them, but this (both the excitment and the keeping up) was enhanced by my not drinking beer with them for lunch (or for breakfast), but i let them 'sponsor' me a few this afternoon when we got here.

For more than a week now most of the roads and surrounding mountains have been covered with a beautiful thick rainforest, and shrouded in mist up until almost midday (there was even a frost this morning!). I'm looking forward to more of it.

28th Dec 2004
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After a little over 1700kms this is my last log from Thailand: right now i'm in Chang Rai near the Laos border.

On the Mae Hong Song circuit i met Marc, going the other way around. He'd cycled most of the way from Dublin- a few more kms then me i think. After a few even more scenic and steeper days through the mountains in the far north west, I arrived in Chang Mai, meeting Marc for christmas there.

Now, obviously two people who spend so much time doing something so healthy will have a moderate christmas right? not really. I remember starting off the night, later being taken to dinner by a thai boxing restaurant owner on top of a skyscraper, and later still being back at an uncertain number of bars, but can't recall how we ended up with various cuts and bruises, a broken spoke, and seemingly more cash in our pockets than we started with. We started for Chang Rai two days later still feeling a little green.

Yesterday, on the second day of cycling from Chang Mai to here, i had the pleasure of my first food poisoning, but by the grace of an irishman, a monk and a space capsule i made it here ok.

The most important non-essential item for a bike trip is some else to cycle with, and with Peter flying in tonight i'm lucky enough to have two. Can't wait to start cruising along the trails of Laos.