Thailand, The Home Stretch 2

94km was our distance from Chanthaburi to Ban Phe, we’d take a ferry from there to Ko Samet for a short beach holiday before returning to the UK for a cold, damp Christmas. The ride was rolling hills, nothing to big but just enough to add interest. The scenery was good for the first part until we turned onto a much bigger road then in was just head down and pedal. We passed a few other touring cyclists that had stopped for coffee so we knew we were heading to a tourist area. Although the ride was 94km we seemed to be flying along and very soon we arrived at the ferry terminal, tickets purchased we sat and waited for the ferry to arrive. Surprisingly it arrived on time and we removed our panniers so our bikes could be loaded on board. It’s a short trip and soon enough we were unloading our bikes onto the pier on Ko Samet. This is the first thing you see when you arrive….

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A little odd !!
We’d not booked anywhere on the island so we loaded our bikes and set off to look for a hotel, now this is an island so we expected it to be expensive and we were right !! As we cycled round the island we were quite shocked at just how dirty and messy it was, I think whoever wrote the guide book should go back and take a closer look….

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Not exactly the beautiful island paradise we were expecting.
Trust me we didn’t need to look to hard to find this rubbish, added to this was the fact that the road round the island is either full of pot holes and very muddy or is in the process if being repaired and is therefore noisy and dusty !! Oh and on top of this it is incredibly busy and horrendously expensive. If we’d know we would never have gone but since we were there we tried to make the best of it. We found a hotel that we could afford and chilled out for a couple of days, we even managed to find a few beautiful places….

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OK so it wasn’t all bad, just a bit disappointing !!
As I say we stayed for a couple of days then took the ferry back to Ban Phe before cycling into Pattaya, only 76km but on busy roads and some of it on motorways !!

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Trust me that’s a motorway, quiet, but still a motorway !!
We arrived in Pattaya and followed the directions to the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital then found the Mcdonalds across the road where we would meet my friend Nigel Nash. I have to say that the burger was actually quite good but I suppose after three months of noodles and rice it was probably just different !!
Nigel arrived on time and loaded our bikes and kit into his spacious truck and took us to his home to meet his lovely wife Pu, they’ve not been married for long and I’d not met her yet so was looking forward to doing so. After the introductions we all went out for dinner, Japanese food was the choice and it was fantastic, I’d forgotten how much I actually like sashimi !!
In the morning Pu took Naomi and myself to the bus station where we caught the bus into Bangkok, we’d stay in Bangkok for two nights before taking a trip up to Kanchanaburi, we’d stay there for two nights before returning to Bangkok for one night then back to Pattaya for three more nights. Our bikes and most of our kit would stay in Pattaya while we went sightseeing, we’d be back to wash, dismantle and pack them later !!
The bus into Bangkok only took about an hour and a half and from the bus station it’s only about six stops on the sky train to our hotel. We arrived just after lunch, checked in, dropped of our kit then just went out to look round the local area just to get our bearings so to speak.
Our hotel was well located, a shopping mall less than 100m, the sky train only 300m away and a wealth of restaurants and bars within walking distance, oh and the Victory Monument at the end of the road….

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Another impressive place, very busy though !!
To be honest we were tired, it takes a lot of effort to cycle every day then arrive some where, find a hotel, shower and then rush out and do the tourist thing. It’s hot and humid, it’s always busy and trying to get to as many attractions as possible so that we feel we’ve not wasted our trip is sometimes actually hard work. I’m not complaining, just letting you know that it’s not easy !
Any way we decided to have a quiet night and plan our attack on Bangkok for the following day, couldn’t resist a few photos from the roof though….

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Not to shabby !
So morning arrived and we were rested and ready, the plan was to take the sky train to the river then take the river bus, our first stop would be The Grand Palace. The Palace is not surprisingly hidden behind a huge wall, it’s an enormous site and is if course quite beautiful. A took over a hundred photos, no surprise there then, here are just a few from the river trip and the Palace…..

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And now the Palace…

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Stunning !!
We spent a considerable amount of time at the Palace but it was worth it, absolutely amazing place, next stop the Royal Barge Museum ! We started walking but we ended up getting a tuk tuk, it was a very hot day and frankly we were melting. The entrance to the museum was a little tricky to find and took you through the back alleys, we did however find a nice restaurant……

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Sitting down to lunch, two views from our table and a sneaky photo do the barges !!
Lunch was at some rusty old table outside an old lady’s house, to the casual observer it looked a mess but the chicken and rice were excellent and very cheap !
Unfortunately the museum was closed so the photo above is the best we could do, our consolation was to take a longboat ride round the canals, more photos…..

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Another fantastic trip !!
Not something we planned to do but really glad the museum was closed otherwise we wouldn’t have done it, it showed a completely different side to Bangkok that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The communities that live and work on the canals are almost hidden from view, perhaps that’s how they prefer it, glad we had a look though !!
We were dropped of at a huge Stupor almost opposite the Palace, again we just couldn’t resist so in we went. I can’t remember what it’s called but just look at the photos, it’s just beautiful. Decorated in ceramics of all colours it looks incredible when the sun hits it. The views from its upper balcony are pretty impressive as well although the very steep steps are not for the faint hearted and are not easy going back down !!

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The last photo shows how steep the steps were and how high !!
After a little mooching and shopping it was time to get back on the bus and head back to the hotel, the sun was setting on our way back so you guessed it, more photos….

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I do love a good sunset, especially over such an iconic city !!
Day 2 in Bangkok started with a very unhealthy but quite delicious breakfast before we yet again headed for the sky train, destination Jim Thompsons House ! The house was owned by a wealthy business man, originally from America who settled in Bangkok and started what is now one of the most famous silk houses in Thailand. The house is actually a collection of several original wooden houses that Jim had moved to a site, rebuilt, decorated and settled into beautifully landscaped grounds. The overall effect is one of space, peace and tranquility !!

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Beautiful place !!
The afternoon was spent just relaxing as we’d planned a trip to the cabaret for our evenings entertainment, although things didn’t quite go according to plan !!
We booked tickets online and checked out the directions for the theatre, we’d even done a dry run to the closest stop on the sky train so we’d know when to leave the hotel. We left the hotel in plenty of time, took the sky train and arrived at the theatre in plenty of time. The problem was that we were at the wrong theatre, not our fault, they just hadn’t corrected the details on the website !!
The theatre we were meant to be at was unfortunately quite a long way away so we headed back to the sky train and headed to the river, once there we took the boat up river and got of at Asia Docks. It took a while to find the theatre but eventually we found it and headed inside just in time for dinner !!
Excellent food was quickly followed by an evening of entertainment, not as good as the food but it was ok if you like watching people mime to western songs, still it was a good evening, great costumes, ok acts, fabulous food !!

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Like I said, a good evening πŸ˜‰
The next morning we were picked up at silly o’clock for our trip to Kanchanaburi and the Death Valley Railway. We got lucky as the coach only had about a dozen people so we were able to spread out a bit, made it a much more comfortable trip. Our trip included a stop at the Bridge Over the river Kwai, The Museum and Cemetery before we were taken by boat to our first nights accomodation, here are a few photos from our first day….

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Bridge over the River Kwai !!

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One of three huge cemetery’s that exist for the prisoners of war that died building the Death Valley Railway !!

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The museum, a very sober place !!

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Our hotel and the local wildlife !!
Well the day was a bit of a learning curve really, I’d not really heard much about the Death Valley Railway so it all came as a bit of a shock. So many people died to build this railway and it only lasted 22 months, they reckon one person for every railway sleeper…..I’m still shocked !!
After such a heavy day filled with such shocking brutality it was a relief to get to the hotel, and what a hotel, it was a floating hotel. Stunning place really although you do pay more for the lack of electricity and Wi Fi. To be honest I’ve rarely ever spent a night in such a beautiful location. The morning found us eating a fantastic breakfast before heading out on an elephant trek πŸ˜‰
We made our way out the back of the hotel and up the bank towards the local village where we were introduced to Wandi, our ride for the next hour ;-)…..

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Thoroughly enjoyed our trek and very pleased to see the elephants treated so well !!
Later in the day we were taken out on another trip, this time to see the Hellfire Pass and associated museum, the museum details the terrible conditions, hard work, beatings, danger and unnecessary deaths of hundreds of prisoners of war and local workers during the construction of the Hellfire Pass. This pass is the largest of its type on the 415km railway and was also one of the most dangerous. Having been to the museum and learnt a little of what went on there I can scarcely believe that human beings can be so brutal towards each other !! Here a few photos from our trip….

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Looks pretty now but I can only imagine the horror during construction !!
Our second night was at a hotel back down stream and to reach it we took a raft and just drifted along until our pilot steered us in and moored up. This hotel did have electric and Wi Fi, always nice to catch up with friends, it also had a cave to visit….

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Not a huge cave but a welcome distraction πŸ˜‰
And so to the last part of our trip to Kanchanaburi, a ride on the Death Valley Railway, we left our hotel first thing in the morning and were taken by boat back to the bus then on to the station. It was a very small station in the middle of nowhere and the trip only lasted about an hour but it takes you over one of the wooden trestles that have lasted since it was built in the war….

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A very special day, certainly made us think !!
Straight out of the station we were back on the bus and by 19.00 we were back in our hotel in Bangkok, we had a lot to think about but despite that we’d had a good time πŸ˜‰
We had until just after lunch the following day to do some more sightseeing so we yet again took to the sky train and headed for Khao San Road for a little retail therapy. It’s a great area, lots of life, hustle and bustle and cheap goods, it has a reputation for good quality leather and yes I spent a few pennies πŸ˜‰

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It was good to just mooch about, no pressure πŸ˜‰
Unfortunately on the way to the bus station to catch the bus back to Pattaya we got on the wrong sky train, oops, it meant we had to catch a slightly later bus which then had trouble getting out of Bangkok due to the recent troubles !!
Fortunately Nigel was on hand to pick us up from the bus station and take us back to the comfort of his lovely home, we’d be there for another three nights before leaving from Bangkok to fly home !!
For the next two days both Nigel and his lovely wife Pu made us feel very welcome, Nigel even sorted out the boxes to pack our bikes in !! Pattaya has a reputation for ladyboys, massage parlours and drinking but it’s a very large town and although all of that is available it’s only a small part of what this place has to offer. Nigel and Pu set about showing us something different. We started at the Sanctuary of Truth, a fantastic wooden building that was started in 1981 and is still being built and carved. It is the vision of a Thai business man called Lek Viriyaphant, it’s over 105m tall and about 100m long, based on traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs and makes for some fabulous photos…..

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Stunning building !!
What’s really great about this place is that you can wander round the workshops and watch the craftsmen and women carving, all sorts and sizes, they even have time to produce a few for sale and Naomi couldn’t resist buying a Buddha πŸ˜‰
Next, another temple, can’t remember what it was called but it was as normal, colourful and full of fantastic art and treasures….

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We’ve seen quite a few temples and this one didn’t disappoint !!
Next stop, a garden centre but not just any garden centre….

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What a great place, loads of fun for all the family πŸ˜‰
Well that was our last tourist attraction, in the last three months we’ve seen quite a lot. We’ve visited lots of caves, temples, waterfalls, palaces, museum and a few other things besides. We’ve cycled through six countries. But we’ve also taken trains, buses, tuk tuks, cycle rickshaws, taxis, sky trains, metro, funicular railways and a few other modes of transport that I’ve forgotten about. We’ve met wonderful people who’ve helped us on our way, people who’ve taken us out to dinner, bought us breakfast or paid our bill at food stops along the way. We’ve had people help with direction and keep us out of trouble. We’ve eaten well and drunk sometimes far to much but our last meal out before returning to the UK was at a seafood restaurant and it was timed to perfection…..

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So, as the sun goes down on another wonderful trip we look forward to being home for Christmas to see our family and friends but also to next year and our next trip to New Zealand and Australia.
Merry Christmas
JC

About John Chevis

I'm a forty something single guy who spent far to long depressed, but luckily for me I found an answer in the form of exercise !! I started running and cycling on a regular basis and now two and a half years later I'm cycling the world !!
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