CYCLING THAILAND – floody good fun

Mind you don't get those bikes wet!

We finally arrived in real Thailand yesterday. We rode bikes through little villages and rubber plantations, past stalls selling dried fish and pineapples, threatened by mangy dogs and encouraged by cheerful locals. We saw forests and streams.

In sympathy with the tribulations Thai people are suffering at the moment, we also got soaked by tropical downpours as we waded through floods.

Tropical downpours have the great advantage of being made from pre-warmed water, but apart from that, it was hard to remember ever having ridden in worse conditions. And I know we’ve never had so much fun riding in the rain.

The 'before' photo - clean and dry.

My son and I had joined guides James and Max from Amazing Bike Tours on their Turtles and Waterfalls day tour, a 53.34km (according to Garmin GPS, which never lies) ride beside the beaches north of Phuket.

The roads in this part of Thailand are, surprisingly, pleasantly quiet and well-surfaced and even beside the major highway, a good shoulder let us ride well clear of the passing traffic. The route was mainly flat, but our Trek 4300 mountain bikes allowed us to cut through rougher trails between fields and plantations, where hidden potholes added a little interesting challenge.

Photo - courtesy James Hembrow

After a brief roadside stop by a stall selling dried fish and pineapples (at about 20 cents each) James led us out through plantations of rubber trees, cashew nuts, bananas and oil palms, stopping for the brief explanation of all we’ll ever need to know about rubber production.

Somewhere back along the coast road the heavens opened and riding became ridiculous. But when you’re so wet you can’t get any wetter, it makes no difference, and as noted above, Thai rain is warm. On a village pier, we stopped for refreshments –the Thai cyclist’s equivalent of EPO, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves.

After lugging the bikes a few hundred metres to keep the water out of the wheel hubs, we came to a bridge. Beyond it the flooding continued as far as the eye could see. This was probably a good place to turn back and look for a way around.

We could try riding through it, but on the other hand...

Baby hawksbills.

After lunch we called in at the Phangnga Fisheries Research Center, a government funded facility which specialising in breeding the endangered green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles which lay their eggs on the beaches near here. The hope is that by hatching the eggs and easing the baby turtles through their first few months, the survival rate will be dramatically increased.

Finally we climbed a few kilometres along a lovely forest road, up to a promised waterfall swim. Due to the heavy rain and consequent danger of flash flooding the rangers wouldn’t let us go up to it, let alone swim in the river.

But in an area where tourist development has cut large swathes through the natural beauty that first attracted visitors here, it had been a great relief to find something at least approaching the wild.

She's tethered to a pole, but the string looks flimsy. Photo - James Hembrow

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Amazing Bike Tours run a variety of rides out of Phuket, catering for a range of cycling abilities. Turtles and Waterfalls is the longest ride they offer, but there are also half day (20km) options. See www.amazingbiketoursthailand.asia
Turtles and Waterfalls trip costs 2900 baht (about USD100) including transfers to and from the ride, guiding, bike hire, lunch and snacks.

Here's the route we took...

For an inzoomable Garmin map, click here.

5 Comments

Filed under Cycling, Thailand

5 responses to “CYCLING THAILAND – floody good fun

  1. steven

    Hi Richard, sounds wonderful! I’m in the process of booking another Thai bike tour (for January 2012), from Bangkok to Phuket again, with a longer detour into more jungle. Don’t you just love the sticky rice!
    In July, we rode for 140 kilometres (only 100 kms in storm) from Gulf of Thailand to Andaman Sea – soaked in sweat, soaked in rain… not much difference.

    • Bangkok to Phuket sounds great too. What’s the company you toured with last time and which one will you be using next time? Always looking for recommendations to pass on (or to act on myself!)

      • steven

        SpiceRoads first time in a group – really great touring company. This time TourdeAsia as a custom bike ride – my mate and his wife, and Cathie and me – women transported between resorts, me and Paul (hopefully) riding like the clappers to catch up!

  2. Great riding, this looks like it was some awesome fun.

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