The ride from Ranong to Bangkok, would take us up the east bank of the Sompaen River that marks the southern border between Thailand and Myanmar and then across the narrow spit of land, only 12km at its widest, to the Chumphon on the Gulf of Thailand. From here it was an enjoyable ride up Thailand's west coast as far as Hua Hin where we would catch the train into the center of Bangkok.
Our ride descriptions give an account of the ride that we completed. As part of the description we also provide links to Wikiloc or Google maps and elevation profiles based on mapping data available through the internet. The ride profiles are smoothed to give what in our opinion is a more beneficial view of the profile. We use paper maps, GPS and on line data to plan and conduct our rides. We are happy for you to use our descriptions, but be aware that we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided as situations surrounding any ride change over time.
Ranong to Bangkok - Ranong to Chumphon Ride Profile
Our ride up the Thailand peninsular continued with the next leg from Ranong to Bangkok. With another long day ahead, we were up at dawn, but stopped in the town for crispy duck breakfast. Then it was back onto highway 4 continuing north.
The Ranong to Bangkok leg was probably the most beautiful ride that we had done in Thailand so far. About 7km out of the city, the road started to climb for about 6km up a reasonable 5% grade. An old lorry, belching black sooty smoke, came up behind us. It could hardly catch us up, but we slowed down to let it pass and leave us in peace.
As always a fast descent followed with several stops to look over the forested hills to the River Sompaen and Myanmar beyond.
There was also a pretty waterfall right at the roadside.
The Ranong to Bangkok road dropped down into the valley of a wide river with a small, traditional fishing village, Khao Fachi, on its banks.
It was unusual for us to find a street scene with no cars.
For the first time in Thailand we saw other touring cyclists some of whom were also cycling from Ranong to Bangkok. A large European group with two minivans carrying their baggage, and a little later a couple of men with loaded bikes.
The first 70km of riding the Ranong to Bangkok route was really hard. Only small hills but continuously up and down. The Ranong to Bangkok road follows the river valley which marks the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Every few miles there were police checkpoints. They weren't interested in checking our visas but did ask where we were going. Climbing yet another hill in the hot sun our noses were assailed by the fabulous smell of barbecue pork cooking at the side of the road. That was lunch sorted.
The relief was great as we passed the King Rama V monument at the summit of the last hill and the Ranong to Bangkok route started the easy, gentle 35km descent all the way into Chumphon. Just outside the town they are building a fly-over to take Highway 4 over highway 41. It is not completed yet but all the motorcyclists were using it, weaving their way through workmen, electric cables and concrete mixers. We joined them!
We headed to the Nanaburi Hotel as recommended in LP but it was full. Further along was the Paradorn Hotel, large, dated, no soul but with rooms at 390 baht and dog tired it had to do. After a shower, a sleep and some good local food we shared a beer and watched the Tour de France with an Australian, Timmy, who was living and working in Thailand.
Ranong to Bangkok - Chumphon to Thung Wua Lean Ride Profile
As a special treat this morning we had a lie in till 9am, followed by American breakfast and coffee at the cafe next door. Neither of us was in a fit state to travel far on our Ranong to Bangkok ride today so we headed to the nearest beach, just north of Chumphon. The sand here is pale golden with a transparent turquoise sea. We rented a small bungalow in a resort just across the road from the beach. The lady owner was wonderfully friendly and talkative but only spoke Thai.
There is a small contingent of French people living here and a couple of bars here run by Thai-French couples serving a mix of western and Thai foods. This place is very laid back and unhurried, but we understand that may change at the weekends and peak season.
The bay is sheltered and shallow. You had to walk a long way out to get to a reasonable depth for swimming. We lazed around in the cooling water watching shoals of small fish jumping and a pilot fish circling our legs. After we spotted some quite large jelly fish under the surface we exited. It was time for afternoon beer anyway.
That night we sat in the seafront restaurant run by the resort owner and had some more of that delicious Thai food. We could see a long line of bright green lights all the way across the bay a few hundred meters from the shore with white lights scattered around. We must find out what they are.
Our bungalow location was quite and relaxing and we slept the sleep of the dead that night.
After a nice lie in we took breakfast at the Pirates Terrace cafe. Lots of fruit salad, toast and wonderful coffee. The morning was spent booking accommodation for our last three nights in Bangkok and, it being the weekend, our next night further up the coast, writing our blog and generally relaxing.
That evening the mystery of the lights in the bay was resolved by the lady at the cafe. They are the local fishermen, using lights to attract squid.
Ranong to Bangkok - Thung Wua Lean to Bang Saphan Yai Ride Profile
A quick guess of todays Ranong to Bangkok ride was about 65km so we did not have an early start and once again breakfasted at the Pirates Terrace. Following the rain of yesterday, the weather started cool and the Ranong to Bangkok ride along the coast was really pleasant, with quiet and nearly flat roads, intermittent sunshine and a refreshing breeze.
This was more like the Thailand we had been looking for. So unlike the hustle and bustle of Ko Phi Phi and some of the other islands. The Ranong to Bangkok road meandered, at times moving inland and at others touching the coast and passing through lovely, traditional fishing villages.
Today Karen perfected her 'eject both pannier bags at once' routine as she rode over a small hump onto a bridge and both the rear bags flew off the rack simultaneously onto the road.
In search of something to eat we turned off the main Ranong to Bangkok road to Ban Bang Boet. We sat in a beach side restaurant in this beautiful and sleepy seaside village. It was so peaceful and idyllic. Families were playing and wading in the sea, collecting some form of sea food. Squid fishing boats rested on the sand waiting for the tide to turn. There was little wind and the small waves lapped at the shore.
We were tempted to stay here, but with little time left before leaving Thailand we needed to push on. Our Ranong to Bangkok route took us along the small back roads and the kilometres continued clocking up. We had already done well over 65km and our original reckoning had clearly been in error. By now the sky was looking very dark and the wind was gusting more strongly. It wasn't long before the rain started. As its strength increased we arrived in Bang Saphan Noi and stopped for a drink while we sheltered.
It was another 15km to our final destination, but the Ranong to Bangkok route was still flat and we arrived after a much longer day than planned, at the Suan Luang Resort, hidden away in the trees. It was away from the road so nice and quiet. After another superb dinner we retired to bed only to hear the awful news on the television of the right wing fundamentalist Christian killings in Norway.
Ranong to Bangkok - Bang Saphan Yai to Prachuap Khiri Khan Ride Profile
Today's Ranong to Bangkok ride was through the narrowest section of Thailand, just 12km between the coast and the Myanmar border. Our map suggested the only road was the main Ranong to Bangkok Highway 4 but the lady at the resort gave us a hand drawn map showing a minor road along the coast as far as Thap Sakai. This was a fabulous quiet road with no traffic, along the edge of a long sandy bay edged with pine trees. The breeze carried the smell to our noses of acres of tiny fish spread out on netting racks to dry in the sun.
After 40km of blissful riding there was no alternative but to join the busy Ranong to Bangkok Highway 4 with its noisy, smelly, sooty lorries for a further 40km before escaping again onto another minor road up the coast to Ao Manao. We were lucky to just avoid a heavy downpour which had just soaked everything and left huge puddles in the rough road surface.
Just outside the village was a temple with unusual pillars all the way round, just like the ones in ancient Greece. In the front were the most amazing, bonsai like trees.
We rode on and came to a sharp right hand bend. The way straight ahead seemed to go into a military base with an Military Policeman on guard. We stopped and asked him the way to Prachuap Khiri Khan and he waved us through into the Air Force Base.
It was a strange experience knowing that we were on military land and yet as we rode along the beach there were tourists shops, cafes and sun loungers. Further down, the road crossed the wide aircraft runway before exiting the base through another wide arched gateway.
This was right at the edge of the town and the main strip of hotels and guesthouses along the sea front.
We booked into the Hadthong Hotel where we had a room with a balcony and a fantastic view to the karst rock islands across the bay. The highest of these is called Khao Chong Krajok (Mirror Tunnel Mountain) named after the hole in the mountain that appears to reflect the sky. Although the hotel had a swimming pool neither of us could summon up the energy to even take a dip.
We showered, drank a quick beer and went out to find food.
Ranong to Bangkok - Prachuap Khiri Khan to Sam Roi Yot Ride Profile
On the way out of town on the Ranong to Bangkok route we stopped to climb to the temple atop another small karst mountain. The lady food seller at the bottom looked after our bikes while we climbed the 396 steps to the top, running the gauntlet of macau monkeys along the way. They were all enjoying the peaceful sunny morning, sunbathing, sleeping, grooming, eating corn, drinking from discarded water bottles and doing other things too delicate to mention in this blog.
At the top is Wat Thammikaram, established by King Rama VI. It was a clear day and the views were spectacular. We could see across to the airforce base and the karst islands to the south and peered up the coast to the north attempting to forsee our Ranong to Bangkok route for the day. To the west was the temple below and the hills of Myanmar, only 12km away. Unfortunately the temple itself was in a poor state of repair, with nearly all of the roof tiles missing and badly needing a coat of paint.
Descending and collecting the bikes we set off again on our Ranong to Bangkok route heading north along the coast, stopping at the bottom of the mountain to watch more monkeys bathing in a concrete drum. Our plan was to ride at least 30km up the coast, away from the highway, but with no detailed map we had to follow our instincts. Despite a few wrong turns, the ride through the flat plains and market gardens was lovely. We ended up back on the Ranong to Bangkok highway 4 sooner than expected. Shadowing the Myanmar border we passed through paddy fields with cranes, egrets and other wading birds. After 20km of awful highway riding we arrived in Kuiburi, turning into the tranquil gardens of another temple an rested with an iced coffee before proceeding.
It was another 8km before we turned off the Ranong to Bangkok Highway to the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. There is a charge of 200 Baht each to enter the park. The woman at the gate was fast asleep at her desk, her head resting on the desk. We paid the entrance fee and cycled on, stopping briefly at the visitor center.
The road crosses a flat plain between a line of karst rocks on the coast and the hills to the west. Shrimp rearing farms, on an industrial scale, covered most of the plain, destroying much of the natural habitat for the areas bird and mammal life. The extensive fencing and acres of protective red netting were so ugly and continued for about 10km. What a stark contrast to the wonderful surrounding scenery.
Further along the valley there was yet another beautiful temple, built at the base of the karst cliffs and a delightful rickety rackety footbridge over the river to the village on the other side.
Round the next corner was a long line of parked vehicles of all shapes and sizes belonging to a film production crew. They were filming in the field at the side of the road. There were dozens of people, cameras, recording equipment, caterers, lights and huge fans to create wind. The two actors were dressed in ancient Samuri type costumes and stood motionless in the thick of all the buzz of activity. As the cameras rolled the fans were switched on and a couple of man had to throw large quantities of dust into the air to give the right 'atmosphere'. The actors didn't move a muscle, just stared aggressively at each other. After a couple of minutes the filming stopped and a crowd of girls ran on to minister to the actors with umbrellas to shade them from the sun, water sprays to cool their faces and combs to preen their hair.
Most of the accommodation in the park is along the beach near Sam Roi The resorts nearest the sea are all very expensive but we found one that is built back from the road called 'Blue Beach' which was very peaceful and had a good restaurant. Unfortunately the beds were not very comfortable.
Ranong to Bangkok - Sam Roi Yat to Bangkok Ride Profile
Note this profile only covers the distance from Sam Roi Yot to Hua Hin. The remainder of the journey from Ranong to Bangkok was by train.
On our final day of our Ranong to Bangkok ride in Thailand we planned to cycle to Hua Hin, about 300kms south of Bangkok and then complete the journey to Bangkok the next day by train.
By 12.00md we were in the Hua Hin, a large, popular Thai holiday town with huge high rise hotels famous for its Royal Summer Palace. At the railway station we discovered that there were only two trains a day that would carry our bikes, one at 00.15h and one at 14.10. so we might as well travel today rather than wait till tomorrow.
We had to quickly get the phone number of the hotel in Bangkok, book an extra night, buy some food and drink for the five hour journey and buy the tickets. It cost 44 Baht each for us and 90 Baht each for the bikes! We had to take a photo of this rather non PC notice:
The third class carriage had very narrow doors, almost impossible to get the bikes through and nowhere to put them except on top of the wooden seats, strapped to the luggage rack with bungee cords.
The carriage had wooden seats and open windows and it was a rather uncomfortable five hour ride.
We needn't have bothered about taking food as there were lots of food hawkers selling all types of food and drink constantly walking up and down the carriages. The railway line runs north of the main road from Ranong to Bangkok, through paddy fields and agricultural landscapes. In the city suburbs there is a huge civil engineering project in progress, constructing a high speed elevated railway. Local children were enjoying a new aspect to their playing with piles of sand and gravel, sections of concrete piping and masses of mud.
Just when it seemed the train would get in on time we got held up at points. There was a huge thunderstorm gathering above us and the sun had just set. Ten minutes later as we hauled the bikes off the train the storm started so we had to sit in the station for 45 minutes until the worst passed. Riding through Bangkok in the dark, with rain and vast puddles of water was actually not that bad. The worst of the rush hour traffic was gone and as it was difficult to see much it was a case of concentrating on what was in front and ignoring the things behind. We had memorised the route through the one-way streets and it worked perfectly.
Arriving at the Democracy Monument was easy but finding the hotel that we had booked was more difficult. The 'Siamese Views Lodge' was recommended to us by a couple that we had met in Krabi and was close to the monument. In the dark and rain we searched up and down the street quoted in the address and found many guest houses but not that one. A local girl with a mobile rang the hotel and got detailed instructions and we found it down a small quiet backstreet. Compared to other accommodation in Bangkok it was very good standard, comfy beds, quiet and only 1,000 Baht a night.
Our Ranong to Bangkok ride was complete.
The next day we traveled across town by a combination of taxis and underground to the Acer service centre to try to get the computer screen replaced. A few e-mails had already been exchanged but without getting the information we needed. They told us the new screen would take three months to arrive as it had to be ordered from Australia where the computer was purchased.
Getting the bike boxes was next on the list. Steve had found the nearest bike shop to the hotel and e-mailed the owner to ask if he would have boxes. The taxi dropped us off but we couldn't see the shop. A man walking towards us looked like he spoke English so we asked him if he knew where the shop was. He turned out to be a good choice because he was American, working for the UN in Bangkok and spoke fluent Thai. He asked a couple of street vendors and they asked a few other locals. Another English speaking family also joined in and we had quite a crowd, all shouting, pointing and disagreeing. The English family saved the day as they had just passed the bike shop a little further down the road. It was just a tiny shop called 'Bok Bok Bikes' recently opened by a young Thai. He was a keen touring cyclist and was selling touring bikes and gear. He had just secured a deal with Robin Thorn in Bridgewater to supply Thorn bikes in Bangkok.
We managed to get both boxes and us into a tuk-tuk for the ride back to the hotel. The only place to dismantle the bikes and pack them was on the pavement outside the hotel and once again we attracted a large crowd of interested on-lookers including the elderly couple running a little cafe opposite, the staff on the engineering company next door and the hotel owner, also a keen touring cyclist. Eventually, with some help from the head of engineering (he held the top of the box while Steve taped it) the bikes were packed and ready to go.
The next three days were spent with serious sight seeing. There are an awful lot of Wats in Bangkok as well as Royal palaces and museums. It was serious foot aching work and to make matters worse the strict dress code for these venues means wearing long trousers and long sleeves so it gets very hot
The entry fees for foreigners into many of the temples, palaces, museums and galleries are about four times higher than those for locals and have recently been increased to about 100 Baht each. This is about two UK pounds and is still cheap by European standards, but the total amount can soon mount up. It was quite frustrating to find many of the temples undergoing renovations so you couldn't see the whole range of buildings.
First on the list was Wat Pho,...
which boasts the largest reclining Buddha,...
...a host of golden Buddha's around the courtyard temple and many stone statues.
Resting our aching feet, we sat in the riverside cafe...
...looked across the river to the spectacular Wat Arun.
Its most prominent characteristic is the 82meter high prang which you can climb up the very steep steps........
...giving amazing views from the top.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha...
...and Grand Palace were the highlight and well deserved their reputation as the most visited place in Bangkok. At 350 Baht each it was the most expensive visit yet but it was an amazing place...
...with gold and colour everywhere as well as more statues of Buddha than you could shake holy water at.
Arriving just before the 8.30am opening time the road outside was already bumper to bumper coaches disgorging crowds of tourists and zealous guides. Once inside it was surprisingly uncrowded and peaceful and the only disappointment was that one large hall was closed due to a royal family funeral.
Close to the river was the amulet market with lots of stalls dedicated to selling these good luck charms in all different types and sizes. Collectors paw over them using eyeglasses to discern their small inscriptions. It was fascinating to try to understand why some stalls attracted large groups of men rooting through piles of charms while others had no customers.
Chinatown was full on and intense with narrow its streets of shops crammed with merchandise and overflowing onto the alleyways. The packed crowds of people were regularly parted by motorbikes, ice cream vendors and shop owners moving their stock on trolleys. The concept here is 'everything in every colour' so the choices of clothes, shoes, bags, fabrics was huge.
In the evenings we wandered along Khao San marveling at the vast choice offered by its endless shops, bars, restaurants and street stalls. There seems to be nothing you can't buy here - clothes, beer, tattoos, body piercing, street ladies, a fake Cambridge university degree, dreadlocks, foot massage, fried grasshoppers, a false driving license, everything Rastafarian, a gold Buddha, an instrument that sounds like a frog, a hammock and very strong cheap cocktails.
Ban Baht is the are where local families manufactured begging bowls for the monks. They are hammered by hand from eight separate pieces of steel plate and soldered together with copper. Today, the area only operates as a tourist attraction selling smaller versions of the traditional bowls, but they are still all hand made.
Our return flight to Heathrow departed from Suvarnabbumi Airport was at 12.20am on Sunday so we booked a mini-van through the hotel reception to pick up us and the bikes at 9.30pm Saturday. Our patient wait in the reception got tenser as 9.30 passed and the receptionist's calls to the taxi driver went unanswered. The taxi company claimed they had no other suitable vehicles available and alternative taxi companies wanted at least 30 minutes notice. At 10pm the hotel owner got on his bike and rode to the Democracy Monument to hail a taxi and we tried putting the bike box across the back seat. There was just enough space to close the door so all we needed now was another taxi for the other bike. After a second dash on the bike the hotel owner hailed a car from another taxi company and we loaded the second bike.
With one of us in the front seat of each taxi we set off for the airport at 10.15. The drivers knew we were in a hurry. They drew up next to each other at the first set of traffic lights, wound down the windows and had a quick chat. It didn't need much knowledge of Thai to understand they were challenging each other to a race. Once on the tollway they flew along at up to 140km/h, weaving in and out across the four lanes of traffic. Needless to say we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check in despite having aged somewhat.
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