Bicycle tour diary

Cycling diary

May is a very quiet month for tourist visitors to Phuket I took the chance to get off the island last month for a short independent cycle tour. I rode north up the west coast to Ranong then cut across the country at it’s narrowest point to Chumphon. Then headed back down the gulf coast as far Surat Thani before heading back to Phuket through Phang Nga. The 900 km journey took 10 days with one rest day. I averaged 100 km’s riding per day. For anyone interested here is a brief day by day account.

My bike is a Merida Scultura 400 road bike, not at all suited to long distance touring but ok for short light cycle touring with a back pack on my back. Thailand’s roads are excellent and the bike gave me no trouble for ten days apart from two punctures (both on the same day). Next time I’ll put a more comfy saddle on though. I was staying in guesthouses every night so traveled very light. My laptop accounted for most of the weight in my bag, other than that I had a couple of shirts and shorts and a few spare parts. I didn’t carry food as there are cheap local restaurants pretty much all over Thailand.

On the road

Day 1: Phuket to Khao Lak

Total ride time: 4.15 hours
Total distance: 110 km
Average speed: 25 km/h

I started from my home in Kathu at 6.45am to miss the worst of Phuket’s traffic. I cut around Loch Palm golf course and past the British International School before joining the main 402 road and heading north as far as Mai Khao where I turned off the main road and rode through Mai Khao beach before rejoining the main road just before the island checkpoint.

A few kilometres after the Sarasin bridge I again turned off the main highway onto the 3006 road and followed it past Natai beach as far as Thai Muang. This was the best riding of the day with the Andaman Sea on my left and grazing buffalo to the right.

Lunch was in Thai Muang at a small shop selling steamed dumplings and dim sum with sweet iced tea. Then it was a straight ride to Khao Lak. For any one with time there are a couple of places worth stopping at along the way including Lampi Waterfall and the Thai Muang turtle conservation centre.

Today was basically flat riding apart from a short climb around the headland south of Khao Lak. In Khao Lak I headed straight to the Nang Thong Bay resort which I have stayed at many times before. It’s great value in a great location and I spent all afternoon relaxing in the pool next to the sea. In the low season (May to October) you can get great deals on hotels in Khao Lak with as much as 50% off high season rates. Khao Lak is pretty sleepy at this time of year and you can’t get out to the Similan or Surin Islands but if you want a quiet place to relax in a comfortable resort it’s ideal. There are still a few restaurants open for business.

Kuraburi resort

Day 2: Khao Lak to Kuraburi

Total ride time: 3.49 hours
Total distance: 88 km
Average speed: 23 km/h

I planned to start late today and enjoy the pool in the morning but I woke early and just wanted to get on the bike so I hit the road at 6am just after a rain shower. The road was deserted this Sunday morning and the rain had left the air cool. I was in Kuraburi by lunch time which was lucky because it rained all afternoon and night.

Most travelers would have no reason to linger in Kuraburi, possibly just one night if heading to the Surin Islands, the pier and national park HQ is just north of town. The small town is built around the main Petkasem road. 10 km south of town is the Greenview resort, the most luxurious accommodation choice. I stayed at the more modest Kuraburi resort in town which had simple bungalows along the river for 500 baht per night.  With the rain poring down there was nothing much to do except sit on my balcony and watch the river flow by. Every evening a local market sets up in town which was perfect for dinner.

Kuraburi resort

Day 3: Kuraburi to Ranong

Total ride time: 5.20 hours
Total distance: 115 km
Average speed: 22 km/h

It rained all through the night but stopped by 7.30am so that was when I hit the road. There were plenty of food stalls open in morning in Kuraburi and I opted for Kanom Ba Bin (grilled sticky rice and coconut milk) for a sweet high carb breakfast. I was a Kapoe before lunch just as the rain came again. I knew rain was likely on my tour, especially in May and in Ranong province which is the wettest province in Thailand. I had a long lunch in Kapoe and considered finding a place to stay there for the night but in the end decided to push on to Ranong despite the rain and enjoy the next day off instead. The rain slowed me down but wasn’t totally unpleasant, at least it was cooler. In Ranong I checked into the Punnarai guesthouse close to the hot springs but walking distance to the town centre.

Day 4: A rest day in Ranong

I had a bit of work to do today and I gave the bike a clean but the remainder of the day was spent strolling around Ranong. I had planned to take some time out to visit the islands of Payam and Chang Noi but having looked at the rough sea on my ride north I decided against it. Ranong province has plenty to offer if you have time to explore and like nature. The hot springs in town are a bit of a let down, there are better ones out of town. But the town itself seems very livable with an air of affluence. It’s a very green town and easy to walk or cycle around. There are a few good markets where you can get the best local food.

Day 5: Ranong to Chumphon

Total riding time: 5.20 hours
Total distance: 128 km
Average speed: 24 km/h.

More rain this morning so after 20 minutes riding I stopped at a Khao Geng (curry and rice) restaurant for breakfast. Simple khao geng restaurants were my mainstay on this tour and I recommend them to anyone who wants to sample genuine Thai curries the like of which you won’t find in a tourist restaurant. They are easy to spot by the large stainless steel pots with all the curries in. Just say “rad khao” (on rice) and point to what you fancy. A plate of rice with a couple of curry toppings will cost about 40-50 baht.

I was in Kraburi before lunchtime after a beautiful up and down ride through the mountainous jungle. I had a look around the town and the river across to Myanmar then cracked on towards Chumphon. A lot of the way was down hill in the afternoon and I made plenty of stops for water and ice creams. At each spot I met friendy locals keen to chat. So despite spending over 5 hours in the saddle today I didn’t feel too tired as I rolled into Chumphon. May be I was more tired than I realized though as I didn’t take to the city. It was too busy with too many cars and the locals seemed unfriendly, I think they’ve been jaded by all the grumpy backpackers passing through on their way to Koh Tao.

Day 6: Chumphon to Langsuan

Total riding time: 4.37 hours
Total distance: 108 km
Average speed: 23 km/h.

I was happy to leave Chumphon early but struggled for the first hour of riding today. My sit bones were getting sore and I was dreaming of a better touring saddle. I took a back road out of town before joining up with the Asia highway south of Chumphon. I had to do about 30km’s on this main road which really isn’t so bad with wide shoulders to ride on but I was still happy to turn off and head to the coast where I rode all the way to Langsuan along a beautifully quiet tarmac road with the sea to my left. Today was supposed to be a shorter day but I ended up taking a couple of detours and I also had two punctures which slowed me down. I stayed the night at the 99 Bay resort in Paknam, my 500 baht per night bungalow was a few metres from the beach. I had yam woon sen for lunch at the resort and in the evening I strolled along the beach to where I could see a few food carts selling the usual fare and bought dinner. There is nothing to do at Langsuan Pak Nam except relax by the sea so that’s what I did.


Day 7: Langsuan to Tha Chana

Total riding time: 3 hours
Total distance: 69 km
Average speed: 23 km/h.

I took my time before setting off today and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast by the sea. I had planned a short day and Tha Chana was recommended as a good place to stop. The coastal ride was fabulous with beautiful scenery along a flat empty road. To my left was the beach which was intermittently lined with fish being dried on bamboo racks. To my right were towering limestone karsts. Tha Chana itself was a bit of a dissapointment, the beach was deserted and windswept with nowhere to stay so I stayed in town near the market in a cheap no name hotel for 380 baht. I shared my room with about a hundred mosquitos which I spent most of the evening battling with but in the end I had a surprising good night’s sleep.


Day 8: Tha Chana to Phanom

Total riding time: 4.45 hours
Total distance: 114 km
Average speed: 24 km/h.

The target today was initially Surat Thani but I wasn’t enthusiastic about hitting another backpacker transit city so I decided to bypass the city and cut across to Phanom on the way to Khao Sok. I was beginning to miss my family and figured that this would get me home a day earlier. I took the excellent 4112 road south until just north of Surat Thani. This quiet road is well surfaced and runs parallel to the train tracks although I didn’t see a train all day. I had to ride a few kilometres on the Asia highway before turning right onto the 401 and heading west. The road started to undulate and the view ahead was of mountains. Anyone who has not been in this part of Thailand before should of course head from Surat Thaini to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. You should also visit Khao Sok national park and perhaps spend a night on a raft house at Ratchaprapa dam. But that wasn’t my plan and I found another no name guesthouse in Phanom for the night. This place had some charm with a few old bicycles among other antiques scattered around.

Ta chana

Day 9: Phanom to Phang Nga

Total riding time: 3.11 hours
Total distance: 78.5 km
Average speed: 24.5 km/h.

I took the 415 road south from Phanom in Surat Thani province to Phang Nga province. It’s another perfect road for cycling as long as you don’t mind a few hills. The scenery is stunning. Phang Nga town is rather sleepy and most tourists don’t stop for long but perhaps they should. It’s a friendly place and there is lots to explore nearby including waterfalls, caves and of course Phang Nga bay. I stayed at Thaweesuk Hotel in the centre of town which has a charming old town style after recently being renovated by the original owner’s grandson who now runs the place. He speaks perfect English and is very helpful with advice on what to see, do and where to eat.

Day 10: Phang Nga to Phuket

Total riding time: 3.40 hours
Total distance: 91 km
Average speed: 25.5 km/h.

I was looking forward to getting home so after a breakfast of toast and coffee I was on the road by 7.30am. Phang Nga is a beautiful place to cycle around, this morning the mountains were shrouded with low lying clouds. I was full of energy today and rode non stop until I was over the bridge in Phuket and well south of the airport. After a quick bite to eat it was just a one hour ride home and time to plan the next trip.

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