28th to the 31st Janurary – Na Meow to Hanoi (via Dong Tam, Vhin Loc and Phu Ly) – 91.6, 76.2, 95.3 and 84.1 kms – GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!!

_MG_8299At 6am we were woken by a rendition of the Vietnamese national anthem, being played very loudly and distortedly out of set of loudspeakers mounted to a post outside our hotel. (At least, we assume it was distorted, we never actually hear this song ever played in any other way, and so it’s possible that that is just what it is supposed to sound like…) Noodle soup it turns out is as intrinsic to the culture of Vietnam as it is to that of Lao, and so that was what we had for breakfast.

_MG_8310It’s always a surprise when you cross a land boarder and find that on the other side of this invisible line things are actually very different. We had got used to the pace of life in your average Laotian town, which sat somewhere between slow and stationary, and only picked up when someone cracked open an urn of rice wine (normally at about 09:30 in the morning). Na Meow however was quite alive with activity, suggesting that here the people mig_MG_8314ht actually have jobs! Sadly, another difference was that in Vietnam the roads weren’t funded by the Japanese, and so they were in fact markedly worse than they had been on the other side of the boarder. It was also pretty miserable weather and for the first time in nearly 4 months we came across quite large patches of mud.

Mud wouldn’t have been a problem had it not been Jess’s mud guards which, in their enthusiasm to help, would grab onto huge lumps of CIMG7905mud and wedge them firmly between itself and the wheel, where they would make an unpleasant scraping noise as she cycled along. Various plans were formulate to extract the offending clods, small stick were sent it to try and claw it out, in the manner of a bush-bady trying to catch ants, however this proved ineffective and unsatisfying. In the end Jess found a large and solid piece of bamboo (which she christened “The Whacking Stick”) and this was proved effective in not only beating both mud and mud guard into submission, but also providing an outlet for Jessica’s ever mounting aggression._MG_8308

We’d sort of assumed that ones we got to Vietnam the hills would stop and it would all _MG_8325be mill pond flat. This was mostly thanks to the fact that our map didn’t have contour lines, and we are pair of wallys, because one things that both sides of the border have in common is that they are bloody hilly! These unexpected hills, combined with the mud and often rubbish roads were (despite the occasional mud bashing session) putting Jessica in a very bad mood indeed. This meant that she was not really in a fit state to entertain the 30 odd Vietnamese people (men, women and children) who crowded around us when we finally found somewhere to stop for lunch. This lunch stop was probably one of our strangest to date, where before our arrival the_MG_8355 customers were mostly either playing pool or sitting around smocking giant pipes, made out of lengths of bamboo. The people were very friendly, although Jess’s mud induced rage meant that she was really getting very annoyed with the old woman, who was leaning in so close to watch Jess eat that she was almost obstructing Jess’s chopsticks from reaching her mouth.

_MG_8338The reason we had stopped in this rather remote lunch location was because there _MG_8333had been very little by way of urbanisation and this was the first likely looking eatery we had seen in a while. Unsurprisingly, 15 minutes after this rather abortive meal we passed through quite a large (by the standard of the last few weeks) town, with restaurants abound… but by then it was all to late. We did however stop briefly in this town, just long enough to break its only cash machine, something that became quite a hobby of ours, as we tried get out enough Dong to keep us going until Hanoi.

_MG_8368Interestingly the Vietnamese Dong is now (since the abolition of the Zimbabwe Dollar) the lowest valued currency in the world (according to Wikipedia). There are (or at least were while we were there) 30,000 VND to the pound, and the largest single denomination is the 100,000 VND note (or just over £3). It’s therefore not surprising that a lot of the hotels (especially those in tourist areas) resort to using American dollars simply as a space saving measure.

_MG_8371After the town the road followed along a river, and we were hoping that it would continue to do this all way out onto the river delta. Sadly however it had other ideas and _MG_8391after only a few k of nice flat terrain it started to climb again, taking us up onto a huge open plateau, covered in rice paddies and thatched cottages. We were sort of hoping that after this we would be allowed to go down back to the river, but were ones again disappointed and our climbing wasn’t done yet as we first rose up onto a second even higher plateau, and then, before being allowed to escape from these hidden lands had to scale the side of a huge ridge where the road zig zagged its way up with Alpine style hairpins.

_MG_8345Finally, after what felt like a very long climb we were allowed to roll the very long way down the hill into the town of Dong Tom. We were directed to quite a nice little hotel, which had all the mod cons including wifi in the bed room (ones you had asked the hotelier to plug the router in), and a giant semi erotic poster featuring a a scantily clad women being fed grapes by a pair of plastic doves, with the phrase “Get Well Soon!” splashed across the bottom.

_MG_8349The next day, after what felt like a very long time indeed, we finally arrived in civilisation! We could tell we had arrived there because we stopped in our first coffee shop, and had a brilliant percolated beverage, served with finesse and style (and a giant blob condensed milk in the bottom). After finishing our drinks the owner of the cafe, and his entire family all came outside to wave us off. We stopped in another town for lunch and broke another cash machine. The restaurant here was of a completely different scale to one from yesterday, and seemed to server a wide range of fascin_MG_8387ating dishes. Sadly, we completely failed to convey the message that we would like one of these dishes, and so instead ended up with a plate of chicken and rise… (at least here (unlike in Lao) they went to the effort of flavouring the chicken with a dash of lemon.) At this restaurant no body came to wave us off, but we did draw quite a crowd when we tried to ask for directions.

Thanks to an interesting mix of European influence and CIMG7905Vietnamese nationalist pride, in 1918 Vietnamese officials decided that the language of the country should be written in Roman characters. However they didn’t chose to associate the letters with the same sounds as you might have expected. (We had already learnt this to our cost when we’d spent quite a long time trying simply to order a bowl of rise which we knew to be written “com”. We spent a very long time with the waiter, saying “com” in all the different tones, intonations and pitches we could think of, eventually writing the word down only for realisation to dawn on the chap and him exclaim “kerm”…) We were therefore aware that the town we were aiming for was probably not pronounced “Vihn Loc” but had no idea how it actually was pronounced… in the end we just pointed at the name on the map.

_MG_8385The appearance of civilisation had coisided with the disappeared of the mountains. _MG_8392There was one hill at the begging of the day, but pretty much the whole afternoon was spent cruising along perfectly flat roads, raised up above what appeared to be a never ending sea of paddy fields. In Lao pretty much all the paddy fields had been bare, the Laotians having clearly decided that they had enough rice, and so choosing to spend the rest of the year getting pissed. The Vietnamese however feel very differently about how much is good amount of rice, because the whole way along armies of people in conical hats were bent double, up their knees in mud, bevering away either planting seeds, or cutting… seeds… or doing other rice production based things. None of them though were too busy to look up and give us a cheery wave as we cycled past.

_MG_8378No patch of flat land was left unused either and the town of Vinh Loc (or “Vinh Loc City!” as the girl in the earlier restaurant had excitedly exclaimed) appeared like an island, the walls of the first house rising directly out of water covered fields. Once there we found a very nice hotel indeed, and later a very nice dinner at a place that was very far to right on the “restaurant”—-“someones sitting room” spectrum. To pay we had to interrupt the old man and his grandson from their martial arts film that they were watching in the next room.

_MG_8301The next day was more of the same, another brilliant cup of coffee, this time served in a garden full of banzi trees. We had been warned that the traffic in Vietnam was bad, and there is some truth in this, they seem to have developed a horn addiction, so it doesn’t take many actual cars to be on the road for the traffic to become infuriating. _MG_8399There are also a lot of lorries, and although the first time you see a “fun communist truck” you think its “fun” a few hours later you have been nearly run over by 10 of them and honked at violently by another 100 and the fun has very much warn off. The only time the roads we were really busy was at school letting out time, when they flooded with thousands of keen young comrades, all meandering along in huge bicycle riding packs, smartly dressed in their state prescribed school uniform.

_MG_8328We had a relatively assuming moment when Jess decided that she needed the loo and _MG_8407so we stopped in a petrol station to ask if they had such a facility. Sam thought he had learnt the word for “toilet” in Vietnams, but what ever the word he had learnt was it didn’t mean toilet to these people. We spent about 10 minutes trying to say this word in a way they might understand, as well as trying a few other words that the Lonely planet phrase book had to offer until one bright spark finally worked out what we wanted and in a breath of realisation went “oooohh… toilet?”.

We were aiming this evening for the Hanoi satellite town of Phu Ly (pronounced “Poo Lee”), which might (if anyone else took the time to make the comparison) be called “The Guilford of The East”. Before entering this monstrous sounding place we thought it _MG_8394prudent to stop for a cold drink. This started in the normal way, us signalling to the owner lady that we wanted a drink, and then her spending the next five minutes setting us up an assortment of child’s garden furniture in a vain attempt to make us comfortable. As is quite often the case, when we arrived the girl seemed to speak no English at all, but after a few minutes of us putting the effort in with hand gestures and funny noises some of the words that she had been taught at school or heard on TV started to float up to the top of mind, and within about 15 minutes we had almost forgotten that we didn’t speak the same language. Things then took a turn for the more unusual when this woman’s mother (possibly the smallest, oldest looking woman in the world) appeared excited brandishing an envelope, the contents of which turned out to be a happy new year message from none other than the Vietnamese President himself, hand signed and addressed personally this lively OAP! This was clearly quite a thing, and so we all had an apple to celebrate!_MG_8401

Phu Ly turned out to be a very exciting place, all bright lights and half price cloths shops. The traffic had warn away at us to enough of an extent to give us an excuse to splash out on a smart hotel, and after a drink in the bar we headed out to find some grub. After wandering for a while we found some street sellers, surrounded by a mass of locals sitting on miniature plastic furniture. We were tempted to play the sellers off against each other, but it turned out they were all doing different meals, all of which looked delicious, so in the end we got two plates from each of them, a snip at just 50,000 Dong…_MG_8424

Finally the big day came, and it was time for us to make one final push into Hanoi. We’d studied the maps long and hard, and were pretty sure we had found as good a way as was possible for this final strike. The road we were planning to use didn’t actually appear on our map, but Google suggested that there should be a delightful river road that would take us right into the heart of the city. We snuck out of Phu Ly in that vain, diving along narrow roads lined with stalls and periodically touching on the river bank. One very short hold up came when a women holding a huge plant stepped out in front of Jess, and received a Surley Long Haul Trucker to the arm as punishment for her carelessness. Fortunately no harm was done, and we can only hope that this lady learnt a valuable lesson…

_MG_8436The road we had found was pretty much ideal, taking us north along the river and into the city. We knew exactly where on the map we were and exactly which direction Han Noi was, and this proved to be lucky because everyone we asked seem to have absolutely no idea! The first person we asked told us that Ha Noi was 90k, this was very bad news because we had already done thirty and had calculated it being only an 80k total. The second person was convinced that Ha Noi was to the south of where we were, and put quite some effort into trying to convince us that that was the way we should go. We pressed on, but things then got really worrying when the next pair (who didn’t speak a word of English and were absolutely plastered) stopped and also tried very hard to make us head south… They were particularly troubling because they seemed to have nothing better to do than ride up and down our little road on their moped, and so when they came back the other way they stopped and seemed really quite offended that we should have chosen to ignore their insanely inaccurate advise. On balance they were not a helpful addition to the day. One guy was very very drunk, while his friend was only drunk, and first guy had a tendency of getting very close and shouting Vietnamese in our faces. The photo below somehow manages to make it look like Jess was happy in their company, but this is complete facade, because she was fuming! As if their presents wasn’t enough, the second time they accosted us they managed to do it right next to a giant pig abattoir, and so any gaps between the mans shouting we filled with the screams and squeals of hundreds of the poor creatures being forcibly introduced to their maker._MG_8432

For a moment it looked like relations with the very very drunk man had deteriorated completely, and that things were about to kick off, fortunately his friend whispered a _MG_8442few consolatory nothings in his ear and this seemed to calm him to such a degree that as he (finally) left he came to Sam, gave him a big hug, and as if the alcohol had instilled in him one solitary English phrase uttered the words “I love you!”…

Our quiet back road took us all the way into what would probably be called zone 2 of Ha Noi, before becoming a giant 8 lane motor way. Cycling along this wasn’t too bad, because there were so many lanes that we almost had one to ourselves, crossing it however was a nightmare, and took a very long time._MG_8443

We finally arrived in the Old Town of Ha Noi in time for lunch, having cycled 5800km over 113 days.

 

 

Na Meow to Dong Tam

Dong Tam to Vinh Loc City

Vinh Loc City to Phu Ly

Phu Ly to Ha Noi

26th of Janurary – Sam Neua to Na Meow – 29 and 56 km – Leaving Lao Behind

CIMG7900We well deserved a rest day Sam Neua, and restful it was, with the sole event of note being a stroll round the markets to look some of stalls selling (amongst other things) flaid rat. (It should be pointed out though that most of the stalls were selling perfectly normal produce and so we were able to enjoy a tofu and fish paste baguette lunch, followed by a bamboo-tube-full of sweet sticky rice for pudding, but they don’t make for interesting reading.)

_MG_8195The next day was a short day, heading to our final Laotian destination of Veng Xia. Out the other side of Sam Neua the geography seemed to be surprising different, all be it a variation on the continuing theme of “bloody hilly”. Gone were the rolling mountains and wiggly climbs, replaced by tight little nooks and wide flat river valleys, perforated by huge karst mountains rising out of the abandoned paddy fields. The climate had also changed, and the crystal clear sky had been swapped for low hanging cloud which appeared to be snared on the mountain tops, completely immobile._MG_8212

The mountains around Vieng Xia contain a rabbit warren of caves and _MG_8235tunnels, and it is in the these tunnels that many thousands of Laotian people (including the Communist Party, which now run the country) hid during the 50s and 60s while the Americans did their level best to flatten the entire mountain range. It is for this reason that Veng Xia is now a popular and unprecedentedly interesting tourist destination. _MG_8243We were shown round the caves, (hospital cave, war cabinet cage, presidents cave, family and friends cave) and finished in the auditorium cave where in the past Russian ballet dancers came to entertain the subterranean inhabitants, but now the cave we treated only to our tour guide performing a rendition of some local ditty. And very good he was to.

_MG_8255Sam Neua had failed us badly in the supply of Indian Restaurants, and it was in this same category that Vieng Xia outdid itself. The india restaurant there was run by an Indian man that looked as happy to see us as we were to see him (i.e. very) and although our hearts sank when we read the menu and saw only the _MG_8262normally Laotian fodder of noodle soup and sticky rice he quickly came back and, leaning in close, said in a conspiratorial whisper “This is the Lao food… I also do Indian.” And bloody good Indian it was to. So good infact that we came back for breakfast.

_MG_8257Our last day in Lao went much as those before it had done… hillylyly… It _MG_8263featured all the thing that had come very much to symbolise our time in Lao, namely sicky rise, and it was a surprisingly long cycle to the border. Ever since our first Laotian border official debacle we have always been wary of border crossings. However, once again we arrived at the exit to Lao and received only interest and friendly comments of support, then crossed unhindered into no mans land. Rounding the corner we were confronted with the formidable looking _MG_8279Vietnam border control building, (of which there would be a photo however sadly at this point Sam’s camera seems to have failed (possibly disabled by some Thunderbird style photo deleting force field emanating from the Vietnamese offices) and so no photos exist). Here too proceedings were carried out exactly by the book, many hundreds of lines of forms and documentation was filled in to make sure that our arrival in the country was properly recorded, our visas checked and verified and were free to go.

_MG_8221This complete fidelity to process was if anything a bit annoying for Sam, who had realised while we were in Luang Prabang that his Vietnamese visa was infact due to expire three days before were booked to fly out of the country. People had suggested that, rather than incurring an overstay penalty he might be able to slip the man on the door a couple of bob and get the numbers jimmied. Sadly however the men in racing green military uniforms were having none of this, and so he had to go into the country with the rather worrying promise of being an illegal immigrant in a communist state.

_MG_8284On the way out the other side everyone’s belongings were getting thoroughly checked, our panniers were gone through with a fine tooth comb, and as we pulled away a woman pushing a small cart was stopped, and a number of her chicken were carried away, presumably for questioning.

_MG_8277Just over the border was the town of Na Moew, and we plugged for the first hotel looking building we could find. This was a sort of cross between a prison and hospital, where the beds stank of cigarettes, and the bathroom stank of urine. To begin with the electricity didn’t work, but after a while that picked up and it was the water that gave out instead. Features included a sort of _MG_8296weird communal balcony, a French style open courtyard and conference room featuring a bust of Ho Chi Minh, reminding us (had there been any doubt) that we were indeed in Vietnam.

Before heading out for dinner Sam popped down stairs to buy a can of beer, being (it turned out later) horrifically over charged for a beer that tasted like a cocktail of sulphur and cabbage. We had more luck when we headed out for dinner however, and we managed to find aCIMG7902 restaurant with a manager who spoke essentially fluent English. We could therefore be pretty sure that the local delicacies we were introduced to did not contain any of the pickled snake, which sat in pride of place on top of the fridge.

Day 1 – Sam Meua to Vieng Xia

Day 2 – Vieng Xia to Na Meo

12th and 13th December – Champong Cham to Chlong (90km) and Chlong to Kratie (30km) – We find a friend!

_MG_8983Sunrise from our balcony view out over the Mekong pays testament to the fact that we were now getting into the swing of early rising, and actually enjoyed getting up at 5:30am (for once)! After a quick detour via the Bamboo bridge for some last minute photos and a stop at the bakery we were on our way.

_MG_9009Although our next destination was on the other side of the river, we had heard that the best ride from here was to stay on the East and then take the ferry across. We headed along a beautiful, tree lined and mainly tarmacked (hoorah!) road winding through some more Mekong villages. Our journey was broken by a visit to a hillside Wat with wonderful views over the river, and then we hit the last section of dirt road to the town of Strong Treng, where we stopped for some food before getting the ferry across to _MG_9035the other side.

Unfortunately the road conditions on the other side of the river deteriorated somewhat and we were back to the bumpy, dusty dirt track. After _MG_9056beginning to think once again that we must be mad for riding this road, we came across Lara, an Aussie girl riding solo in the same direction. (This in no way disproved any doubts about our sanity, but at least we weren’t the only ones.)
_MG_9037_MG_9112With our team population now swelled to three we pressed on further north, and the shear combined optimism quickly improved the road surface, and sped us along. Before we knew where we were, we were in Chlong, and we knew it!

We knew it because it was almost as bad as the various blogs and web pages had said it was going to be. The first guest house started by saying that a room was 3000 RIL (60p), but this quickly _MG_9099increased to $7 (probably due to hyper-inflation). We therefore pressed on and ended up in a slightly worse, but less expensive guest house further into “town”. (In fact, this guest house has recently been ranked “worst accommodation of the trip so far” so well done Chlong!)

_MG_9132The next day was a very short one with only 30k to do before Kratie. We, worried about looking soft in front of our new team mate, clawed our way out of bed at the crack of dawn, only to find that she was only just waking up when we knocked on her door at 06:45! Which was nice. We then boxed off the 30k before 10:30, proving that cycle touring is easy!!

_MG_9137Having arrived in Kratie we then started planning our next few days cycle. Sam had for a long time been trying to convince Jess with very little success to tackle the toughest part of the Mekong Discovery trail, the dreaded Island of Koh Khnhera!

Type “Mekong Discovery Trail” into google and you get a very professional looking website giving routes up the Mekong by _MG_9071bicycle with lots of photos of happy people in exotic place (although this does something redirect to a dodgy medical drugs site instead and we haven’t been able to work out why). Scroll down a bit, and you find the next 20 or so suggestions offered by Google are pretty much all cycle blogs recounting various attempts to cycle the trail, all of which end in varying shades of disaster and strife.

_MG_9069Fortunately Lara was also keen and this spurred Jess into a new exploratory zealous.

The rest of the afternoon was therefore spent planning for “our toughest challenge yet”. We hit the town market, and picked up food, water, hammocks, meths for Lara trangia, rope, and then when all was done we stopped for a quite bite to eat in relatively nondescript tourist cafe (Star Guesthouse)…

By the time we’d got back to the hostel Sam was already feeling a bit strange, _MG_9044and he then spent the rest of the evening “shouting into the giant white telephone”. Jess, although not quite as ill as Sam, also didn’t stray far from the bathroom.

Sadly the next morning we had to say goodbye to Lara (who had not visited the cafe with us), and spent the rent of the day moaning and clutching our stomachs.

The route for Champong Cham to Chlong

and the route for Chlong to Kratie

26th November – Wang Nam Yen to Araya Pratchet – 87 km – Finish Thailand with a Bang!

_MG_0112The friendliness of the resort continued unabated into the following morning and we started our last full day in Thailand with a lovely breakfast over looking the fish pond. The owner gave us some useful advice about the surrounding countryside, and then the whole inhabitance of the resort, including the dog came along to wave us off.

CIMG7809One of the useful bits of advice that we had been given was “don’t go off into the countryside, because you’ll get lost”. The countryside in question was made up a mad network of teeny tiny roads, obviously none of which were paved, and even fewer had road signs. Still! Navigating via the sun and following a bearing where possible Sam was confident that a way could be picked through the maze to appear on the more major road on the other side.

_MG_0119For some time we headed into the wilderness, aiming as close to a sort of north easterly direction as was possible. Our first dead end came after about 20 minutes where we ended up in the farm yard that didn’t go anywhere. We had a suspicion that this might not have been exactly correct by the general looks of “where on earth do they think they’re going” we got from the locals we passed.

Eventually the entire workforce of the farm, totalling about 15 people, made it very clear that the only way of getting to where we wanted to go was to go back the way we had come and go round via the highway.

_MG_0128Jess and this point decided enough was enough and used her veto to bring exploration to an end, eventually taking us back to the main road. Sam was heartbroken at having failed this test of exploratory prowess, and so we decided that to cheer him up we would go to what the hotel man had called “Monkey Mountain”.

_MG_0140This turned out to be another Buddhist thing up another mental flight of steps, but these things really don’t get dull so up we went. The monkeys here were less antagonistic, although they did bare their teeth a bit, and we were safely able to get to the top and enjoy to the beautiful view!

_MG_0160There were still some ks to do before arriving in our final Thai destination of Araya Pratchet. The road to begin with was not spectacular, but we eventually got to a cross roads and low and behold the direction we wanted to go was a dirt track!! Sam could hardly contain his excitement at the thought of another chance to explore and possibility of redeeming us for the days earlier failings.

_MG_0200Again we headed deeper off the beaten track, and to Sam’s joy when we asked a local lad which way our destination was he pointed us deeper still! We pressed on and after a few minutes the sound of a moped approached us from behind and the same lad appeared having deliberately court up with us. For a moment Sam’s heart sank, was he going to change his mind and point us back to the main road, if so there is no way Jess could be convinced to continue on our noble path!

It quickly became clear that back wasn’t where he thought we should go, neither was stright on… After much drawing in the sand and rather unusal internation sign language we finally got the message that our best path would in fact be off a side track less than half the width of the already very minor dirt path we were currently on!_MG_0206Jess still took a little bit of convincing, but eventually she gave in. This new, most minor of roads, took us first through a rice paddy, then what looked like through farm and just as it looked like we really were going to die in the middle of nowhere it emerged onto a relitively minor, but beautifully tarmacked road.

_MG_0198This road then weaved it’s way through beautiful Thai countryside until we finally arrived at our destination! Good bye Thailand.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Cyclemybicycle.com enthusiasts will have no doubt noticed that the delay between events actually happening and then them getting reported on the blog has increased dramatically over the last few weeks. (For example the Jess and Sam of the blog are still days away from the Cambodia boarder, while the Jess and Sam of the real world are now comfortably in Laos…)

However, we are currently putting together a new strategy to rectify the problem, and to wet your apatite for some of the excitement that is to come here are some sneak peaks of our Cambodian exploration.

Merry Christmas!

Sam and Jess

9th & 10th November – Koh Samui to Koh Tao – 26 km – Warning Lompayah Catermaran might as well be called the Easyjet of the sea!

[Warning: During our time on the Koh Samui archipelago Jess (as mentioned) got very into the most complicated inner working of the various ferry companies. It has to be admitted that the over all ferry experience was rather annoying, it is however possible though that a large part of this particular blog post contains slightly more ferry based information than you’re actually likely to need unless you plan, for example, on doing some form of doctorate or post graduate masters entitled “Ferry’s of the Gulf of Thailand, with specific reference to the Koh Samui Archipelago . In which case I’m sure you’ll find this very useful .. If on the other hand you want to know what Koh Tao is like you might have to ask Sam when we get back…]

Jess’ dedication to researching the best ferry options for our next journey was once again tested by the even more complicated ferry situation on Koh Samui… Jess blames this on the fact that because the Island is mainly full of lazy package tourists who get shipped by their hotel direct to one of the ferries no one actually needs to know what time and where the ferry leaves from… apart, apparently, from us.

Jess had managed to work out we had three ferry options to Koh Tao, run by different companies, with different prices and types of boat, but there seemed to be no way of finding out which port these ferries went from on the internet. We decided we would try and make the Songserm 11:15 am one as not only was this the cheapest but if there was a problem with this then we had enough time to cycle to one of the other ferries that left later that day… After speaking to a lady in a random shop, we worked out it would be about a 20km cycle to the port.

On arrival at the port there appeared to be a number of piers… the first one we went to was only for ferries back to the mainland so we were directed to the other one, which housed a company called the Lompayah Catermaran (not the one we had been looking for).

Jess was a little confused at first as she recognised this company was the one that provides the express Catermaran service and most expensive service to Ko Tao, and had thought this ferry left from a different port. Immediately we arrived here we were greeted by a pushy woman who asked us where we wanted to go… She then said the ferry would be 2200bh. When Jess enquired why it was so expensive when the tickets were 600 bt, we were informed we would have to pay this for each of our bikes too… Jess was fuming!

We obviously expect to pay a little extra for the bikes but considering some of the passengers getting this ferry weigh more than the combined weight of one of us + bike, (and they aren’t getting charged for being fat!!) this seemed a little unreasonable! We refused to pay this, enquired about the other ferry companies and where they were located (they feigned ignorance). The bikes prices then miraculously went down to 200bt each! It then turned out that their ‘express service’ took the same time as the non express service because we would have to wait for 45 minutes in Koh Phangan to change boat… well we weren’t having any of that!

Luckily some Scandinavian girls were also there attempting to enquire about prices at the same time, so we spoke with them and found out that the other ferry company (Songserm) was over the other side of the car park (and not signposted at all) and that that cost 400bt (although did also involve changing boats(, not that this was mentioned until we got to the stop and were told angrily that we had to get off here))… so we went there and got charged 100bt for our bikes, which we happily paid. BINGO! (Amazing how the happy the saving of two pounds can make you…)

Having survived a crammed ferry ride with what seemed to be the entire population of Clapham Common on an August weekend afternoon (think wife beaters, brightly coloured ray-bans) we headed off to towards a beach on the South side of the island.

Jess who only the day before had been raving about her new hill technique (slaloming across the hill rather than tackling the gradient directly) managed to loose so much momentum doing this that she fell off going up a monster of a hill (the first fall of the trip!!), ending up with the bike more or less on top of her. No harm done though!

After a bit of searching around we eventually found some suitable accommodation that wasn’t either overpriced or had rats in it (the man showing Sam round the second collection of shacks we visited was very proud of the fact that the second room he showed Sam didn’t have any rats) and went to watch the sunset by the beach with a glass of wine in hand!

The next day passed in a daze of sunbathing, beach sleeping, swimming and a sea canoeing! A Delightful rest, although Jess was very scared of the crabs.

Ferry again…

Hello CycleMyBicycle Enthusiasts!

Welcome!

We’ve quit our jobs, we’ve bought our bikes and some of our maps. We haven’t worked out exactly what we are doing or where we are going, but we are going!!!

So on 6th October 2012 we start our epic 6 month cycling adventure- fly to Singapore, exit singapore, cycle Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Laos again possibly, Burma (if we can get in), Bangladesh (if they give us a visa), & India. So as you can see planning is our strong point!

One thing we have managed to achieve is this website. So fasten your seatbelts because our ‘blog-edy-blog’ (Jess’ branding!) will be filled with as much excitement & adventure as the actual trip- possibly more!!!

For serious enthusiasts, who wish to fulfill their stalking desires, we have also launched our first twitter account. Find it at @cyclemybicycle for a continual stream of witty/not witty cycle related anecdotes.

Enjoy!

Sam and Jess