For whatever reason today of all day’s I had decided to cycle down to Cha-am for the weekend, well what was left of it. That was after finishing off my ‘Pricing Strategy,’ in my Principles of Marketing class.
Annie, (my wife) was in Taiwan attending to business, so with her blessing, I decided to go for it. This was going to be my first cycle down to Cha-am since first meeting up with Annie five years ago. At 47, I was not too sure if my body was actually up for it. From my old place, it was just over 163 km, but from where I was living now it was 161 km, that is if you took advantage of the shortcuts that actually whittled the kilometres down somewhat.
It was half-past one before I eventually hit the road. I didn’t know whether or not I’d actually arrive there in one piece or not. That for me was always at the back of my mind when cycling out here in Thailand.
I left with my rucksack packed to bursting point, carrying: camera, notebook, toiletries, change of cycle gear and day clothing and just for short measures, just in case I got bored: Amitav Ghosh’s book, ‘The Glass Palace.’
I cycled down Soy 27 of Phetkasem Road, a dreary looking soi, if ever there was one, but it always looked like it was always teaming with life.
Eventually, I made my way across to Ekkachai Road and for there I just followed the road until I hit the Rama II Road. It took me an hour and a quarter to reach Samut Sakhon. The weather up to now had been fine, not too hot, but I knew that I would eventually run into darkness, as I headed out towards Samut Songkram, the clouds were starting to build. The last thing I wanted was at this point was for it to rain, especially with my tyres being rock hard with air inside them.
I reached Samut Songkram sooner than I thought, then it was out towards Pak Tho, where the Rama II Road would merge with the Phetkasem Road. I cycled on relentlessly, trying to average a speed of 32km/h. To break the monotony down, I periodically called into service areas to top up with water and sports drinks. At one point I knew that I would regret this later on, believing that my body was taking on far too much sugar, but at least it was keeping my energy levels up. Sometimes I rested longer than I had originally planned for. All the time I knew that I’d to be careful about this; this was not a race and if it was, then I’d already lost it.
At Pak Tho, I still had another seventy kilometres left to go. I slowly watched the sun as it gleamed across at me from an obscure angle, dusk was setting in, but at least the cloud had dispersed.
I now headed out with Phetchaburi now in my sights. I turned on my lights: one to the front and two to my rear, but it was then that I discovered to my annoyance that my front one was faulty as every bump I went over the damn thing cut out. This began a constant tapping of the light to get it working again. I saw in the twilight Kao Wang coming into view on the hilltop silhouetted against the cobalt blue sky.
As I headed out towards Cha-am. The side of the road eating places started to become busy, with their colourful flashing advertising lights. I knew now that I was getting close and eventually I saw the road shooting off to the left with the sign pointing towards Cha-am. I followed the road around. After a short distance, the sign for Cha-am beach came up, which meant that Narathip Road was off to the left and at the bottom of that road would be my accommodation for the night: T. K. Guesthouse.
I wasted no time going in to book my accommodation. My plan of action was to: get a room, to do at least twenty minutes stretching exercises, shower and get cleaned up before going out for my evening meal – I beckoned for a nice cold refreshing beer and a nice succulent steak.
‘Hello, do you have any available rooms for the night?’
‘Yes, at 800 baht a night.’ She said, but that didn’t sound quite right. Believing that she was pricing the room a little high I commented.
‘If I stay for two nights, can I have it for 600 baht?’ She didn’t argue, she just simply agreed.
I had a delicious dinner at Neeshy’s place. I had a lovely roast chicken with all the dressings and to compliment in I had Chang beer. The owner acknowledged me.
‘Are you on your own this time?’ He said knowing that I’d been down with my wife on at least three previous occasions.
‘Yes, I cycled down.’
‘How long did it take you to cycle down this time?’ I was amazed that he could remember that I was always concerned about my timings.
‘Err, five hours, averaged a speed of around 32.2 km/h.’ At that he allowed me to continue with my meal. Actually, I think he and the rest of the diners were more interested in the practice runs for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the following day.
After the meal, I went for a walk along Ruamjit Road, which ran along the beach front. There wasn’t really much going on, the bars were open, but they weren’t doing so much in trade. I walked up a road that was littered with guesthouses and bars. Every bar had more escort girls than they had drinkers, ‘hello you want drink,’ ‘hello we got you a drink.’ The way they carried on you’d think I was desperate for alcohol, but actually, they were desperate for customers.
Back on the main road, it was quiet. Nothing seemed to stir. All you could hear were the waves relentlessly rolling in, no doubt disintegrating into white sheets of foam before deciding to retreat. Music also blurred out from a parked car and further on from a number of pubs.
I decided to head back for an early night, my body was beckoning for sleep.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
I woke up just after dawn. I quickly got dressed and without caring to wash or shave, I dashed for the open promenade to take a picture of the awakening sunrise.
To my surprise, the beach was a mass with activity, as banana boats and jet skies were just waited for the fun to begin. The hotels had already put up their sunshades in anticipation for a bumper day to kick start their holiday season, which was now only weeks away.
I later walked along the Ruamjit Road in anticipation of getting a feel of this beautiful seaside resort. Three seater bicycles were all parked up. One family of three cycled past. Shops were open selling inflatables and T-shirts. I purchased some flat lithium batteries for my cycle helmet lights and then headed back for breakfast.
Breakfast was taken at Neeshy’s, at least there I was guaranteed a good English breakfast consisting of sausage, beans, egg, bacon and toast with a glass of orange juice. It was something to die for, talk about being scrumptious.
In front of me sat three Australians who spoke passionately about reading, my ears picked up, especially when I was trying to get some work published. I eavesdropped into their conversation, they liked crime novels, e-books and things like that. They talked about authors they liked, they spoke highly of Jeffrey Archer, but the other authors I’d never heard of.
Later on, I decided to cycle down to where Regent Beach was, this is where Holiday Inn used to be, but they had now moved. I made a point in heading out for the market place, access was sought by cycling to the far end of the car park and then getting onto the back road, which would lead me there.
On the market road a sign in English said ‘Had suk samer’ which meant ‘always a happy beach’ It looked like the market place wasn’t quite ready for the onslaught of the holiday season, but it brought back lots of memories from 2008, which was when I first discovered this place and every time since I have always cared to visit this place when I was down here.
I decided to venture a little further along on the Phetkasem Road if only to see what I would discover. As it was, I discovered the entrance to the Wat Sai Yoi with a straight narrow road, which took me to a very nice picturesque looking harbour, where fishermen tended to their nets and boats.
From here I cycled back, on my way I came across a group of cyclists doing a cycle in memory of the late King Rama IX. They agreed for me to take a picture of them all. They all seemed very passionate cyclists. I gave them all my contact details and left them to cycle along at their own chosen speed.
Once back I showered and then rested. I knew that I couldn’t overdo it today as I was due to cycle back tomorrow, certainly not something to look forward to, but at least Annie; my wife would be back from her travels.
So once cleaned up I took myself out for a long walk along the beach. People were out with their rubber rings as banana boat created delight for those that chose that specific activity. Others just buried their father’s in the sand, as the land of play came alive.
The sea crashed onto the beach, oscillating as it did, creating sheets of foam before deciding to retreat. I was tired and I knew sooner or later that my tiredness would catch up with me. However, rather than heading back to my guesthouse I walked up to the north end of the beach right up to where the Cha-am khlong flowed into the sea. Two children joyfully played in the flowing water. The currents had eroded the sand dunes away, creating large sandbanks. Further, up, a fisherman tended to his boat.
I decided at this point to head back, as the current was too strong and the water too deep to even contemplate crossing it to the other side. Once back I instantly fell asleep, later I went for my evening meal before crashing out for the night.
Monday, November 28, 2016
I woke up at around quarter to five. By half past, I was on my way home, heading out towards Bangkok with all my lights flashing. I must have looked like a premature Christmas decoration. I made good steady progress. Steadily the eastern sky started to changed colour preparing us for daybreak.
I guesstimated that I would arrive home by one o’clock at the earliest. I passed the rocky outcrop of strange looking cliffs and the volcano looking mountain. Teak trees seem to stretch along the central reservation for miles right up to the intersection with the Rama II Road.
I reached the interchange at nine o’clock; dead on the dot. Now I was cycling along Rama II Road with Samut Songkhram being my next destination. Little market stalls ran along the roadside. Regardless of how many stalls there were, they all sold the same products: in this case, it was all salt – salt and more salt, nobody it seems wanted to diversify in their product offerings.
I eventually hit Samut Songkhram and cycled up over the Mea Klong (river), I don’t think I’d ever seen a river so calm, especially with the sea being only 3 km away.
I cycled on trying to get a picture of a sala. These wonderful structures that so often saved the day allowing me somewhere to rest from the elements, while on my long exhausting cycle runs. A rudimentary structure, but very effective.
Cycling in the heat of the day was becoming tiring and my knees were beginning to ache along with a bit of sciatica on my right side. My pace had dropped from 32 km/h down to 28 km/h. I was aware that my wife had flown back from Taiwan yesterday and that today she had an appointment at the hospital. I wondered if she’d got up in time and if she’d remembered to go. She had told me that she’d be OK and that it wasn’t necessary for me to go along with her.
I called into a service area to top up with drinks, I was parched and I was intent in keeping myself hydrated by drinking only milk and water; no sugary drinks or sports drinks today, as I believed it was that, that had kept me awake on Saturday night.
At the service station, I bumped into another cyclist. His bike was much lighter than mine. He was keen to make conversation with me. We took photographs of each other and then shared a joke or two.
That is before my mobile started ringing. It was Annie my wife notifying me that she had arrived at the hospital, but not everything was as we planned, there were serious complications with her pregnancy, which eventually ended in us losing the baby. We would both end up becoming extremely moved by the experience, but to see my wife completely wrecked by all this was to difficult to take in, but I stood by her side all the way.
I left the youngster behind as I cycled the remaining 40 km as fast as my legs would carry me. I passed the strange looking temple complex, with what I believed was either a Buddhist or Hindu symbol on it, which could have been mistaken for being a swastika but wasn’t.
I arrived home, it had taken me slightly longer than I had envisaged. I had chronic sciatica in my right buttock and an aching back. After showering and changing and then set off to see my wife in Bangkok as I had originally planned.