Monday, January 23, 2006

Transition to the North

I've been in transit for the last 27 hours, and it's been surprisingly pleasant and painless.

I got a very relaxing ferry with hundreds of other farang to the rather grim party town of Phuket. Boat is such a civilised way to travel in Thailand - I just sat on the deck sunbathing, reading and dozing. From there I unloaded my bike and set off rather vaguelly following the minibuses and motorbike taxis to find the bus terminal in Phuket. This was the first time I'd tried to take my bike on the bus, but they were absolutely lovely about it. They tried to charge me double the fare to take the bike (an extra 12 pounds) but I smiled and lauged and said paeng in my best Thai (it means expensive) so they knocked half of that price off and there I was in a 'VIP' bus on a 13 hour ride to Bangkok, back up the road I'd cycled down a week or two earlier. The VIP bus is the size of a standard 52 seat coach, but only has three seats per row, and only about 10 rows. You have tonnes of leg room, even a lanky farang like me, and the seats recline almost to horizontal. And the air conditioning! Whooo. Too much for me - I was freezing in my hot-weather gear - even with the complimentary tartan blanket. It was only in the last hour of my journey that I figured out how to turn off the blast of icy air. But despite that I slept really well on the overnight journey.

I arrived at the south bus terminal in Bangkok mid rush hour, and had to cycle right across the city to the northern bus terminal. Quite an adventure. Partly because I didn't really know where I was going, and party just because I was back amid the pollution, the swarms of mopeds, and the roaring buses, trucks and tuk-tuks. It was great fun! I found my way there after 10 miles, with a pleasant finale through a calm park full of ponds and joggers.

Getting my bike on the next bus proved a little trickier. At two identical ticket windows they smiled and shook their head pointing at the bike. But for some reason I wasn't worried. I knew somehow it would work out. I tried a third window back next to the first one I'd tried, smiled a lot, and got my ticket! And after a quick plate of rice and noodles and glass of something strange and sweet and icy cold, I got on the bus to Sukhothai. Only 1st class this time, so normal seats. But that was fine - it was daytime now and I didn't particularly want to sleep.

The journey was easy and uneventful, other than a pleasant old lady infront of me talking to herself in Thai the entire way. And now after a final short bike ride from the bus terminal to the town centre, I've got a lovely little room in a teak-built guest house next to the river. I've had a very relaxing evening going to the night market for a plate of noodles, and will make an early start tomorrow to cycle to the ruins of Sukhothai, then the following day I'll set off for some serious cycling for a couple of weeks around the border between Thailand and Burma. There looks to be some pretty exciting mountains around there...

I've just uploaded a few photos - mostly of the family I stayed with between Bangkok and Chumphon -

1 comment:

54 said...

The photos with the pogodas in the cave was stunning!! Do update more often.

How you ended up staying with the family?

Is thaty a different bike than the one I saw you with in New Orleans?