Home An interesting 10 day, 700 km ride from SuratThani to Bangkok along Thailand's south east coast. Safe, flat, good food and accommodation and good scenery.
Ride 6 Through
exotic Thailand: North to ChiangMai
Leg1: Malaysian border to SuratThani
Leg2: SuratThani to Bangkok
Leg3: Bangkok to ChiangMai
The Road: Highways 41(Surat to Chumphon) and 4 (Chumphon to Bangkok) are 'A' roads, and are beautifully sealed and wide. However, it pays to avoid these two as much as possible owing to the traffic (see 'Traffic' below).
The better route is up along the old highway that runs beside the SuratThani - Bangkok railway line. This road is mostly sealed, but in need of repair, so watch out for potholes. It cuts through backwater towns and farms and the locals will be pleased to see you.
Traffic: Along the 'A' roads the traffic is a bitch and will play havoc with your emotions.
The modern air-con tourist buses are the worst offenders; they travel at high speed, pass within inches and go up and down to Bangkok constantly, day and night. You'll usually get a flash view of some tourist's face looking down incredulously at you from the bus as it speeds by.
In contrast, the old highway that runs beside the railway track has very little traffic and is quite magical from the biking point of view. Just watch out for sleepy dogs that wake up just as you enter a town and amble across the road in front of you. Why do they do that?
Hills: There aren't any.
The Ferries: None.
The ride in detail: SuratThani has an uneasy, 'border town' air. It's the jumping off point for trips to KoSamui and KoPhangan, two very popular nearby tourist islands. I never stick around long.
About 20 km west out of SuratThani along Highway 41 you'll cross the Bangkok - Surat railway line. Right beside it is the old Bangkok - Surat highway. Take it! You'll be immediately rewarded with a drop in traffic, an improving vista and friendly locals.
A further 30 km on will get you to Chaiya, a small Thai town, where you can stay at the one little Chinese hotel, or if you need Western company, ride the 10 km west across Highway 41 to Wat Suan Mokkh, where you can stay very cheaply in the dorm (men and women's quarters separate). Ask the locals in Chaiya for directions to the Wat; they're used to seeing Westerners wandering about the town lost.
Wat Suan Mokkh was founded by the late Ajaan Buddhadasa, a very liberal and forward thinking Thai abbot, and it's a popular place for Westerners to study Buddhism or just hang out. There are food stalls just out side the main entrance. It's a fun place as Buddhist Wats go, but keep your eye out for scorpions. Best to shake the sheets before you hop into bed.
90 km away is Hat ArunThai, a cluster of beach bungalows (500 B - about US$15) on Tako Estuary just south of the small town of Sawi. This place is isolated and quite beautiful. It's good for a night stop if you're on your own, and could warrant a couple of days if you've got company.
The old highway actually runs out at LangSuan, joining the new highway 20 km short of Hat ArunThai. From LangSuan to Hat ArunThai and further on to Chumphon, you'll need to pick your way along the coastal roads and tracks if you wish to avoid the severe traffic on Highway 4.
The big plus is that you'll pass through some very remote fishing villages and meet plenty of friendly country folk. The minus is that you may get lost. When asking directions, the Thais, being helpful, will continually send you back to the main highway, so use the 'Thai Flash Card' at left to keep you on track down the small roads.
From Chumphon up to BangSaphanYai the road is sealed and in good condition. About 5km past the turn off to BangSaphan Noi (little Bang) there's a Guest House and the beach here is not too bad.
The old road 'comes and goes' all the way from here to Bangkok, so you'll need to consult your map and do the best you can. Mr Pumpy sometimes got lost, ran out of road, stayed with friendly villagers and enjoyed it immensely. "As long as there's no deadlines, what's the rush?' he says, being a philosophical biker.
PrachuapKhiriKhan is a pretty ordinary Thai town, and HuaHin, a beach resort a further 100 km up the road is quite pleasant but nothing special.
By the time you reach Phetchaburi, or especially Ratchaburi, the traffic will be pretty bad, so you might consider training or busing the last 100 or so km into Bangkok.
If you take the bus, it will drop you and the bike at the Southern Bus Terminal from where it's 20 minute ride across the Chao Phraya River into central Bangkok. If you take the train it will drop you at Hualamphong Station, right in the middle of town.
The Bike: A hybrid or touring bike would be perfect for the job. A racer would suit fine as long as you don't hit too many potholes or ride in the wet. I rode my mountain bike, but in Thailand it's probably not the most efficient choice.
Other Cyclists: A few. I ran into a Canadian near BangSaphan and another in HuaHin. You'll see the odd serious cyclist in Bangkok.
Places to stay: Plenty of good hotels spaced out nicely along the whole route. No worries.
The locals and security: Stay vigilant, but really the security risk is pretty low on the scale of things. Keep the bike in site or locked and you should be fine.
Food & drink: Tasty food, snacks, drinks and bottled water are readily available all along the road. Lots of fish dishes. No need to take any supplies.
Transport: Local buses going past most of the time on the 'A' roads, which you can catch by flagging them down. It's also possible to catch the train which runs along this whole leg. If you head out into the villages along the coast, there will be pick up trucks going past that will readily stop and help you out. The Thais are quite wonderful when it comes to helping out the lonely Western cyclist in distress.
Bike shops: In the major towns. Usual deal, no worries (see Ride 6: Through exotic Thailand above).