Planning my first Bicycle Tour
We are getting closer to the Holiday season and everyone has their own plans. The fascination for a good long distance Bicycle Tour was still inside me and I really wanted to make it happen this time. I wanted to go someplace warmer and closer to the beach. I chose Thailand probably because I have been there several times and for me, it is like a second home.
I didn’t know where to start from and how to plan things for my first Bicycle Tour. Thanks a lot to Priyanka and Mehul who helped me a lot getting the basics right and also to legendary Saminder Singh Saluja (Dicky Bhaiya) who really inspired me and made me believe that I can do it. I met Priyanka and Mehul on twitter and they guided me for almost everything. Priyanka has already toured solo through Germany and Australia , while Mehul just participated in his first Iron Man.
Saminder Singh Saluja aka Dicki Bhaiya is a legend in the cycling world. He has been touring across India and outside for years now. Cycling clubs and association from across the globe keeps on inviting him for his knowledge, trainings and inspiration. I was damn lucky to have him around me for guidance.
So I started with making my route. The two things I had in mind while planning the route was that I had to (1) start from Bangkok and then (2) go down south for some beach love and sun. Bangkok to Phuket or Bangkok to Krabi seems to be most apt options for me as I can comfortably end my trip in either of these two places with beautiful beaches and nice hippie life to relax. So I figured out map with places I would stop at and the roads I would take.
Bangkok – Phetchaburi – Hua Hin – Kui Buri – Baan Grood – Chumphon – Ranong – Kura Buri – Khao Lak – Phuket/Krabi
The total distance to be covered was approx 800 kms in over 2 weeks.
The next thing after finalizing the route was to finalize the dates of travel. I wanted to end my ride at Phuket/Krabi around the New Years Eve and therefore decided to start on 21st December from Bangkok, ride down South to reach Phuket/Krabi by 30th December, spend couple of days in the Islands around, get wasted (haha) and then fly back to Bangkok with my bike. I booked my tickets for 21st December and return on 5th January.
BIKE & GEARS
This is where I got stuck for the longest time. I didn’t own a good bicycle which I could have carried along with and neither had I enough money to buy one for this trip. The only option left with me was to buy a second-hand bike or rent it in Bangkok. The option to buy a second-hand bike seemed bleak because for finding an old bike I had to spend more time in Bangkok which I didn’t have. I wanted to start my ride on the very next day of reaching Bangkok. I kept looking for shops in Bangkok which would rent a decent touring bike at the cheapest possible price with back racks and pannier bags. That is when I came across Velo Thailand, a shop primarily into renting the bicycle for touring. They offered me a decent bike with rack, panniers, tool, pump, helmet, repair kit etc at 4200 Bhatt for 2 weeks. The price seems good and I booked them instantly in the second week of December.
I was now in the 3rd week of December and everything seems sorted. My tickets were booked, bikes were booked, I got my tent ready and I was suppose to leave in just a few days for my first tour on Bicycle. Yayyy!!
December 17, 2016
Just a week before I was to fly and everything seems to be falling in right places, I had to undergo a surgery in my right thigh. It was such a big bummer for me because I can’t ride my bike for next 2 weeks and might have to cancel the trip as well. However, I had to take good care of my surgical wood for faster healing and to ensure I get to take the very first flight to Bangkok after doctors allow me to go.
It is 27th December and I am already en route Bangkok. Happy Me ?
December 28, 2016
I am here in Bangkok Airport and still can’t believe I managed to make it here after all the chaos that happened in last one week. I was heading straight for the Spinning Bear Hostel, a place made especially for cyclist and for the sheer love of cycling. The moment you enter the hostel you can feel the velo love inside you with touring bikes on all side, pannier bags, tools, fridge that stock soy milk and not beer and conversations which mostly includes bicycle touring and experiences. It was an instant love kind of place and glad I chose it.
The host Im is such a sweetheart and she made sure I feel at home instantly. She knows Bangkok in the back of her mind and will make your ride in Bangkok an experience to remember. She made me ride on railway platform, university, cycling trails, Crossover Bridge, farm lands and in places with no roads. All in middle of the Bangkok city.
The first day was spent collecting the Bike and other gears from Velo Thailand, doing short 20-30 kms ride to make sure I am comfortable with the new bike and with the panniers on and conversing with fellow cyclist and listening their stories. I met Lorenze here who started his trip on bicycle 19 year back and is still cycling all over. He, Mac Kino and many others like him inspired me so much at Spinning Bear Hostel.
December 29, 2016
It was a sleepless night for me but then I was ready to start my tour at 5 in the morning. The moment I got on my bike which was now loaded with panniers bags, tent and my sleeping bag, I realized that riding with panniers and load on the bike is a different ball game all together. I was getting scared and skeptical about my own abilities.
But then I calmed down and decided to start slowly, like one baby step at a time. I started my ride to the airport. It was a beautiful ride with nice routes and trails, the sun rising from between the sky scrapers and almost no traffic. The most interesting thing here was boarding the flight. I had to board the flight of NokAir, which claims to be a cyclist friendly airline in Thailand. And I bet it was. I just had to ride my bike to the airport, get inside and check in with my unpacked bike. I reached Krabi, got my bike and started riding from the airport itself. And all this for no extra charges. Yayy!!
On reaching Krabi, my plans changed again. Instead of going to Phi Phi Island, I decided to go to Koh Jum island, a bit south of Krabi. I rode for some 40 kms to Laem Kruat Pier and then took a long tail boat to the Island. The island was a surprise package for me. It was quite and calm with almost no tourist, just a few locals and couple of resorts. Shall definitely go there again someday.
Rest of the day was spent with my new friends there relaxing, sipping beer, enjoying Thai food and making conversations. As the sun went down, I set my tent right on the beach and said adieu to my friends for a good night sleep.
I realized that most important thing in life is to take the first step and believe in yourself. Ever step further will make you more confident and brings you closer to your destination.
December 30, 2016 to January 2, 2017
I woke up early being happy and cherishing my first camping experience. The music of the sea and coconut tree felt so soothing that I actually slept like a baby ? I was definitely excited to camp more in this trip now. The next 4 days was to be spent in Phi Phi Island celebrating New Years and getting wasted. But I never knew that moments spent in Phi Phi will end up being my favorite in Thailand.
I used to get up early every morning and ride all the way up to the Phi Phi View Point. It used to be a steep climb with lots of dirt tracks but the reward of reaching the viewpoint was magical and refreshing. You get to see the breathtaking view of the entire island nestled between the turquoise Sea. Everyone trekking up to the viewpoint would cheer me up, which would make me happy and more confident.
Besides that, Phi Phi was all about meeting some of the most amazing people, making friends and conversation. Some of these people will definitely be part of my story again in future.
On 2nd January, my plans changed again and instead of going to Krabi and started my bicycle tour ride to Bangkok, I ended up going to Phuket with my new friends. I changed the route a bit and decided to ride up to Bangkok via Phuket – Khao Lak – Ranong – Chumphon and then along the east coast as planned.