My bicycle seems to be getting tired.
It wasn’t long after my last update when she decided to quit. Again. I’d only just come down from renewing my visa at the Burmese border, where I ran into a couple of seemingly very nice people who invited me to come and stay with them on Ko Phangan, when she did not want to change gear anymore.
I went to the nearest village where a bunch of very helpful but slightly clueless young men disassembled my gear lever and left me with the thing in little pieces since no one seemed to have paid any attention of how to put the tiny little bits back together.
Luckily a friendly policemen (in his tight uniform) told me it be ok to pitch my tent at the police station. He then took me out for a bite to eat and showed me the village.
Next day after cycling about 10km single speed, or actually, pushing up the hills and riding down, it seemed a good idea to jump on a bus the last 70km to Surat Thani from where I could catch a ferry to Ko Phangan and figure out what to do with my bike.
I didn’t realise I had to get another bus to the ferry port out of town, so after purchasing a ticket (5 times the price it just cost me to get there) the bus driver insisted I paid another half of that just for my bicycle. I told him to sod off and locked my bike in the bus. He nearly burst so angry he got… And I always thought Thai people don’t scream and shout. Well he did, and he also called the police. So they came and stood around and looked pretty, as Thai policemen often do.
I couldn’t be bothered with the trouble so exchanged my ticket and got a coffee.
It was then I ran into Des, an English teacher who told me where to get the best massage in ST and invited me to his girlfriends birthday party that same evening. Suddenly I was having dinner with 12 new friends from all over the world while my bicycle stood safely in Des’ kitchen… for the next two weeks.
Don was still in Bangkok trying to sort out his motorbike. He was supposed to come down and see me, but the Bullet seemed to give him more trouble then expected, he could find me a new gear switch lever and bring it down as soon as the bike allowed him to.
So I arrived on the Island of Ko Phangan, famous for it’s full moon parties, a week before the next full moon. I had taken a night ferry, which conveniently had departed right next to the bar where the birthday party was at. I arrived at 5 am, rented myself a motorbike and drove around looking for the ‘golden rock resort’. It’s a great little hide away run by ‘papa and mama’ at the quiet side of the island where I made my home for the next two weeks. I got a bungalow right near the beach where at night you could go swim and the luminescence would sparkle up all around you, during the day I could hang around in my hammock and read books. Just like a holiday. There are worse places to wait around for bicycle parts,
You quickly get used to not using days or dates on this island, instead it’s half moon, full moon, black moon, Shiva moon, etc, and each of these comes with a party….
I met up with the guys from the Burmese border. Crystal, a magician-assistant from Texas and completely mad (in a good way), and Sophie, a young but very smart and sensible girl from Germany, became my new best friend for two weeks.
Together we tried climbing mountains (but got lost in the jungle), went snorkelling (where I finally got to use my snorkel and mask!), cooked meals together, drank wine in a Jacuzzi and danced at the biggest beach party in the world. For which we got each other, and a bunch of other people, all painted up…
It was a wonderful time even though the ‘music’ isn’t of the kind I usually like and I was real happy when Don finally arrived who shares my taste. I like motorbikes, beer and music with guitars and lyrics. Instead of DUFDUFDUF-noise, hanging on a beach and drugs…(although it IS funny and Crystal and Sophie are REALLY my BEST friends in the world EVER (…)
I spend another few days on the island, driving Don’s motorbike around and eating proper English pub-food at a proper English pub before heading back to the ‘real world’ where my bicycle was patiently waiting for me in Des’ kitchen.
It surprised Don how little I actually know about fixing my bike… I’m sure I can figure things out myself, but why should I if someone else can do it better 😉
So he fixed the gears and kept me company for another two weeks in which I found out what it is like to have a Don-on-Bullet-support-team…
I would leave after breakfast and he’d catch up somewhere around lunchtime. Then he’d move on looking for a place to stay which sometimes were very questionable places indeed… Like the time he found a pink hotel in the middle of nowhere with no windows, and curtains in front of the parking space where you can pay by the hour as well…
In the evenings I would usually drive us somewhere to find a place to eat. Because I can’t help but love riding a Bullet around. When I grow up I’m gonna get myself one. Where ever I might be. (Mine is actually still in Nepal, but it’s Mick’s now…)
We kept up the holiday feeling by taking regular breaks and side-trips. We went to Railay beach, a stunning little isthmus accessible by boat only. It’s famous for rock climbing so I had a go at that (purely accidentally though) when I tried to reach a lagoon hidden away in the lime cliff rocks, I nearly made it there but the rock face was just a little to steep and slippery for me. I did come down the mountain sufficiently dirty resembling a proper rock-climbing chick…
We tried walking around the tip of the land but big cliffs stopped us, trying to get back inland didn’t work because it would involve some serious climbing, we tried a little and ‘discovered’ a beautiful fairytale-like jungle space, resembling a room with high walls of limestone all around. Magic.
It’s also the place I lost my 3rd pair of sunglasses this trip…
We had to hurry walking back along the rocks because the tide came back in fast.
We strung our hammocks between the only two good trees on a beach surrounded by cliffs and overlooking some peculiar shaped islands, making a hammock-bunk-bed.
Waking up and jumping in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea is not a bad start of a day…
Another time we were riding around when the road suddenly stopped. A bridge was being built (or destroyed I couldn’t really tell) so we had to take the long way around; I have discovered that the cycling is a whole lot easier when I hold on to Don’s motorbike 😉
We got to a ferry-port where a ferry was just about to leave. Naturally we jumped on it and asked where it would take us.
Another pretty little island with nice beaches and a cave. We were told the sea is too rough now to go there but we tried anyway. In a kayak we peddled through the waves, almost looking like we knew what we’re doing, and managed to find the entrance. It seemed scary small but a wave took us into the 80-meter pitch-black limestone tunnel where you could only hear the water crashing in around you but see nothing… until we arrived at a sea-lagoon, a tiny little concealed beach, a few trees and cliffs.
We took a wrong turn on the way back in the dark and flipped over which would be scary anyway but when you see nothing… We survived. Had a beer. And continued the journey.
Don was not going to Malaysia. So at the border I said goodbye to him and Thailand, where I’ve spend 3 months by now! And crossed into Malaysia. I wasn’t half a km from the border when I got a puncture, so I fixed it, cycled up a mountain and was surprised by the tremendous views.
When I stopped to get some water I got rushed into a chair and given all sorts of sweets and lemonade. Wow, people are friendly here as well!
I pitched my tent in a garden (after being invited of course) and joined the neighbours for dinner. The man who lived here spent 9 months in the Netherlands in 1974… It was also the first time in a long while that I got asked those questions again; “How old is your father?…. what does he do?…” Ah yes. I’m in a Muslim country again.
There are covered-up girls, many mosques and annoying boys (but they are everywhere…)
It’s been mainly flat and mainly sunny, even though I’m still in the rainy season I only got soaking wet twice so far.
A few days ago I arrived at Penang.
Here Lizzie lives.
She’s Mick’s friend (motorcycle-guy I travelled in India and Nepal with) and a teacher at an international school, I’ve been invited to come and talk to 300 kids age 7 to 11. That would have been exciting, if someone would’ve come to my school and told me there’s no need to go to uni. You can also just cycle around the world, it would’ve saved me a few years. And a whole lot of hassle…
I’m staying at her place, which is again wonderfully luxurious. Washing machine, soft bed, my own bathroom, computer and big pool outside.
I’ve run into Crystal again, and Jay, who I’ve met in Varanasi a long long time ago.
And got myself my 4th pair of sunglasses (authentic fake Prada’s 🙂 )
And I’m going to see about an Indonesian visa.
That will be my last country before I reach Australia.