After our wonderful week in Koh Tao, we felt like we wanted to visit the neighboring island of Koh Pha-ngan which is famous for its beach parties, including the famous « full moon party ». We have the perfect timing so let’s enjoy it! We met again with friends from Koh Tao and went to the first evening, in the jungle. Actually there was nothing very local there because we were between Westerners, but we spent a good evening enjoying the techno music. During the stay, Leo has a bad fall with the bike. Fortunately, nothing is broken except for bruises and wounds, so we can leave after a day of convalescence.
We are very happy to be back on the road on August 17th. Indeed, the interest of this trip lies in the meetings with the inhabitants, the unforeseen events, the landscapes off the beaten track, and even if it is good to breathe a little with the other travelers, it is the bicycle adventure that really thrives us. We start again with a beautiful day of flatland between Hevea plantations (very numerous, Thailand is the world’s leading producer of latex!) and the coast. We will notice that the cultural landscape is already evolving. There are indeed many veiled women and we see the first mosques. It is a progressive evolution that is as usual characteristic of border regions. That day is Sunday, and there are many cyclists on the roads, finally! We are escorted by two guys from the « Thai Angel Cycling Club » and meet a (very) big group of bicycle tourists for the first time in the whole journey. They are on average fifty five and are all from Pattani on the Southeast coast. Happy to see that Thailand adheres to cycle tourism! Very good atmosphere in the group, we will eat together a breakfast. In any case they seem to have a small pace, when they are not stopped an hour in each restaurant! We drive in the afternoon and after a small gear issue fixed in the MacGyver style, we stop in a small town, and head to the Buddhist temple. Very good evening with the monks, all very humorous. Note that it is very difficult to find a beer here in the evening!
In the early morning we will see the monks sing the mantras and then we will be invited to breakfast, after they have finished and sang the prayer. They live without money so they receive everyday the many donations of the quest. We thought we would enjoy our breakfast peacefully, but here we are competing with locals who throw themselves on the leftovers! They surely need it more than us. So here we are (late), and the mechanical issue of the day (there will be another) on the chain takes us by surprise. We repair and choose the mountain out of two road options, because the road seems beautiful and deserted. Once gone in we realize the ordeal we got into… It’s hot and the ascents are around 15 +% in some places. No luck, Steph gets a flat and he leaves a lot of energy, it’s hard. We still manage to repair and leave. We cycle in the afternoon in the jungle and the atmosphere is really amazing. The senses are awake, the sounds and smells, as well as the sight of huge trees make us forget the difficulty (still) of the road. After coming back to the main road, it is very late and we run out of energy … In the first middle range city, there is unfortunately no hotel! Never mind, Steph speaks to a soldier who opens the doors of the barracks! It’s a first time Weapons and uniforms are intimidating at first sight but we come across a cool bunch of nice guys. “Enemies are everywhere” says one of them. We have seen only friends. In any case we can sleep on our ears tonight 🙂
After a good night, a few selfies with the soldiers and a new breakfast based on Durian (a big fruit full of spikes, very strong in taste and typical of the region), we go up the valley to the border town of Betong, very charming! Only 70km but the altitude gain is important again, although we are this time spared by ultra steep roads, phew. Steph repairs his bike which has suffered a lot, it is necessary to change the front gearing, the cassette and the chain. The small evening ballad on the heights allows to enjoy the tropical atmosphere of the place.
In the morning of the 21st, we finally arrive in Malaysia, the border is very easy to pass and here we do not pay a visa :). We will drive all day between oil palm plantations but also the hills of primary forest, that’s what we came for! Here we arrived at night after 100km at a campsite on the edge of a refreshing river. It is the occasion to enjoy the sound of the jungle and for Leo to see the biggest bird in the area! It is a magnificent Calao rhinoceros, how lucky! We are in good hands with the campsite owner and his friend, who have set up a network of checkpoints on all the most beautiful roads in the country to develop tourism. We are with the initiators of the project at this checkpoint, on the A76 road. They communicate thoroughly on the networks and 10 minutes after our passage we are already buzzing online 😀 Their Facebook page and site: « Malaysia local route ».
The next day we taste the Malay breakfast, before driving all day to the bottom of the climb that awaits us for the Highlands. This linking stage takes us in the afternoon round the big city of Ipoh, so we cycle through the industrial suburbs for miles, forget about the calm and say hello to urban Malaysia … These moments are quite detestable but they are part of the game! At the end of the afternoon a hot spring and a waterfall await us for relaxation.
Finally, on Friday, August 23rd, we leave for a 75km climb to reach the Cameron Highlands at 1600 meters up in the mountains. We are very happy to be back to the tops, it is the first time since the north of Vietnam two months ago. It takes us the day, we go slowly from the jungle to the plantations of fruits and vegetables in the greenhouse of the highlands, there are even strawberries! Surely an idea of the English who colonized the region first. The tea meanwhile is waiting for us up there. Crossing one of the passes we are attacked by bees and Steph is not spared, with at least 5 bites. Whatever, let’s save the bees!
We will take two days of rest enjoying the coolness here before heading back to Kuala Lumpur, then Singapore where our journey ends.