One of the things I have always said I love about riding is the flexibility and freedom of being on a bike, with all you need to hand. Sadly, the news of being granted just a 15 day visa for Thailand would scupper this somewhat and as we set off from the ferry port at Satun, Southern Thailand. We knew we would have to cut short our time or aim for a Visa extension. Having just ridden through Malaysia were looking forward to completing the full ride from Singapore to Bangkok. Despite the other backpackers coming in from Langkawi thinking we were slightly nuts we were excited. There’s something about riding into a really big city I rather like – though we now needed to make some decisions on priorities given we still had the rest of South East Asia to discover and a flight booked from Bangkok on December 7th.
After much congitation and deliberation we made the decision that given we would be returning to Thailand before heading home for now we were going to leg it. We would ride to Krabi and then look at all means possible to enable us to arrive in Vientiane, Laos, from there. Riding into Bangkok was still something we wanted to attempt so how our journey would commence was now down to careful logistics. Time for me to pour over maps, investigate public transport and read about what we still may not want to miss despite having to leave Thailand sooner than originally anticipated. Eventually we decided to get the bus to Surathani and from there we would get the train to Hua Hin, a couple of days ride South of Bangkok, before a final overnight train to Laos.
It’s funny how quickly freedom and flexibility turn into nooses and complications. Pedals and handlebars turned, wheels removed and we were soon loaded into a 4 x 4, heading for the bus. The coach would then take us, bikes and luggage to the train station where we would learn quickly how bikes and trains work in Thailand – web research seemed ok, we just needed it to be reality.
The coach left an hour late only to soon break down. We were sitting at the front watching the driver get more agitated as things didn’t quite work as they should. While anxious regarding delays and missing our train, I was pleased we would not do the whole journey behind an uptight guy with phone in one hand and a fag in the other! At least on my bike I’m a bit more in control. Eventually we swapped coaches, once more moving bikes, wheels and luggage from one vehicle to another. We were dropped off around 100 metres from the station entrance with an hour or so before our departure. Wheels re-attached, pedals and handlebars turned… it was time to find the luggage office. Right now the bikes were definitely nooses.
Fortunately it would not be this way for long. Loading a bike is as simple as completing a form and paying a small cargo fee – if only we had proper luggage carriages like this back home. We arrived in Hua Hin, rested and did the tourist thing and then set off for Bangkok. It was great to be back on the bike though we would be in Laos when we finally found that sense of freedom again. The ride into Bangkok was amazingly straightforward and we would have just one night there before we would leave for Laos.
A new sense of calm actually started in Nong Khai. We stayed at a relaxed small guest house, the Mut Mee where we met two other cyclists. They talked highly of Laos, as had friends back home….there was now just the Mekong between us and..well, it. And “it ” would not disappoint.
In our original route plan we would spend just a week or so there. Following a few days in Vientiane we would ride to Vinh, just over the border in Vietnam. However, freedom and flexibility were back and this time I would be pouring over maps and itineraries to see how we could spend more time here rather than less. So, we’re in Luang Prabang right now ( temporarily minus the bikes) and will call into Vang Vien before returning and continuing our original route. We will still ride parts of Vietnam but instead will return to Southern Laos, entering Cambodia from there before our final entry into Thailand.
At least that’s the plan for now -
and that’s what I love about this flexibility and freedom.