Archive for the ‘Pacific Cycles Carry Me in Khao Lak and Phuket’ Category

Pacific Cycles in Taiwan has this amazing mini folding bike that’s folds in to a super compact package of just about 8 kgs. A recent trip to Phuket and Phangnga province in South Thailand was a good chance to try out the red pocket rocket in the cooler hours of the day while my wife, Coleen, lazed about in the resort room where cycling was furthest from her mind. It was her birthday trip anyways, so vegetating was excusable.

We had used a couple of these bikes in Thailand before, mostly in the cooler months of December and January in the northern provinces, and I knew that to be without some form of two wheeled transport, getting around after returning the rental car was going to be a tad tedious.

Me? I had to pedal as much as I could just to work off all the buffet meals that came with the rooms. Another excuse was that I suddenly became much more mobile pedalling over 8 inch wheels, be it in a congested Thai town or along lonely beach side roads. With a max cruising speed of no more than 30 kmp/h, the Carry Me was vital in covering more ground with my cameras strapped on the shoulder.

This is getting to be a good habit. Folding bike in the boot of a rental car while on vacation đŸ™‚

The fact that I managed to rent a very new Toyota Vios at a low season rate of just Thb 900 (from Thb 1300) right from the Phuket airport car rental counters, was icing on the cake. Apparently I was their first customer that day at 2 pm, and was happily given the big discount. Yup, renting a car to transport a bicycle (and honeymoon couple) made sense. We made it to Khao Lak 80 kms north of Phuket island in good time, found the Baan Krating Resort   on a forested hillside overlooking the Andaman Sea. This place was also giving discounts and ‘free’ dinners’ and breakfasts during their ‘green season’ a nicer term for rainy monsoon season. We were blessed with perfect weather, and the heavy showers came only in the night, when we were thankfully not driving or cycling.

Luckily for us, we were told that it rained all week before we arrived, making everything lush and green.  Khao Lak’s 10 kms of sandy beaches bore the brunt of the Dec 2004 tsunami which claimed thousands of lives in Thailand. This was the stretch where unidentified bodies were gathered and kept in containers, some unrefridgerated. A Thai friend positively does not want to visit this place where so many perished. Almost 6 years on, I noticed that all the development in this coast must be brand new. Heck there’s a deserted McDonald’s even in Baan Niang village, all of 1 km long, which I confess had me buying a cheeseburger for a late night munch to go with Eurosports live coverage of the 2010 Tour de France!

I also got to chat with a French family in the next 2 bungalows who were on vacation for a whole month in the Thai south. In these parts the dreaded tsunami subject always came up, but this time my neighbour told a tale of a relative who simply did not return from Thailand as she was never ever found. On a happier note our neighbour’s 2 young kids were overjoyed when they discovered McDonald’s in town, never mind the 1 hour walk it took to get there from Baan Krating. The right motivation can do wonders.

The deserted beach at Thai Meaung, south of Khao Lak

The next day, we took off on a drive to Takua Pa, a derelict tin mining town some 30 kms away. It was deja vu, as I had cycled all the same roads just 3 months ago on the Phuket to Penang ride. I guess I am the only one who has surveyed a route by bicycle first before attempting a drive on the same roads ha ha. The Carry Me was brought out of it’s card board coffin 24 hrs after landing and I had a blast rolling down hill to town, all 2 kms of it, down through highway # 4 which leads to Bangkok  some 700 kms north. Coming back up hill was easy. A kind lady in a silver Toyota Vios who looked alarmingly similar to Coleen gave me a lift.

Unlike 1st world Singapore good ol’ Thailand has lanes for 2 wheelers

Low season Khao Lak was a bit of a let down, some restaurants and eateries seemed mothballed and those that were open had their staff sitting on the sidewalks. Hmmm. We were sceptical of the freshness of their food. At times like these it would be best to go local, but alas,  birthday celebrations meant a fancier eatery which as I guessed, had average food to go with nice candlelight and checked tablecloths. Thankfully the location of our hillside bungalow and crashing waves with distant twinkling lights from faraway beach resorts made up for a lackluster dinner. Those and a couple of Magnums (ice cream)  And the two cutesy resident resort kittys purring outside our door, which entertained me to no end, but got Coleen on edge each time I stepped out.

Happy is a man whose wife buys him a car with space cash to boot ! Let’s wory about the bank loan part later…..

We spent the remaining 4 days in Phuket’s old town, walking a lot, when the Carry Me was not in use, then getting our brains numbed by too much trolling of the Central Festival Mall and some Factory Outlet Mall which would not look lout of place in suburban America. The Central Mall was good though for some gourmet coffee, an afternoon movie at the SFX theatres, what ever that is, and the massage find of the decade, so Coleen says. It’s the Happy Massage place on the 2nd floor if you must know. We went there twice. All other forms of relaxation met out expectations at, billed as a hip business hotel, just on the fringe of Phuket town yet strategically close to the malls, and the bus to the airport.

It’s also a very close 2 kms to town, riding among startled school kids and locals when they do a double take after seeing an adult pedalling on 8 inch wheels, with takeaway popiah (spring rolls) on the handlebar, heading back to the hotel.

Just aim high boys
Small wheel gathering in Phuket’s Chinatown
James Bomd has his gadgets, I have my Carry Me @
TDF 2010 every night !
Massage in a corner of the Central Mall @ Thb 200/hour. Forget the tourist beaches, and their expensive massages from scantily clad masseurs……
Before breakfast I head out for a short ride and get sidetracked by Thb 10 spring rolls in Chinatown
Then I just have to stop at some rustic bike shop which has bike parts from decades ago……
Voila ! A made in Thailand Roongreung leather saddle on steroids. Eat your heart out Mr Brooks !
If it breaks down, you can use the red one
Waiting for the airport bus with a lot of baggage

After 3 days, I had explored most of Phuket town, found some quirky souvenirs, got quite a few nice shots, burned up enough calories and entertained some locals all at the same time.  Mission accomplished.  Amd Coleen had a ‘restful’ birthday.

A million thanks goes out to Alvin Lee, folding bike benefactor and sometimes owner of the red rocket that terrorized the streets of old Phuket town. Please address any grieviences/lawsuits to him đŸ™‚