As I explained in yesterday’s post, we weren’t going to start from Bangkok, but from Petchaburi, a couple of hours away by van. In fact, from a gas station outside Petchaburi. A pretty impressive gas station, with a vast food court containing all sorts of Thai preparations. Two vans brought us there from our hotels, and the bicycles came separately in a motorized mini-trailer type contraption. We picked up our bicycles, got ready, and took off around 10:30 in the morning.
I got to know the people in our van during our ride to Petchaburi, and quickly during the ride, got to know the rest of the folks as well. A very friendly group, they come from various places. Five from the US, three from Switzerland, three from Britain, one from Hungary, one from Germany, and one each from Australia and New Zealand. A really interesting feature is that one of the couples—he is from Scotland and she is from Hungary—actually live in Odissa! That’s right, they live in Odissa, they’re not just tourists there. He is an engineer working for some American company that’s a subcontractor on some power plant that’s being constructed, while she is there to be with him.
Our two guides are Aam and Bottle. These aren’t their real names, but why they go by these names I don’t know. Here they are, with Lindsey from Queensland in the middle.
(Lindsey turned out to be a gem of a man: he let me “draft off him”—ride behind him to take advantage of the vacuum that is created in his wake: my effort at pedaling is reduced because of the resultant pressure of the air on my back as it tries to fill that vacuum—for a good number of kilometers at a very fast pace.)
The road-bicycle that I was so frightened of turned out to be quite a friendly creature after all, at least, after the adjustable stem was put in and after I made a few small nips and tucks here and there. I actually found myself enjoying the experience once we set off, and I was happily in the front of the pack, We rode for twenty-three kilometers before we took our first break, and most of this time I was somewhere in the first half.
We hit the Gulf of Thailand very quickly, almost within half an hour. Here is part of the gang, right by the ocean:
And here is a view of the inlet: notice the cute temple built right on the backwater:
But after our first break, the tempo picked up. Most of the gang, experienced at this style of cycling, decided to take off at a very fast clip, averaging around 30 KMPH on long stretches. It was hot and humid, and I found this pretty fast going. So, I hung around the rear of the group, cycling probably at an average closer to 25 KMPH. Our guide Bottle was cycling behind us, so all was well. We must have got to our second break point only about five minutes to ten minutes behind the rest.
The breaks are interesting. We are ravenous and thirsty. The crew has organized fresh pineapples, Thai pancakes, Thai style fried bananas, sweet rice cooked in bamboo, water, sodas, the works! We sit and gorge on them, chatting, learning about one another. Fifteen minutes of this, and we are off again.
Today was a short cycling day. Only sixty kilometers. We ended up at a lovely sea-side restaurant for a late lunch, at which point or ride terminated. Since the traffic in Hua Hin is quite terrible (the King has a summer palace here that he apparently is very fond of staying at, so the town has quite some significance to Thai life), we were taken by van to our hotels directly from the lunch place.
The lunch place turned out to have its own whimsy. There was this giant statue of a woman rising out of the sea, a hundred meters from the shore. Not far, on a rock, was a statue of a woman playing a flute. At first I thought that the giant statue was some kind of a Thai version of Durga. It turned out that the statues were in celebration of some local novelist, and these characters are from that person’s novels! Here is yours truly , with “The Giant Woman” behind:
Tomorrow is our first long ride: we are supposed to do over a hundred and ten kilometers. It ought to be interesting, to say the least.