Cycle Touring in Thailand
Thailand is a hugely diverse country with its famous white sand beaches, party islands, vibrant cities, ancient temples, monasteries, mountains, jungle... you name it! It is a tropical country and hot all year round, with a dry and wet season. It is consider to be one of the richer countries in South East Asia and a holiday destination for honeymooners, backpackers and golfers alike. It is also popular with cycle tourists.
Thai people are very friendly and happy to help you, however with such a big tourism industry, they are also very savvy and to their credit, quick to see a money making opportunity. There is a huge ex-pat community here and in the main towns and cities it's common to see westerners. In our experience they seemed to be mostly single, middle aged men living here, with Thai girlfriends.
Away from the main tourist areas, people are less likely to view you as a tourist (falang) and you'll encounter more genuine friendliness as the country's Buddhist beliefs shine through. As we cycled we were often given fruit or water by people passing by. One man zoomed passed on his scooter and then ten minutes later came back, stopped and gave us a big bottle of cold water, said hi and then went back in his original direction with a wave and a smile. Cycling through villages, people would often wave and smile, so we felt very welcome and safe at all times.
Accommodation: Well you have a huge choice here. In southern Thailand there are many resorts, which are basically small holiday camps with cabins, bungalows or camping pitches. Tourism within Thailand is big, and many Thais take their holidays here too, and many resorts are totally geared up for Thai tourists rather than westerners. We would turn up on our bikes, having followed a sign off down a side road for 6 km, to find that they were either very full or so surprised to see us (away from Phukets and the Khao San road) that they didn't know what to do with us. We also came to realise that that karaoke is king here at these Thai resorts and goes on all night! Not great if you are planning to get up early to cycle!
In the main tourist areas there are guesthouses galore and you can shop around to get the cheapest place. In between there are usually motels or small hotels which are more for business men or hired by the hour! Many of these appeared to be very new and we stayed in some great places at reasonable prices. Motels were good as they have space outside each room to park a car, separated by a wall so we could keep our bikes close by. Most motel owners don't speak English, but were very happy to let us stay and brought us water and towels. Some places had air con, other just a fan, air con was more expensive and they generally always showed us the most expensive rooms first.
We did camp occasionally but with the heat and mosquitoes it wasn't very comfortable, the tent acts like a sauna. A lot of the land in the south is covered with rubber plantations and we camped there sometimes.
The food alone is reason enough to come to Thailand; it is delicious! We enjoyed simple staples on the road such as fried rice with pork, fried rice with chicken (kow phad mu, kow phad gai) omlette stuffed with pork and sweet chilli sauce (kyteo mu sap) which were always cooked fresh and were filling. In the south we tried seafood, enjoying huge prawns in batter. The masuman curry is lovely and creamy, not very spicy, and of course red and green curries too. We also enjoyed a wide choice of western food, with huge cheeseburgers in Chiang Mai, and Indian vegetarian curry restaurants, ovenbaked pizzas, full English breakfasts, we certainly didn't go hungry. Another highlight is the fruit shakes and fresh fruit by the side of the road - I became slightly addicted to pineapple whilst in Thailand, Chris to banana!
The roads in Thailand are good, with a wide shoulder. The drivers are not so good and have a tendency to overtake on bends and blind corners, they also drive fast and whilst drunk. People rarely wear seatbelts and accidents seem to be common. Drivers don't seem to mind cyclists however, and we got lots of friendly beeps and waves. Mountainous roads tend to be twisty, with sharp steep turns, especially in the north. Watch out for the dogs, they love to run and chase you, and can be quite aggressive. Overall we enjoyed cycling on the roads here and found some of the stretches on the highway to be very fast.
There are petrol stations all across Thailand and they are of a high standard often with coffee shops, restaurants (sometimes with a funny voucher system), toilets and 7-elevens (of course). These were often great for buying banana cakes, lunch or a cold coke, as well as using the loos.
Thailand is a very easy place to visit and cycle through enjoyably. The food is great, it's quite cheap, the beaches are lovely, people are friendly and the scenery is wonderful. The language is easy enough to pick up to get by and the Thai culture is fascinating once you get passed the brash tourist places. It is hot and you will sweat, but it is bearable. We would recommend cycling in Thailand, but do allow time for the beaches, relaxing and cultural stuff, Thailand is not a place you want to rush through, there is so much to enjoy off the bikes too.
Krabi - West Coast - Khuraburi - Kraburi - Ranong - East Coast: Chumphon - Bang saphan - Prachuap - Hua Hin.
North West: Kanchanaburi - Dan Chang - Nong Chang - Kamphaeng Phet - Tak - Thoen - Li - Mae Pok - Lamphun - Chiang Mai - Chiang Dao - Fang - Tha Ton - Chiang Rai - Chiang Khong.
- Railay, Krabi
- Sri phanga nga national park
- Beautiul lush green routes to cycle
- Lovely, empty beaches and clear water
- Vibrant Bangkok
- Visiting Kanchanaburi Museum and bridge over River Kwai
- Chilling out in Pai
- Teaching English in Tomato Village
- Trekking with Ben and Ten
- Visiting the Long Neck, Padoung Karen village
- Salween restaurant, Mae Hon Son
- Eating Thai food everyday
- Learning to speak Thai
- Kindness and generosity of the Thai people, so sweet
- Drivers overtaking on a bend
- Speeding or drunk drivers
- Heat and humidity - stay hydrated
- Miles of rubber tree plantations
- Grumpy or know it all expats!
- Seedy bars and all night karaoke
- Crazy tuk tuk drivers
- Chillies!! And spicy food - learn to say 'no chilli' if you don't like it hot!
- Bangkok tuk tuks that always want to take you to a silk shop or three instead of your destination!
- Tourist touts who tell you temples or palaces are closed, so that you will go with them instead (Bangkok).
Liz and Chris cycle touring in Thailand photos from May - August 2010.
Temples, volunteer work, beaches, partying, relaxing, kick boxing, elephants...