Chanthaburi, Thailand to Ko Samet 112 km+ Route Details
Conditions: Road surface was perfectly paved asphalt, fast flats until Ko Samet. Weather: extremely muggy and hot.
At just 12 degrees north of the equator, the extreme heat upon waking up this morning was predictable. It was another sunny and muggy day in Southeastern Thailand and we performed our morning rituals like we have every other day since arriving: gobbing on the sunscreen, drinking a quick cup of black coffee and scarfing our fried eggs and pushing off for a day of riding.
This day of riding was also our longest. But first, we needed to negotiate our way out of town. Last night we had dinner on the waterfront in what was essentially someone’s living room. It was an intimate affair of the hip and young in Chanthaburi and us. But when we tried to find the small road out of Chanthaburi, we learned that Chanthaburi is a bonafide city of 90,000+. We couldn’t read the road signs so missed our turn-off and ended up in heavy rush hour traffic for the first 10 or so kays out of town. I finally bought a road map with poor resolution but learned we were on the right trajectory for Rayong – 110 km away.
It was fortunate that the road was fast because we were literally on Thailand’s national highway 3. In Laos, a national highway is similar to a two lane tertiary country road. In Thailand, this particular highway is four lanes across with a very respectable shoulder and steady flow of fast moving traffic. The biggest obstacles are the occasional motorbikes that ride in the bike lane opposite the moving traffic and the pumpkin carts.
Most unfamiliar with cycling don’t realize that it can be a team sport. On most days, Rob and I would take turns ‘pulling’ giving the person in the back an opportunity to rest and ride in the draft. On this particular day, however, Rob was riding strong out of the gate so I opted to sit in his slip stream, conserving my energy until we would need it later in the day.
The cons of being on a highway in a developed country did not outweigh the benefits of ubiquitous roadside gas stations with eating establishments, 7-11’s and toilets. We never wanted for cold water or fuel. But, the fact of the matter is we rode the first 70 km on only one stop of the best iced coffees ever.
At 60 km we entered the town of Klaeng, searching for a turn off that would take us to a coastal road to a beach called Laem Mae Pim. We didn’t talk about it but we both understood that if we turned off highway 3, we would not make it to Rayong by nightfall. But we also knew that we couldn’t leave Thailand without taking a dip in the Gulf of Thailand.
We didn’t listen to the police officer who told us to continue straight but instead we wiggled through some lovely side streets hoping to find the coast. When we started to see inflatable turtles and other types of beach rafts, we knew we were close. At 80 kms the road curves to Laem Mae Pim beach with spectacular views of the Gulf. We stopped along the long line up of beach cafes for a quick lunch and decide our next move.
Although there were a series of accommodations in Laem Mae Pim, there was nothing appealing about staying here. Upon closer inspection, it’s a dirty beach with trash lining the water line and a series of tacky touristy restaurants, substandard hotels and beach hawkers. We pushed on another 27 km into a headwind to Ban Phe where in less than 15 minutes we found ourselves on an old colorful boat ‘ferry’ for the 45 minute transfer to Ko Samet island.
We arrived on Ko Samet at about 3:30 and ordered a beer to use the free wifi to find a recommended place to stay. We could see a lot of backpacker hostels around us but we wanted something away from the fray.
Ko Samet is known as the party island on weekends and holidays because of its proximity to Bangkok and beautiful beaches. We also learned that Ko Samet is part of a nationally protected marine park which, we deduced, means a few things. First, each person visiting the island pays 200 baht to be there; and second, there are no paved roads or high rise buildings. Part of the ‘conservation’ effort also means that there are no signs allowed to be posted directing visitors to a hotel. This makes sense since absolutely everyone arriving has no choice but to hire one of the local green pick-up trucks to take them to where they need to go. But since we had our mountain bikes, we took off in search of TubTim resort located on a beach somewhere south about 4 km. It was the longest 4 km of my life. Between the potholes, sharp inclines, mud crossings and getting lost it took us another 45 minutes at the end of a long day to travel that 4 km.
I was too tired to swear and Rob had disappeared down a different road but eventually we both found our beach bungalow where neither one of us really moved for the next two nights.
We’re back in Bangkok now having been rubbed, cleaned, fed and rested. We took a death defying minibus from Rayong back to BKK on the super highway. I would have liked to have ridden one more day to Pattaya but it would have to be on some quieter roads. We got some bike boxes from ProBikes near Lumpini park for 30 baht/box ($1). Easy peasy.
I’m on a steady diet of Cipro and Lomotil. Food doesn’t stay in me for longer than an hour. I’m only grateful that this didn’t happen while we were still riding.