Vegetable smuggling

Now we can carry Ome's message everywhere we go.

Now we can carry Ome’s message everywhere we go.

Country: Thailand and Malaysia
From Ao Nang, Krabi to Kepala Batas, Alor Setar
Lesson learned: Illegaly smuggled vegetables can open all doors with the border officers
Laughed about: Gary who was not that drunk but just spoke with a dialect
Most wonderful miracle: To meet my old friend Apit after four years
Food we ate: Stiffed rambutan, noodles, curry and a lot of donuts
Greatest challenge: Time pressure
Days on the bike: 4
Kilometers cycled: 357.47
Average Kilometers per day: 89.37
Total Kilometers cycled till Kepala Batas, Alor Setar: 12868.45
Total days travelled till Kepala Batas, Alor Setar: 700

Kepala Batas, Malaysia, September 2013: Thailand by bike part 5

It was 6.30 when the alarm rang for the first time. It was noon when we finally left. I never managed to figure out why it is so difficult for us to leave a nice place. Maybe it also had to to with the heavy rain that had been falling for days.

It was not far to get to Krabi. We were really in need of a bike shop because by gear cable was about to rip and the front brakes have been making funny noises for a while. Two shops only sold parts but could not tell us how to install the cable. The third one finally offered service. That was last minute. The brake pads‘ rubber was already worn off and we both braked with metall. We observed the mechanic while he installed the gear cable and adjusted the gears. Next time we can do that by ourselves.

There were many things we needed to learn about cycling and bikes. Some of you dear readers have asked us if it wasn’t difficult to cycle a country so different compared to home. But we have started in good old Germany and gotten into more exotic places little by little. Time has been a good teacher for us.

Krabi beach

I think you might understand why it was not easy for us to leave this little paradise

 

Tesco Thailand

The Tesco. A big supermarket chain with very cheap ready food. They also sell combs there for those whose hair adapts to the helmet quickly

With the bikes fixed we made another stop at the big supermarket Tesco to buy food. We left the place with a guilty feeling and bags full of five tiny portions of noodles, two portions of curry with rice, ten cream filled donuts and two chocolate crust donuts. We had two hours left until sunset and only 30 kilometers cycled. Our plan was to make 100 for the first three days and 70 on the last one. So we got back on the saddles and pushed ourselves for another 40 km. Just before sunset we met a nice man who led us to a kind of trucker’s parking lot. There was nobody else there and we hung our mosquito net under a wooden roof on poles. The place’s owner was very attentive to us and brought us a big bottle of water and a tin of pineapple-filled rambutan. We ate as if we had been starving for days. After our snack attack there was nothing left but three donuts. The frogs croaked lulling us to sleep and the ants bit and made us move all the time. Later at night the frogs won and we finally fell asleep.

Desk, bed, dining room and living room combined on little more than 6 square meters

Desk, bed, dining room and living room combined on little more than 6 square meters

By the following morning we sat on the bikes at 6.30 am. It was dry and I had a hard time cycling. After 20 kilometers I found out that my new handlebar bag pushed on the brake cable and blocked the brakes nonstop. I fixed it as good as I could before we finally reached an open restaurant. It was the fasting month Ramadan and the further south we cycled the more Muslims we met. During Ramadan the Koran forbids Muslims to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset.  That was why it was not too easy to find a place where food was sold during the day.

The restaurant looked quite filthy but we did not have time to cook and we were hungry. We were happy with whatever it was.

Ome and Roberto

Ome and Roberto

At night we met some other cyclists. Ome and his colleague were teachers and rode through the countryside every night with some of the students. Today it was only one. Ome was music teacher and a big bicycle fan. He liked to share his love for cycling with his students and invited them to rent one of his bikes and ride with him every day. He was also a member of warmshowers.org and spontaneously invited us to spend the night in his class room. But before that he wanted to invite us all for dinner. Food was delicious and we talked about the Thai bicycle culture, music and common friends (Our friends Phillip and Pascale have met Ome in exactly the same way as we have just a few weeks earlier). When we laid down on our mattresses I felt every muscle. We had cycled 142 kilometers in 8 ½ hours.

Ome's friends rom the bike club

Ome’s friends rom the bike club

By the following day Ome’s friends from the speed bike club met at the school to get to know us. We did not even try to cycle with them because they were easily two to three times faster than us. Ome accompanied us for some kilometers at our slow pace. It was hot and we stopped after 27 kilometers in the first village we saw. This was where we met the speed bikers. They were on their way back already. A young Chinese called Calorie approached us. He was a Chinese teacher and happy to see some other foreigners in this rural area. We shared breakfast calories with Calorie and set off. The road was hilly and green and there was a village every 25-30 kilometers to have a break. At sunset we reached Satun. From here it was only an 8-kilometer’s ride to the pier where we could get a boat some kilometers down the coast to Malaysia.

Calorie from China

Calorie from China was happy to meet some other foreigners

We enjoyed a last portion of basil-chili chicken and drank beer with Gary from England. I never found out if his dialect was so strong or if he was drunk all the time but we both had some troubles understanding him. When I talked to him in the morning he was still talking in the same way so I assume it must have been his dialect.

The guesthouse’s owner called the pier just before we left. She had bad news. During Ramadan people tend to travel less. That was why there were not even enough people in Malaysia who wanted to come over to Thailand. The boat’s owner did not see the point in coming over with an empty boat so he stayed in Malaysia. “Maybe tomorrow”, the guesthouse’s owner tried to cheer us up.

Thai Basil Chili Chicken

One last Thai Basil Chili Chicken before we left Thailand

But we did not want to wait until tomorrow. We had been cycling for almost two years. Our first goal was Malaysia and my friend Apit was already waiting for us. Our only option was the land border. But that meant that we would have to cycle 130 kilometers instead of 58. We would never make that in a single day. But Apit always finds a way. He offered to pick us up at the border. Perfect!

Everybody kept on warning us. “The way is hard to cycle.” “There are high mountains.” “The way is very steep”. I was mentally prepared. It was only 41 kilometers to go. That could impossibly take more than a day.

Welcome to Malaysia

On the other side of the border

The uphill was so slight, we hardly felt it. 35 kilometers we cycled through green fields and enjoyed the countryside. Then it was a little bit steeper and only the very last kilometer was really steep. But far away from being too steep to cycle. A nice man stopped us and talked to us. He gave us three bean-pods of giant beans. “For the way”, he said. I stuck them to my lowrider and continued. When we reached the departure counter the officers smiled at us. “You came here by bike? How did you like Thailand?” We smiled back and explained them where we have been and how much we have enjoyed cycling through their country. They were happy to hear that, stamped our passports and handed us over a plastic bag full of local fruits. “Here, have some fruits”, they both smiled at us, “you will need them”.

One last cheap beer at the border

One last cheap beer at the border

I thought back to the last rather harsh border crossing and was really excited – until I saw the sign that forbid travelers to bring any agricultural products. I squeezed the beans into by handlebar bag and continued. “It’s just a few fruits”, I murmured to Roberto. The officers on the other side of the border smiled at us when they saw us coming. “You like the local food?”, they asked me and pointed on the beans on the lowrider. I smiled back and told them how much I enjoyed the local fruit and vegetable. They were happy to hear so and waved us through to the arrival counter, where we got our passports stamped. Malaysia was the first country since Georgia that we did not need any kind of visa for.

Apit, Annika and Roberto

Apit, Annika and Roberto

We got some cheap beer in the duty free store and sat down while we waited for Apit. It has been four long years since we saw each other for the last time back in Bremen, Germany. When we finished the last beer two cars approached. It was Apit and his friend Achik who was very curious on us, the crazy cyclists who came all the way only for a short visit. Apit smiled from one ear to the other and I ran into his arms.

Achik and Roberto

Achik and Roberto

We could not stop talking, smiling and laughing for the entire ride to his home town Kepala Batas. We arrived just after sunset where Apit had the first drink and meal of the day. We already prepared mentally for the last two days of Ramadan. We wanted to fast with the family until Hari Raya (Eid al-Fitr, the first day of the month after Ramadan).

And withing minutes four years turned into few days

And withing minutes four years turned into few days

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  1. Cool trip Annika. You guys are pretty tough averaging 90km per day with all those panyers in the heat!

    • admin admin says:

      Hey Dave,
      we are not that tough hehe. But we prefer a few long days and a few days off rather than many short days. And sure we enjoy a well deserved break 🙂
      Best wishes from Malaysia,
      Annika

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