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We gave you our tips for how to have an epic bike tour in Thailand but what is it really like cycling Thailand? I could tell you how we made friends with our guide Tick and the driver Vinny. I could tell you how they introduced us to authentic Thailand out in the countryside away from the hordes of tourists. Of course, there is the mileage; 150 miles spread out over four days, but we can pound miles at home. It the scenery, food, and culture that makes biking Thailand different from any other ride in the world.

Cycling Thailand Day 1 – 20 Miles Riding – Khao Tao Temple to Sam Roi Yot Beach

The Grasshopper van pulled left into an unassuming Buddhist temple complex called Khao Tao. Beyond the temples sat the emerald waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The van was running out of road, so we knew that we were about to begin cycling Thailand.

Before biking, it’s always good to check your bikes out and make any adjustments. This is especially important for Jenn’s artificial knees and T-rex length arms. Back home, she uses a women’s specific Trek to accommodate her short torso, but our guide Tick was doing a good job switching out headsets to adjust her reach. Our driver, Vinny, was making tea which left me to explore the temples with some barefoot kids playing in the area. They were happy with the strange company and ecstatic that I shared my chocolate with them.

These weren’t the grand temples I have seen plastered across Instagram but their smaller cousins built for the local community. It was more like visiting a rural church than a Gothic cathedral. I recognized the gilded Buddhist iconography and cherish its novelty. Before too long, but not after a cup of tea, we officially started our dream Thailand bike tour.

Sometimes I really identify with Jack Skellington, the enigmatic hero from a Nightmare Before Christmas. This happens most often after some event goes catastrophically wrong (“I never intended all this madness”).  I could always console myself with having done my best and at least leaving stories to tell. The sub-genre amongst my friends of “Ed Stories” get retold by the survivors of my adventures on a regular basis. Today, however, it was the newness of Thailand that made me feel like Jack entering Christmas Town.

The sights, the sounds

They’re everywhere and all around

I’ve never felt so good before

This empty place inside of me is filling up

I simply cannot get enough

I want it, oh, I want it

Oh, I want it for my own

I’ve got to know

I’ve got to know

What is this place that I have found?

What is this?

Newness filled my soul from every direction as we pulled out of Khao Tao. We looked back and saw a giant Buddha statue sitting across a lake. NEW! Biking down backroads, we passed pastel house with miniature spirit house in the front yard like birdhouses in the Midwest. NEW! I have stopped by roadside fruit stands before and always love the sweetness of fresh tropical pineapple. But the Thai fruit stand had pineapples conjoined together to form a heart specially grown for temple donations and spirit houses on termite mounds to appease the Earth spirits. NEW! It seemed like everywhere we looked there was something new to discover.

We discovered four sights that became staples on our Thailand bike trip: fishing boats, temples, bayside views, and ocean front rides. As we passed the Pran Buri River, we stopped to study the fishing fleet. We learned to tell the difference between boats by their function and design. Squid boats are decked out with lights to attract them to the surface on moonless nights and crabbers have flat bottoms to place traps next near the river banks. At the Wat Summanawat Temple, we learned that the monks take care of the strays so there are more dogs at the temples than anyplace else. Beside the tranquil waters of Roi Yot Bay, we found ornate comb shells that my six-year-old self would spend an entire vacation searching the beaches for in America and here the Thai fisherman discarded them in disgust because they tangle their nets.

More than anything else, there was miles and miles of empty coastline. In America, it seems like every coastline with a road soon gets built up with hotels and tourists. In Thailand, half our biking was alongside the ocean on an empty road. Mile after mile, we peddled along with nothing but the hum of our tires on the road and the splash of surf on the sand.

Jenn, Ed, and Tick at Khoa Tao Temple getting ready to cycle at Khao Tao Temple
We found this kid playing at Khao Tao temple before we started to our ride.
Inside Khao Tao Temple I found my first taste of Buddhism
Ed can't wait to ride in Thailand
Fruit stand in Thailand with heart shaped pineapples for temple donations
This spirit house on termite mound was built to appease the Earth Spirits
This is a typical road segment from day one of our cycle tour
More of how the road looked. Notice how few cars there are.
We learned the function of each of these boats. The whole fleet was in because of bad weather.
Priests care for the dogs at Wat Summanawat Temple
At Roi Yot Bay we saw our first long tail boats and comb shells I searched for all through childhood.
The fishing fleet was in at Roi Yot Bay because of bad weather and high seas.

Cycling Thailand Day 1 – 20 Miles Riding – Khao Tao Temple to Sam Roi Yot Beach continued

More than anything else, there was miles and miles of empty coastline. In America, it seems like every coastline with a road soon gets built up with hotels and tourists. In Thailand, half our biking was alongside the ocean on an empty road. Mile after mile, we peddled along with nothing but the hum of our tires on the road and the splash of surf on the sand.

We kept close to the coast for the final half of the day, sometimes riding on deserted boardwalks or on quiet seaside streets. We pulled in for our evening stop at the Anchana Resort and Spa on Sam Roi Yot Beach. The property was lovely, but we had a little surprise when they led us to two separate rooms. We misunderstood what private accommodations meant when we booked. We assumed that private was in place of group accommodations or dormitory style housing. Grasshopper Tours is luxury, five-star operation so dormitory housing was never on the table. In true five-star style, they combined our two “private” rooms into the nicest rooms available in the hotel.

We wanted to check out Anchana’s spa services so we walked up to the shop. For 30 Baht (10 USD) we could get an hour of Thai Massage. How could we say no to that? Soon, we were on the mat getting stretched and restored by some highly skilled ladies. Any adventure that ends in a spa day is good in my book, but we were a little late to dinner. Tick knew a place he wanted to take us, so we loaded up the van and headed off to eat.

Most people’s introduction to Thailand comes from Thai food. Biking offers full immersion into parts of Thailand that most tourists never go with a guide to tune the experience to your liking. Your appetite gets stoked from the day’s ride too. Tick was a professional Thai chef and knew the best restaurants and dishes of the region. He learned our preferences and tuned each dinner to our specific tastes. Our first dinner of the trip was at a local restaurant tucked away a couple miles off the beach that we would have never known even existed.  What an amazing start to our culinary odyssey of Thailand.

This was the bike trail that followed the Roi Yot Bay
Heading in to Sam Roi Yot Beach there was a beautiful trail and an empty road
Beach outside Anchana Resort in Pranburi
Pool Anchana Resort and Spa
One of our rooms at the Anchara Resort (we only needed one:) )

Cycling Thailand Day 2 – 50 Mile Riding – Sam Roi Yot Beach – Khlong Wan

Day cycling Thailand would be the true test of our mettle. Jenn has quite a few fears of bike touring that she had to overcome to get this here. Now, she was going to be on her longest day biking ever, after having ridden the day before on a rental bike. There are some pains that even the best Thai massage can’t fix for any price. I was feeling stoked from our conversation about the plans for the day that we discussed over dinner. We were going to visit one of Tick’s favorite temples, a national park, ride through an air force base and crank out seven miles on a highway in Thailand. Riding on the highway was one more thing on Jenn’s fear list.

A twenty-mile day, followed by Thai massage and scrumptious dinner was the perfect opening day for a bike tour. We woke up feeling refreshed and ready to ride. After a short jaunt down the beach road, we turned inland. Signs everywhere advertised tours of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park and Phraya Nakhon Cave. The park supports a few herds of wild elephants, but we didn’t see any as we were biking by. Before long, we reached Wat Hup Ta Khrot and pulled in.

Tick was so excited to show us this complex because it contains Buddhist Temples, Hindu Temples, and Thai Spirituality all at the same location. It was a one stop shopping for all Thai religions. We walked by god after god, idol after idol sitting together in peace and harmony. This display of acceptance and cooperation was a microcosm of spirit and understanding of Thailand. The experience moved me to write another piece, You Just Choose that was published on Gary Arndt’s site.

We continued to bike inland for another hour until it was time for morning tea and another fabulous stop – of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. Boat tours depart from the park along the Khao Daeng River but what we really loved were the small temples set against the dramatic kiss-off-cliffs of Khao Daeng. There are two similar but very different words in Thai – Khao and Koh. Khao is a mountain or hill while Koh is an island. Khao Sok, for example, is a national park in the mountains and Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand. While passing through the park, we came across a troupe crab eating macaws. Tick warned us that they were the “bad monkeys” so we kept our distance.

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One Bike in Bangkok
This Wat Hup Ta Khrot looks very Chinese
This Temple has the traditional Thai Buddha
Pick your temple, you just choose.
Boat tours at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Our bikes resting at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Temple at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park with kiss of cliffs
Crab eating Macaque are the bad monkies

Cycling Thailand Day 2 – 50 Mile Riding – Sam Roi Yot Beach – Khlong Wan Continued

Having a guide that we trusted opened parts of Thailand to us that we would have never seen. For example, on the next segment, we stopped by a little fishing dock and he introduced us around. The showed us their catch and let us play with the nets. We also visited with a family processing coconut. A truck would come by and drop a full load of coconuts off from them. The entire family worked to remove the outer husks by throwing them onto a metal spike and twisting the husk free. The husks were placed in one pile to process for fiber, the fruits into another, and the bad nuts into a third. Tick told us how much they were paid per coconut, and we tried our hand at removing the husks. It was incredibly hard work for such little pay.

Let me say right now that Thai kids are the cutest things ever. They had a little girl with them that was too little to break the coconuts, but she hung and all day and helped where she could. I would imagine American kids would be complaining after the first hour, even with their electronic devices in hand but not her. She just stayed out in the heat and worked with her family. She also did something incredibly thoughtful that I wouldn’t have expected from kids. We gave her a chocolate bar and she thanked us. Took a single bite, and then saved the rest for her family.

After that segment, we learned another definition of trusting our guide. We trusted that there was no other way than riding on the highway and we would survive the experience. The wide shoulder gave us plenty of room to ride and the drivers in Thailand seem to expect funky vehicles bounding along from tuk-tuks to overloaded trucks that could never reach highway speeds. We made it through safely, but we really appreciated the routing on the majority of the trip that stayed to small backroads.

There is nothing spiritual about biking on the highway; just mileage and tension. As we exited the highway, my GPS said we had ridden 35 miles and we were starting to feel the fatigue, both mental and physical. The beauty of the countryside kept us energized and excited to see what was beyond the next bend. I call the final segment of the day bay hopping because we pulled into four separate beautiful bays on the journey.

The first bay was just a welcome return to serenity from ride along the highway. The second, Prachuap Bay was enormous, with almost six miles of Bayfront biking. The beauty inspired us to compose a shot on the Pin Ausun Bridge, with the Prachuap Bay in the background. Along the way to Ao Manao Lime Bay, we crossed through the Wing 5 Airforce Base, complete with a security checkpoint where we had to show our id and register to get on base.  I think the fourth bay was my favorite, if only because it was the terminus for day 2.

We stayed at the Tri-Shawa Hotel, a beachfront hotel with Japanese décor. Our upgraded room included a balcony that overlooked the ocean with a private tub. We so wanted it to be a hot tub. We even slinked in au-natural. Sitting naked in your private tub, looking out on a crystal blue bay is amazing and we would have stayed there for hours if it was heated, however, shivers and shrinkage prompted a quicker departure.

Tick told us some exciting news over another fabulous dinner that night. Toon Bodyslam, a famous Thai Rockstar, was making a 400 km run for charity and he was staying just down the street from us. Tick said he could feel the energy and the excitement all around us. Little did we know at the time how lucky we were to be riding the exact same route, at the exact same time as Toon Bodyslam.

Family processing coconuts on the roadside in Thailand
Cleaning the nets at the fishing dock
Our driver Vinny at the sticky rice stand
Our bikes crossing the bridge coming into Prachuap Khiri Khan
Biking on the Thai air force base
Tri Shawa Hotel
Our in-room cool pool Tri Shawa Hotel

Cycling Thailand Day 3 – 38 Mile Riding – Khlong Wan to Baan Grood

For day 3 of biking, Tick found some clever ways to reduce the total mileage for the group but still get me out and exploring. A guide’s day starts early, way before the guests normally wake up. Tick took me with him to the market to get supplies for the day. Whenever possible, Grasshopper Tours used locally sourced food instead of prepackaged items. We biked a mile or so into town to the morning market by the pier. Even in that early hour, people were shopping the little stalls for fresh produce and fish.

Tick knew his favorite vendors and they exchanged pleasantries in Thai. Our first stop was for a drink best described as “Sock Coffee”. It was extremely strong coffee brewed in a sieve that looked like an old gym sock and sweetened with (a lot) of condensed milk. I don’t think it’s going to make it on the Starbucks menu but it did the trick to wake me up. The lady gave Tick a free batch of sticky rice to honor their friendship. In the next stand, we had (very) soft boiled eggs. They were on the soft side of runny but I dutifully finished what was given to me. I enjoyed our next treat more – sweet fried dough balls doublets made to represent an evil Chinese ruler who betrayed his town. I guess you eat him and his wife in effigy. We stopped for peanuts and finally for some noodles and curry that we saved for lunch. We arrived back at the hotel just as Jennifer was waking up.

Those peanuts came in handy at our first stop. We took the van back onto the air force base to visit with good monkeys. Unlike the mean crab eating macaws, langur monkeys are really gentle and friendly. This troupe, in particular, was under the care of base doctors so they are rabies free. A small vendor up front was selling fruit, but the langurs were loving on the peanuts we brought. We attracted quit following of feasting furry friends. Some were even bold enough to climb on our heads – too cute.

We returned to the hotel to pick up our bikes and rode for all of 10 minutes before we reached the Waghor Aquarium. A lot of the signage was in Thai and English, so we got to learn about the tropical fishes we would see later scuba diving Kho Tao and island hopping in the Andaman Sea. We also saw busloads of Thai kids coming in on class field trips. Even on field trips, the kids were all smiling and well behaved which made them that much cuter. The kid’s favorite attraction was a life size statue of the Incredible Hulk. Perhaps the transition from mild mannered David Banner to the angry Hulk speaks to something in the Thai psyche.

On the subject of tricks for the psyche, we experience the biggest and smallest roads of the entire trip right next to each other. Immediately after leaving the aquarium we pulled onto some one lane roads that weaved amongst coconut plantations. To our surprise, we came across a baby little puppy way out on the backroads. We stopped and visited, but soon realized that a fresh puppy like this didn’t belong out here. Tick gave him to Vinny with the instructions to find his home. Vinny was still searching when we pulled out of the coconut groves and back onto the highway for the final highway segment of the trip.

Tick and Langur Monkey at Wing 5 Prachuap Khiri Khan
Jenn feeding the monkeys at Wing 5
Baby monkeys at the base
Alice in Wonderland? No it's a park at Wing 5 Prachuap Khiri Khan
Fish exhibit at the Waghor Aquarium

Cycling Thailand Day 3 – 38 Mile Riding – Khlong Wan to Baan Grood Continued

This highway segment felt significantly better than the segment from day 2. It was only five miles long and we were fresh on our bikes. We also got good news that Vinny found the puppies owners (and litter mates) at a nearby farm. We were cheerful as we pulled into a rest at a small police station.

Thai police stations are better integrated into the community than their American counterparts. We stopped regularly at police stations for bathroom breaks throughout the ride but this one this one stood out because of the friendly local constable. He took pictures of himself posing with the strange Americans biking through his little village and we gave him an entire box of herb bars to take home to her. Strange foreigners describe the next segment of the ride very well. We ended up biking through a village of Scandinavian ex-pats.  The last thing you expect to see in the jungles of Thailand is a (very) tan Norwegian.

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Koh Tao - Almost Paradise

Photos for wives didn’t end at the police station. We continued on into the next beach town and pulled into the most unlikely restaurant for the best crab curry we found in Thailand. The shop hardly looked open from the road and isn’t even labeled in English on GoogleMaps. Perhaps foreigners never go there, but it must have had some acclaim in Thailand. When we entered, Tick immediately recognized a Thai celebrity – Nod Udom – eating at the restaurant with his entourage. Tick says he is like the Thai Johnny Carson and hosts a popular late-night talk show. He was in town to support his friend, Toon Bodyslam who was making the charity run. After our incredible meal, Tick asked Nod Udom for a picture for his wife. He gracious to agree and even offered us a shot too. What else can we say but yes?

We rode on through the afternoon towards our destination of Baan Grood.  We stopped by a rather steep hill and Tick offered us some choices to visit the Wat Thang Sai temples that were on top of the climb. We could bike on to our hotel, bike up the hill or load the bikes in the van. After three days of riding, the choice was easy – VAN. In they went and we cruised up the hill. I forgot to turn Strava off so, for a couple of months, I was the fastest rider in Thailand. They did catch on and asked me to edit the route.

Wat Thang Sai temples turned out to be our favorite temples in all of Thailand. Its grandeur came close to what we saw biking through Bangkok at the Grand Palace, but without all the people. The views were outstanding as well, with open ocean extending out to our north, east, and south. You can see the beauty of the temples coming through all of the pictures. Even with all of this grandeur, Jenn still found time to play with kittens.

It would have been work to unload the bikes and Jenn wasn’t looking forward to the downhill, so we left the van loaded and drove into town a couple of miles down the road. The Baan Grood Arcadia Resort was fabulous. We stayed at a poolside cabana that looked across the pool to the ocean beyond. The most beautiful part of the entire hotel might have been the spa that again offered ten-dollar massages. On day one of the bike ride, they were a luxury. By day three, they were a necessity. Jenn regained significant mobility after her massage. For dinner, we ate fresh fish on a table set up on the beach. All was good with the world.

Tick with a roadside snack of sticky rice
Just a junk photo of Tick and Nod Udom
Devil dogs guard the entrance to Phra Mahathat Chedi Baan Grood
Approaching Phra Mahathat Chedi Baan Grood
Climbing the stairs to Phra Mahathat Chedi Baan Grood
Temples on the hill at Phra Mahathat Chedi Baan Grood
Golden Buddha at Phra Mahathat Chedi Baan Grood
Monk Statue Phra Mahathat Chedi Baan Grood
view from Phra Mahathat Chedi Baan Grood
Baan Grood Arcadia Hotel
Our poolside cabana at Baan Grood Arcadia Resort

Cycling Thailand Day 4 – 37 miles – Baan Grood to Bang Boet

This was our final day of the bike tour. I was feeling superb; Jenn, not so much so. The fatigue was setting in and the day was setting up to be a scorcher. For most of our ride, we were riding under the cloud cover of a storm system that had just passed through. Today was all nothing but blue skies and sunshine and breakfast was no exception.

We ate breakfast on the patio watching the street fill with commotion. Toon Bodyslam was coming through town this morning on the way to the finish line of his 400 km charity run and everybody came out to cheer him on. We stayed for seconds on coffee to watch him pass before getting on bike. What happened next was one of our 17 strangest things that happened that year.

We started biking along the route just that Toon had just run through, but his fans were still lining the street. I don’t know if they thought we were part of the festivities, or they were just friendly, but everybody was waving to us and cheering us on too. We compiled a short video of this, but it went on for miles and miles. Hopefully, Jenn saved some of this good these good vibes up for later. For now, the cool morning breeze from the ocean kept us comfortable.

We peddled oceanside for the next hour or so until we reached the town of Bo Tong Lang, which had a sizeable fishing pier. The pier buzzed with excitement as all the boats were getting ready to head out now that the weather had broken. These weren’t the day craft we saw moored in the rivers, but ocean-going vessels looking to spend several nights at sea hauling in a catch. Facial tattoos indicated the majority of the crews were Balinese. Even in Thailand, less desirable jobs can be filled with foreign workers. A mile or so after the pier, the road turned inland to the sweltering interior.

We biked through the busy town of Bang Saphan. The ½ mile of traffic served to remind us how peaceful the roads have been. Bang Saphan and the two highway sections were the only places we couldn’t just relax and take in the scenery. Right after Bang Saphan, there were some rolling hills and dusty construction.

It was getting decidedly hot for Jenn too. I would spray her down with my water bottle and when we were all empty, Vinny would pull the van over and fill us up with more water. He prepared a wet cloth for her neck and she would get a big splash of ice water on these frequent breaks too. She thought she was going to melt. Of course, heat is relative.  Tick wore his arm and leg sleeves to keep warm and shivered every time Jenn splashed in the ice water.

This would have been an anticlimactic ending to the ride if it wasn’t for the beauty of Bang Boet. Looking at the map, you can almost predict that pristine beauty of Bang Boet. The highway and railway that was following the coastline down from Bangkok but pealed off the coast and headed inland. Nobody would reach this coastline unless they were going here. We pulled into the idyllically quiet town with treelined streets and a few chickens pecking away at the side of the road. We stopped at a small oceanfront hotel for our last meal of the ride and a welcome shower. We loaded the bikes into the van for an overnight in the big city of Chumphon.

Excitement for Toon Bodyslam
Vinny our Support Guy
Toon Bodyslam
Toon Bodyslam Route sign
Thai Fishing Boats
Thai Fishing Boats
Jenn fighting heat on ride
Last day beach lunch
Lunch View

Cycling Thailand Day 4 – 37 miles – Baan Grood to Bang Boet Continued

Returning the bustle of Chumphon reminded us of how authentic our experiences were in the countryside. We stayed at the A-Te Hotel, which had an attached spa. We went for massages there, but the experience didn’t compare to what we had before. The girls missed a lot of pressure points and chatted with each other for the entire massage. We ate dinner next door at the restaurant across the car park and met a couple of Brazilians who said this was the highest rated restaurant in town. Like the hotel spa, the presentation was beautiful but the food was ok. Perhaps it would have been great if it wasn’t for Tick spoiling us along the way with his inspired choices.

In the morning, we were driving down to the dock for a ferry to Koh Tao. We were literally going from Khao Tao to Koh Tao. Ticks finally service for us, buying first class passage for the ferry. We felt sad leaving our new friends and missed the level of service our guides provided for the rest of our time in Thailand.

Final Night's Feast
Sunrise at the ferry dock
6am ferry to KohTao

Would I recommend a Guided Bike Tour in Thailand?

Would I recommend a guided bike tour – absolutely. The price point is higher, but so is the service. Having a guide introduced us to Thai culture in a way that we couldn’t have experienced by ourselves. We tasted incredible food from small, local restaurants and biked routes with minimal traffic and great conditions. We were introduced to real people that we had meaningful, organic experiences with and not a synthesized and commercialized replicate. Being on bike, you can take in the countryside as you ride and every stop brought in new surprises. Having the guide service, company knowledge, and on hand support staff kept us taken care of every step of the way. As of 2018, Grasshopper Tours operates their Cruising the Coast to Samui for about $1250 USD. The only other service we experience in Thailand that came close to this level of service of was glamping with Elephant Hills, which we also whole heartily recommend if you’re in southern Thailand.

Cycling Thailand Through Our Eyes - Cruising the Coast to Samui

Cycling Thailand Through Our Eyes - Cruising the Coast to Samui

Cycling Thailand Through Our Eyes - Cruising the Coast to Samui

Cycling Thailand Through Our Eyes - Cruising the Coast to Samui

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