21st August - 16th September 2004
It's not often you can cross a country in a day, particularly by bicycle, but riding west from Chumpon we did just that. Admittedly the "Isthmus of Kra" is pretty narrow, a mere 53km from sea to sea. Here we are by the Kra Buri river with Myanmar (Burma) in the background.
On the way we saw a working elephant being used to haul logs to the road. He/she was controlled entirely by the handler shouting commands, no sticks or ropes required!
But the thing we will remember most about that day and even more for the following day when we rode south into Rangon, was the rain! I have never seen so much rain fall in one day, not even in Scotland! In places the road was flooded axle-deep but the locals seemed used to it.
We spent a few days in Ranong and then made a "visa run" to Myanmar so we could re-enter Thailand with a fresh 30 day visa. It was actually quite a fun half day out, with a choppy half hour crossing in a long tail boat that lurched alarmingly when we hit the wake of other boats. In Myanmar we first visited the immigration checkpoint:
Four men were lounging on the veranda, six more inside were eating their lunch while two guys who had drawn the short straw that day stamped our passports and took our $5 entry fee. Then we set foot on Myanmar soil and were besieged by men trying to sell us cigarettes and viagra. One man started stroking Mark's arm, maybe admiring the bleached blonde hairs or maybe trying to steal his watch! We hastily entered the customs office, had our passports stamped again and quickly returned to the safety of our boat.
Just south of Ranong we came to one of Ju's favourite things: an undeveloped hot spring! There were tubs of hot water for washing and a swimming pool which at 45°C was unfortunately a little too hot for Mark.
This was also the day that we discovered that the "tree beans" were edible, and stopped at a homestay guesthouse with a very loud pet parrot called Richard:
Further south we came near the sea and karst hills reared up around us. We left the highway on a minor road that took us between the limstone towers and past sheer cliffs, often with vegetation clinging to them. We actually took a long way around because Lonely Planet marked the resort we were making for in the wrong place, but it was worth it for the scenery even though it was hot. All day we fantasised about getting into the sea but in the end we were so tired when we arrived that we just had a cool shower and a rest.
Next day we went on a snorkelling trip around the nearby islands, some of which are beautiful limestone pinacles. Then the company Mark used to work for rang him and asked if he could go to look at a machine in Malaysia. Not one to turn down the opportunity to earn some bread he agreed and the next day was on a plane to Kuantan. One thing led to another and after Kuantan, Malaysia he went to Doha, Qatar and thence back to Bangkok and Krabi almost two weeks later. Meanwhile Ju was able to do some research into possible new careers in between snorkelling trips. Sadly the end of this trip (Australia) is now in sight and the real world is threatening to come back into our lives!
When Mark got back Ju gave him a guided tour of the scrambles and caves around Railay beach. This is West Railay beach, and below it a tidal lagoon surrounded by cliffs.
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