Operation Get The Bike! Day One
March 10, 2018 § 2 Comments
To say that “When we awoke the next morning” is a little misleading about traveling to the other side of the world where the local timezone is exactly 12 hours ahead of the timezone you left. If I said I went to bed and awoke early would be a lie, because I never really fell asleep that first night. The same went for Susan, and when 6am finally rolled around, and the breakfast buffet opened up, we were eager, and hungry to get started. Our girls had a week of Vietnam in them, so they weren’t about to stir for some time.
Breakfast. What would we find? Well it would seem you could find a lot of everything, no matter what your ethnic background is. Maybe some clarity. I believe there is some notion of what a continental breakfast is on the European Continent, and so, since Europeans come to Phuket, there are pastries, toast, fruit, juices and other items they would be used to. In addition, there are various cereals, a muesli, two yogurts, cut up fresh fruit, cold cuts, cheese slices, and various amounts of some raw sliced vegetables. There are also many steam trays. Moving left to right, we have the French Toast, Belgian Waffles, the chicken sausages (completely unappetizing looking), cooked ham, some kind of fish, roasted potatoes, chicken, a couple of Chinese noodle dishes, and then fried rice and rice. The toast section had a toaster, and you assortment of white, brown, rye, and loaves resembling a random assortment of “richer” breads that you slice your own. There were two push button pancake machines cranking out little dollar pancakes for the young ins, and then through a door there was another station where you get get perfectly round fried sunny side up eggs and custom made omelets. The chefs working this station could also set you up with a traditional Thai noodle breakfast which contains some crunchies, some sliced scallions, some broth, a little meat, and some noodles. Finally there was the juice bar, and the two Nestle auto grind blend coffee machines which could produce any of the following tolerable coffee drinks: Cappuccino, Latte, Coffee, Mocha, Chocolate, Espresso. Simply put your cup on the little tray, and depress the appropriate button, and then watch as the magic occurred.
The eating area was all open to the out doors and offered a breath taking view of gardens with pools teeming with fish, followed by one of the many human pools, and finally overlooking the Indian Ocean. As early as we were, it was easy to see that the birds also showed up early, and while they are generally shooed away from the serving areas, they are on the prowl for unsuspecting guests who bring one plate to an available table, and then leave to get something else, thus providing an opportunity to swoop in and get some bites of whatever they want to take. I noticed this right away, and simply sat in my seat and worked over my initial choice of yogurt, muesli and fresh fruit until it was finished before retreating to find some coffee.
My first choice was the Cappuccino, and it was tolerable. I went back and gave the espresso a go. With Susan as my witness, my first taste of that was an absolute “no way am I finishing that”, and “what the hell is this shit being called espresso for?”. I told Susan “I am on vacation, and I don’t have to drink that if I don’t want to” and I didn’t.
Corinne came down around 7, and with her I went over to the noodle guy and we both ordered a bowl of noodles. We grabbed some juices, took our seats, and brought each other up to speed on our previous days adventures. The girls had some in pretty early, but were allowed to check in early, and then spent the day at the beach. They had walked into town already, and found an ice cream stand, some local cafes, and a massage place where a full body one hour massage was on $20. Our plans for the day were forming.
After finishing our noodles, and without Alyson who was still sleeping, we decided to walk around and familiarize ourselves with the grounds. The eating area had two human-made ponds loaded with lily pads, frogs, and tiny fishes. The birds used these ponds as their baths, and a source of drink. To the south of the main grounds, there were signs to “The Gardens”. The whole grounds seemed like gardens, but we followed the signs to the “official” gardens, where they had all the really good stuff, and where they cultivated many of the plants used around the rest of the property. Fountains, ponds, flowing water, sculpture, arches, benches, and Bonsai. Lots of Bonsai, and some of it pretty old Bonsai. 20 years, 30 years, then we found a tree that was nearly 100 years old. Turning a corner we found the grand daddy of Bonsai, a tree that had begun Bonsai in 1710 or there about.
By the time we worked our way around to the dining area again, daughter #1 had turned up and was seated with her initial breaking of the fast meal. The subject of objectives for the day came up. For myself, I needed to hire a taxi to go and get my bicycle rental. The rest decided to check out the beach and eventually the massage the girls had scoped the day prior.
For the record, I could have googled getting around by bus in Phuket and probably found that all I needed to do was walk out to the main drag and flag one down that was going North. However I may have needed more than one to get to Choeng Thale, and I just wasn’t prepared to make it that hard on myself. I also could have walked out to the same drag and simply grabbed one of the many taxis that sat out there waiting for potential customers like me. Instead I sought the aid from the guest aide in the lobby. I gave her my destination, she made a call, gave me a price, I said okay, and ten minutes later my taxi was at the resort lobby. I kind of had an address, but I also had a pin planted in my “Here We Go” app, and with that we set off. I would get to see from the comfort of a taxi just what the road along the west coast was like before I would have to navigate it in the week ahead.
From the resort the Taxi turned left onto 4028 which winds through greater Karon until the Karon Beach Roundabout where it intersects 4233, the beach road and we begin to head out of town. The road is wide enough for 4 relatively unmarked lanes of travel where the slowest are to each lanes far left, and everyone else passes on the right. Out of Karon Beach the road rises and is immediately under construction to widen the overall passage all the way to Pa Tong. The surface looks smooth though the interface with the area under construction is crude, but the taxi gives plenty of way around the scooters it passes, so I surmise that they will give me the same way when they go around me. The road winds, and rolls and then hits a small summit where it then plunges down and into Pa Tong eventually hitting something that isn’t quite a roundabout, but isn’t much of a traffic control structure either. 4233 hangs a left towards Pa Tong Beach which is where my driver went, and where I myself would go as well. When the road intersects with another beach roundabout, it becomes a one way road for the full length of Pa Tong Beach. In the daylight, Pa Tong Beach looks beautiful and active.
Like Karon Beach, Pa Tong Beach has a large roundabout at its Northern end as well, and 4233 continues out of town on its way to Kamala Beach. On this section of road are built many condo vacation complexes as well as other resorts. So that these folks can walk into Pa Tong, a decent sidewalk was constructed on the Northbound side of the roadway. The roadway through here hugs the coast, but rises and falls, and twists and turns in various turn radii that I note with care. When the road passes the Thavorn Beach Village (sister resort and newer resort to ours), the road takes a decidedly significant jump up in elevation and rises to the highest point along this section of roadway, and then plunges down into Kamala Beach. Staying on the main road, you don’t actually see the beach, but from this section of road, I can tell that Kamala is a lot lower key than Karon and Pa Tong. Two real traffic control signals (the first that we hit) and then for some unknown reason the road changes from 4233 to 4025. I can’t make sense of it, but then it is up and over the easiest of the hills on our way to Surin Beach., but not before my driver stops at an overlook so I can get out and check out the magnificent view of Kamala from the Laem Sing View Point. My driver kept telling me it was a fine view of Pa Tong, but even I knew that was wrong. It was a fine view and he snapped my picture for me.
After a gradual plunge into Surin Beach, another town where the main road does not hug the beach, the roadway winds through many business sections until it intersects at another controlled intersection with 4030, and now I had to be vigilant because my destination was fast approaching. I pulled out my phone, and secured my location and could see the pin fast approaching. I called to me driver that my destination was ahead somewhere on the left, which meant pointing and slapping my left arm. He got my message and turned where I needed him to turn, and half a block down I was where I needed to be. I stepped out, “Korpin Krap” I thanked my driver and made my way into the shop.
This was a very nice bike shop. Clothing lined the right wall, a display counter in the middle, some equipment choices on the back wall, and the rest of the space occupied by various sized Canyon bikes. I had not had any contact since I secured my reservation, but somehow they knew I was the one they had set the X-Large frame aside for, because before I could open my mouth, the tiny Thai sales clerk was bringing that bike down off the raised loft for me. She greeted me with the paperwork with my name on it before I even told her who I was. We went over the terms of the deal, I had the bike for a week, but I may hold it til Monday if I wished, but let them know. There was one slight problem. I had not read the fine print that said “Bring your fuggin passport travel idiot!” and I had to raise an alarm back South. There was just no way I was taking two more taxis to correct this blunder, but she agreed that if my family sent me a picture of my passport that would be fine. Connected to Wi-Fi, I tried to raise them, but unless they too were connected to Wi-Fi I was somewhere way up that creek of shit. Maybe that was when I found my Disney eyes, and donned my pout, turning my lips into a slight frown, and then asked “I have my license, how about you take a photo of that, and when I get back to my hotel I will photograph my passport and send you a picture of that?”. It worked!
The next challenge was paying. When I had my falling-off-the-bicycle incident last November, an item in my tool bag impacted and disabled the chip on my debit card. Here in the US, after a certain number of failures, simply swiping works, but that was hard to convey to the woman in the shop, and she already accepted my plea about the Passport, so I found an ATM down the street and pulled some Baht out and covered my transaction in cash. With everything complete, I attached my lights and phone case holder to the bike, asked for and received a couple of water bottles, filled with water, and then retreated into the bathroom to change into my riding clothes. No, I did not taxi up there in my riding clothes.
Clothed properly, I noticed a map on the wall and asked her if there was anything I needed to know. “Well, up here the roads are all good, and a lot less traveled. There is a Sunday ride tomorrow that heads up here (she pointed up into the mainland), and they leave around 6:40”. I asked “What about down here?” pointing to the Southern part of the island where I was actually staying. “Welllll, you will want to be very vigilant riding down there. Lot’s of traffic, and varying road conditions. People ride there, but the better riding is in the Northern parts of the Island.”. I thanked her and headed out.
By now, it is nearly 10:30 and the sun is way up, and the heat is on. I tell myself that it isn’t all that far to go, and the gearing on the bike appears to be sufficient so when I hit those hills, and gravity makes itself known to every single atom in my body, I can put it in the granny gear and simply pedal more strokes, and I will eventually get over those climbs. I adjusted the seat, turned on my lights (better to help everyone see me), and off I set on the left. I quickly found a nice moving speed of about 21 mph and found that was faster than most of the scooters, and more than fast enough to merge out into the lane of traffic when I needed to pass scooters. Having just been driven on the same roads, It was pretty easy to reverse engineer that and soon I was gliding along the roads out of Cheong Thale, and back into Surin Beach. Through town and up the first incline I soon found myself back at the lookout, so I pulled over to grab a drink, and take in the view once again. I snapped a picture of the bike at the viewpoint, and soon I was on my way again.
On the drive up, there was a turn in the road prior to the viewpoint where a concrete truck had pulled onto a side road. I don’t know why that made an impression, but when I saw that side road again, “This is where that concrete truck was” popped into my head, and it did that every single time there after as well. Anyway, now that I was on top of the hill, and my speed was more of a traffic speed, I was moving along at a clip and descended down into Kamala exercising lane control when I needed it, and then yielding to passing traffic. They all seemed fine with it. I was moving along at a decent clip.
On the other side of Kamala the opposite of the drive here hit me pretty hard. The plunge into Kamala, meant a steep grind to get out of Kamala, and I soon found myself in the larges rear cog and the smallest front front ring. It was an easy gear to turn, but you don’t go very far with each complete cycle of the crank. I had to find a happy medium between rpms and lactic acid build-up. Add to that the exposure to the sun. There was no shade, and few places to hide. I simply had to grind it out and I began to curse every single Hershey’s chocolate treat, fig newton snack, extra helping, all those IPAs, and everything else I dumped into my pie-hole of a mouth over the winter that resulted in more stored atoms in my body. I believe those would be atoms arranged as fat molecules. I had them in my face, my arms, my belly, my arse, my thighs, calves, arms, and maybe even my feet. Where ever they were gravity found each one and the laws of physics stated clearly that I had to raise the potential energy of each and every single mother fuggin one (note: author writes this as he sips a Chimay Peres Trappistes grand reserve barrel aged ale)!
Over the top, aha! Now I get to turn all that stored potential energy back into kinetic energy, and dropping the chain down the rear cogs, and up the front chain-ring, I soon find myself flying along. The roadway here opens to two lanes in my direction, so I pull out and control the entire left-most lane all the way into Pa Tong. With the wind, I cool down a lot, take in some water, and then with my most vigilant senses on highest alert I being to navigate the mayhem that is downtown Pa Tong. I would say “Picture riding a bike down 5th Avenue”, but that is too easy. There are no scooters in NY. The streets are narrow, curvy, and clogged with parked and double parked vehicles with scooters, cars, trucks and buses, AND various amounts of pedestrians. I wound my way through, made the turns I needed to make, and simply tried to blend in with the scooters as much as possible until I spit out the other side. Once I was back on 4233 I negotiated that absurd roundabout, it seems they give a lot of leeway to the vulnerable cyclist like me, I was soon climbing the plunge out of Pa Tong. Steep, but not as long as the climb out of Kamala, I was back in the construction zone, but that was all on the Northbound side of the road, so I was in the clear and back in this big gear, and cranking out kph with rpms and soon I was at the Karon Beach Roundabout where I opted for the beach road and I coasted down the road to my resort and it was operation complete.
I dismounted, turned off my lights, and began the parade walk past all the other resort attendees who were now in full sun bath mode. Though I didn’t know it yet, most of these folks were Russian Tourists, and all of them noticed the old bearded guy dressed in stretchy sweaty underwear fabric walking among them with a bicycle. In my ten days there I never saw another person at that resort with a bike! I ascended the stairs, opened the door to my room, and proceeded to then exude huge amounts of H2O through every pore in my body until the A/C and my body found a happy medium.
Cleaned up and connected to the Wi-Fi I soon found out that my family had eaten already, and they were highly appraising the merits of the massage place. At $20 for an hour of full body massage, I could not see any reason NOT to get one this very day. I donned my trunks, a Tee, my cash, and I was out the door and on my way into town where I found my family just leaving the massage establishment. Introductions were made between the owner and myself, I made an appointment for an hour later so I could grab some lunch first, and then we walked to the nearest Pharmacy so someone (to remain nameless) could but feminine hygiene products. We discussed the rest of the day plans. Clearly I was going to eat, and get a massage. The rest were heading to the beach.
I sat down at LEK in the next alley North of the massage alley, and was soon treated to a nice cold bottle of Leo beer, and a plate of Prawn Phad Thai which I scarfed reasonably quickly. After another Leo and some leisure time surfing the web, I paid my bill and went for my massage. For this visit I chose the 600 Baht full body massage. Ben was my masseuse, and she did a very nice and thorough job on all the muscles in my back and legs. Though I smelled of massage oil, I left very relaxed and with an appointment for another one on the morrow. I reasoned that after I did the Sunday club ride, it would be nice to get a recovery massage of some sort.
I retreated out to the beach area and began looking for my family. By this time it is full on afternoon, and the maximum temperature had been reached. The beach was at its hottest, and I was beginning to realize that cotton Tees are not really the correct choice for these conditions. I did however make it to the water line and first contact with another ocean was made. I looked out over the vast Indian Ocean and asked it to kindly stay where it was while I was in town thank you very much.
I found my way back to the hotel, and reconnected to Wi-Fi found my family around the pool hanging out near the swim-up bar. It was Happy Hour, buy one get one free, time, and we jumped in, and swam up to the bar where Peach took care of us. “Mai-Tai!, Mohito! Margarita! Mohito!” and we relaxed full on vacation style for a few hours before someone asked about dinner plans. Alyson had done some research and suggested The Boat House in Kata Beach just down the road. Sold, we returned to our rooms to watch the sun set, change clothes and soon we had a taxi and were bound for Kata beach.
The Boat House was a pretty swanky place. Alyson picked it because she had read that they hosted two of the best chefs on the island, and why not see what the best chefs can do for our first dinner meal? They had indoor and outdoor seating, and we chose outdoor on the deck beneath the lights with a fine expansive view of the ocean. The girls had some wine, I had beer, Susan some water, we ordered some appetizers. The menu had entrees of course but it also had fixed price meal that started out with a Tom Yum, followed by crab dish, then the main entree of Lamb Curry and finally a flan like dessert. Susan ordered the Lamb outright, Corinne went for a simple salad, and Alyson got a curry. My Tom Yum was rich, and the crab I shared, but the Lamb I hogged to myself. I ate everything, and there was something in this dish that had a lot of latent heat. It took me a while to isolate it, but the ingredient turned out to be fresh green pepper corns still on the the twig. The whole thing was soft and edible, but those corns were loaded with spiced potential, and soon my mouth was ablaze. I pointed out the offending item and Susan quickly pushed hers off to the side of her plate. Aside from that the lamb was as tender as tender can be. The flan aided my cooling off period, and after paying the bill we egressed out onto the street where we parted ways with the younger generation and returned to the hotel.
I was committed to the Sunday ride, and quite frankly the events of the first day and the the travel were catching up to us. We had had enough and it was time to retire for the night. I would need to get an early start to catch the club ride, and whatever sleep I could get, I was going to need.
I am lucky to have two grown daughter who 1) like to travel, 2) like to travel with each other and the big one 3) like to travel with their parents. We were off to a great start in Thailand, and there was so much more to come.