Posted in Laos

Islands in Mekong river

Auf der Insel Don Som

There are many islands in this longest river in Asia, there are said to be 4000 in the south of Laos alone. What counts, whether every single turf that protrudes from the water or only inhabited islands – I can’t say. I take a closer look at three of them – Don Det, Don Som and Don Khong – and jump from island to island with different boats, because the connections between the populated islands are well organized, at prices between 10,000 and 20,000 kip, depending on the length of the route. Don Det is e.g. very popular with backpackers and the ticket sale for the crossing runs in Nakasong on the eastern bank of the river at a specially built counter. All the bus connections that bring people to the islands end in Nakasong, and around early noon dozens of tourists with colorful backpacks pack the shadow-free main road along from the car park to the river bank and to the commuting boats.

I don’t want to push myself between all these backpack carriers by bike and sit down in the shade of a small restaurant above the river bank and eat one – noodle soup, there is one here again. Shortly before, at the entrance to Nakasong, in the shop of a smartphone retailer, I met Esther and Vassiliy, a Vietnamese woman and a young Russian on a bike tour from Jakarta to Hanoi. The two had the same problem as me, namely bought a local SIM card for mobile internet access that did not work properly, and they were now able to get help. The card I bought yesterday only had to be activated for the desired Internet package. It only took a few minutes, but the problem seemed to be a bit bigger for the two.

South of Ban Thakho, where I spent my first night in Laos, the masses of water in the Mekong rush down a few rapids and smaller waterfalls. A nice natural spectacle, which is raised rather modestly here, apart from the fact that you have to pay a parking fee even for the bike and then have to buy a ticket to access the viewpoints. There is a view restaurant and a café and if you get there early in the morning, you have the small park almost to yourself. Even the souvenir dealers are not all there yet.
The view is not that spectacular now, the water level of the Mekong is also relatively low, but I still wanted to have seen the waterfalls when I was around. So I have a rather restful day today, because I don’t make much of a trip on the islands either, and I don’t get very fast because roads are scarce, narrow economic paths form the connection network that connects the various boat connections across a whole series of islands extends.
Khone Pha Pheng

Yesterday afternoon, after a hard stage along the NR7, which is part of the Asian highway AH-11, I entered Laos and stayed in a simple motel just a few kilometers behind the border. This NR7 is mostly a bad slope made of loose laterite granules and disintegrating concrete substructure, sometimes the road is temporarily paved, often it is a constant change. Fortunately, the volume of traffic is relatively low, because it is an international long-distance connection. Therefore, the approximately 60 km between Stung Treng and the border station can also be driven quite well, despite the poor supply situation. There are few restaurants along this route and I only found one that could actually offer me something to eat after around 50 km.
A barren area in which the larger banana plantation that I pass looks somehow misplaced.

The border crossing from Cambodia to Laos seemed somehow dead. The turnstile stayed down when I approached. So pull your head and roll under it, a local moped driver does the same in the opposite direction. The exit from Cambodia is quick. Scan the fingerprints again, farewell photo and bye. Also on the Laos side, the turnstile remains below and there are still a few people from the Thai coach that drove past me a few minutes before I reached the border at the two counters. But I have time, I still have to fill out an entry slip that will later be attached to my passport. First of all, a paramedic records my body temperature – I could have a fever.
I remember that six years ago, when I crossed the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the first person in a white coat to check the body temperature of all travelers. The same thing later at Windhoek Airport in Namibia. Funny thing: there is always an epidemic.
After a brief check of the filled-in slip and the visa in my passport,
you are asked to pay a $ 2 stamp fee, an interesting invention. When I asked for a stamp for my diary, it was made clear to me that I should go on. Too bad.

The quality of the road will then be slightly better and shortly after the border a milestone indicates that there are still 823 km to Vientiane. A route that I split up over the next two weeks, not always just along highway 13, as it is shown here in Laos. After all, the Mekong has two banks and many islands on which I started today.

Don Det is the supposedly greener island, but larger islands also have a lot of vegetation and the people living there practice agriculture e.g. on Don Som as well as on the mainland. The rice is partly freshly planted in the fields and is deep in the water, which is pumped directly from the Mekong and directed to the fields. Certainly an advantage, because off the banks of the river the water distribution is of course more complex.

Posted in Cambodia

To the bridge over Mekong river

Five days after I left Siem Reap, I come across the Mekong at Stung Treng today. The bridge does not look very spectacular, although the river is about 1.5 kilometers wide here, but the river does make a difference – and it looks so untouched. Since the Mekong can only be navigated to the border with Laos, it is not economically interesting as a waterway in this region, and therefore no large ships can be seen. The city is also not particularly large, but is considered a border town to Laos, which is about 50 km away, and is the administrative seat for the Stung Treng district, as well as a hub for various bus connections further into the country or to neighboring Laos.

After the three days of cycling and tuk-tuk in Angkor Wat, it was almost like a new beginning and a good feeling to be able to ‘get back on the road’ with all the luggage on the bike. But I didn’t want to leave Siem Reap without rolling through the large park of Angkor Wat again. The Banteay Kdei temple was still missing and was only a short detour on my route. A small temple ruin that is not approached on the shorter tours through the park and therefore has relatively few visitors, although it e.g. is not that far from Ta Phrom Temple.

With this little detour I was not tempted to use the busy NR6 eastwards to get away from Siem Reap and towards Preah Vihear, but simply followed the road leading out of the park and was still able to benefit a few kilometers from the shady forest.

There is a small (tourist-prepared) settlement, which is intended to demonstrate a little the rural life of the region and with some restaurants is waiting for visitors from the park of Angkor. At early noon there wasn’t too much going on and I wasn’t stopped, my route to Svay Leu was still long enough.
Far from the main connecting road and far from the tourist spots, the picture changed a little. This side route took me through long-drawn-out settlements with partly modern Khmer-style houses and simpler wooden buildings, but actually always clean plots, in contrast to the first days between Poipet and Siem Reap.

People often farm on a small scale, with a few cattle, or with a few plots of rice, with the fields currently dry. Shops are rare, however, and can almost only be found at intersections of different streets. But almost always there is an unexpected and at the right time a street kitchen on the side of the road that offers soup with noodles or fried rice with egg or can conjure up quickly.
On the relatively short stage from Svay Leu to Moreal on the second day, there is noodle soup for breakfast and I eat a cucumber noodle soup again in the late morning (but then cold), which somehow reminds me of Estonia and a cucumber soup that I once tried there a few years ago.

It is nice that you can always address the friendly people directly and they are not shy themselves, even if the communication does not work at all. The selection in the pots is never particularly large, and yet I often get more on my plate than I expected. In Svay Leu I wanted to give up in the evening, because by 7pm I was already late and some of the small restaurants in town were already tidying up. A young cook told me that I could come to him for breakfast, but he was already closed. Two other covered halls with tables and chairs were full of guests, but self-cooking with a hotpot was the order of the day. The operators only sell the ingredients there and you have to know what you want. Not the right choice for a hungry individual.

In the end, I got a delicious portion of fried noodle with lots of vegetables from a very busy cook with a wok and grill who only had two tables in his open space. While I was eating there people kept coming over to pick up their phone orders and sat down at my table with two young girls who ate a large portion of papaya salad (at least it did look like) with crayfish with relish and intense entertainment to have. Apparently the specialty from the cook’s large wooden mortar, in which he always prepared new dishes. With a loud crack and crackle, the two girls nibbled the crayfish’s shell – also a peculiarity of the Khmer, seafood and meat always with as much and splintered bones as possible to eat. If you order rice with chicken, you can often (not always) adjust to a lot of cartilage and bone, but little meat.

The last five days have cost a lot of strength, since I now almost always had to drive against the gusty east wind, sometimes through profiled terrain. There are no special highlights along the route, actually the ideal terrain for making the route. In any case, people who came towards me benefited from the wind. That was two Dutch women half-way around noon today, and a little later in the afternoon a young Briton on a world tour. That also that I am not driving an unknown route. Maybe that’s why the policemen smiled so mischievously at their checkpoint – oh, another madman on a bike.

Final Tiles Gallery id= does not exist

In any case, children on the side of the road are still happy about every light-skinned cyclist who comes by and sometimes shout “Helloo!” Before I even register them. Schoolchildren often wave a little more cautiously, but I am perceived as a colorful tourist by apparently many more people than I see as I roll past their often gray everyday life.

I rather notice the smells, from the burning plastic waste, from the charcoal fire, from boiling rice, from the cassava roots drying on the roadside, because for about two days I pass through an area in which a lot is grown. The harvest has apparently just run, because on the one hand I see many single-axle trailers with tractors that are loaded with cassava roots and drive to the next collection points. The roots are chopped into strips by hand and placed extensively in the sun to dry. In the warmth, these white roots exude a typical sweet smell, which naturally rises into my nose as I roll past.
The dry roots are packed in sacks and brought back to warehouses with the single-axle tractors that are widespread throughout Cambodia, from where they are transported away by larger trucks for further processing.
There was such a warehouse in Moreal, not far from the guest house where I had stayed, and in the evening a few trucks were busy loading.

The warmth during the day, the rising smoke and haze in the evening, dogs barking almost everywhere at night, and from six in the morning xylophone-like music and spherical sounds from the nearest monastery. The sounds almost never stop, and yet there is silence at some point in the night. There was a family gathering somewhere in Moreal, and party music was playing in the afternoon and stopping almost all night long, until after a short break in the morning it was ‘taken over’ by the monks and their xylophone sounds.

This music can be very soothing if it is not played too loudly, which is unfortunately usually the case. Here in Stung Treng, however, I have never heard of the monastery / temple about 400 m away.


Posted in Cambodia

Having a break in ruins


Siem Reap is a very busy city, which is flooded by tourists from all over the world thanks to the unique medieval temples of Angkor Wat. You can get used to it, you are prepared for it and you make a living from it. If you want, you can sit down in one of the many restaurants or cafés that are geared towards western needs and put your feet up, or face everyday life in Cambodia and explore the hustle and bustle in side streets and markets. You can also get a multi-day ticket to visit the archaeological park of Angkor Wat and explore the huge area on your own either by bike or tuk-tuk.

You can get the tickets in a purpose-built building outside the city, about halfway from the center to the park, and after we have started Friday as the first day of the break and actually put our feet up a bit and later asked about bike shops to find a packaging for Maik’s bike for the return trip. Then we took our bikes to the temple complex in the afternoon to get a first impression.

The temples, which can be categorized over several centuries, were built under various kings of the Khmer in the Middle Ages and were sometimes Hindu, sometimes Buddhist, and sometimes were also rededicated after the religious reorientation of a subsequent king. at Wikipedia – can be read.

It is fascinating how much space these temples take up, sometimes surrounded by a wide moat, like the Angkor Wat and Preah Khan temples, as well as the much smaller Ta Phrom temple, compared to the later built city of Angkor Thom, which has a walled area of 3 x 3 km is said to have housed a million people. Nothing has remained of the wooden residential buildings, only the remains of the stone temples testify to a once flourishing culture, which, however, could not do much to oppose the conquests of the Siamese in the 13th century. The city of Angkor Thom was abandoned in a hurry.


Of course, I also use the days here to change my thoughts from cycling and to eat something other than noodle soup or fried rice. From time to time I also like to take an omelet or cereal for breakfast. In the Star Bar near the small hotel, a broadcast of the Super Bowl of the American Football League is shown on a big screen on Sunday morning from 6 a.m. and the restaurant sells tickets for it in all seriousness and is actually quite well attended when we pass it at 8 a.m. to stroll. The omelette also tastes good in the “Viva” at the old market.

On the bike, the chain gets fresh oil and new tension after the approximately 800 kilometers driven. The chain lengthens slightly over time, and from time to time it is therefore necessary to readjust the rear axle or the gear hub. I notice that I have a wide crack in the profile in the rear wheel. Apparently it doesn’t go right into the tire’s carcass, but on my last day in the city I let myself search for a replacement tire. As it turns out, 28 “bikes are not that common among the many bike dealers we met while looking for a box for Maik’s bike.

At a Specialized dealer, who also offers classic models in addition to individual racing bikes, I find a suitable trekking tire from Chinese production, which I will take with me on my onward journey.


Posted in Cambodia

Via Sisophon into the east direction


The next major goal is the city of Siem Reap, where I have planned a break for a few days. The country initially offers little variety and little shade along the busy national road 5. During the day it is hotter in Cambodia than in Thailand, although the thermometer does not show more than there. At least that’s how I feel. The air humidity is obviously lower, but it cools down even more at night. The NR 5 leads straight ahead to the east. At a traffic circle about 7 km outside of Poipet, we can buy juice again in the shop of a modern gas station. This can be used to spice up the otherwise very tasteless water on the go.

Later there will only be simple stalls along the street, which also offer everything, but water is usually only in small bottles and fruit juice is not to be seen there. There is no comfortable hard shoulder on the side of the road, as on so many roads in Thailand, or at least the marking has long since disappeared. So always keep to the right and watch out for obstacles, because someone likes to stop at the edge. Otherwise, the horn is obviously an important means of communication in this country.

Apart from the heat, which I have to deal with, light wind presses against the driving comfort from the front. So we alternate with giving slipstream from time to time, which definitely does help something. For a few kilometers, I even hang behind one of the small cargo trailers with a single-axle tractor that has loaded sugar cane and is traveling at almost 18 km / h, Maik behind me. On top of the stack of sugar cane, a woman in work clothes with a sun hat is stretching out, dozing there.
For a short while, this is a bit slower progress, but a rather relaxed driving. The faster vehicles coming from behind also automatically pass us at a sufficient distance. Unfortunately the driver stops at an intersection in the next village and we have to deal with the slight headwind again.


I don’t see restaurants on the street that often anymore, and when I see a canopy with tables and chairs underneath the street in Nimitt, about halfway to Sisophon, we stop there and after a short question the boss also makes us a nice portion of fried rice with some vegetables and shrimp.

Shortly before the center of Sisophon, a brand new archway built in sandstone points to a Buddhist temple located behind it. I have never seen such an archway made of sandstone in Thailand or here in Cambodia, mostly it is simply bricked, modeled and decorated with cement, and then colored with a lot of bright color. This one seems to be an exception. The other temple buildings do not have sandstone decorations themselves. From the area of the temple, individual people come on their mopeds through the archway. A friendly gentleman explains to us that it would be no problem to visit the plant. However, it is not particularly spectacular, except that all the buildings still look new.

The next day we stop in the Rohal area at another temple, which is about 500m off the highway and on the edge of a village. This too was only renovated a few years ago and a blackboard explains in which years how much donations and from which countries were used. The area of the temple looks tidy, in a larger pond you can see some lotus plants in bloom and in some corners there are even trash cans. Should this be used to counter the waste problem that is otherwise visible everywhere?

Already in Poipet there was a lot of rubbish along the streets, and the further away from the main street the worse. Along the trunk road, which is built on a high embankment, the rubbish lies along the embankment or below it in the ditch. There it is apparently burned together with the dry grass from time to time. Traces of it can be seen clearly. Burning dry grass or crop residues in fields is a daily practice in this country. And there is always fly ash in the air, which presumably comes from fires that are placed in fields far away from the road in a controlled manner for the removal of crop residues. In the distance at least one or the other column of smoke can be seen and small flakes of ash collect again and again in the sweat on my arms.


This continues in the settlements along the street, where sometimes open containers made from old car tires also serve as collection points. Often, however, the garbage lies around it. There does not seem to be an awareness of the dirt or avoiding it. It’s pretty sad to see.

Kralanh is a much smaller city, more of a small town with a large intersection and a market that stretches across several narrow streets near this intersection. There is also a large school there.
In the evening it is not so easy to find something edible. Some small street restaurants close in the late afternoon, when the market also comes to rest.

After some looking around and asking for food, we get stuck at the table of an inconspicuous food stall, which already offers pre-cooked stew with rice, plus canned beer from the slowly thawing refrigerator. The next ice delivery will not be replenished until tomorrow morning.

In the early morning I wake up to the song of a muezzin calling for prayer long before sunrise. With the sunrise he calls again later. I hadn’t noticed that in the evening, but it was probably because of the street noise in front of the restaurant where we had been sitting for a while.
Even before sunset, the air was slightly hazy from the smoke that is suddenly everywhere. Somewhere someone is lighting the swept up garbage in front of their house, or heating up the open small coal stove to cook dinner – and of course everywhere in the small streets.

From Kralanh it is less than 60 km to the center of Siem Reap. The landscape had changed slightly yesterday, with more dark green in the distance, thicker rows of trees between larger agricultural areas. Also fresh green from rice fields, seen in this way a quite lively landscape, despite the scorching heat.

Posted in Cambodia

Second time Cambodia


Cambodia welcomes me with a lot of dust and sultry heat. The city of Poipet, just behind the border with Thailand, is full of noise and traffic, dusty, and very confusing thanks to the many billboards and street vendors lined up right on the roadside. Whispering mopeds everywhere, sometimes making their way in the opposite direction, honking cars and trucks, which roll relatively slowly but make their way steadfastly.

The entry formalities took much longer than I expected, but we also arrived at the border at lunchtime, which was perhaps a bad time. Although all four counters in the small immigration barrack on the Cambodian side were open. Not all border guards on duty were equally motivated, so it took about three quarters of an hour before the entry stamp with a 30-day permit was finally stamped into my passport.

By the way, it makes no difference, whether you already have a visa on your passport or whether you still have to go to the visa office, that you will pass on your way through no man’s land anyway. Sticking in this Visa on arrival is quick, currently costs US $ 30, and one way or the other you always have to fill out an immigration form and have it stamped. Even if you arrive with an electronic visa. This e-Visa has no advantage; you have to bring it with you on a printout and it keeps everyone waiting because the officer has to scan the barcode of this printout and to do this he has to leave his desk and scan and put it down at a separate work station.
A few Spaniards stood in front of me in my queue, for whom the quite comfortable official had accumulated a few extra minutes just by processing the many e-visas.
But getting impatient doesn’t help at this point, and it was shady in the barrack and bearable thanks to the many fans.

In Poipet I have to orientate myself first, although the road only leads straight. The richness of the impressions and the warmth of the early afternoon are tiring. We have to drive around 2.5 kilometers into the city to my favorite hotel. I stayed there two years ago and it hasn’t changed. Only the attached small restaurant is no longer in operation, which is a shame, because on the small veranda you could sit undisturbed by the traffic in the evening. The rooms with balconies are on the side facing away from the main street and in the afternoon heat the quickly washed laundry dries until the evening.
There are enough restaurants in the vicinity of the Ly Heng Chhay Hotel, as we will see later on a short exploration tour. But first I want to get myself some money and the second most important step today is to get a SIM card with enough data for the next few weeks. There are some banks with imaginative names and with ATM and the ATM I choose unfortunately only tallers US dollars which I exchange at the nearest money changer for Cambodian Riel, which of course can only be a losing deal.
We’ll get a SIM card with a 30-day validity and a data volume that I would never use in a month at home, for $ 9 each. The young lady in the SMART Mobile store is very competent and helpful in setting up the card.
Later in the evening we sit in a Khmer restaurant, which apparently is only visited by locals. There is delicious grilled squid and a raw food plate cooled with ice cubes, in addition we order fried rice with vegetables and Thai beer. The locals do the same.

The power goes out briefly and it is long dark outside. After a short time, a few ‘fireflies’ light up in the large, high restaurant, people light up on the tables with their smartphones. I have my headlamp with me for such situations, but it is now in the hotel, so far there was no need for it in Thailand. However, the interruption lasts only a few minutes, during which traffic outside works with the vehicle headlights through dust and haze.

The last quarter in Thailand, on the outskirts of the village of Khlong Hat, was again a very nice example of simple but well-kept bungalows, which are integrated into a kind of nursery outside the thoroughfare. The manager did not do a long discussion when we got there in the early afternoon and greeted us with the price of the room – “you get a room for 600 baht” without even having asked. A clean room in a quiet environment. Practical that the lady also is able to cook and at least conjures up a rice pan with vegetables for us in the evening.

The last two day trips in Thailand were also fun. The mountainous landscape in the southern half of the province of Sa Kaeo offers a different variety for the eye than the coastal regions can. Wooded mountain slopes, karst landscapes and agricultural areas, mainly sugar cane and occasionally smaller rubber plantations. However, there was suddenly a new problem with Maik’s bike, which had fallen over in a bike rack the day before in Ban Nam Ron, at the local café at the petrol station. We hadn’t seen how that could happen, only that it was suddenly there. But now a spoke has apparently loosened overnight and the whole rim is warped. That looks worse than it is, but Maik can now only use the brake on the front wheel to a limited extent. There are no problems when driving.

About 20 km north of Ban Nam Ron, colorful tents and something like a folk festival could be seen and heard on a monastery site off road 317. As if a stadium announcer was making announcements, a loud voice boomed from a loudspeaker on the premises. Maybe a sporting event? When we curiously put down the bikes below the tents, we were immediately addressed and invited to eat and try the food out. Fruit and drinks are served at some tables, fresh pineapples and colored water ice on thin wooden sticks; grilling somewhere. A friendly gentleman tries to talk to us.
The reason for the Sunday party is apparently the joint construction of the monastery building. The roof is just being covered and several piles of roof tiles in two different colors lie under one of the colorful tents in front of the building, which is still under construction. Everyone can participate with donations and dedicate individual roof tiles, or just sign. After the friendly invitation and the delicious pineapple, we also donate and so it happens that one of the orange colored stones now bears my name.
We do not stay long, because what we saved the route the day before, we have to make up today, to Khlong Hat it will be about 75 kilometers. The wavy road profile suits us a little, because it mainly leads us downhill and often the bike runs by itself.
In Soi Dao we prefer the lunch break after about 35 km because the breakfast in Ban Nam Ron was so spartan. I’ve been hungry for a long time and know from my own experience what it means to eat too little on such a trip. But I can also quickly convince Maik, and we also want to look for a bicycle workshop here that can process the imbalance in its front rim. However, that fails because on Sunday at least in the province, many shops remain closed. Even later we pass a bicycle workshop in a beautiful landscape, which the owner has locked and left and where the neighbor cannot help us to find him (although he seems to live there).

So there was nothing left but to wait until today and just before the border, because the city of Aranya Prathet is big enough to find several bicycle dealers and we are ultimately lucky there and find a well-trained and equipped two-wheeler mechanic who takes the time immediately to help Maik. Then the front rim is almost like new again and we don’t have to worry about it any more.

On the route from Khlong Hat to Aranya Prathet, which sometimes runs quite close to the border with Cambodia, there are checkpoints by the police at almost every major intersection, which were all occupied, but without us being stopped.

Here in Cambodia we immediately notice the somewhat reserved behavior of people towards us strangers and the much less consideration for road traffic. The basic situation is obviously different, because poverty is already evident in the side streets, houses are neglected and rubbish is everywhere, it is cooked on the street on an open fire and the quality of the surface of these side streets (if any) is sometimes catastrophic.
We’ll see tomorrow how the national road 5 develops towards the east, this road actually leads almost straight down to Phnom Phen. Because of the rim problem, I had decided not to take any further detours to Siem Reap, where the journey for Maik ends, then.

Posted in Thailand

From the Rayong province to Sa Kaeo

The coast of the Gulf of Thailand is now far away, the landscape has changed a lot, only the hot climate has remained. However, the first night on the edge of a low mountain range similar to yesterday was a bit cooler than the nights by the sea, even if we were only about 240 meters high, about 50 km north of Chantaburi. The climb at the end of today’s stage on the hot afternoon was pretty hard, because even if the temperature now drops to 25°C at night, it is still 33°C – 35°C in the shade in the afternoon – with almost permanent sunshine. The rather loose cloud cover doesn’t change that much. That’s why I add short breaks from time to time so as not to neglect drinking water, and on this ramp of 6 – 9% gradient we could even do this in the shadow of a wandering Buddha.

The route lengths are now between 60 and 100 km and because of a tire damage to Maik’s bike, I rescheduled the stages a bit so that we had enough time in Chantaburi to get help from a bike dealer there. A nice young man, who, however, had more in mind of his just arriving delivery of new goods than some things from Maik’s bike that we had to look for in his shop after the repair. North of this provincial town, along the smaller country roads, there are many small settlements that more or less merge into one another; rubber tree plantations and also small plantations of oil palms are occasionally seen. The little bit of agriculture along the coast hardly caught my eye; Cassava is grown there, sometimes pineapple. Rather, we had to cross a large chemical and oil processing plant west of Rayong, which apparently manages the oil supply for part of the country.

From Phala Beach, the road led almost straight at a short distance parallel to the coast and to the chemical or refinery facilities, which could already be seen in the distance from the local beach. The shortest way to get past it is going through it, and even if it is a complex on the area of a small town, after less than half an hour this area was behind us again. In the subsequent suburbs of Rayong, this picture was quickly forgotten. Instead, village flair with the usual shops, street vendors – an open barber shop. The young lady patiently presents herself with the boy’s cut in her chair. It is more of a coincidence that I stop for a drink in the shade directly opposite her shop.

You drive into Rayong, similarly as between Chonburi and Pattaya, through slowly getting denser commercial and residential buildings. Tourists hardly get lost in this region, at most outside of Rayong, further east of this somewhat larger provincial town, and of course rather near the coast. Rayong itself is a few kilometers north of the sea. There is a large market with sometimes chaotic delivery traffic, as in other cities. And the post office there was easy to find.

The beaches further east are already much more lonely than they were in the Pattaya area and even in Phala. In spite of the traffic that is always there, of course, it is great to cycle there, and it is nowhere near as stressful as in the major tourist resorts. Along the Lan Hin Khao beach there are colorful, small fishing boats on the beach and many small improvised restaurants under palm trees offer crabs, prawns, sea snails and other mollusks. Before you can look at them in large aquariums. This is nothing for me, but the demand seems to be high.
From Ban Phe, near which we paused a day, there are also regular ferries to Ko Samet Island. There you can meet for overwinterers from Europe or retirees who spend the whole of their retirement in Thailand, e.g. a friendly Swiss, formerly a chef, who has been living in the country with his Thai partner for 7 years, on this secluded stretch of coast now for 2 years.

In the Bay of Klaeng, at Ban Pak Nam Prasae, not only does a broad river flow into the sea, on the banks of which there is a picturesque fishing village with at least as many trawlers as residents, the area is also a vast wetland where mangroves grow and apparently over a large area are also replanted. In a restaurant on the river bank, where there is delicious fish soup, the spirits of the seafarers are given a friendly attitude with food donations, just like the spirits who are everywhere in this country – an interesting facet
Then someone suddenly burns fireworks on a monastery site near the restaurant, because the Chinese New Year is just around the corner. What a hell noise – from time to time we had heard something like that, but it was always difficult to assign and somewhere far away.

But we will soon leave the coastal area, Chantaburi is about 10 km inland in hilly terrain and from there we went temporarily into the mountains today. In Ban Nam Ron, after the effort, we now sit briefly in a café, which is attached to the large petrol station at the intersection there, and drink iced coffee. The place is not big, but there is at least a decent motel and there we surprisingly meet another Berliner – by bike – we call him Günter. He left his previous life as a BVG bus driver behind and now spends the winter in Thailand. However, he is traveling in the opposite direction and wants to drive further south via Bangkok.

Posted in Thailand

From coast to coast


The entire coastal area between Chonburi and Bangsaen is characterized by hotels and so-called resorts, smaller hut or bungalow villages of varied price categories. This continues roughly to Pattaya, whose skyline can already be seen from Bangsaen. This is a holiday region of the Thais themselves, but is also popular with many other Asians and Europeans.
Between the cities, with their riverside promenades, there are always long sandy beaches on which a narrow strip of shade-giving coconut palms is laid out, rows of shops with food stalls and fish boats. There are always simple takeaways and loungers lined up in the direction of the water, which you can rent together with a parasol. This is not particularly inviting, but the way to the big hotels, often right across the street, is not that far.

I only make the mistake once of wanting to ride a bicycle in such a tourist stronghold directly on the beach promenade or on the coastal road. Too many coaches invite travelers to or depart from or wait for day trippers. Group taxis, delivery vans, or people who just want to drive their cars to the sea and are looking for a parking space repeatedly block the left lane, which than is difficult to drive for two-wheelers. You can get faster e.g. in Pattaya with some distance to the sea.

From Bangsaen we drive south along the coast for a few kilometers on a sunny morning, past a small fishing port and after passing the Burapha University campus, which even has its own post office, up to trunk road 3. The sun means well, just like on the first days and the 30-degree mark was quickly exceeded in the early morning. Right at the second traffic light, where we have to stop, two other European-looking cyclists come from the coast onto the trunk road and turn in our direction. A retired Dutch couple, he is about 70 years old, as he says, who spends the winter in Thailand and neighboring countries. We talk briefly about the mutual travel plans, but then drive at our own pace for a few kilometers on the six-lane highway and soon shorten through the fishing village of Bang Phra, which is located directly on the coast.


Later we meet the two again, because they are faster on the highway than we are in the winding alleys of Bang Phra, where we follow a river, on the banks of which are a few boats.
In Sri Racha, we temporarily leave the coastal region completely and drive the next 35 km through commercial areas that alternate with agriculture (cassava, sugar cane) and mostly strung together settlements. Driving is fun here and road traffic is much more manageable. Only at two crossing points with a freeway is truck traffic again more violent.

Only in the late afternoon do we come back to the coast and into the middle of Pattaya. It’s not just rush hour along the quayside and the traffic is largely at a standstill. Because of the large number of pedestrians and the construction site that runs along them, we are not really able to make any progress on the promenade. So back to the second and third row and in the near of a hill above the ferry port, about 2 km from the coast, we find very quiet rooms for the night.
The next day, the traffic volume changes. From Pattaya, we first drive south with a certain distance parallel to the hectic quayside, a fairly new arterial road almost only for us cyclists, at least until it directs us again to Highway 3. It is always loud here and the traffic keeps flowing, but because of the wide hard shoulder you can ride here almost undisturbed and, depending on the wind and terrain profile, you can move forward relatively quickly. So we wind the first 15 kilometers along this expressway and then turn into a hilly region, in which, in addition to a large golf area, there is also an important destination for the Buddhists of Thailand, the Big Buddha Hill. Here the contour of a seated Buddha is painted in gold on the steep wall of a huge, once broken granite rock.

The route leads along reservoirs and past two quarries, sometimes winds up uncomfortably, and now brings us far away from the tourist strongholds on the eastern Gulf Coast. On the 332, which leads further east, we come almost directly to a construction site where we have to accept a detour of about 2 km, which then also gives us an almost exclusive asphalt strip for a few more kilometers.
We take a slightly longer lunch break just before a crossroads in the shadow of a street restaurant set back from this street. There is a delicious soup with crispy noodles and the hot broth is really good, even though I am already heated up by the constant sunshine while cycling.

We meet highway 3 again in the afternoon and this time follow it for a few kilometers to the east before we drive the last 5 – 6 kilometers back to the Gulf Coast. In Phala Beach the selection of guest houses is not particularly large and since Maik still wants to jump into the sea, we stay in two bungalows directly on the beach. Here you can count the people on the beach with just one hand. However, in the hazy distance towards Rayong you can also guess the silhouette of a huge tank farm and the pier for tankers that juts out into the sea, which then somewhat dampens this idyll.

Posted in Thailand

To the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand

It was not before early in the morning that the pump’s engine stopped, which pushed water from the main channel into one of the side arms to supply the surrounding fish ponds. The monotonous chug accompanied the sleep, which was difficult and intermittent in the unusual warmth. Nevertheless, we start from the Chai Khlong Resort somewhat rested at around 28°C and a slightly hazy view in the morning. In order to avoid the wide trunk road and above all the construction site there, we soon drive on a narrow side route through fresh green rice fields and after less than 2 kilometers we meet two older women on packed touring bikes exactly on the top of a small canal bridge. Two cycling enthusiasts from Amsterdam who have been traveling through Thailand for about 8 weeks, and not for the first time, as they say.

Shortly after this chance encounter, we stop at a small street restaurant for breakfast. At least that is our wish. The friendly cook is already cleaning up, but she also means that we can get something to eat and then makes two portions of a delicious rice pan with vegetables and shrimps. A good start into the very hot day in the early morning, and since we only want to drive to Chachoengsao today, we then roll leisurely through the flat landscape, in which rice fields and dry wasteland alternate. Here, too, mobile pumps in some fields provide water distribution from a larger channel that runs parallel to the road into the branch channels that run along the fields. Many herons lurk on these channels for apparently abundant prey in the water. Storks sail across the landscape and sometimes land clumsily on the coconut palms.

The landscape is also a little dominated by the many Buddhist monasteries, which are never arranged in the same way and sometimes lie directly on the street, but sometimes also clearly apart. So I had classified the singing song, which was suddenly perceptible from an indefinite direction, as coming from one of the monasteries. But it had nothing in common with the monotone chanting of the monks and when coming closer, Arabic fragments could be heard in the singing of a male voice. A muezzin from one of the four mosques, also located in this area west of Chachoengsao, who does not call for prayer in the morning, but apparently prays down the entire Koran singing, or better: sings into the area via a distributed network of loudspeakers.
We roll right past a Koran school, the mosques are a bit off the side street and not even 10 km apart, as I will see later on the map. An interesting change in the otherwise very Buddhist dominated Thailand, and if I look closely, some of the young women in this area also wear long headscarves that cover their necks, as women in Malaysia or Indonesia do.

Later in the evening we also hear the actually very monotonous chant of the Buddhist monks who celebrate their kind of prayer in the ‘Wat Sothon Wraram Wohawiran’, a monastery with a large temple complex, which is within walking distance of our accommodation in this city. This temple is obviously very popular with the locals and is full of visitors in the afternoon, as we drive past on the way to the guesthouse where we are staying.

In Chachoengsao we need three attempts to find a room because the first two favorites are already fully booked. I would not have expected that, but this way we come to a corner of the city where this temple district and a small night market adjoining it attract people. On the opposite market we have noodle soup made with seafood in one of the restaurants for a late lunch.

On Sunday we set off early in Chachoengsao, only have a quick breakfast of two toasts to have anything in the stomach, but then we are stuck in traffic for a while because the cars in front of the temple area, which was already well visited yesterday, go in both directions today queue for a long distance to get to the parking lots on the premises. Although they offer a lot of space, we had seen that yesterday on a tour of the extensive grounds, but the access is cumbersome and with such a rush a bottleneck. After about 10 minutes we are past it and roll quickly out of the city at 28°C in the morning. We drive a few kilometers south on the edge of the six-lane 314 and quickly branch off onto smaller connecting roads, which are also flat but not so straight any longer through former swamp areas on the Bang Pakong River.
After about 18 km, as ordered, open but covered and directly above a larger fish pond, there is a friendly restaurant, where we get a noodle soup with fish (who cares?). Finally some iced coffee and the rest of the day is going so well again.

The easier, straightforward route to the coastal areas north of Pattaya would have meant a much shorter route, but these 4- or 6-lane trunk roads also mean a lot of stress due to the permanent traffic with a high percentage of trucks. We drive here a much longer but much more varied route, which always leads to and from one or the other wide road and along it, but also has less traffic and also offers a lot more insights into the country. After 71 kilometers, we still arrive quite early in the afternoon at our destination for today Bang Saen.


Posted in Allgemein, Thailand

Starting again in Bangkok

The bike bags are always packed quickly, just before I start. The bike takes a little longer, but I tied it up the day before I left, now only the large taxi has to be on time and then it can actually start. Where? First I fly to Bangkok and then I want to cycle again towards Cambodia and further north-east. I applied for and received visas for the neighboring countries, even for China, which was a very time-consuming process because you have to appear in person at the Visa Center in order to not only submit the application but also your fingerprints. As an individual traveler you also have to declare every overnight stay in advance, and if you want to travel overland, as I plan to do, you also have to explain your plans in some detail – without mentioning the bike, for sure.

So roughly where I ended my trip two years ago, I want to get back on the roard and the flight from Amsterdam is even on time in Bangkok. Early morning, it is hazy and of course very warm, actually a wonderful day, but I have to get used to the high sun and the oppressive heat. It is about 32°C in the shade when Maik, a friend from Berlin, and I start at one of the many exits of the airport terminal. Maik will accompany me for about a quarter of the planned route.
However, we are initially on the wrong level. The built-up street that leads past the exits of the arrival hall leads as an elevated street directly onto the motorway. So we push the bikes back into the building and take the closest elevator to the basement. There we come to the ground level from the terminal and can turn below the highway to the next intersection with a smaller trunk road to the right and towards Chachoengsao. Airports of this dimension are not designed for cyclists.

Oh yes, it’s a hot day. From the airport to Luang Phaeng Road, which then takes us further to the east, the road runs through very spacious commercial areas and large green areas located on the airport site, which will surely also have storage or factory buildings at some point. After that, the traffic becomes denser and more hectic. The street is partially lined with many small shops and workshops, bus depots or other commercial areas. Sometimes a wide moat crosses the course of the road, which is then spanned by a longer but also narrowing bridge; unpleasant traffic points.

From one of these bridges, I see a street restaurant a little off the road, which we then head for in and finally have something to eat and take a break. However, the warmth of the early afternoon builds up under the relatively high canopy. An older Thai woman runs the small food stall and cooks us some vegetables with meat and a fried egg in her wok with the rice, which she already has ready in an insulated pot.
Here I now have the peace of mind to deal with the phone card I bought at the airport. It works right away in my smartphone, so I can keep in touch with home, as well as occasionally uploading texts like this one.

A few kilometers further we pass a bicycle dealer, whose open business can also be seen from the street. Maik still needs a bottle holder on his bike and the friendly man can promptly mount a suitable part on Maik’s bike. Our water requirements are high and having at least one bottle at hand makes drinking a little easier. I’ve always had three holders on my bike.

So we gradually come closer to our goal for today, which I chose not far from the airport for the day of arrival. A small hut village, far from the main street, which has now been transferred to a construction site, on a side arm of the canal running parallel to the street. Unfortunately, it is not quiet there, as a water pump chugs around the clock, but it is clean and inexpensive.

The desire to explore the strange, exotic places of the world has always been great for me and as long as my environment allows me to give in to it from time to time – well, I like to plan and much more that that, I prefer to implement my plans.

Posted in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a diverse city


There is a small park, Victoria Park, less than a kilometer from the hostel on Lee Garden Road. A narrow tartan track leads in a kind of circular course through the green and around a large lawn with a sports facility. The route is 625 meters long, it is marked every 25 meters and is actually reserved for runners, but many walkers also use this track, sometimes with two or three people walking alongside each other and having a lively conversation.
This is a quiet oasis not far from the hectic and noisy business streets. For three days I do my rounds here in the morning. From my small hostel, I run in the light drizzle along the confusing streets on which so many people rush to and from on the way to the office or the subway, almost squeezed between the office towers and shopping malls, some of which are more than 40 floors high. In the morning, the light rain is very pleasant when walking, the sun comes through the clouds, it quickly gets muggy, but that rarely happens.

Hong Kong, or rather: Hong Kong Island, is quite special. The available space for construction along the coastal strip is relatively narrow, only a few 100 m to just about 2 km wide, behind which the rocky terrain rises steeply. I have the impression that the high-rise buildings in the bay rise to the level of the top of the mountains.

For a few days I leave the bike on the balcony of the hostel and move around the city on foot or by metro. The streets in Causeway Bay are simply confusing because of these tall buildings, but I get a little better orientation by moving around in this part of the city. It takes e.g. two almost unsuccessful attempts to find the nearest post office, although it is shown on the overview map, since it is surprisingly located on the 10th floor of an 18-storey high-rise shopping and office building and not on the ground floor and in a single building, as I have suspected. Below is a huge entrance area with galleries of smaller restaurants and shops over two floors, above that another 5 floors with shops for fashion, cell phone accessories and other things that nobody needs, and above that several floors with sales agencies, utilities and other smaller shops. The post office only consists of a small counter room with maybe 25 m2 of floor space and letter boxes set into the wall to the hallway. I get enough stamps here, I have to look for postcards elsewhere. I later find them in a smaller shop on a side street a little off Hennessy Road, which sells everything in antique junk. There is something like souvenirs and cards here, even if they look a bit tired, in contrast to the shopping malls, where even well-stocked stationery dealers don’t offer postcards.

The next day, I found a lot more cards at the newspaper dealers at the Star Ferry Society pier in Kowloon, on the opposite side of the bay. This is relatively easy to reach by metro, after all, the Causeway Bay Station is less than 200 m from my quarters. This is how I explore the area around the Tsim Sha Tsui metro station in the afternoon. The streets are arranged a little more regularly, but not less confusing. In one of the high-rise buildings on the harbor, which is both a hotel and a mall, I find a bookseller that extends over two winding floors. Here the stress from the road below is far away.
At the pier the wind blows cool and damp from the sea, the weather is rainy. The low ferry docks of the Star Ferry Company, which today has almost only tourist significance, are roofed over, but very windy. That is why I am always drawn to one or the other shopping temple, which are all somehow connected here in ‘Harbor City’, even if I am not particularly interested in the fashion labels.

Unfortunately the weather is not very friendly on the day of my onward journey from Hong Kong Island over to Kowloon and on to Tsuen Wan. I start after a delicious breakfast at ‘Lucky Star’, two corners from the hostel, and then work my way down with the bike in the light drizzle down to Hennessy Road, and along Causeway Road to the ferry terminal at North Point. The boats of the First Ferry company also take bicycles on board, which is impossible with the Star Ferry according to their conditions of carriage. I had researched this the day before and now I asked the friendly small man at the turnstiles, which block the access to the pier, if I should be allowed to pass with my packed bike. Unfortunately he did not understand English but after a few moments I was able to figure out the term 自行车 for ‘bicycle’, and the little man really came to life, opened a side door to the waiting area and even billed the $ 10 for the bike into a separate cash register.


The crossing over Kowloon Bay takes about 15 minutes and the boat, which is occupied by only a few passengers on this cloudy morning, then moored at the Kowloon City Ferry Pier, not too far from the former downtown airport, which had been closed for many years.

The route to Tsuen Wan in the north-west of Kowloon is then peppered with some challenges, because the general one-way regulation repeatedly forces me to take detours. At a crossroads of several expressways in Cheung Shan, which are of course off-limits to cyclists, I can only get a long way further in my direction. The Lai King Hill Road that follows a little later bears its name rightly and after the short but arduous climb I have a small overview of the streets in this corner of Hong Kong, which are arranged completely irregular.

Later in Kwai Chung I have to climb a hill again before I reach my hotel, which is unfortunately located in a mixed commercial and residential area, opposite a larger construction site. But it is not a problem to get a room that looks in the opposite direction, but windows cannot even be opened. The room is significantly larger than my first one at the other end of town, and here even the bike fits between the window and the bed.