On Tuesday we grab a taxi after many negotiations with other taxi drivers in order to get to the hotel where we will spend our time in Phuket - the Phuket Bike Resort. It turns out the hotel is pretty new and the taxi driver has to stop and ask directions once and then drags me into a post office to finalize the location of the hotel. But we arrive safely after the adventure to a very nice two bedroom suite. After checking the place out Karl and I borrow bicycles from the hotel and ride down to have lunch and to rent real bicycles from a shop that we found on the Internet. The owner is a triathlete and has the Bangkok triathlon coming up next month. We select our bicycles and the owner agrees to deliver them to our hotel because he says, "When I first saw you riding that borrowed bicycle I thought it was your son's bicycle".
The bicycles are delivered to our hotel later in the day and Karl and I start for a ride at 5pm. We start heading west towards the water. There are some very steep hills and even in the lowest gear I actually have to stop and walk the bike twice during the ride. Pick a reason: I'm old, I'm overweight, I'm slow, I haven't trained on hills for a while, or I've been a bit sick on this trip. Either one, I am happy and excited to be on the bicycle even if it is hard work. We end up making a long loop and stopping for dinner at a boutique restaurant wit great food. It's already dark and we're riding along and stop again for more water and over night supplies, and end up pulling into the hotel parking lot near 9 pm. Their are no attendants at all at the hotel, all of the front desk drawers are open and empty, and nobody is to be found. We assume that the workers abandon the place at a certain time and leave everything open to visibly show that there is nothing to steal. We have magnetic key cards for one door and a hard key for another, so security for guests is still pretty good even if no staff are present.
On Wednesday Karl and I start carrying our bicycles out of the hotel and there is a guy taking pictures of us. When we get them out the front door and are ready to roll off, he stops us and asks if he can take pictures of us standing next to our bicycles in front of the hotel. It turns out he is the architect/owner of the hotel. I don't know if he was queued in by the staff that two foreigners with bicycles were staying at his hotel or if it was a random visit, but he says he visits his facility twice a week. We tell him that we love the hotel (except for the taxi drivers not knowing where it is). Good luck to him on this and future endeavors.
We start out riding south and make good time on the main roads. We come to the end of the line at a number of points and backtrack and ask directions and probably zigzag our way around. But we make it down to Cape Penwa near the southern tip of Phuket Island. Getting there was easy and we get more lost on the way home. But we eventually make it back to the hotel after about 45 miles of riding on mountain bicycles in 95 degree heat, up and down hills and through all sorts of fun scenery. Needless to say we are both spent when we get back to the hotel.
On Wednesday night Karl and I walk to a restaurant about a mile from the hotel and have a nice Thai dinner. We get all that we want to eat the the bill comes in at $12 total for both of us. On the way home we stop at a convenience store and get ice cream bars that have been advertised a lot lately. They are really good!
On Thursday Karl and I start off on the bicycles to make a grand loop. When we get to one of the turn points Karl is feeling ill so we find a bathroom for him. We make an alternate plan that involves turning around, getting some western food (pizza), and then going back to the hotel to relax a bit. After he's eaten, Karl is feeling better so we bypass the hotel and start in on an alternate loop to take us near the water. The plan is going well and we're seeing good sites when Karl is struck by a flat rear tire on his rental bicycle. (Recall last time in Hua Hin it was my rental bicycle that had the flat tire.) We're way far away from civilization at this point so the option of walking home with a flat tire is very unappealing. We stop in at a motorcycle repair shop but the guy says that he cannot help us with a bicycle tire. So I tell Karl we're going to stand by the side of the road and flag down a truck or something and get a ride to the Heroine Monument. From there, we recall that there is a bicycle shop a short distance away. Within a minute of formulating the plan and standing in the road with my hand outstretched, a driver in a truck stops, helps us loads the bicycles in the back, and drives us to Heroine Monument. He is going much farther than that, but he drops us off here. We give him 100 baht (about $3) and he thanks us and drives off. Sure enough the bicycle shop is close to Heroine Monument and within a few minutes the lady working at the shop has us fixed up and on our way. By now we're both a bit spooked, so we ride back to the hotel with a quick side trip to see a pagoda. We only get in about 25 miles of riding today.
After relaxing in the hotel and starting to watch the movie Argo, we get back on the bicycles and have a liesurely ride in the dark to a mall where there is a wide variety of food to select from (for dinner). We take our time with dinner and on the ride back home we stop in at a local market and walk through it and check out the live music being played. But we only stay for a few minutes before we get back on the bicycles and ride home among the crickets chirping, the frogs riveting, and other strange noises in the dark.
Friday is a lazy transit day. After returning the rented bicycles to the owner, we take a taxi to the Phuket airport, wait around the airport and grab lunch, and then fly to Bangkok. At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport we catch the citylink train. Since it is Friday at rush hour the train completely fills up and we have to push and shove and "excuse me" and "khor tot krup" our way out of the train at our stop. We walk over to the subway and take it one stop. In hindsight I got confused by the names and we should have taken it three stops. But we grab a taxi the rest of the way. Later in the evening we go find a vegetarian Indian restaurant that is very good.
Saturday starts slowly also. I think that I am ready to go home and Karl is just waiting for his friend P to visit. After breakfast we go shopping for souvenirs and other small supplies, get in a workout at the hotel's spartan, but semi-usefull, fitness center, and then relax. P comes to visit and after a while the three of us go to a great Thai buffet. Afterwards Karl and P go to a show of Thai dancers while I walk back to the underground station and try to meet up with a friend from a few years ago.
I sit at the street level of the open bar for a while nursing a Sprite. Soon the bar starts to fill up and my friend, Chakgai, comes to the next table to greet people. Wile he is there he sees me and recognizes me immediately even though it has been 4 or 5 years since we last saw each other. We have a brief conversation and he has other duties tonight at the bar, so we just have a series of small conversations. At this bar it is high school night tonight, so many patrons dress up in the Thai high school boy and high school girl uniforms - and that makes it fun. Eventually I beg off and head for home via the skytrain.
Sunday is a slow day. Karl and P and I have breakfast and then we see P off to the skytrain for her trip back to her home. I buy some souvenirs and Karl and I sit and watch people and just talk about circumstances and our last day in Thailand for a while. Eventually we go back to the hotel and get our luggage and take the skytrain and city link train to the airport and a complimentary shuttle to a small, cheap hotel.
Monday is a travel day that starts at 3 am to catch a 6 am flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. When I get to Tokyo I answer some email and update web pages and then catch the flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles. I've tried to time sleeping on the two flights to coincide with Los Angeles time but sleep does not come (even though I took some Kava root extract). Nonetheless I get to Los Angeles airport and breeze through immigration, baggage retireval, and customs - this is the fastest it has ever gone. I then catch a bus, two trains, and another bus to home.
When I arrive at home I do some unpacking, do a quick pass through the accumulated mail, and then get out on the mountain bicycle to ride to the aquarium and back. It is a hot day but it feels great to be on my own bicycle again. I then edge and mow the front yard and take a shower to cool off. Later I walk to the grocery store for supplies for a couple of days and then relax with a recorded MotoGP race and sorting through the mail. I've been awake for 31 straight hours, crossed 14 time zones, crossed the international dateline, gone cycling, and mowed the lawn - I expect to sleep well tonight. But I don't. Sleep comes in sporadic spurts until the alarm goes off at 5:15 am to go to work.