This afternoon was our first solo attempt at biking into town with no pre-arranged lodging. It’s a bit of a gamble, but we needed to practice before an actual emergency forces us to pitch a tent at a temple or a police station. (Yes, those are both camping possibilities that I’m hoping to NEVER use.)
Today’s destination, Sichon, appeared to be an easy 60 km ride from Nakon Si Thammarat. Yes, the roads were flat. Yes, there was a great, wide bicycle/motorcycle lane. Yes, we started with a good breakfast of chicken porridge, a cute egg poached in the shape of a heart, and a cup of Starbucks instant coffee. (I admit that Via Italian Roast has been one treat I’ve been giving myself. I don’t expect hot running water in hotels. I know there won’t be toilet paper. I know the bed will feel like sheets stretched over a piece of plywood. So a girl needs to pamper herself a little. Therefore,each morning, rather than choke down the hotel-provided “3 in 1”- instant coffee, creamer, and lots of sugar in one pack – I sneak out my foil pouch, pour it into hot water when I hope nobody’s looking, and carry the empty pouch to my room so I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.)
But, back to “yesses”. The biggest “yes” of today was that we had sunshine. Lots of it. Baking hot, fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot, mirage- making hot, cook-your-brain- in-your-helmut hot. By 11:00 Eric wanted to stop and take a nap in the shade. By 12:00 we’d consumed 4 liters of water, 2 iced coffees, 1 iced green tea, an iced lemon tea, and a hot espresso, but that was consumed in a air-conditioned coffee shop at a gas station so that doesn’t count.
Pushing on to about 10 km from Sichon we left the main road and took the more scenic, cooler coastal route. We hoped to find a cute guest house, hotel, resort, or B & B along the scenic Gulf of Thailand. We’d already talked about going for a swim, cooling our burning thighs and brains, reading a book with gentle waves lapping at our feet.
What we hadn’t taken into account was the Thailand school holiday. Sure enough, we cycled up and down hot little beach lanes only to find everything was full: a Chinese wedding, a school camp with students grouped by matching t-shirts: red, blue, yellow, pink, and families enjoying the more relaxing pace while their children splash in the pool or sea.
Cycling another painful 5 km along the coast and up a steep hill (even 50 meters of incline can zap any remaining energy, just ask Eric…) and into Sichon. We still had no room for the night.
Thank goodness Eric said he couldn’t go any longer and needed an ice cream. It was our good fortune that just at that moment we found a mini market . Better yet, the mini market owner spoke a little English. His daughter is studying to be a doctor in Australia. After striking up a conversation, we inquired about hotels.
He said what sounded to me like Silom and pointed straight and then left. I even found Sai Lom on Google Maps. Great, I thought.
Then he mentioned that he had a home stay and would I like to look. Sure, I replied, and followed him to a row of houses behind the store.
He opened the door to a lonely little vacant house. When I mean vacant I mean no furniture, plenty of cob webs, and a pool of large dead bugs on the floor.
I politely said thank you very much but I need a bed. But, if I can’t find a bed, I’ll be back. I smiled and thanked him profusely.
Off we cycled to find the Silom. Google Maps pointed me to a marker. We road past the marker. I looked. I didn’t see anything that resembled a hotel. I re-entered the destination. Eric and I stopped again on the dusty, baking hot shoulder of the road with cars whizzing past, and consulted the map again.
Just then a grinning, toothless Thai man wearing the traditional long, plaid skirt (a sorong maybe?) and riding on a small white motor scooter starting pointed behind us and talked rapidly in Thai. I was pretty sure he was explaining where the hotel was located.
We followed him as he led to the exact dot on Google Maps and then down a small dirt motorcycle path. We pulled up to a row of bungalows hidden by overgrown palm trees, grass covered cobblestones, and an empty reception area. Of course, I wouldn’t know if it’s a reception area because I can’t read Thai but it had some words on the door.
Our friendly, toothless leader hollered a string of words and starting walking down the path. Then an tiny older woman carrying a laundry basket and wearing a wide-brimmed wide hat walked slowly towards us. At first I thought she might be the housekeeper but after watching scooter man and her talk in Thai, it became apparent that she is the owner.
I put my hands over my eyebrows with the universal sign of “Can I see the room?” (I just made that part up about an hand over the eyes being universal, but it did convey the message.)
She led me back down the lane, me pushing my bike, my Shimano pedal cleats clicking and scratching the sandy pebbles with each step. Approaching the first bungalow, she gingerly removed her shoes and stepped onto the granite porch. At this point I’d already decided we’d take it as long as there were no snakes or giant spiders hanging from the ceiling.
I clumsily stepped out of my smell-worse-than-well-used-soccer-cleats-after-a-rain biking shoes to inspect the room.
I was immediately charmed: a teak door, antique teak bed, air-conditioning (a big plus), hot water for the shower (a really big plus) and a granite stool and vanity counter for applying make-up or, in our case, charging our electronics.
An added bonus is the clothes line outside for drying our sink-laundered clothes as well as two-day-wet, hotel laundered clothes.
And the best part….$16 for the night!
So, I guess we built our confidence today by successfully finding a bed for the night.
N.B. It took me a while to realize why I couldn’t find the hotel. The name may sound like Silom when pronounced and read Sia Lom on Google Maps, but the name on the outside of the hotel is written in Thai which look more like curlicues and Christian fishes so I can’t read a thing.