Hello from Singapore,
Our apologies for not writing in a fairly long time but the lack of a reliable Internet connection has forced us into silence.
We will be terminating the trip in Singapore along with about 140 other riders as we are not willing to pay the ransom demanded by Tim Kneeland the organizer (a term used loosely). There are 57 willing to pay the ransom, 21 of who received either grants or loans for the ransom.
Enough of our problems.
Patong beach, layover
We are still trying to figure out why we would spend 21/2 days in the gay, lesbian capital of Thailand and 1/2 of a day in Paris? The organizer and his significant other thought Patong beach was a real cool place! By the end of our stay we had had enough of the stalls selling junk, the tailors pulling you in from the street to sell you a suit and the ladies (we think) of the evening soliciting customers.
Patong beach to Krabi, 180kms
What was originally billed as a 24km day turned into a 180km marathon was the organizer had failed to book the ferry as indicated on the original itinerary and was then unwilling to pay $US 15 per person, this resulted in an extremely long day.
Following an early morning breakfast in order to get an early start on what was to be an extremely hot and humid day we were off and running. The problem with Patong beach is that it is in a hollow and all roads out are up hill. At the end of the first long and steep climb we passed many a rider who had been relieved of their breakfast and were in dire need of a ride.
The day's ride took us by numerous rubber plantations where we saw the very old and labor-intensive harvesting process under way. What looked like extremely large pancakes draped over horizontal poles turned out to be sheets of latex rubber drying in the sun.
Along the way we were greeted by the happy and smiling locals who had obviously never seen a tandem, the laughs and snickers that followed our passage are becoming the usual response.
The day was as billed hot +30C, humid and hilly, by km 95 it had taken its toll and we were forced into seeking a bus ride, our body temperatures were in the critical range and we did not feel we wanted to push ourselves into heat stroke, once in hospital was enough!
We arrived in Krabi to find out we had two hotels and as is usually the case we found ourselves in the shabbier of the two, our lungs are having trouble coping with mold, mildew and dirt. Since we did not feel like trudging back to the other hotel for dinner we decided on burger and fries with our friends.
Krabi to Trang, 132km
Following a breakfast of cold fried eggs and toast we decided on a van for the day as Mary was still suffering from the previous days heat. We arrived in town to a nice hotel received orchid lays on check in then decided to get our exercise walking around town. Dinner was an excellent buffet complete with western and Thai food, a word to the wise do not eat the small green chills unless you have a death wish!!!!!!!
Trang to Hat Yai, 162km
Following a nice breakfast it was off again for an early morning start to try and avoid the heat. The weather was cooperative in that it poured rain on more than one occasion thus keeping the heat somewhat bearable, the only problem was when the sun did come out the humidity level rose to an unbearable level.
Once again many, many rubber trees and great people, we stopped at a little stall for cokes and water and the lady brought out a basket of bananas for us to eat and would not take any money for them, just one of the many super experiences we have had this year and this from people with little extra to offer.
Arrived at the hotel which was ok, dinner was good.
Hat Yai to Yala, 156kms
We awoke to rain, rain and more rain so being the ever-dedicated cyclists we opted to take a day off and ride the van. This was a wise decision as the continued exposure to mold, mildew etc. was taking its toll on Dave's respiratory tract.
Tonight's hotel was somewhat damp and mildew smelling which seems to be the standard fare in these climates; some rooms so bad the walls were black. It looked like it had been built using an old Hyatt blueprint and based on the lack of tourists was definitely overbuilt.
The dinner was ok with the local government officials providing entertainment along with members of the local bike club. The gentleman that has been helping TK&A pull together Thailand and Malaysia is well connected and able to get officials to come out and meet the group.
Yala to Narathiwate, 106km,
Woke up to a torrential downpour so along with a number of others we once again opted to keep dry in the van. We arrived at a beautiful hotel where the Queen of Thailand spends a couple of months every year, since it is monsoon season in Thailand and Malaysia not to many tourists.
Mary along with a number of others went to a local batik factory to see how it is made and to buy some if so moved, thankfully Mary was not so moved but she did enjoy the process and the labor involved in making the finished product.
As we arrived for what was to be an excellent dinner we were met by members of a couple of local bike clubs who had just heard about our arrival and decided to come out and say hello. This gave me an opportunity to give a couple of people a ride on the back of the tandem, had to call it quits as we would have been there all night as everyone wanted to try out the big bike.
Narathwaite to Khoto Bharu, Malaysia, 70km
Following a nice breakfast it was off for what was going to turn out to be a longer than necessary day. The weather started out cloudy but turned sunny by the time we reached the ferry. This was regrettable, as we had to stand in the heat for about two hours trying to get processed through an immigration office used to handling a few locals every day not a swarm of yellow helmeted western bicycle riders. What was more frustrating was to find out a few miles down the road the officials along with a welcoming committee were waiting to speed our entry into Malaysia. Had a little talk with one of the officials and they were somewhat upset that we did not show up where expected.
The hotel in Khoto Bharu was a new hotel that had opened up about a month before and we had three to a room, as we have done in the past we split up three couples and then buy an extra room so as to ensure each couple has a private room, as the manager told me a bedroom is a bedroom and was not meant to be shared.
The dinner was excellent and as has been the standard we had local entertainment and a welcome from the state officials.
Khoto Bharu to Mersang 139kms
Following a very nice breakfast it was off for a flat ride through the Malaysian countryside. The welcome to Malaysia committee were waiting for us at checkpoint and they put on an excellent spread.
We arrived at the next two evenings accommodations, a beach resort called Sutra Beach Resort. Since it is the monsoon season we are staying in nicer spots albeit it moldy and musty. It was very frustrating for us as the wait for a room was anywhere from 3 to 7 hours, with the last folks getting settled around 9:30PM. Some were assigned three to a room with the third person asked to sleep on narrow cushions on a window ledge.
After our arrival the skis opened and luckily stopped before dinner. The dinner was ok for the carnivores but rather dismal for the vegetarians in our midst.
Mersang, layover day,
The Malaysian tourism office provided buses and tour guides for a daylong tour of the museum, batik factory and local markets. The museum is housed in a beautiful building but does need a good curator to set up the displays for maximum impact.
The weather was extremely hot and we were blessed with no rain at least until we arrived back at the resort, the skis then opened up and stayed that way for most of the night.
Mersang to Kyal, 170km
Following a nice breakfast it was off for a rainy ride along flat coastal roads. The fields were flooded and looked more like rice patties than anything else.
We opted to be picked up by the bus at 101km's as we were drenched, dirty and demoralized (3-D's) To say we were pleased with our evenings accommodations would be an understatement as we were at the Awana Beach Resort, built like a cruise ship with service to match. To put these accommodations in perspective the rate for a room per night including breakfast is about $US 35.
The dinner was great and we were showered with rose petals and had the drums sounded as we climbed the stairs a real nice touch. The management from the hotel was extremely accommodating and extended to us a very warm welcome, perhaps our trip organizer should take lessons.
We had a 50th birthday party for Helen Hammer one of the people we have made friends with this year. The room was a little crowded with 20+ people but everyone had a good time.
Kyal to Kuantan, 95km
We awoke to rain like we have never before in our lives experienced, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth we decided we would bicycle on and leave most of the others in our bus to enjoy an extra day in paradise. The rain never let up for the full time and once again we arrived at the hotel the victims of 3D, damp, dirty and demoralized, we waited for two hours to get a room and decided on waiting outdoors as the air conditioning was turned down so much that we were freezing. The hotel was nice.
There was one crash and a number of bent rims as some of the riders pedaled into craters hidden by flooding on the roads. The potential for disaster caused us to be extremely careful.
We were pleased and surprised to get a call from a former business colleague who asked us to join him for dinner. This turned out to be a very nice evening with a meal at a local seafood restaurant that prepared food minus the usual hot spices if so desired, Mary's stomach was eternally thankful.
While we were eating the rains started and were so intense that the noise of the rain drowned out normal table talk, the drive back to the hotel was on flooded streets and through puddles deeper than I would care to venture in my car. Kuantan to Kuala Rompin, 138km
Following a nice breakfast we decided to wait for the bus as the cold that Mary and I had been cultivating got worse with the rain and air conditioning.
The weather was on and off rain for the day and when we passed a checkpoint where it was not supposed to be we knew we had another change in store, even the staff knew nothing of the change when they started out in the morning. The group was now situated in two hotels some 10km's apart with four to a room in one and in our case we had three couples sharing a chalet, we were lucky. The only down side was we were also staying at a resort where the mosquitoes were holding a convention and they decided my hide was the evenings feeding grounds. At last count I hold the record for bites.
We opted to eat at the resort and forgo the 10km van ride to dinner in the pouring rain.
Kuala Rompin to Desaru, 220km
After an ok breakfast it was off for a bus ride as the rains were still falling and the colds had not improved. We were originally to have gone a shorter distance stopping in Mersing but this was changed at the last minute, TK&A offered a bus bail out at 130km's which most took. We stopped at the original hotel to wait for riders boarding our bus and a discussion with the hotel manager revealed he knew nothing of our intention to ever stay at his facility, does beg the question.
The beach resort in Desaru was very nice and most were put up two to a room, which was a pleasant surprise. The dinner was good and once again we had local entertainment.
Desaru to Singapore, 40km
We awoke to the sound of pouring rain, which thankfully stopped before we boarded our bike for the ride into Singapore. The road was hilly and as we rode on the sun came out making for a very warm and humid ride. The immigration process went reasonably well and the ferry crossing was a pleasant 45 minutes.
The ride from the ferry to the hotel was about 5km along flat tree lined roads with a nice cooling breeze, the best kind of welcome to a new country.
The Le Meridien hotel is a nice facility and we are housed two to a room a pleasant surprise as the route guides called for three to a room.
We will be staying in Singapore for a few days before heading home and we will provide you with an update of the farewell dinner planned for the group.
All things being equal we plan on being home the evening of 30th Nov. I would like to emphasize this is not our choice but that of the organizer who is failing to honor the contract unless we are willing to meet his demands for additional funds.
Please stay tuned for our next installment.
Dave & Mary