August 14th, 2006

Day 21: Half-way across a large island on bicycles

I am v. tired today. Mateo and I woke up around 10 am and rented some bicycles to head to Haat Rin on the other side of the island. Haat Rin is the place the fabled Full Moon Parties are held, so we wanted to see the super tourist zone of the island before we leave tomorrow.

We found a place with two bicycles, but it was tough. Most places only rent motorbikes. No one except young children on the island ride bicycles. We even saw junior high school kids riding motorbikes throughout the day. The place we rented from had to drive to another part of town to find a second bicycle for us to use. When the women renting us the bikes pulled up on the bicycle she looked very embarrassed to be riding it, like it was only for children.

We paid for the day and hopped on the bikes and headed off down the road towards the port. After about 40 minutes of cycling we reached the port, parked our bikes and wandered around town. We went into a nice CD shop selling nice-quality copied CDs for 100 baht each, and when you buy ten you get one for free. It was the largest selection of CDs I had seen so far and was seriously tempted to get some, but I restrained myself this time. My big expense this trip is going to be my custom-tailored suit. I can get cheap CDs elsewhere.

After having a light lunch and buying our boat and bus tickets to Bangkok for tomorrow we climbed onto our bikes and headed to the direction of Haat Rin. The small tourist map we have says that the road to Haat Rin was about 14 km away with a short-looking uphill part right before the town.

It was a very nice and relaxing ride, very flat and by the sea most of the way. ...Until the last 3 km. With three kilometers to go the road shot up and a 20% incline for about 100 meters. Then it went down at a 20% incline for about 100 meters. This happened about five or six times before we reached the town center. At about the second downhill part I discovered that neither my front nor back brake functioned. This made downhill sections, for the most part, extremely scary. There was a couple that had steep uphill sections right after the downhill parts. Those ones were fun, but most of the downhill sections were followed by some flatness or sharp turns. This meant that for most of the downhill parts, and almost all of the 15% to 20% uphill grades we walked our bikes. Walking with a bicycle up a 20% grade hill is not too much fun, but it wasn’t the end of the world either.

By the time we got to Haat Rin I was soaked to the bone in sweat and dead tired. Mateo was tired as well, but he cycled often in Japan and was much better at handling the hills than I was. I was amazed that he didn’t have any sweat on him at all. I suppose some people are just like that. I am quite envious really. Sweating isn’t really the coolest thing ever.

We got into the town and I was in a dizzy, so we went into the 7-Eleven to get a Gatorade, but they didn’t have any, so I got a Slurpee instead. That seemed to help a lot and I was able to relax some after that. We looked around at the shops a little, but Haat Rin is extremely unremarkable. It is very similar to the little streets of shops in Koh Tao and other places we have visited. One up-note is that we got to watch some “Friends” while we ate a little something before heading back.

We considered the idea of putting our bikes on a pickup and ride back to the port from Haat Rin to avoid all the horrendous hills, but that would have cost us as much as renting a motorbike for the day, so we opted to take the hell-hills back to our guesthouse.

On our way back we saw a huge field of discarded coconuts. Koh Phangan and Koh Samui are huge exporters of coconuts. Together they ship out over one-million coconuts a year all over the world. The discarded coconut field reminded us of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, where the Khmer Rogue executed millions of people from 1975-1979. It was very picture-worthy, so we staged our shot-of-the-day at the infamous Coconut Fields of Koh Phangan.

We got back to our guesthouse after dark. Our bikes don’t have lights on them, so the ride back was a bit dangerous, but we made it without a scrap. Although my rear-end is very sore, I think I will sleep well tonight.

Until next time, take care.

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