Tuesday 3 April, 2018
Day 6 / Ban Phe to Chanthaburi
[Missed Day 5? Read the previous post here]
We make an early start at 6:30am and decide to stay off the highways today and take the coastal roads instead. It’s a bit more navigating but ends up being a much more enjoyable day of cycling, not to mention less traffic and fumes. We take regular stops along the way, cross a few bridges and it’s nice to see the water and feel a bit of breeze.
At one point we make a wrong turn and end up on the coast (you can see it on the Garmin map below). Luckily it’s only a few kms, but the bad news is we have to cycle uphill to get back on track.
It starts to get busier as we navigate our way to the centre of Chanthaburi. I had pre-booked a hotel online as it’s usually a bit harder trying to find a good place when you have more choice in a bigger town. I wanted to make sure we had both air con and a fridge as they prove handy in the heat. I also chose this particular hotel because it was close to the markets and a vegan restaurant.
We find the hotel with ease and check in. We’re both feeling pretty sweaty and filthy from the long ride but decide to head straight out for a feed else we’ll end up procrastinating in the hotel room for longer than we should. Cheye is also feeling pretty wrecked as he has run out of water so we buy some at the hotel reception before we head out.
We make a few wrong turns before finding the vegan place as it’s down a winding alley way. We initially walk through someone’s backyard before we find it…. this tends to happens a lot more than you think!
The vegan place is quiet and has two other people eating there alone. It’s buffet style with the choice of about 6 different dishes in the display. You can either order by the bowl or get a plate with two choices and rice. We each get a plate and Cheye also wants some dumplings he sees sitting on the counter. The lady signals that the dumplings are part of a soup dish and can’t be purchased separately so we stick with our plates. We sit down by the TV playing some Thai drama.
The food is delicious, especially the eggplant dish. The shredded ginger, not so much (I thought it was bamboo). We both finish our meals pretty quickly and are still hungry (what else is new?!) so Cheye goes back for another plate. He comes back with a bowl of dumpling soup – the one the lady pointed out earlier – and it ends up being the best thing we eat on the entire trip. I don’t know what they put in that soup but the flavours are amazing and unlike anything I’ve tasted in Thailand or South East Asia.
We spot the lady sitting in the table next to us has ordered a shaved ice dessert, so of course we decide to get one too. We watch as the lady crushes the ice, adds our chosen flavourings (I choose grass jelly, sago bits and cubes of some orange fruit or vegetable). She tops it with syrup and a dash of condensed milk and we set off back into the heat.
The ice is so good while walking in the sun. We’re still all sweaty from our cycle earlier and still in our bike clothes but for a moment we disappear into a void of cold, sugary, icy heaven. And then I discover the orange cubes are sweet potato. Interesting choice for a shaved ice!
We decide to shower and wash our clothes as we have a balcony to hang everything out to dry today. We switch between watching bad Thai drama shows and bad Thai reality singing shows on the TV. It’s nice to finally relax for a bit before our stomachs start demanding food again.
As the sun starts to set we head to the markets and have a browse to see what’s on offer for dinner. The place is buzzing! We notice motorbikes everywhere. The entire marketplace is like one giant drive through for people on their bikes. In fact, people don’t even get off their bikes to buy things – they just ride up alongside a shop front, order and then take off! We see a guy at a stall purchasing some jack fruit. Some buy noodles and hot dishes for dinner while others buy cold drinks and shakes. It’s no wonder they put all the drinks in bags and plastic holders – so people can carry them as they drive home on their motorbikes.
There are a few places with vegetarian dishes but I like the look of one particular food truck cooking up fresh fried rice. It looks like all the dishes on the menu have seafood but I pull out my trusty translation and ask them to make a vegetarian one for us. The woman is a bit confused and shows the translation to another customer who says “You want rice and vegetables?” I say yes, and she translates for the shop owner who almost giggles at our request. We watch as they frantically throw together all the orders and once our rice is ready, so we pay and wander off.
Even though it seems everyone is buying their dinner to take home, we decide to sit on the kerb and eat outside. Cheye also buys a coconut juice and we sit outside a closed shop front so were not in people’s way. The rice is great and of course we’re still hungry so we set off to hunt for more food. We pass by a bakery stand and pick up some raisin bread for later. I also spot a stand making huge amounts of Pad Thai so we grab one of those to. Cheye picks up some banana pancakes, I get some pineapple and we head back to the hotel.
I get right into the Pad Thai (eaten from the paper it’s wrapped in) and Cheye dives into his pancakes. I also decide to have some of the raisin bread and discover it’s stuffed with pork floss. Raisin bread with pork floss? Talk about fusion food! We also discover this this isn’t the last time we get pork floss in our supposed vegetarian bread. Nope, SE Asia LOVES their pork floss! I just feel a bit weird asking shop staff if their raisin bread contains meat in it…
Distance cycled: 95km, including our wrong turn (coastal roads, mostly flat)
Time cycled: 4hr 45min
Accommodation: Hop Inn Hotel (700 baht)
Lunch: Local Vegan Restaurant
Dinner: Chanthaburi Night Market