There is a downside to cycling in sunny climes; it can play havoc with your hair. After a few weeks on two wheels through France my hair turned a kind of orange colour which necessitated an emergency visit to a hairdresser in Bescancon before we headed to my sister in law's wedding in Italy. Organising a coiffure there, with my command of the native tongue, was a breeze. But when the need arose again a couple of months later in Budapest the interaction between the hairdresser and I reminded me of the Portugese girl and Colin Firth in “Love Actually” with lots of gesticulating and smiling between us as I tried to convey, without any Hungarian, how I wanted my hair done. All I could do was smile some more as I awaited the outcome. Silently hoping that I wouldn't end up looking like Medussa. It all turned out okay in the end. The colour was a bit darker than I would have normally gone but, overall, it really wasn't bad. After several weeks under the blistering heat of Malaysia and Thailand and the strange appearance of some alien white strands (the oddest thing – I've no idea what they were - especially considering both Phil and I are Benjamin Button parents who are only growing younger according to Luca – will explain that one further anon) my hair was once again in dire need of some TLC . Unable to continue caching my increasingly straw like locks under turbans or bandanas anymore, I took advantage of a monsoon marooned afternoon in Chumpon when Phil was attending to the blog and Luca snoozed to find a hairdresser. This time I went prepared. I Google translated “I would like to have my hair coloured chestnut brown” from English into Thai, copied and pasted the translation and texted it to myself. Despite the 30 mins or so of trepidation as I waited for the colour to “take”, my text technique worked a treat and my hair turned out as requested. A trim was thrown in too – all for the equivalent of 500 baht or €11.00. And those alien white beings were banished. Isn't the internet just a wondrous thing? Just to explain the Benjamin Button reference we often talk to Luca about what he can do when he is older or “when he is a man” that he isn't allowed do now. You know things like drinking vodka and 7-Up. :) Anyway he, in turn, has taken to telling both Phil and I how he will look after us when I am a little girl and Phil a little boy. He will carry me and he will bring Phil on his bike seat. So sweet.

The monsoon weather worsening and time running (out) on our Thai Visa's we made the decision to get ourselves up to Bangkok post haste by combining cycling with rail travel. And so it was that my chestnut tresses and I, Luca, Phil and our bikes boarded the cargo train at 8pm in Chumpon bound for Hua Hin. The lateness of the hour wasn't ideal but it was the only train we could take with our bikes. The five hour train journey which ensued was possibly one of the most uncomfortable but exhilirating ones I have ever had. The Orient Express it was not but it was a unique oriental experience. The train was teeming, literally teeming with people of all ages; sitting, standing and lying down on every precious inch of space. We were, all three, squeezed onto the end of a tiny bench seat which we shared with four others and were stared at, relentlessly, but good humouredly for the whole journey. Luca ended up lying across our knees and, eventually, managed to sleep despite the din. Food and drink vendors boarded at stations along the way and fought their way thought the crowded carriages literally singing their wares. Some of the vendors stopped to laugh and to point “farang”, or foreigner, at us but again it really was all meant kindly. We think? We were openly discussed. In Thai. To the amusement of all of the passengers. All you could do was smile. And we did. The disembarkation of the train was not quite so pleasant an experience. Our bikes were in the cargo carriage about eleven long carriages away and we came upon our non-terminus station suddenly. We had to jump off and run down the eleven carriages to get to them and our gear once the train stopped. But no sooner had we jumped off than the train started moving again. Our bikes on it. In the end it all worked out as the train did, eventually, halt again but with barely enough time to unload our bikes and gear in the dark and in between train tracks with another train, travelling from the other direction, screeching to a halt alongside. We knew we'd been arriving at quite an ungodly hour in Hua Hin so we had pre-booked a hotel close to the train station which had a 24 hour reception to where we all made our way and slept soundly. Hua Hin is a nice seaside town and we enjoyed some beachside cycling there exploring the next day. But there was a “hostess bar” side to it too which revealed itself when darkness fell and we went in search of somewhere to eat. We had never really come across that side of Thailand before in our travels here, actually, and it was evident again as we cycled on the next day to Cha-am. Well, at least I think it was. We cycled by a building signposted “Laplage” with posters of beautiful and scantily clad women outside which was either a place named after a kind of misspelling (or rather conjoining) of the French for “the beach” or, well, a pun on something else entirely if you get my drift. Hmmmmm.

We arrived in Cha-am on Friday evening literally just before the cloud filled sky lit up and the heavens opened. Again we had booked our night's accommodation ahead of time as we'd heard that this town was a very popular weekend destination with Thais. We were able to enjoy the sight of the natives arriving in their droves for the weekend laden down with boxes of their favourite tipple, whiskey, from the dry vantage point of our balcony. The three of us had an early and quiet night and set off on our bikes for Phetchaburi after breakfast while whiskey drinking was still being enjoyed by the revellers. We set off at great speed and made great progress on the Highway, determined to beat the bad weather which threatened but were feeling suddenly felled after 25 kilometres and in need of a cold water or soft drink and agreed to stop at the next place we saw. Which was, as it turned out when we went inside, a karaoke bar where the owner and his pals were, well, drinking whiskey. Again we were discussed at length but good humouredly by the locals who tried to get Luca to do some karaoke. It was all quite odd but in a good way. We made good time for the remainder of the journey, again on the Highway, and reached our hotel in Phetchaburi within seconds of the heavens opening. We'd read that Petchaburi promised a taste of Old Siam. And we were impressed by the vast number of Wat's, or temples, there when we explored it yesterday afternoon and evening. But also by the vast population of stray, wild dogs. My dog Dazer proved to be as handy when we were exploring on two legs as well as on two wheels here. It doesn't hurt the dogs at all it just emits a shrill sound which we can't hear but dogs can and it tends to stop dogs who begin to chase you in their tracks. We got another taste of Old Siam today at Khao Wang, or Palace Hill, which we took the cable car up to and where we explored King Mongkut's palace. Along with the Thai tourists and lots of cheeky monkeys who were fearless in swiping food and drinks from people. Thankfully, unlike the dogs roaming Phetchaburi, the monkeys left us alone. We were especially grateful since the signage “For the Tourists” as you board the cable cars notified us that if we had “accident with the monkeys.. the cadle (sic) car cannot invoke to you”.

We're off to Bangkok tomorrow on a lunchtime train. Cycling into Bangkok is supposed to be suicidal. We're looking forward to Bangkok but I keep hearing that song from the 80's ringing in my ears “A night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble...”. You know the one? Am excited, but also bracing myself for the madness.


At May 15, 2011 at 4:11 PM Roger said...

Those funny white hairs seem to be attacking Luca's Grandparents too!! Hope you have a wonderful time in Bangkok. YaYa Rog

At May 15, 2011 at 5:15 PM Anonymous said...

Just read your Irish Times article. Inspiring! Good luck on your travels. You're missing nothing back here.


At May 15, 2011 at 5:29 PM Niamh said...

hi Linda Phil and Luca ,

What adventures !
The IT article was amazing -well done to you and photographer Phil.
Riding out the recession is a dream .

This blog had me wriggling in my seat with enthuasiam .
Take care in Bangkok but after all you have been through I think it will be plain sailing ,or should I say plain peddling .

Lots of love Niamh xxx

At May 15, 2011 at 5:35 PM Frances said...

Mum/Mrs P says ;

I am very proud of the splendid article in the IT yesterday.
I felt it was very well written and gave us an insight into you cycling adventures, which were not always easy but brought some valuable rewards.
I enjoyed speaking with you Luca and Phil on Skype and am pleased see you all looking so well .Take Care.
I have enjoyed my weeks respite in Oxforshire.
Lots of love Ggrandma

At May 15, 2011 at 5:42 PM Hugo Kendall said...

Hello, Thank you for your text Auntie Linda! Was meant to reply but fell asleep as i was in bed! I'm so glad that you guys are having so much fun! Missing you all alot, love HQ xxx

At May 16, 2011 at 3:58 AM Linda de Paor said...


We've had an overwhelming response to yesterday's Irish Times travel supplement piece. THANK YOU all so very much family, friends and Irish Time's readers for the much appreciated feedback we've received in the form of comments, texts, tweets, facebook messages and emails. We will respond in full once we are back in WiFi which we have not had for the last couple of days to our frustration in light of the weekend that was in it in particular. We've only been able to get online for about 30 minutes today which wasn't sufficient time to even read all of the communications we've received. Bangkok, which we hit tomorrow, will no doubt have lots of WiFi spots and allow us an opportunity to read messages in full and reply as appropriate. We've been reminded, once again, of the limitless warmness of the Irish. Thank you all again and keep following folks.

Linda, Phil and Luca

At May 17, 2011 at 12:16 PM Anonymous said...

Old faithfuls here as opposed to the new blow ins on this website/blog! Cant wait to hear about the Bangkok adventures... Mad wonderful place! Though it's been a while for me! AINE

At May 18, 2011 at 4:30 PM Linda de Paor said...

:) Thank you all. Old faithfuls especially of course. We're a bit bushed for Bangkok at present. (
Seriously that 17 km cycle was possibly the worse of our over 3,000 km cycles to date and enough to un-do all of the chilling of the last few weeks) so will be back with a vengeance after Chiang Mai. xxx


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