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Bicycling Baz heads north to tour Khao Lak and Takua Pa’s old town

Gadabout cyclists living in Phuket are continually in search of more benign, bike-friendly venues in which to enjoy their passion. Naturally enough, many such cycling getaways tend to be found across the Sarasin Bridge, which a waggish friend recently described as being “where Thailand really starts”.


By Baz Daniel

Saturday 14 October 2017, 09:00AM


Heading north up the west coast of the Isthmus of Kra on Highway 4 (Phetkasem Rd) you’ll soon come to the famous tourist area of Khao Lak. The area boasts some lovely long scalloped beaches, bisected by rocky promontories, while inland the forest-clad hills rise steeply and as a result a series of waterfalls cascade off these rocky slopes in a tumultuous rush to the sea.

As you enter this area from the south, the road becomes a switchback of snaking turns and hills through the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park headland. The park entrance is at the highest point on the road overlooking the Andaman Sea and offers some good forest hikes down to the beaches below and around Kao Lak Mountain with its Chinese temple dedicated to the wizard of the mountain.

So, where should you go if you travel to Khao Lak with your bicycle?

One terrific option is to take the highway a little further north then turn west following the signs to The Sarojin Resort and Spa where you will be in for an exceptional treat. The Sarojin is a stunning oasis nestled on the white sands of Bang Sak Beach boasting the most sumptuous gardens, limpid pools, fabulous dining and luxurious accommodation. In addition, The Sarojin have pioneered the idea of assigning “Imagineers” to help their often honey-mooning guests get the most out of the surrounding environment.

The “Imagineers” provide all sorts of alluring trips and experiences such as candlelight dinners by mountain waterfalls; snorkelling and offshore dining adventures on the resort’s opulent launch The Lady Sarojin; or cycling adventures around the quiet environs in which this beautiful resort is situated. They give their guests free use of mountain bikes with maps attached to the handlebars for self-guiding, or an “Imagineer” can accompany you and show you the rides.

We arrived at around 4pm, which was perfect timing to quickly drop our kit in our beautiful suite and head out with Khun Jack our helpful guide on a trip to the Nam Tok Sai Rung (literally Seven Colours, or Rainbow Waterfall). The ride took us past cool lakes, once the site of tin mining works, now reclaimed for more bucolic pastimes such as kayaking and fishing. Then after a short ride along busy Highway 4, we turned inland along Nam Tok Sai Rung Rd through silently brooding rubber tree groves and after a short uphill hike, to the primary forest around the falls themselves. These falls are one of seven sets that plummet off the escarpment inland from Khao Lak and The Sarojin also offers candlelit champagne dinners alongside these tumbling waters to their “loved-up” clientele.

We then rode back towards the coast, passing the entrance to The Sarojin and then to the Tsunami Monument to catch the sunset at Pakarong, or Coral Cape. This is a lovely west-facing promontory between the broad sweeps of Khuk Khak Beach to the south and Bang Sak Beach to the north upon which The Sarojin sits. Arriving at dusk, the sky morphed into pyrotechnic sunset splendour as we settled down with a drink to enjoy the relaxation that comes after a good ride.

We spent our fabulous Friday evening in The Sarojin’s beachside sala savouring their excellent Thai buffet accompanied by highly engaging traditional Thai music and dance.

Next morning bright and early after one of the sensational breakfasts for which The Sarojin is justly famous, we headed off accompanied by Khun Kade, The Sarojin’s very helpful Resident Manager, in the resort’s SUV with our bikes on the rack behind. We drove to a lovely quiet, flat country lane and then cycled about ten clicks into the heart of Takua Pa Old Town. This old quarter of Takua Pa is a poignant reminder of a glorious chapter in the history of this region which still resonates with the artefacts and atmosphere of the magical, forgotten era when it was a thriving port town during the Ayutthaya period.

Both sides of the main Si Takua Pa Rd that bisects the Old Town are dotted with period buildings, characterised by their Sino-Portuguese architecture, plus Chinese shrines and tea houses… relics of the huge influx of Chinese tin mine workers who arrived 150 years ago. Elderly people sit chatting in front of their homes, while others ride ancient bicycles to the local market. Only once in a while will you spot a pickup truck… a far cry from the Saturday morning madness of Phuket.

Takua Pa Old Town can trace its history back to the 13th century when it was the main west coastal Siamese port on the fabled Silk Road connecting the Mediterranean with China. Of course not only silks and spices travelled along this connecting corridor, but also cultures, beliefs and religions and the gods and icons that they spawned. Hence this region is a veritable treasure-store of Brahman and early Theravada Buddhist artefacts.

The Sarojin can combine this Old Town tour with lunch and a visit to a hot spring to extend it into a longer excursion if you wish. They also offer cycling trips to tranquil Koh Khao Island to the north of Takua Pa and more extreme mountain biking adventures in Khao Sok National Park about 50 kilometres north.

With a little ingenuity and help from creative and insightful friends like those at The Sarojin, a cycling visit to the Khao Lak area can be highly enjoyable and adventurous and it’s all only 110km north of Phuket Town.

 

Bicycling” Baz Daniel fell off his first bicycle aged three... a case of love at first slight. Since then he has spent a further 65 years falling on and off bicycles all over the world, but his passion endures. When not in traction, he found time to become Senior VP of the world’s largest advertising and communications group, finally retiring to Phuket in 2006. He has been penning his Blazing Saddles column, chronicling his cycling adventures in Phuket and beyond, since 2013.

 

 

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