Mountain Biking on Ko Yao Yai
a story about a group of hardy South Africans we had join us in June
from Pa Sai Bungalows after our wonderful breakfast. They make sure
you start the day with good food in your gut.
biking guide for this leg of our journey is Mr. Tee. I know Tee from
rock climbing. He’s a very talented climber and he used to work
for the birds’ nest concession. Now he’s trying to get
a mountain biking company going. I’ll help him of course.
from Pasai to the pier courses through traditional farmland, past
grazing Water Buffaloes and past a multitude of waving locals. After
loading all of our bikes on one longtail, we boarded a second longtail
and headed from Ko Yao Noi to Ko Yao Yai. This is only a two kilometer
crossing in calm seas.
the other side, we mounted up and headed out. The weather was perfect,
at least at this time. It was overcast and not too hot. The sky looked
threatening behind us.
out a bit in a long line. There is very little traffic on Ko Yao Yai.
In fact, the word “traffic” probably shouldn’t be
used at all. Cheerful children waved frantically at us as we rode.
This would turn out to be the way the whole ride would go. There is
almost no tourism on Ko Yao Yai. Ko Yao Noi is on the tourism map,
but thankfully it’s not over the top like so many other likable
at a viewpoint and we waited for everyone to catch up. We could see
a storm brewing over Ko Yao Noi, but for now, we were blissfully comfortable.
After a few photos, we headed off again.
on was a well-built concrete road. One of the many things that the
Thais do well is build roads, especially concrete ones. The terrain
was mildly hilly and it varied from small villages to farmland to
secondary growth. Virgin jungle could be spotted on the taller mountains,
but the ever-popular rubber tree business is creeping up higher and
higher. The price of rubber is at all all-time high and that’s
a death sentence for most of the remaining jungle. So, if you want
to help save the jungle, reuse your condoms please.
further down the track, we came upon a sharp left turn onto dirt.
Ah, dirt, wonderful dirt… and mud and sand and more friendly
locals of course.
a half-built pier and gazed at the islands we had visited on the previous
day. Krabi, an over-developed tourist Mecca was off in the distance.
the ride, we ventured onto a firmly packed, wide dirt road. This will
eventually connect the north with the south and it’ll likely
be a race track for youngsters. There aren’t many sharp turns
to slow them down either, but for now, we enjoyed the calmness it
a break at a small roadside snack stand. There were some Thai drinks
that needed trying. We chose a pickled mango drink. I took the first
one. Everyone wanted to give it a try. As soon a couple tried and
gave it the ‘thumbs up’, everyone wanted one. Thais pickle
a lot of things. Pickled mango makes a wonderfully thirst-quenching
drink. It might not sound like it, but trust me on this one. We all
ended up pouring the remnants of the drinks in our water bottles…
along with the ice and a few choice chunks of pickled mango. We’ll
have to see if this means the end of these water bottles.
On we rode,
past the hospital (you’d probably not guess it if you didn’t
see the sign), a school and a small police station. No cops were visible,
probably not much to do on a small peaceful island like Yao Yai.
getting a bit peckish, so Tee and I started looking for a restaurant.
There were plenty, but we had some vegetarians in our tribe (though
they eat seafood) and they don’t really like spicy food. So,
not really a problem at all, but it does require a bit of searching
for a place that has something for everyone. “Tee, this looks
like the place,” I said. The sign said pizza, pasta and Thai
food. Now I like rice, but the thought of a pizza really sounded intriguing.
Unfortunately, they had such a wonderful Thai menu that I opted for,
yep, rice and things. We shredded papaya salad, one spicy plate and
one not so spicy plate. Next, we had Chicken and Cashew and shrimp-stuffed
omelets. We were stuffed, but managed to waddle over to our bikes
and hop back on.
an hour or so of riding, a few big raindrops started landing on and
around us. Within nanoseconds, the bottom fell out and it rained like
crazy. We found shelter right away so most of us stayed fairly dry.
We would soon realize the folly in trying to keep dry.
sandy dirt road that’s under construction, the rains did come…
and in bounty. Accepting our fate, we cheerfully rode through it all.
Personally, I hit every water puddle I could find and there were small
river-ettes to keep my inner child entertained as well.
a right and headed down to the sea. The sandy path provided a bit
of excitement for those unfamiliar with deep sand and what it does
to a nice cruising speed. No one went over, luckily.
sea, the waves were abundant with very short wavelengths. The northern
end of the beach is where some fishermen build big fish traps. They
are large enough to hold a few people… or perhaps an unfortunate
we got to ride back slightly up the sandy road. That’s a whole
new can of worms. We all muscled up without a whimper.
time to head back. The road back, the one we came down to get to this
point, was running with water. There were some nice stretches where
it was perhaps two inches deep. I plowed through it and so did some
of the others. We’re all kids given the right circumstances.
This was it for me obviously… folly for life!
the turn to the Yao Yai Resort. Just four more kilometers,
according to the sign, and we’d be there. That is, unless we
do something silly like zoom by the small sign telling us where to
make the final turn. Oh well, we ended up at a quaint little fishing
village and a dozen or so children who seemed delighted to see us.
Their smiles were ever so cute as they waved frantically and yelled
“hello!” over and over again. It felt like we were the
first Westerners to ever come to this village.
we covered just over 40 kilometers. A Singha Beer and a swim were
in order for the gang, while the ThaiCycle
team washed the loose mud from the bikes and oiled up the
chain for the next day’s ride.