Koh Lanta, and the Pros and Cons of Brompton Travel
One of the draws of travel with a folding bike is convenience – Don’t feel like cycling? Fold up and jump on another form of transport. And it really is that easy… except when it isn’t.
Yes, there are some cons to traveling with a folding bike – even a great one like the Brompton. When the bikes are folded up, we end up carrying a lot more than the average backpacker, who usually has just one giant backpack and maybe a smaller daypack. We have three items: bike plus two bags each. The bikes themselves – although they do fold down very small – can be unwieldy and heavy boarding the steep and narrow steps of a train or cause consternation when traveling by small van.
We took a minibus from Khao Sok to Krabi and asked ahead about room for the bikes. We were told they’d be tied to the roof of the van for an extra 100 Baht each. We were happy with the arrangement until we realized that the huge backpacks of our fellow passengers were also tied to the same roof, for no extra charge. A few days later, Dmitry was about to load the bikes into the luggage hold of an overnight bus from Krabi to Bangkok, when the bus driver started screaming in Thai and pointing to the bikes. When Dmitry asked what the problem was, he angrily yelled “No Spenglish!” Not surprisingly, he knew enough Spenglish to communicate the idea of “500 Baht extra”. After a few minutes of smiling and playing dumb, the bikes went into the (mostly empty anyway) cargo hold, for free (again, they’re smaller than many tourist suitcases).
There are obvious pros – bike touring is fun, cheap transport, and we are seeing areas of the country that most tourists never see – or if they do, only from the window of a speeding car. But the greatest pro, the pro that makes every bus driver yelling incident worth it, is the ability to make a clean getaway.
Case in point: disembarking from the Ko Lanta tourist ferry, passengers are made to walk through a gauntlet of taxi drivers and hotel touts, yelling and waving signs, each trying to get your business by being louder and more insistent than his neighbor. Breezing through the gauntlet with my bike, knowing that I would be able to ride away without any hassle or negotiation… priceless.
After our getaway ride from the ferry port at the north of the island, we rode about 10 miles south and settled at Lanta roundhouse, a chill spot on Khlong Nin beach with cute dogs and friendly people. And we gave the bikes a break to explore the (rather hilly) island by scooter.