PHUKET: Quiet corners of our increasingly frenetic island are often sought by the gad-about Lycra Lout, for some gentle, meditative pedalling amidst lovely scenery and with the opportunity for a cold sunset beachside drink at the end of the ride.
One area of Phuket that still offers these charms is the hinterland around the Bang Tao Beach region. The gateway to this cycling idyll is through the unprepossessing strip development along the Laguna approach road.
However, once you enter the well-manicured lawns, placid lakeside vistas and lazy sprinkler-festooned golf links that seem to define this area, it is as though you are cycling through an entirely different world.
Here, the bicycle, along with sundry other forms of non-polluting transport such as horses, elephants, and even, heaven forbid, walking the dog, all seem to be perfectly natural parts of daily life. As, indeed they used to be, except that in so much of modern Phuket such simple pleasures have been trampled mercilessly beneath the grinding march of urbanization and motor vehicles
We started our ride on a hot day in March from the charming grounds of the Outrigger Beach Resort where we were staying, in the company of our guide Khun Golf.
We trundled along the lakeside under the blessed shade of Casuarina trees, which thankfully seem to grow in abundance in this region.
A left, then a right, across the little bridge over the canal linking two of the Laguna lakes, and then right again near the road to Xana Beach Club.
As you cycle north along this quiet Bang Tao beachside road, you can’t help but notice the bizarre schizophrenia of the region. The ever-shifting beach clubs, fashionable resorts and chic residential developments cheek by jowl with a charming, run-down Thai melee of ramshackle beer bars, noodle carts and wooden roadside stands selling bottled petrol.
Three kilometers north, the road ahead peters out as you arrive at a small canal full of well-worn local fishing boats. Just offshore lies Koh Krata, or Frying Pan Island, to which you can walk at low tide.
Back on the main inland road, you can turn left and continue to head north up some pretty severe hills, following the coast road past Trisara Resort and then down to the beautiful sands of Nai Thon Beach.
This is a great spot for tired biking fans to enjoy a refreshing dip in the crashing spume, or even a beach-side massage, if the pummeling ladies are being allowed to operate when you happen to visit.
Our own trip with Khun Golf took us south, back down the island toward the Outrigger Resort with a call in to the charming Cherng Talay temple with its brooding finials and Naga Heads, and finally back through the heart of busy Cherng Talay to the sanctuary of the resort.
The Outrigger Beach Resort run these family-friendly cycling tours twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, and they are a great way for families with kiddies to see the area from a bicycle saddle in safety and without stress.
Back at the resort, beachside cold drinks on the broad swathe of Bang Tao Bay are a sensational way to end the day while watching the sunset.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Outrigger’s fabulous Mediterranean Sunday brunch at Metzo’s restaurant, where you can spend many happy hours grazing from the huge selection of meze, tapas and charcoal-grilled specialties served a la carte to the strains of cool jazz.
In fact, staying at the Outrigger for the weekend, joining the cycling on Saturday and then brunching on Sunday, is a perfect way to enjoy the lazy Bang Tao area.
— Baz Daniel