We arrive at the border around 9 AM to get trough the necessary formalities to be allowed to cycle into Thailand. The remaining dollars move to a “secret” bag for the time being. Of the last Cambodian riel we buy water and then we enter the departure zone on the Cambodian side: fill in the form, leave fingerprints, getting a stamp in the passport and continue to the Thai arrival side. Again fill in a form and (smile) to the camera and another stamp in the passports. Large stickers (NO TIPS!) make clear that you don’t have to pay an extra dollar to the Thai government officials for a stamp. In fact, this border crossing has not cost us any money at all! The Thai customs officer points out to us that we are now entering the country for the second time. During 2019 we cannot get in again. We know that and we hope to get an extension in Bangkok, so that we have more than 30 days to enjoy southern Thailand. Finally we get Bath from the ATM and then we are ready to continue cycling on Thai territory. We spontaneously cycle on the right and wrong side of the road. We wave to someone who yells at us from a distance. A little later we realize that he wanted to draw our attention to our dangerous behavior. It takes half a kilometer before we see an oncoming motorbike and realize that we are wrong and we quickly cross to the left side of the road.
We continue cycling through a hilly area on an almost deserted road before we arrive on a busier main road and slowly descend to the lowlands surrounding the Gulf of Thailand. There are a lot of pickups on the road with a huge barrel and smiling people in the truck. The barrels in the pickups are full of water. In fact, the only thing we know about the Songkran festival is that water is thrown and shot for about 3 days (water guns and supersoakers are sold everywhere) to wash away the sins of the old year. According to internet it leads to hilarious water fights. We prepare for a wet suit. We get a wet suit soon, not from partying people but from a cloudburst.
To really enjoy the party, we go to the fairly large city of Chantaburi. However, when we arrive there, we see nothing of a party, except that many stores are closed. The streets look empty without the street vendors. We no longer see a single pickup, let alone a water fight. We enter a alley along the river where quite some people are walking. It looks like tourists who have visited the Cathedral of Chantaburi. It is the largest church in Thailand, but for us Europeans it is just a modern miniature. There is only one café in this tourist street, which is fortunately open. Our Thai SIM cards are back in our phones but our credit has run out, or we have stayed away too long. The cafe has wifi and soon we find out that the hotels in this city are full. We ask around at guest rooms in the area, send out fifty messages to accommodations further away and receive the same answer everywhere: “full” or “no have”. Finally, we still try our luck at the overpriced hotel that we have previously cycled past. They have another room. It costs 1,600 bath (€ 45) and we think that is way too much, but we take it anyway.
Hopefully tomorrow we can compensate somewhat for today’s accommodation and visit Warmshowers host Ebby. We send him a message asking if we are welcome. Ebby soon announces that he is also “full”. Ebby is not a standard warmshowers host. He runs a resort. The hot shower and the bed that he offers cyclists are located in the rooms that he rents and for which he does not allow cyclists to pay. But yes his resort is also full. When we consult Booking.com and Agoda we see that many accommodations are sold out and that what is left is super expensive. The Songkran festival is apparently a true migration. What we can do is try to go wild camping along the coast. Will that work now that it is so busy everywhere? Ebby puts a very valuable tip in his mail. Don’t rush because there is a lot of traffic on the road. On April 17, one day after the festival, he has another room available and we are very welcome. We read that there are many road fatalities during Songkran. The first victim this year was a Dutch tourist on a rented scooter. The Thai police label the week in which Songkran falls as the “7 dangerous days” and campaign to reduce the number of victims. Perhaps it is wise not to cycle much during these days. It is also wise not to stay in this expensive hotel.
For the two extra days in Chantaburi we book a reasonably spacious and cool room of “Hop Inn” with top wifi for half the price. There is a 7 Eleven around the corner, the supermarket that we really missed in Laos and Cambodia. Next to the 7 Eleven is a eatery that makes a delicious lunch with crispy fried meat, rice and a few slices of cucumber: delicious for one Euro. In the evening it is only a short walk to the night market where there is a very popular eatery and where it is a spectacle to see how the kitchen and staff handles the many orders of the tables and the take aways. We visit the cathedral and have the telecom store check the settings for the SIM card and top up the credit. Useful days and we are not on the road. When we leave Chantaburi, the counter is already at 300 road deaths after 4 of the 7 dangerous days.