Pig Island doesn’t sound to inviting, and it’s residents, primarily Muslim, don’t regard anything porcine positively, so perhaps that’s why they call the island Sukorn. But all the locals don’t recognize the name Sukorn when we tell where we’ve been, either because it’s a tourist name or it’s our pronunciation.
Almost every year the Trang Cycling Club, or some iteration of the members, makes an overnight foray to the island, and we were told that it’s recently been regarded as “Cycling Heaven.” Normally our group is the only cyclists on the entire island. The two tourist guesthouses seem seldom frequented, but we have seen at least one tourist couple each time we take a boat across. Those folks are whisked out of a van and on to the same long-tail boats we make the passage in, except that their boats always leave with just the “Farangs” (foreigners), leaving them with an exclusive boat ride of B500 ($15), where we pile in with the locals for B50 ($1.30 including our bicycles). As you can see we can get 10 bikes and 10 cyclists in the same long-tail boat. Camping in these circumstances involves paying the headmaster of the school ($1 each) to allow the privilege of setting our tents up in a classroom.
This year the island elders were holding a special fund raising celebration where they planned to serve more than 500 visitors as evidenced by the tents, tables and chairs set up at the main school grounds. They even promoted a “Bike for Charity” event with our own tent set side so smelly bikers didn’t mingle with the dressed-up locals, jerseys (for sale), and an unlimited buffet of Muslim dishes. Of course we never know any of these details in advance as “surprise” is alway our default mode of adventure. This year our port departure was complicated with boat-loads of cyclists, not to mention pilgrims traveling to and coming off the island, making for crowded unloading and loading at low-tide cement stairs.
Unfortunately, Stanna didn’t get to go, even though she was suited up right up to departure time when she decided to stay home & dry. The rainy season, which has produced the Southern Thailand heavy flooding, produced yet one more weekend of torrential rains. Not only did we need to start for the coast in a downpour, the forecasts, doppler radar and fellow Thais all said it’s two more days of deluge. All predictions were 100% correct. Cycling along the leeward coast on Sunday had me thinking of those days sailing in squalls where you put on your snorkel mask to see. Skies were black enough for double reefing for sure.
Go Cho, a local restauranteur, brought along his portable kitchen, plates, bowls and 30″ Wok, to provide us with the freshest of the day’s seafood. For those that haven’t followed previous years’ overnight cycling adventures, all that kit fits into a scooter side-car (more of a third wheeled side-cart) for transport on the island(s) or off-road as the occasion requires. With a 50-meter extension cord he can plug in his 5-quart rice cooker and 2-liter electric water pot almost anywhere he can steal power.
It’s amazing how much Thais can eat. We had a super buffet of stewed beef, stir fried vegetables and dried fish for lunch provided by the “Bike for Charity.’ Oh, and you can’t ever forget two heaping cooking-spoons of boiled rice as a base to heap everything else on top. In just four hours Cho fired up a small earthen charcoal stove and Go Dang started grilling fresh salted squid. Calamari never tasted so good, even with a partially full stomach.
Meanwhile Cho was receiving small bags of fresh seafood from various locals whom he must know: two kinds of crab, orange and blue (for lack of a translation), jumbo shrimp and octopus. The stormy weather yielded no fresh fish for the second course, although it did arrive after fresh fruit was served as a desert so they fired up their charcoal earthen BBQ once again and we pinched morsels off each of three whole fish as they came off the grill.
Considering this is a remote island with no regular delivery boats, the population of probably 3,000 has an amazing variety of food and supplies, all brought over one 3-wheel cart at a time from the long-tails to stock the small family operated Thai-style mini-markets.
Despite the heavy rains we still managed almost 20 miles of cycling around the island’s network of cement walkways, along the coast, thru the sidewalk villages, the rice and watermelon fields and most enchanting, the winding cement trails thru the rubber tree plantations.
We wimped out and loaded all the bikes into one pickup for the rainy ride home.