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Blazing Saddles: More Bang Tao for your buck

Quiet corners of our increasingly frenetic island are often sought by the gadabout lycra lout for some gentle, meditative pedalling amidst lovely scenery, with the opportunity for a cold beachside drink at the sunset end of the ride. One area of Phuket that still offers these charms is the hinterland of Bang Tao Beach.


By Baz Daniel

Sunday 2 April 2017, 09:00AM


The gateway to this cycling idyll is through the unprepossessing strip development along the Laguna approach road through the heart of Cherng Talay.

However, once you enter the well-manicured lawns, placid lakeside villas 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, plus sundry other forms of non-polluting transport such as horses, elephants and even – heaven forbid – walking the dog, all seem to be a natural part of everyday life.

As indeed they used to be all over the island, except that now in so much of modern Phuket such simple pleasures have been swallowed up by the grinding maw of urbanisation and motor vehicles.

We started our ride on a bright day from the charming grounds of Angsana Villa Resort, where we were staying. We trundled along various lakeside roads under the blessed shade of Casuarina trees, which thankfully grow in abundance in this region.

A few kilometres on we cycled across a little bridge over the canal linking several of the Laguna lakes, then turned right near the road leading to what you might term “Coolness Central” – the uber-hip Xana Beach Club.

An interesting bike tour of this region would feature the various beach clubs (operating and moth-balled), as they come and go; change their branding; or fall into decay and disrepair as yet another “crackdown” or land title scam impacts their tortured destiny.

As you cycle north along the quiet Bang Tao beachside road, I couldn’t help but notice the bizarre schizophrenia of the region.

The ever-shifting beach clubs, fashionable resorts and chic residential developments all with grand pretentions to sophistication and globalism, cheek by jowl with a run-down melee of ramshackle beer bars, noodle carts and wooden roadside stands selling bottled petrol.

May this never change, say I, as it is exactly this confusing array of contradictions that make Phuket such a fascinating place to live and ride.

Central Phuket

Three kilometres north along this beach-side road it peters out as you arrive at a small canal full of weather-beaten local fishing boats.

Just offshore lies Koh Krata, or Frying Pan Island, to which you can walk at low tide, while a broad swathe of beachside Casuarinas provides cover for the evening tents and barbecues set up for overnight guests.

The beachside road then turns inland and meets the main road where you can turn left and continue to head north up some pretty severe hills following the coast past Trisara Resort and then down to the beautiful sands of Nai Thon Beach.

This is a great spot for tired lycra louts to enjoy a refreshing dip in the crashing spume, or even a beachside massage, if the pummelling ladies are being allowed to operate when you visit!

Our own trip took us south back down the island and a visit to the charming Cherng Talay Temple with its sinuous finials and fearsome Naga heads then finally back through the heart of busy evening Cherng Talay to the sanctuary of our villa resort.

Most of the Laguna resorts offer bicycles and guided tours, which is a great way for families with kiddies to see the area from a bicycle saddle in safety and without stress.

Back at the Angsana Villa Resort, poolside cold drinks were a sensational way to end the day, while watching the sunset overlooking the darkening lake with its swooping swifts and swallows.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention a fabulous Sunday lunch we subsequently enjoyed before returning home. In fact, I’d venture that staying at Angsana Villas for the weekend, joining a cycling tour on Saturday, then having brunch at Xana Beach Club on Sunday, is just about the perfect way of enjoy the charming Bang Tao area.

 

“Bicycling” Baz Daniel fell off his first bicycle aged three... a case of love at first slight. Since then he has spent a further 65 years falling on and off bicycles all over the world, but his passion endures. When not in traction, he found time to become Senior VP of the world’s largest advertising and communications group, finally retiring to Phuket in 2006. He has been penning his Blazing Saddles column, chronicling his cycling adventures in Phuket and beyond, since 2013.

 

 

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