Viking Wheelers Complete Great Ride to Surat Thani

By Henrik Friis and Hans Henrik Melchior

On Friday 4 December a team of 13 Viking Wheelers started out on their annual marathon cycling tour, this year a distance of about 425 km from Prachuab Khiri Khan to Surat Thani.
The team consisted of President Henrik Friis, Bent Laasholdt, Morten Luxhoi, Mads Tranum Nielsen, Claus Bergenfelt, Jan Peter Jensen, Finn Soerensen, Matthew Pearson, Kenn Lauritsen and Hans Henrik Melchior.  Flying in from Denmark to join this event were Jesper Madsen, a friend of Morten and Mads, who joined this annual event for the third time, and Poul-Erik and Kirsten Ring, good friends of Henrik Friis.
After an about 4 hours drive from Bangkok the team arrived in Prachuab Khiri Khan where it enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant at the beach just south of the city.  During the lunch a lone British cyclist passed the restaurant and stopped to find out who the guys in red and white were.  When he asked, the Vikings proudly told him that they were just about to start a tour going all the way down to Surat Thani.  He then announced that he had left Chiang Mai a week earlier and was on his way to Kuala Lumpur.  Although clearly not impressed by the plans of the Vikings, he did cheer the team from the balcony of his hotel when they passed about half an hour later! 

33 km warm-up ride
The Friday ride was a “warm up” ride of about 33 km to the cosy Jack’s Beach Resort north of Thap Sakae.  At the beginning of the ride the team’s flying President, Henrik Friis, assumed the temporary role of air traffic controller, stopping all incoming and outgoing flights in the local international airport, so the Vikings could safely cross the runway.  Apart from a short stint on HW 4 the rest of the ride was on small country roads, along the beach and through plantations, soybean fields, cattle farms and small villages down to the resort, which is located right at the beach.
Before the start of the Saturday ride, the local Village Headman arrived at the resort and, duly impressed by the handsome Vikings in their red and white jerseys, he invited the team to participate in a ceremony at the pier, just about to commence, releasing into the ocean about a million scrimps, on the occasion of H.M. the King’s birthday, and the Vikings happily complied.  One of the Vikings was, however, so unlucky to drop his plastic bag with about 1,000 scrimps, which obviously did not make it back to the ocean.  Nobody, except maybe for the scrimps, seemed to care about this mishap.

75 km to Baan Maprao Resort 
The day’s ride was about 75 km to Baan Maprao Resort in Bang Saphan Noi, also along the beach and on small country roads, mostly pancake flat, except for a long hill a few kilometres before the end of the ride, which the organizers claimed was not there when they made the survey trip.  During the ride Mads attempted to chase some stray dogs, which, unfortunately, were not scared by Mads in his frightening outfit with horns sticking out of his helmet, and instead started chasing Mads, who did get scared and in his efforts to evade the pack rode over a sharp edge and got a flat tyre.
Anyway, the team was in high spirits when it arrived at Baan Maprao Resort, located on a fantastic beach. This was the second time the team visited this resort, as the riders also stayed here when they were on the Tour de Thailand in 2004.  Before and after the dinner Mads and his guitar entertained the group by singing popular Danish “viser” by i.e. Shubidua, Kim Larsen, Lasse and Mathilde, something he was much better at than chasing dogs.

94 km to Chumporn
At 8 am sharp Sunday morning the brave Vikings commenced what would be the toughest ride so far during this year’s marathon, a ride of about 94 km to Chumporn.  Although also this ride was on scenic country roads, there were plenty of rolling hills, some of them very challenging, but the Viking Wheelers had by now built up lots of strength, so all passed the test and were very happy and proud when they arrived in Chumporn in the mid-afternoon, looking forward to their evening dinner in the local KFC.  Hans Henrik knew that Khun Vichien, the driver of the support van, is a keen cyclist longing to get in the saddle.   So, after lunch HH gracefully offered to drive the van for the last 30 km and Vichien was very happy to get this opportunity to cycle this leg.  Bent, feeling sorry that HH should be alone in the van, volunteered to keep him company, an offer which was accepted without hesitation.
Monday was a day of rest in Chumporn, and several Wheelers used the opportunity to get their bicycles trimmed at the local Trek bicycle shop. During the waiting time they were seen roaming around the local water holes.
The group also found time to plan for 2010, and as everyone were in good spirit it was decided to have 9 events next year including a week ride in the North Eastern part of Thailand.  The completed plan will be posted on the Viking Wheelers website 
The Vikings assembled in the evening for a very nice Vietnamese/Thai dinner followed by a pit stop at the local backpacker hangout to get some Viking neutralisers.Rumours have it that the President had bought shares in this bar as he was seen running around behind the bar and instructing the staff.
After neutralisers, the Vikings were ready for some more action, but soon realised that Chumporn is not the most active place in the world, so 2 of the senior Vikings, Bent Låsholdt and Mads Tranum formed a new band called the Viking Whistlers, and took over a local Karaoke Place and turned it into a Danish Music place, and songs could be heard in most of Chumporn, so don’t be surprised if you hear some local Thais whistling the tunes of a Kim Larsen melody next time you pass though the city.

88 km ride to Paknam
Tuesday all Vikings were fresh and ready for takeoff at 8.00 hrs and, with the Flying President leading the way out of Chumporn, the Vikings embarked on the 88 km ride towards PN Seafood resort in Paknam. The first 20 km were up and down hills, and apparently a little too much for Mads, the Viking Whistler, as he lost the air at the first pit stop and was taken to the local hospital by his friend Morten. The hospital soon got him up again but apparently the nurses had heard that he could play music so they hooked him up to a heart monitor and sat all night and listened to the beat of his heart before he was released the next morning.
The rest of the Vikings continued the trip, with regular up-dates from the hospital so they could conquer the hills up and down with relaxed minds. After 65 km lunch was at Ban Pak Tako beach, and Morten and Hans Henrik (who had gone to the hospital to lead Morten and the van with all the luggage back to the group) joined the lunch and rumors started circulating that the 2 gentlemen had slipped something into Mads’ coffee so they could avoid the hilly ride in the morning.
After lunch the riders embarked on the remaining 23 km with a pit stop for the sissies 10 KM before final destination, which the front runners Claus, Matthew and Finn skipped. The President regretted he stopped there, as some of the Vikings before him had dug a hole and filled it with loose sand and gravel with the result he fell flat over on his bike and scraped his elbow and bent 2 -3 ribs. During the fall he also knocked all the air out of the lungs, and bystanders described the event as similar to a kangaroo jumping a ball that bursts when it lands on the floor.
After the President was cleaned up and new air pumped into the lungs all riders, including the flying President, continued to PN Seafood resort where cool beer awaited them upon arrival.

84 km to Roong Arun Resort
Wednesday, the Vikings took off at 8.15 a.m. as they had to wait for Mads to return from the hospital. At arrival Mads took the wheel of the van and delegated the bicycle job to the driver Vichien.
The day’s ride was mostly on flat roads, and some of the Vikings picked up so much speed that they lost the way after 9.5 km and added an additional 6-7 km to the planned 84 km ride. Discussions are still ongoing on how to describe an asphalt road and a main road, but the organizers accepted the penalty of a round of beer in the evening, and to read a few Danish-English dictionaries and maps before next year’s ride.
The weather gods had decided to change from cloudy to sunny and, although the roads were flat, the day became very hot, so the only female rider, Kirsten, gave up pulling the “turtles” (Viking Wheeler language for “slow riders”), and decided to join Mads in the van.  According to Mads the gentlemen still on the road then reduced the speed so much that the van got over heated due to the slow driving.
The group arrived safely at Roong Arun Resort after 84 km, and a delicious seafood lunch was served together with some cool beers.
The Vikings had the resort for themselves and Kenn decided to be the manager and sell beer to late night beach visitors.

A total of 425 km 
Thursday started with breakfast cooked by the owner of the resort and the driver Montri, as the kitchen staff had reported sick. The entire team agreed that it was the best breakfast on the trip and Morten is now considering to extend the Khao Yai Van to include a kitchen so he can get home cooked breakfast in future, but he has not yet agreed the price for borrowing Henrik’s driver Montri as a cook.
The team headed off at 8.00 hrs with the first 19 km on flat roads.   The first pit stop was before the rolling hills started and apparently it had some effect on the President as he jumped into the bus with the excuse the ribs were hurting. The rest of the riders conquered the hills without problems and arrived at the last pit stop in record speed where they enjoyed a few refreshments before they proceeded for the last 10 km.
The entire team arrived at the small Happy Inn Hotel, after a total 425 km ride, and after showers and a few beers the cars were packed and they headed off for the last joint lunch before going to the airport.  Everyone looked happy but tired and was pleased that they could fly back to Bangkok instead of cycling.


If you regret that you did not – or could not – participate in this year’s Viking Wheeler’s Great Annual Tour, then consider going on your own, “in the wheel prints of the Viking Wheelers”.

Every rider on the trip got detailed turn-by-turn description of the 425 km long trip and these documents are made available here if you would like to go on your own trip on all or part of the way.
1. Turn-by-turn excel sheet.
2. Day-by-day route maps as pdf file
The files also show what a huge amount of time and effort the organizers have put into preparing the trip!

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