A mix of traditional next to modern, the market rat, riding into Bangkok
We took the day off in Siracha thinking we would luxuriate in the pool that we just had to have, but alas there was too much to see that we didn’t swim after all. Instead we nabbed a TukTuk ride and asked to be dropped off at The Market. There’s always a nearby market somewhere, and the bigger the city the bigger the market. You, and twenty of your closest friends could get hopelessly swallowed up and lost at the Muang Si Racha Food Market. Mountains of fresh chicken feet, crabs, pickled this and that, salted fish, fresh flowers, kitchen wares, plastic baskets, you name it. It’s all there. Not unlike any other market it was hot and steamy inside and buzzing with activity. Tiny narrow road of vendors all squeezed in tightly, not an inch to spare. Your mind cannot help but imagine how rodents and insects wouldn’t be occupying the same space. As we were exiting the market Randy glanced down a row and saw a rat. Not just any rat, but a really big well-fed ratty rat, as big as a house cat. Surely there are far more living in the nooks and crannies. We try not to think about it too long…
We wandered down to the pier, dodging sunshine whenever possible since it was 37C and you become uncomfortably hot just thinking. We were struck by how many traditional wooden homes on stilts are home to whole communities of Thai people who live their lives in and around the water. These are not developed waterfront luxury homes. They are no-frills, functional homes that beg one to wonder about the lives being lived within their walls. We stood at one point contemplating the strange juxtaposition of the modern high rising providing a backdrop to the scene.
Riding into Bangkok (Part 1)
Understanding that navigating Bangkok traffic was going to be insane we wisely decided to divvy up the distance and cover it in two days. The first day we went from Siracha to just south of the Suvarnabhumi airport—No problem! In fact, we quite enjoyed the portion between Siracha and Chonburi where quaint little villages and quiet roads made for pleasant riding. None of our mapping/navigation tools would allow using the causeway over the water that we saw. Overriding the navigation we took what became the highlight of our ride, breezing alongside the water looking at the fishing communities at the edge of Chonburi on the right and expanses of muddy shallow low-tide remains on the left with occasional stilted homes out in the middle of it all. Happiness prevailed! Our destination was near the airport where we could decide to conclude our journey and take into the city if we wished. But very near Bangkok isn’t near enough for us. We came to cycle into Bangkok, not almost cycle into Bangkok. So we checked into the Blue Sky resort (much better than the Blue Moon on Ko Samet). Gorgeous saltwater pool with water so warm we couldn’t seem to extricate ourselves from it. Laying in the water staring at the moon and stars we pondered what the following day might bring, with about 40km to bring us into the heart of Bangkok.
Riding into Bangkok (Part 2)
Maps ready, bikes loaded, we gulped. The unimaginable five weeks was now reality. So, you ask…how was cycling in Bangkok?
O.M.G. It’s intense. It’s utterly exhilarating. It’s loud—We are not risk takers or thrill seekers but we gotta admit….it was thrilling! Our minds had conjured up all sorts of intimidating imagery. However, our five weeks and 1600 kilometres served to assure us—we can do it! There were moments where we had to assert ourselves confidently (but not aggressively) on 8 lane roads, negotiate and share road space with heavy clickety-clanking transports and squeeze into some really tight road spaces—and, we must admit, a few times we had to rip a few power moves. There were necessary (and legal) U-turns that required burning across 5 lanes of traffic and—but we made sure we were visible and predictable at all times. Drivers here are very considerate. Not even once did we experience a car honk or raging driver. Every road user inherently knows the roads are shared with others. There’s a traffic groove, and when you find it you just go with the flow.
Checked into our hotel, we stood on the balcony of our 20th floor hotel room that overlooked the city, and agreed “Holy cow, if any of our kids ever said they planned to cycle into Bangkok we’d never allow it and we’d lock them in their rooms”. Then we just grinned—big naughty grins. Sssshh….don’t tell anyone what we just did!