Mini Itinerary

Blog / Unpicking the Bangkok Lock, Block by Block

17 February 2012

Gonna be a short one today. I demolish three bananas for breakfast and roll out.

At first, it's just more of the same: a steady roll along the road continuing where I left off at sunset. As I veer north, the wind joins the party, on my side. The city sprouts up alongside the road.

Just as I'm getting into the urban area proper, I grab an iced coffee and a cake - gonna need nerves of steel and plenty of alertness: Bangkok is famed for its fearsome traffic. I'm looking forward to it.

Being clear on your route is kind of useful. My phone's always running a GPS logger (MyTracks) when I'm riding, and my offline map software (MapDroyd) can show me pretty much instantly where I am on the map. The map's crowdsourced at the Open Street Map project, and as such can be rather patchy. Adds to the fun.

The plan today is to follow highway 3 right into the core of the city. Highway 3 becomes Sukhumvit Road, familiar to anyone who's visited the city. It's not a quiet country lane.

The route in has it all: motorway junctions, roundabouts, traffic lights, roadworks, bridges, level crossings, on ramps, off ramps, U-turn lanes. The shoulder that I was riding on outside town vanishes. At one point pink bicycle and heart motifs are sprayed on the road with the words 'bike lane please' - it doesn't look likely to happen anytime soon. I pass a handful of other cyclists, one with a small girl as passenger, but mostly the traffic is buses, cars, tuk-tuks and motos.

Jesse had warned me about the sneaky U-turn lane. This wrong-foots me only once - I'm up against a khlong (canal) and getting directed around under the bridge I should have been on and back the way I've come. I'd been riding close behind a truck, the road full of vehicles, unable to keep fully aware of the road surface lane markings. I spy stairs. I pick up my bike, panniers and all, march up two flights of steps, plonk my bike back down on the bridge, remount, and carry on. Try that with an SUV.

Car turning left, moto behind, bus two vehicles back, passing bus stop, road narrows under skytrain station, dark, tuk-tuk pulling out, kerbs are high don't catch a pedal, drainage gratings oriented able to trap a tyre, bump, check panniers stable, check map, 600m until cross khlong then right turn, ack! one way system, reroute, hang a left, change two lanes across to right, hang a right, forced left turn, dodge dozy tourist, onto roundabout, second exit, left, right by the wat, decelerate into traipsy crowds.

There's a lot to think about, a lot to look out for; the actual bike riding part needs to be done on autopilot. Changes in gear, brake applications, steering adjustments, clip in, clip out, out of the saddle, in the saddle, push hard, ease off: these mechanical changes must number well into the thousands on a ride like this, and all have to be below the level of conscious thought.

I'm just short of 6,000km, I should be about three-quarters done. There's just the small matter of another 2,000km along the fantastically named Isthmus of Kra and down the length of peninsular Malaysia. Tack on an aircon blast of Singapore, and it'll be time to get on a plane.

57km, 20.2km/h, 2hr48min, 5992km

Attached to journey: 17 February 2012 Khlong Dan to Bangkok กรุงเทพ by Bike 57km
Part of trip The Return To The Sea
Distance today: 57km
Total distance: 5913km

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